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Interview with composer Jeremy Soule at PLAY! San Jose
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Roving correspondent Jayson Napolitano recently had the opportunity to conduct a comprehensive interview with one of the top video game composers in the industry.  Jeremy Soule has composed a number of recent hits for the PC including Oblivion, Guild Wars, and Supreme Commander, and Jayson was able to get more than a few words with him at the San Jose Performing Arts Center before the PLAY! concert held there in May.

We find out about Soule’s past experience at Squaresoft and how Total Annihilation put his career on the fast track.  We also learn about Soule’s plans for DirectSong and his future plans in film and gaming.

Photo courtesy of Jeron Moore and Norman Stone
Jayson Napolitano (left) & Jeremy Soule (right) at San Jose Performing Arts Center

Note: This interview is a text transcription of an audio recording which will be made available at a later date.

M4G:  We’re here today with Jeremy Soule composer and symphonist.  He’s done many titles recently, Oblivion, Morrowind, you want to rattle off a few more there?
Jeremy Soule:  Ah, Guild Wars.  Put that one in there. Supreme Commander. Who else do I owe money to? (laughs)

M4G:  As a composer, how do you feel about the title “Video game composer” that gets tossed around a lot?
JS:  Well, it’s a pretty accurate description.  I mean, I wish we had a better term for the video game industry than video games because maybe half the people who ever come in contact with video games came in contact with them maybe 20 years ago.  “Interactive movie” is a little too e-commerce like, a little too i-interactive, or i-video game-like, a little too trendy for me.  But I think video game, it’s just kind of what we’re going to be stuck with.  I don’t think it fully describes the meaning of it, but then they took up film, they call them movies still, so….

M4G:  So you don’t take any offense to the title “Video game composer?”
JS:  Oh no.  Not at all.

M4G: On your website, it’s undergone some changes recently, And I noticed that Secret of Evermore no longer appears on your credits.  Is there a reason for that?
JS:  It’s on the Chinese site. (laughs) Actually is embarrassingly outdated and yeah, we need to stick that back up right there at title number one.

M4G:  Okay, so it wasn’t intentional, right?  I wanted to be sure you weren’t trying to leave it behind or anything.
JS:  Oh no, I wasn’t trying to sweep that one under the rug.  Actually, Secret of Evermore, I’m proud of it, and in one of my brochures, it was fourth highest selling RPG on the Super Nintendo of all time.

M4G:  Do you know how much the soundtrack CD goes for these days?
JS:  I don’t even want to know, but I get people asking me.

M4G:  It goes for $200!
JS:  Whew!

M4G:  Yeah, I tried to get it actually, and uh…
JS:  It was that special packaging, you know, if you licked the packaging, you start seeing interesting things, right?

M4G:  So there’s an Evermore title rumor out there.  The rumor is that during development they had some zany title and you wrote the word Evermore on the white board on the way out and when everyone came back the next day they saw the word Evermore and decided to call the game Secret of Evermore.
JS:  Well, Alan Weiss, who was the producer on the project, and I will have to arm wrestle on that, but that was true, actually.  I wrote the word on the board, I just liked the word.  But I don’t even think they even knew where it came from, it just showed up on the board.  I didn’t have enough to do when I was at Square.

M4G:  I know you composed Secret of Evermore at a very young age.  What was your experience prior to composing that soundtrack that allowed for such a different sound that we hadn’t really heard in RPGs before?
JS:  Well, I couldn’t really do what they did at Square because I didn’t have the same tool set.  I was using Sculpture software sound tools and they were using a bonafied Sony system on the Super Nintendo, so the technology - my compression schemes, things that I was using, my tools, were very, how would I put this politely…very buggy.  And maybe the Sony system was equally so, I don’t know, but all I know is file open meant file save and file save meant file open.

What I found out is that a lot of tempos and different things were in the nature of the drivers.  It was a unique driver, it wouldn’t allow for a lot of phonetic writing.  Like a lot of the things Uematsu-san composed, I couldn’t even get anywhere close to the tempos he was accomplishing with my driver.  The game would start slowing down. 

