[Dylan Cuthbert and the folks at Q-Games continue to make interesting audiovisual choices for their PixelJunk series of downloadable PlayStation 3 games, and here, we catch up with The Orb's Alex Paterson and collaborator Dom Beken, the folks behind the soundtrack to PixelJunk Shooter as High Frequency Bandwidth.]
The fourth title in the PixelJunk series by developer Q-Games
features a soundtrack by UK electronic music team High Frequency Bandwidth.
Comprised of Alex Paterson and Dom Beken, the two have previously contributed to The Orb and Transit Kings music groups. Together they have overseen Q-Games' process of transforming six of their licensed music tracks into interactive audio files that reflect the on-screen action of PixelJunk Shooter
High Frequency Bandwidth follows Kyoto musicians Otograph
of PixelJunk Monsters
of PixelJunk Eden
in providing music for the downloadable game series. Music found in PixelJunk Shooter
will be released in a series of EPs beginning April 12 on Malicious Damage Records
In this interview on the subject of the game, we hear about the process behind the score for the Playstation 3 downloadable title and High Frequency Bandwidth's plans for the future.
Dom Beken and Alex Paterson
Q-Games president Dylan Cuthbert has mentioned that he's followed The Orb and Transit Kings for years. When did the idea of collaborating on PixelJunk Shooter first come up?
High Frequency Bandwidth: We happened to have known Dylan from Club Karma
in Osaka, from many blue moons ago. What happened was, when Dylan first came to us he asked if we had anything he could use for Shooter
. We sent in around fifteen demos we were working on for High Frequency Bandwidth and he just loved it.
We ended up settling on six pieces of music. The follow on from that was, I was worried that if someone got stuck on a level they'd just keep hearing the same track over and over and end up muting the sound, which wouldn't help the game at all. We then came up with the idea of doing versions that acted dynamically with the game.
How did you go about adapting the sketches shown to Q-Games for PixelJunk Shooter?
It was a matter of taking the tracks and stripping them back to their individual elements so that as different things happen in the game, different elements of the music tracks are triggered. In that respect, every time you play the game you are hearing a new version of the music.
Were you dealing with any unique constraints during this process?
One concern was keeping it within the confines of a download game: the more music you want people to download, the bigger the files are going to be. The music ends up being a big part of the file that you download for this game.
How is High Frequency Bandwidth related to your previous band Transit Kings?
The reason we got together is going back we had been working on The Orb
, and we had the idea of putting together a band with Guy Pratt and Jimmy Cauty. That was Transit Kings
. We decided to carry it on with a new name and new direction, and that was High Frequency Bandwidth.
Did all the music in some form predate joining the game's production, including the theremin intro piece and the boss battle track?
All of the tracks existed in one form or another. "Hill Film Blues" is a full length track and will be on the album, longer than the short intro piece as the game starts up which has got a theremin in it. "Hellfire and Brimsone" is the one with the heavy guitar on it. We've done a lot or work on scores for films, TV and ads, which works for set pieces like the opening, but presents an interesting challenge for gameplay when the player controls the action.
The basic tracks came from the project we've been writing for our album and EPs. Choosing a direction for them really came out of going back and forward on Skype and e-mail with Dylan, Rhod and Kentaro [Yoshida]
. We started looking at some Quicktime movies and in the first instance literally started working to the movies exactly as if they were a film.
Who was responsible for the sound effects?
Q have their own effects designer and he's done a great job making something sympathetic to the music. Some of the SFX required a slightly more musical approach, so we also designed some bits and sent them over.
There’s an instrumental version of “Hundred Forty Billion” on your website, but how does it differ from the track on the EP?
We have an amazing guest vocalist on that track from the Zulu Nation Rhyme Syndicate named Dynamax. The Indian vocalist on "Happy Fucking Birthday," which Sony had cleaned up as Happy "Funky" Birthday for the game, is Aadesh Shrivastava
. Aadesh is a prolific Bollywood composer and artist who also loves hip hop.
Where did the samples featured on “Hundred Forty Billion" originate from?
It would help if I could remember. We use tiny snippets of license-free sound sources, which are the basis for the granular synthesis we use to create something new. If you were to come into the studio, you would see us knee deep in records from all over the world, scouring every kind of video holding site on the planet, and every other form of audio we can get our hands on.
When did you first get acquainted with hip-hop as a musical form?
I first got into it in the mid 1990’s when instrumental hip-hop was blowing up in the UK in Bristol. I got interested in all kinds of breakbeat music, and that became the form that I liked writing the best. I went to university in Liverpool and stayed on for about four years afterwards, working at Parr Street Studios.
I was living around the Sefton Park area then. Liverpool at that time still had a great underground black music scene, mostly in illegal parties in the basements of the huge (former slave-traders) houses in Toxteth. There I met artists like Lloyd Massett who introduced me to Jalal from the Last Poets.
London has a certain perception of the musical history of Liverpool for bands like the Beatles, but actually Liverpool has the oldest black population in the country and has a vibrant hip-hop scene. It’s been a passion of mine and I’ve been looking for an outlet to write something that is hip-hop influenced. High Frequency Bandwidth is the first project I’ve had to really do that.
Do you feel that you have more focus now, as opposed to being part of a larger ensemble?
Definitely. Hip-hop is a genre predominantly made by a DJ and a musician. It’s made things infinitely easier.
How do you plan for the EPs and album to differ from the interactive music in the game?
You’ll find the tracks are every bit as dynamic to listen to, but in Shooter
the player controls how the tracks go. If you start to get attacked in the game, you’ll hear more threatening elements of the track coming in. When you stop fighting, the track will automatically strip back to the atmospheric and ambient electronic music. On the EP you will get the tracks as we wanted them to sound as pieces of music, as opposed to what is happening in reaction to what is on the screen.
When can we expect to see the music from the game released?
Very soon the first EPs will be coming out in the UK. "Hundred Forty Billion" will be on EP#2, "Hill Film Blues" and "Happy Fucking Birthday" will be on EP#3, "Hidden Foto Banks" and "Hell Fire and Brimstone" will be on the album of the same title to follow. There are no plans to release "High Flying Birds" at the moment, but it might feature on the goodies list on our website. The first EP comes out on iTunes and most other download sites on April 12th or thereabouts.
From here, what are you looking to accomplish in the future for High Frequency Bandwidth?
We would like to be playing some kind of new media outlet, more interactive music and providing scores for films. Of course this year we are looking to play some festivals and do a tour of our own. Generally, we are looking to go beyond just making records in the studio to get our music out there.
[For more information on High Frequency Bandwidth, visit the official website. Images courtesy of Q-Games and Malicious Damage Records.]