"Welcome To The Future", alias "The Main Theme from Trials Fusion", music & lyrics by Petri Alanko:
Welcome to the future
Man, machine - the fusion
Welcome to the future
Lightyears ahead of evolution
Slay your darkest fears
down the narrow tracks you steer
Welcome to the future
Originally, the song was meant to serve as a backing track for a 3rd party "first look" video of Trials Fusion and Frontier, but it was shelved for being probably too overly pop - or just a wrong song for that kind of usage. Sometimes a song just won't fit into a picture, or the makers of the video have been listening to a certain song - or genre - throughout the planning stage, thus planting an effective earworm, preventing anything from replacing the original. But that doesn't really end there, instead an evolution (pun intended) set in the way.
When the Trials Fusion soundtrack slowly evolved, took its form and grew some muscles around the shaky bones of the first early demos, the creative people at Redlynx noticed they'd soon need a theme, too - something for the loader screen as well as the menu itself - and by then I remembered the shelved track. It had a verse too, but it somehow didn't fit into the game, so it was left out from the game soundtrack version. Also, the original "alt pop" arrangement was way too lame when compared to the full blast sheer hell provided by the rest of the soundtrack, so something had to be done. Incredibly, it wasn't the tempo as it is in most cases, instead, it was the original version's rhythm arrangement that sucked most. Having sorted that out with an uneven rhythm basis (a happy accident caused by Logic X's nasty arrange snapping bug), the rest of the song just followed naturally, bassline filling in the necessary "missing" rhythmical positions. The chorus itself didn't bring in enough variety, so a soprano was brought to help - this time as a sample, it's no human voice. I tried to catch two possible female vocalists for the job, but the other was having a vacation, and the other one never responded to my email. Maybe next time. To contrast the beauty of epic pads and the soprano even more, three separate basslines were constructed: one providing the body, the other two all necessary flavors of distortion and rectifying. The base note was kept mono, the other two were "bent" differently in the stereo picture
To tie the far ends of the track together, I used quite a few separate arpeggio patches from Prophet-12 and a John Bowen Solaris - which provides two of the largest pads in the song as well. Solaris kept doing its own thing every now and then, but it's by far one of the most versatile pieces of machinery ever made. A digital machine that doesn't sound like one. However, since it's still in a beta-ish form, it can be quirky, but manageable. And the sounds are just perfect. (It's being used very heavily in the upcoming Quantum Break soundtrack, too.) The other two arpeggios come from my trusty old Nord Modular G2X, and every patch was designed to fit into the other patch's holes, although they got a bit help from DMG Audio's EQuilibrium plugin. (A really nice one, that.) Some of the Solaris's patches aren't the most processor friendly, so some time correction had to be made, but only occasionally. If outside modulators are used, the machine lags so badly it's impossible to imagine it's 2014 - but, shooting out the sounds it does, it's all forgiven.
Some background vocals were made with G2X, too, using it as a vocoder. I've got a nice early-70's-Sennheiser-ish vocoder patch, which I've used many, many times, and again it provided enough warmth and rawness to blend in with the rest of the wailing. Mind you, I'm NOT a vocalist, I just may barely survive singing if done at my pace. Nothing to be heard on stage, that is. I'll leave that to pros. It's easy to yell in tune, but incredibly difficult to sing in tune.
The whole soundtrack was made a few things in mind: it should have a few components from the past, and quite a few from today's pop culture - as well as foretelling what might come in the future. What are the crucial components of, say, drum'n'bass, trance, alternative rock (well, guitar, I suppose?)… and even dubstep? Electro? EDM? What could be the most vital components, the ones that might survive a nuclear war, live for decades, maybe centuries? We already re-use the Strawberry Fields Mellotron flutes every now and then, Muse had some twang/surf guitar in their huge "Knights of Cydonia" hit, the TR-808 clap hasn't gone anywhere - and TB-303 just got its digital rebirth in reality as Roland's newest item, the TB-3.
Some of the harmonic movements and phrases will obviously stay with us forever - think the I-VI-IV-V chord progression, for instance, or basic 12-bar blues structure, or, to put it in chord names, am-F-C-G/B can be found in about two dozen hits within past few years (Alesso's "City of Dreams", Armin van Buuren's "This is what it feels like", Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry", Katy Perry's "Unconditionally", Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger"… even hipsters were guilty of going there: MGMT's "Kids" used it too). Those "footprints" stay with us forever, not as songs as such, but as flavors, tones, phrases, chord progressions... they will become the future red-brown handprints on the cave walls. More or less, but they'll survive. Also, the cultural convergence will continue; reggae flavors are all over Western music, even some J-pop flavors linger on. Some bhangra beats appear every now and then here and there... the fusion (again, pun intended) will continue.
So, building on the tradition, extrapolating, converging and simply mashing up stuff in a no-school way was the right route. Usually genre polices are the ones preventing the genre itself from developing, by the way, so a conscious decision was made: at least two different styles must be mashed up in the songwriting, two more as the production guidelines. There are a few good examples of that in Trials Fusion's soundtrack, the few really lucky ones, and the unhappy ones weren't too bad either, but they had to be beefed up with some extra energy provided by modular synths.
"Welcome to The Future" was one of the happiest accidents on the soundtrack: the female soprano vocals combined with my raw yelling and wailing in the chorus (plus the croning part in the verse NOT heard in the game version), the tranced out synth buildup, the signature digital screeches in the intro, deep unwobbly bass (provided by NI's Massive and a Prophet 12), and an overly compressed Oberheim DMX with some real trash can loops - oh, and a heavy dose of baritone guitars giving the low edge and rawness. Actually, if looked (listened?) through rose-tinted glasses (headphones?), the rhythm pattern is closely related to drum'n'bass. But maybe people in the future have a bit more relaxed pace of life, thus drum'n'bassing in a bit more laidback feel? The trance remixes (the long one and the radio edit) are also worth listening to. They're MASSIVE.
I'll return to Trials Fusion's soundtrack in the near future, when time is right, so another post will appear both here and in my blog (peterlowland.com). Meanwhile: Welcome to the future - the game looks really, really, really nice. And sounds good, too.