M4G:  Was it more like a limitation thing?
JS:  It was totally a limitation thing, because I tried running tempos, and then optimized everything I could possibly do and the game would literally start slowing down even with a supposed co-processor.  So I had to make some hard decisions.

M4G:  It’s kind of funny that a lot of people look back to that soundtrack and say, wow, it was so ambient and different, and the reason for it was because you had hardware or software limitations!
JS:  Well, that’s actually the story of my life.  I mean, Star Wars: KOTOR (Knights of the Old Republic) was more ambient because at the time we only had an 8 megabit per second MIDI system.  That was state of the art.  I literally could not write for a full orchestra for Star Wars.  I had to fool people into thinking they were hearing a full orchestra.  I’d write woodwinds and drums, or woodwinds, horns and drums, or strings and drums and brass.  I couldn’t’ run the whole orchestra at once, it was impossible.

M4G:  Secret of Evermore was on the Super Nintendo, and Total Annihilation, which I believe was your next project…
JS:  Yeah, I named that game too. Chris wanted to call it "Partial Annihilation," and I wrote total on the board. (laughs)

M4G:  So that was on PC.  So how was that transition going from the limitations to being wide open?
JS:  It was awesome.  The thing is, we were like a UFO that year because I went to Ron  Gilbert, Chris Taylor and  I said guys, we have 35 RTS games and they’re all doing techno music, and the only way we’re really going to differentiate ourselves, as I see it on the music, is by doing an orchestral score.  We need to hire a live orchestra, because even at the time, I was only able to run two MIDI systems at that point.  Now we run hundreds of MIDI systems. 

So there was no way I was going to do a "Star Wars"-like, orchestral type score.  "Star Wars" was a model for me because there was really nothing in recent memory that was like it.  And people in 1997 thought fondly of "Star Wars," but people (for the most part) thought, are those movies even really relevant anymore?  They’re so old.  I said look, what they did back then, John Williams was putting all that energy into orchestra, still works now. 

And so I said I will work for free for a year if this fails, and they looked at me and kinda laughed and said okay Jeremy, we’re going to do it.  So we spent the money and got the thing recorded, and Ron Gilbert was in his office and I remember hearing him laughing really loudly and then I walked in his office and said what?  He said, “The first review I saw, the first sentence was about the music.”   And of course Chris Taylor made an incredible game and so it was a big boom in the orchestral music scene.  So I appreciated their compliments.

M4G:  The Redbook audio thing helped a lot too.
JS:  Redbook meant, yeah, Redbook.  We shipped Total Annihilation and the music system was broken.  We had a problem, and Supreme Commander had the same problem, actually, it’s funny how history repeats itself, but we weren’t switching between battle and passive music.  We had a very simple system and it wasn’t working properly.  So, yeah, that was way, way better than working with a sound chip.  50k of RAM of sound on the Super Nintendo was all we had.

M4G:  Secret of Evermore CD had some orchestral arrangements. Was that some way of lashing out against the constraints placed on you by the rest?
JS:  Yeah, I took 500 pounds of equipment back to the Midwest where I grew up and told Squaresoft that I’d see them in a few months, and I decided that my brother and I would play all the parts and kind of orchestrate it in a way that was closer to what we wanted at the time.  When I went to Squaresoft and first got my job, I wasn’t at the job more than a month and I had met with Gerard Schwartz of the Seattle Symphony, and I never had in mind I wanted to hire an orchestra for a video game…..

M4G:  Overclocked Remix is a fan-run remix site, and you submitted an arrangement of Uematsu-san’s “Terra” piece. It was a huge deal for the fans that you were contributing to their community.  How did that idea pop into your head?
JS: I tool around on the ‘net a little more than I should, but when I got hired at Squaresoft, my first responsibility was to test that game because I didn’t even have my audio equipment, I didn’t have anything to compose with, so that game kinda meant something to me because it was Final Fantasy VI and it came out as Final Fantasy III here.  So really, I just thought Uematsu-san, he’s amazing, he’s the top composer in my business. 

