Name: Fred Motte
Company: Kalisto
Title: Musician

[Originally written in 1997-ish, Fred (aka Moby from the Amiga 'demo' scene) is still at Kalisto now (2001) as far as I know, having worked on the music to "Nightmare Creatures II" and "4 Wheel Thunder" recently. Check out his website here for more info..]

A classic round yellow video-game character and a spooky Victorian werewolf game. What do these two seemingly un-connected bits of weirdness have in common? Heh, it's that Fred Motte, the in-house musician at Kalisto in Bordeaux, France, has worked on both "Pac-In-Time" for the SNES and "Nightmare Creatures" for the Playstation. And, indeed, a lot more besides. Here's an interview with him, talking about game music, sound effects, and shouting into microphones... enjoy!

h0l: How did you get your job?

FM: I started making sound and music on my computer around 1987 (I had an Amiga 500 then). In 1989, I met a guy who was working for Coktel Vision (now a part of Sierra). He told me that they needed some tunes for their games. So I went there with a few computer tunes and got my first job as a freelance musician (maybe you remember No-Exit or Fascination?)

In 1990, I met Nicolas Gaume, who was starting a new video game company called Atreid Concept. We worked together for 4 years. I was still a freelance then. And in 1994, I became the in-house musician and sound designer in the same company, which is now called Kalisto Entertainment.

h0l: I know early in your career you got a chance to work on Pac-In-Time, a PacMan spin-off.. did you get a chance to remix all those classic Pacman tunes? How did you go about that?

FM: Well, the guys at Namco wanted the old PacMan theme to be included in the game. The funny thing was that they faxed us the score of the game-jingles and the main theme - the tune only used a single channel :) As they were only 2 or 4 bars long, I couldn't simply use those themes, so I composed totally different tunes, in which I included the famous Pac-Man theme. I even incorporated it in a spooky way for the haunted castle level :) That was really fun to do !

h0l:What kind of equipment do you have to make your music? Is the average computer game musician as well equipped as a studio musician nowadays?

FM: I know a lot of game musicians who have a really impressive equipment in their offices. Most of them have a real professional studio to hand. Unfortunately, I have just a home-studio here - a pair of synths, a mixing desk, and a direct-to-disk system. But I'm trying my best anyway. Lack of equipment is better than lack of talent ;)

h0l: Is it important for game musicians to be versatile in terms of the styles they can produce?

FM: Of course it is. A game musician has to able to handle a lot different styles. And I'm not talking about taste here. In fact, we're often asked to compose tunes in a style we don't like. I've done orchestral tunes, heavy-metal tunes, techno tunes, stupid-arcade-game tunes, game-for-kids tunes... I would suggest to any musician who wants to get in the video game industry to train in a lot of different styles. I often receive tapes with only techno tracks, or only synth tunes. At which point, I think "thanks for the tape, man. I'll contact you when I need you...(not !) "

h0l: "Nightmare Creatures" has a very spooky, dark, Victorian look to it - how did you go about creating sound effects and music for that?

FM: : I watched a lot of old horror movies during the making of Nightmare Creatures. One I especially liked was "A study in terror" (1965) which is set in London at the end of the 19th Century. There are a lot of scenes in the foggy streets of London at night, with chilling music. It inspired me a lot. I also had Danny Elfman's music in mind, or at least the spookier side of his work. And John Carpenter's movies like "The Thing" have a very minimalist soundtrack which is very effective nonetheless. All these are ingredients of "Nightmare Creatures"' music.� Pascal Barret, the designer of all the 'nightmare creatures' you come across, is a heavy metal fan. He wanted to have some heavy metal in the game, so we decided to put some on the boss levels, to give the bosses even more power :) And I loved that.

As far as sound effects are concerned, I made most of the monster sounds myself, with my own mouth and with a lot of sound processing. I still shout like the docker-thing in the game sometimes :). We also put a lot of ambient sounds, and on top of that, I added some more spooky sounds effects in the music itself. I must say I really enjoyed working on this game :)

h0l: Conversely, Ultimate Race is almost a straight arcade racing game - was it easy to make that certain style of arcade driving music? :)

FM: It's pretty funny that you ask that. I'm currently working on this :) I didn't want to do a techno tune (just because every racing game has techno doesn't mean we should have too!). The tune is a funk-rock song. I've just finished recording the rhythm guitar and the bass. A programmer on the game will play the guitar solos. And that should be nice :)

h0l: Are there any game musicians you particularly admire?

FM: Of course. Names like Rob Hubbard, Martin Galway, Tim Follin come first. I also love Nenad Vugrinev's music. He worked on "Ascendancy" and "The Tone Rebellion" by The Logic Factory. Some of my favorite game soundtracks are "Warcraft 1 & 2", "Diablo", and the mighty "Interstate 76".�

h0l: Is doing the Fifth Element music a problem for Kalisto when Eric Serra's movie score was so brilliant to start with? Did you need to just ignore that, or have you used it as a basis for your music?

FM: To be frank, I didn't really like both the movie and its soundtrack. We're doing a game inspired by the film, but Gaumont gave us the freedom of choice concerning the music. We could simply re-use it, or do something completely different. Most of the tunes from the soundtrack are unsuitable for an exploration/fighting game. So we decided to do a completely new soundtrack. Eric Serra will do a tune or two. The other are made here by my colleague Nicolas Sanchez.

h0l: Do you have ambitions in areas outside game music, or do you want to stay making music for games?

FM: I will do game music as long as I� like it :) But I'm planning to release commercial CDs, of course (who wouldn't ?). I'm also setting up a new band, because I love (and need !) to play live.

h0l: Finally, why isn't there more classical music in games? :)

BL: Dunno... :) Well, there's some orchestral music at least. Games like "Warcraft 1 & 2" have a really good orchestral soundtrack ! Dark Reign also has a very interesting mixture of orchestral and electronic music.��

h0l: Thanks!