I’ve always aspired to him and the other thing is I believe when a composer becomes more successful, (and I’ve been lucky,) we are really socially bound to do what we can to encourage up and coming talent.  Talent that is going to replace us, to me that’s a big deal and I just wanted to put my two cents into it and say hey, this is a really good idea, and you should do it.  Kids, keep working, because someday, if I’m lucky, I’ll be an old man, with a bunch of projects, films, and video games behind me, and hopefully I’ve done my little bit to get new people into the craft.  It’s so important.  Brahms did it.  Brahms, brought in Mahler, and before him, Schumann brought in Brahms.  It’s always happened this way.  John Williams was given a start by the Newmans, (Ronald Newman), those guys.  So it goes on and on, James Horner was brought in by Goldsmith, and other people.  Of course, Bernard Herrmann had a good part in bringing in John Williams, so over the years, composers help composers learn.

M4G:  On to Bethesda Softworks.  The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall had a huge following, the music was all really eclectic sounding MIDI stuff, but people felt really strongly about the music in that game, very atmospheric.  Were you intimidated by the popularity of the series or the music?
JS:  I knew it was a great game.  I knew the fans were really hardcore about it.  Anytime I come into a new existing franchise, I can tell you, I’ve read a lot of passionate emails about Fallout, and I’m not the composer for Fallout 3.  It’s funny, there’s a bit of irony I think in every new project that comes along, but Todd Howard wanted to record in Moscow, and I knew they needed an orchestral score, and I also felt that the game was so huge that it needed 85 hours of music to cover it properly.  The size of the game influenced my style because I knew the music would be heard over and over and over again.  And so it was a very cautious decision.  The minimalism that people describe in Morrowind and Oblivion was very intentional, and for me it was one of these things where I tried to paint in soft tones so the ear wouldn’t get worn out playing the game for 100 hours.

M4G: Did you play or listen to Daggerfall?
JS:  I played a little bit of Daggerfall.  Unfortunately my machine was acting up during that time.  I had a PC, but I was a MAC guy, so I have a lot of MACs.  I never bought Daggerfall for MAC, so I had a gaming computer, jeez, all the good stuff.  Having to set things like Winsock to get on the Internet or having to change jumpers for DMA or memory settings, all the fun stuff.  I remember Daggerfall being way bigger than I had time to play.

M4G:  Alright, I’m going to move onto something else that was on the website.  There was a Citizen Kabuto CD that was going to be distributed and sold, then we got emails saying you were going to sign the CDs…what happened with that whole scenario?

JS:  Anyone who signed up for that, tell them to write me, and when that comes out, we will give them a free one, a free download, through DirectSong.  We do own the rights to Citizen Kabuto.  The main thing is that Napster was just kicking everyone’s butt.  We had a lot of interest from people… I mean, I may have had 1800-1900 emails, but we only had maybe 85 pre-orders because people would email me, “When is it coming out so I can download it for free?” (laughs)  So, you know, it’s just like for us, I was looking at writing a check to have a bunch of cool CDs in my closet that would never go anywhere.  You know, we’re still trying to iron that out.  I think people are understanding that there are folks who make a living off selling recordings. But yeah, it was really just Napsterized; we saw the handwriting on the wall and said even if we manufactured a couple thousand, only the hardcore people were really going to plunk down and buy it.  It was just a little too early for us to get involved.

M4G:  So other music distribution deals you’ve done are collector’s editions of various games.  How do you work your music releases into these and why have you used them in the past to distribute your music as opposed to a separate release through another label?
JS:  It was funny, when I was head of music over at Humongous/Cavedog, and I tried really hard to get GT Interactive interested in distributing, and Total Annihilation was one of their titles; they laughed and said there’s no market for that.  And I think everyone has one point or another has looked at the video game thing and had a completely different answer as to what should and shouldn’t be done.  The proper way to look at video game music, and this is what our mission is with DirectSong (and it’s been very successful) is that music can be used very effectively to promote video games.  It’s not “Is video game music going to be this huge market?”  It never is.  It’s a niche.  In fact, it’s a niche of classical music and classical music is a niche of the recording industry, and so the numbers are very, very small.  I mean, nobody is ever going to get rich writing video game music, but with DirectSong, we are able to create a launch platform through co-promotion with the publishers and they don’t have to tie up a lot of resources, because game publishers are not in the business of selling music; they have no interest, they sell games, that’s what they do. 

The bane of my existence has been, as a composer, the lack of availability of most of my stuff.  A lot of the soundtrack collector CDs that are out there, I didn’t have much involvement in terms of the mastering or sequencing or even naming these things because a lot of times it’s done by some marketing department on the other side of the planet that somehow gets a hold of the game resource files; I cringe when I think about this, but they take the music - (this is never done in Hollywood soundtracks, it’s never done with film soundtracks) but to take our cues or unfinished cues, not edit and not put them together, and not really pay any attention whatsoever of the entertainment value the soundtrack CD has.  It’s more of an archive.  They should have called it a backup disc rather than a soundtrack disc because that’s really what it was, was an archival disc, and I know there are two different thoughts in the soundtrack community.  There is archivalist theory and the other is the sort of the soundtrack aficionado who likes to be entertained, so I think there’s a balance to be struck there, but so far, we’re still working on that.

M4G:  It’s good you brought up DirectSong, which is the online site,, which people can go to and download various soundtracks in digital format that you’ve done.  Do you have any plans to offer physical CDs through DirectSong in the future?
JS:  Yes, we certainly have.  I mean, I’m talking to a very prominent video game company right now that has quite a few video game soundtracks and they’re very weak on the download side, the technology and the download and the customer base. DirectSong is very soon going to have a million registered customers.  So we’re very excited about that.   A lot of those customers download free product, so I’m not saying we have a million sales, no.  We have not had a million sales.

M4G:  That’s like the coupon that you get with the collector’s edition?
JS:  Yes, which has been great.  So physical property we could definitely do, but I would like to do something, maybe down the road, with HD-DVD or something that's really cool.

M4G:  Have you ever considered putting original works of your own, releasing an album on there that’s not related to video game music?
JS:  Yeah, I’ve thought about it.  I think the thing with DirectSong is it’s a brand new concept, nobody has done it before.  I had to prove out the concept and we’re looking forward to having a lot of other composers.  In fact, we’re in the process of working with a number of composers right now.  It’s a multi-stage process.  You have to get the rights from the game publishers, then you have to go through all the source material, you have to edit it, ultimately you have to create artwork.  Then it’s a matter of coordinating other people’s IP with your record company and I’ll tell you, marketing guys in video games are the hardest working guys I’ve ever met.  These guys work 16-18 hours a day sometimes and they’re selling video games, so I’m like, hey, I’m calling about your music, and they’re like, what?  (laughs)

M4G: Do you have to retain the rights, and apparently you do...?
JS:  I do.  There are some games I don’t have the rights to, like Harry Potter.  That’s a no-brainer, and George Lucas kept his rights to KOTOR, which is a big reason why I have no influence in terms of getting KOTOR out.  That’s LucasArts’ call.  They make the decision whether I agree with it or not, doesn’t matter.  They made the decision, but for now they’re not releasing it, and maybe they will at some point in the future, I don’t know.

M4G:  So you’re planning to have other people’s works on DirectSong eventually?
JS:  Oh, absolutely.

M4G:  It’s not the Jeremy Soule one stop place to shop?
JS:  It is not.  And that’s the thing.  It’s been hard though.  Before people commit energy to something, they want to see it succeed, and DirectSong was definitely a fly machine when we got it started.  The fact with the site, according to Alexa, we’ve had on days where we’ve surpassed traffic from major video game publishers.  So certainly we have hits like Oblivion going through there and Guild Wars is the second biggest online game now in the West, it helps.

M4G:  Regarding rights, have you thought about getting them?  Where are the scores for the cancelled games, Sovereign and Awakening, and can we hope to see them on DirectSong someday?
JS:  I hope so!  For Sovereign, that’s sitting over at Sony Online, and it’s beautifully recorded.  They did a really great job.  I felt very bad when the game didn’t come out.  I think it was a very ambitious game, and the guys had very good intentions over there.  Awakening is sitting over at Atari right now, and at some point I’d like to release those. With cancelled games, it’s kind of a touchy subject.  I mean, you’re releasing something to somebody’s personal failure, and do they want to be reminded of that?  No.  So maybe I could put it out under a pseudonym if I got their permission. 

M4G:  We’ll call it “Reawakening.”
JS:  Yeah, asleep at the wheel.

M4G:  You’ve done a lot of projects these past couple of years in particular.  How do you field what projects you’re taking on these days?
JS:  I’m doing some crazy, different games.  I mean, people know me for my RPGs, but I’m doing this quirky little game in Asia called Housewife Superstar which… (laughs)
All I know is it’s super-cute!  Right?  And we’ve got some handheld stuff coming up here pretty quick.  We have a cellphone game that’s coming up.  I can’t say what yet, but it’s going back to my roots.  And some sports stuff, and of course we have more Guild Wars.  I’m looking forward to that.

M4G:  So that’s going to be the fourth CD then.  You have three out there, right?
JS:  Ah, it’s just going to keep going.  My next ten years of my life will probably be wrapped up in that game.

M4G:  What kind of research goes into your various scores? At what point do you get to see the game?  Do you actually start playing it, or do they provide you with a concept and you compose accordingly?
JS:  Well, sometimes I know the designer before it’s even hardly an inkling in their mind’s eye, we’re talking about ideas, and wouldn’t it be great if we did this or that?  So I’m very involved with some of these games very early on, like 3 or 4 years in advance. I like getting as much source material as I possibly can, because really what it is, I’m a musical narrator.  I have to narrate things, reveal things to the audience, holding certain things back, and all that requires me to have a level of understanding of the game that the writer would have because music is a literal language and I can really communicate things that are a lot more specific than people would expect.

M4G:  So is it more like someone giving you a demo of the game? Are you actually sitting there playing it, feeling the experience i.e. to get a feel for what’s going on?
JS:  Well, sometimes.  I mean, we got a build of Morrowind pretty early, but a lot of times, like with Prey, I just had hours and hours, like dozens of hours of QuickTime footage that somebody captured for me, because sometimes the game’s just impossible.  I mean, it was like, I’d have to have a C++ engineer.

M4G:  You’ve worked on a lot of big titles, how do you limit yourself from repeating the same ideas?
JS:  Oh, I’m sure I’ve self-plagiarized.  The thing is people hear different iterations, and if I’m doing an electronic score, I have a very optimized set of stuff that we use, and Dungeon Siege and Morrowind were kind of done in the same era, so is the technology.  Just like you could have two different 80’s pop bands and they will sound like the same era because a lot of the equipment is the same and whatnot.  It creates somewhat of a tinge, and I say that in kind of a good way.  The other thing is I get hired to do a lot of orcs and goblins and elves and everything else, so I was doing a lot of "Lord of the Rings" before there was "Lord of the Rings," (the films, anyway,) so am I going to have some more notes in me to entertain people? 

It is a challenge.  I look at James Horner, and James Horner has taken a lot of flack over the years for self-plagiarizing.  This is a rumor; they once hired an orchestra, and said, “Tell me something about your instruments.”  They didn’t have any music on their stands, nothing.  He was just really reaching to try to understand what else more he could do with the orchestra.  And I’m not there yet, but I can see where you write enough of these projects, and you have to start, no pun intended, soul-searching to come up with something new.

M4G:  How do you keep coming up with the ideas?
JS:  Yeah, it’s hard.

M4G:  So for your creative process, do you start with the theme track to set the tone for the rest of your score, or how do you go about it?
JS:  Themes always come later for me. I don’t like jumping in the deep end on a project.  I’ll start with some inconsequential piece of music and just start sketching a little bit.  And it’s not that I can’t imagine music, it’s just that I want to make sure my vision is lining up with everyone, so I’ll start with lower-stakes music and move on from there.

M4G:  You work your themes into various pieces which is a very film-esque kind of technique so I thought maybe you did the theme first.
JS:  What happens is you’ll hear fragments of the theme which meant I haven’t figured out the theme properly yet.  And then later on I take all those pieces and make a theme and it makes it sound like I was just burying it in there.

M4G:  Well, you tricked us. You pulled a fast one.  What is your brother Julian’s role in your various projects?
JS:  Julian is a composer, and I’m kind of like a pilot, and he’s more like a flight engineer, but he can pilot the plane just as well as I do.  He has a more technical understanding of the equipment because we use a very advanced system. At any given time, we might have anywhere from 25-30 high-end PC workstations.  It looks like a server room.  Getting all that stuff to work together is a minor miracle.

M4G:  But when you guys compose together, do you write a track, then he does another, or do you work together?
JS:  We always split things up and I never know what he’s working on.  In fact, I hardly ever hear it until it’s on the shelf.

M4G:  So he has his own tracks and you have your own tracks and you compile it at the end?
JS:  Yeah, usually I’ll look at something and say this is lots more work and I don’t want to do it, can you do it?

M4G:  A lot of game music fans want to know who specifically wrote this track, and that track, etc.
JS:  With Quidditch World Cup, he wrote probably half of the anthems for the themes, and we even had a little thing, we posted up some of the anthems, and it’s really hard to tell who did what.

M4G:  So you speak with the same musical voice?
JS:  We can.  He’s been around me enough; he knows what I’m going to do.

M4G:  So which score of yours are you most proud of and disappointed with?
JS:  That’s always a tough question because I love a lot of things I’ve worked on.  So I can’t really say.  Probably the score I’m most proud of is the score I haven’t written yet.  Because I’ll go, “I’ll do it better next time!”  So it’s constantly improving.  That’s the thing, I listen to stuff I wrote ten years ago, and I’ll say too, “I was a lot more capable as a composer ten years ago, than the technology would allow.”  Awakening was really meant to show off some of the things I could do, but of course that game went 86, and then Sovereign was also another. I think both of those games not coming out, they were significant setbacks for me and my career.

M4G:  You pulled through it.
JS:  Well, just like my buddy Chris Taylor, he’s been around with publishers.  He says I feel the shadow of a piano following me, I move, the piano falls, okay, great, that calamity is averted.  Alright, oh crap, here’s another piano.  They keep coming.

M4G:  How did you get involved with the PLAY! concert series?
JS:  Jason Michael Paul contacted me, and for all practical purposes, PLAY! is the official touring symphony for my music, there’s no other tour that’s performed my stuff.   I knew Jason’s background with the Three Tenors, so I was really excited to get involved with it.

M4G:  Whose scores do you admire and who are your favorite composers?  You already mentioned Uematsu-san, but do you have any others?
JS:  Well, yeah, he’s the top of the world.  I mean, my peers in the business are some really great guys.  Marty O’Donnell is a fantastic composer.  Bill Brown is fantastic.  I think over the years Jack Wall has done some nice things.  And hey, Clint Bajakian’s Indiana Jones score, that was cool.  So there’s stuff that I remember and occasionally reference.  And I’ll say too, Fat Man was responsible for getting me on Sovereign, so I need to go down and egg his car or something.. …

He was talking to the guys and they were just really in love with Total Annihilation.  So he said, “I know Jeremy Soule, I can give him a phone call,” so George Sanger is definitely somebody over the years I’ve always thought highly of.   Those are the industry guys, but on the film side of it, who can argue with John Williams, I mean he’s great.  I like Hans Zimmer, James Horner; I like anybody who is really working, doing commercial work, I mean, you really have to admire it even if it may not be your cup of tea.

M4G:  I’m surprised there’s no resentment there.  I mean, everyone called Jeremy Soule the John Williams of video game music.
JS:  Oh yeah.  I had nothing to do with that. I look at John Williams and I just want to work harder because I haven’t written my best music yet.  No way, not a chance.  If you look at the timelines of most of the composers, even the film composers around my age, John Williams had just scored three movies at my age.  A lot of people don’t realize that he was a middle-aged man when he started working on "Jaws" and "Star Wars," I mean, he was in his 40’s and 50’s.  So I think composers get a lot better when we get a little life experience.  For me, in my 20’s it was, “figure out how to work with my talent,” and now that I have control over the talent, what do I want to do, what do I want to say?  And this is now the time for that.

M4G:  So you’re telling us there’s a lot more of Jeremy Soule to come?
JS:  I don’t want to depredate the work we’ve done because I know a lot of people love it, and certainly we worked really hard at the time and it represents our best effort, but my brother says, yeah, we haven’t written anything yet.  That’s what he says. 

If we’re lucky enough and blessed enough to have good health, good projects, and good family and have good things happen, if anything, I’m like a potted plant; if I get some sun and some water and I keep growing, I might turn into a tree someday.  So this is a big, long process.  This is a 16 hour a day endeavor, seven days a week.  There are people out there who say I wish I was doing what Jeremy’s doing.  I say, well, spend a week or two with me, maybe you’d go running insane because this is a seriously intense business.  This is like Olympic athlete training, I mean discipline is involved.  The great JS Bach said if you want to be a great composer, compose every day, and for the most part, I’ve been sticking to that.  I’m not a great composer yet, but I’ve stuck to it.  I’ve done 10,000 compositions. I’ve still got a long way to go.

Photo courtesy of Jeron Moore and Norman Stone

M4G:  Video game music is starting to sound a lot more like film music.  Besides the obvious advances in sound quality that we’ve seen, do you think this is a good thing?  Do you still think there’s room for innovation in game music?
JS:  Oh yeah.  I think there’s a lot of room for innovation, and I think if anything… let’s start with basics.  Let’s get a full-time programmer dedicated to music programming.  A lot of people will come out, “Oh, what was Jeremy thinking when he wrote that piece of music, that idiot!”  And like, yeah, what was I thinking, because that piece wasn’t supposed to be there, and it wasn’t supposed to be at that level, and it wasn’t supposed to be playing 100 times in a row, and it did not follow the sound spec, so.

M4G:  Audio programmers!
JS:  Well, that’s the thing.  At Artistry Entertainment, we do audio programming if we get the contract, but a lot of times game companies insist on their own programmers, and I’ve never met a programmer that says we can’t do that or can’t get it done, they always say yes it can be done, but… they want to please their bosses and employers, and when it comes to the graphics and blue screen of death and music playing in the right spot, guess where I’m at?

M4G:  You get the brunt!
JS:  Yeah, pretty much we always do.

M4G:  In the past you’ve indicated that you’re very interested in scoring film, for feature films.  Do you feel like you’re any closer to that ambition, and do you intend to stay focused on games?
JS:  I mean every day, yes.  I’m a composer first and foremost, more than I’m a video game composer or a film composer, I’m a composer.  Whether that be a world premiere at the Walt Disney Concert Hall which happened a few years ago in 2003, or that’s a BAFTA winning score for Harry Potter in the video game Chamber of Secrets, or if that’s working with a rock band for a Leonardo Dicaprio film, I’ve done all those things. 

At the end of the day, I look at every day as a practice, and every time I’ve finished a work and felt good about it, I generally see other people agree.  So that’s a good feeling.  I’ve never really written a score and people said, “Ugh, that’s terrible, what was he thinking?”  Maybe that day will come, and if it does, that’s a part of the process, but generally I write the music for myself because if I’m not happy with it, how can I expect anyone else to be? 

Films are going to be a part of that process, I’ve worked with an award-winning director, Norman Stone, on a movie called "Beyond Narnia" last year and it turned out really well, and if people saw “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe,” they heard my fifteen seconds of fame on that film.

M4G:  The logo theme.
JS:  The logo, yes.  So yeah, I expect, if anything, cream rises and if you work hard and you got talent, I expect that I will be recognized by more people who have interesting projects, but until then, I’m happy with what I’m doing, so it’s just a matter of just trying to prove every day.

M4G:  Well, as a fan of game music we’ll be sorry to see you having to split your time between the two, but it sounds like with those DS games and everything else you’ve got lined up, there’s no sign of slowing, so we’ll look forward to seeing what you’ll have for us in the future and hope to also see you in the film industry.
JS:  We’re still seeing music from Michael Giacchino in games, Michael’s doing more work now, he’s a great composer and a great friend, so I think it’s just a matter of how many more RPGs do I have in me.   I don’t know. 

M4G:  Alright, Jeremy Soule, it’s been a pleasure.
JS:   Likewise, thank you!

Jayson Napolitano
Staff Writer, Music4Games

Related links:

Guild Wars: Eye of the North Original Soundtrack
Supreme Commander Original Soundtrack
Jeremy Soule scores IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey
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