Sam Hughes speaks to composer, Cris Velasco about his recent work on Resident Evil VII: Biohazard and the Hulu Original Series: Freakish. You can see our last interview with Cris HERE.
Hi Cris, great to have you back on the site again!
So first off, let’s talk about the Hulu Original Series: Freakish, which focuses on a group of high-school students who are trapped inside their school when a nearby chemical plant explodes, resulting in residents and other infected students turning into mutated freaks.Were you told the full plot beforehand? How did the plot influence your writing?
I was given a new episode each week, so the entire plot was slowly revealed to me over the course of a couple months while I worked on it. It was actually a cool way to experience it. At the end of each episode, I really was anxious to find out what happened!
I started out by building my template of instruments, much like I’d do for any other project. The sounds I used on episode 01 became the foundation for the rest of the season. I just continuously added more as the episodes came in and as new drama unfolded.
How did they describe to you what they wanted from the music?
They *did not* want a typical horror score. I was asked to do something a bit leftfield. Other than some moments of intense action, the score mostly needed to be creepy and atmospheric. It was also mainly electronic with a bit of orchestra added as an embellishment. This is almost exactly the opposite approach I take on nearly every other score I’ve written. Writing music for Freakish was a rewarding experience and gave me the opportunity to try out new sounds and techniques.
What has been your approach to writing the score for this project?
My approach was to write more with my heart rather than my head. This was a necessity because of the time constraints. Being my first TV series, I was in for a dramatic shift in my work flow. I needed to write about 20 minutes of music every five days. This included doing all the revisions and a final mix as well. Very typical for television but compared to working on games it’s a faster writing and production process. It was an amazing master class in time management and I really got into the flow. Since then, I’ve gotten much faster on all my projects.
Did you change your methods as the series progressed?
Not really. I just got more used to the schedule. Towards the end it just felt more fun rather than stressful. I’ve learned that I absolutely love working in TV!
Now let’s discuss Resident Evil 7! How did you first get involved with the project?
My agent, Koyo, was the main reason I was able to get involved. He’s good friends with the key audio folks at Capcom, and has been maintaining those relationships for years. Koyo obviously knows my affinity for working on horror projects. When the possibility arose of an outside composer coming on board to help out on the score for RE7, he was able to convince them to take me on. Having a portfolio of other horror titles to my name was the final push that got me in.
It must have been incredible to join such a prolific series?
Yes, absolutely! I’ve been very fortunate to work on a lot of great series like God of War and Mass Effect. This is very cool because I grew up playing these games.
How was it working with various composers, especially the leads working in Japan?
The audio team at Capcom are extremely detail-oriented and we spent a lot of time getting things just right. Especially, since the music was in this “musique concrete” style, which is already very detail-oriented.
What kind of brief were you given to work to and how did you use this in your methods?
We did a number of Skype video chats before I got started. By screen sharing with me, I was able to watch them play some of the early game. Even from very early on, it was obvious how Capcom was going to set the bar for horror games now. Besides seeing the game being played a bit, they also gave me some listening assignments to do. I listened to a bunch of Toru Takemitsu. Specifically, his musique concrète style that he was famous for. Capcom wanted to employ this same style for RE7. Typically, this style is quite electronic. We were going to only be employing acoustic sounds though.
Before we even got started writing music, we recorded lots of new string fx. We recorded these in Los Angeles with a great recording orchestra called Cinema Scoring. All these fx were then edited and mixed at Remote Control studios and turned into a bespoke sample library that all the composers could use. This kept the sound consistent between everyone. It was very interesting to see how everyone made their music unique even though we were mostly using the exact same sounds.
The Beast and So Close Yet So Far are very visceral, almost industrial-sounding track, whilst Not over yet tends to go towards more the action/orchestral route but while retaining that hard edge.
What were you told about the moments in the game they would be used for, and how did the names of the tracks get decided?
Well…there could be some spoilers for those tracks if I talk too much. Since I haven’t even had a chance to play through all of RE7, I’m sure others (who are reading this) haven’t either. I hate to be the spoiler guy. Let’s just say that “visceral” is a good way to describe some of these scenes. As far as the names go, those were from Capcom. They actually asked me to name my own tracks for the soundtrack, but I preferred them to do it since they were much closer to the game than I was.
So you’re already having a fantastic 2017, what else lies in the future for you now?
I’ve got a few things I can actually talk about! I worked on the upcoming Volition game, Agents of Mayhem. I am also working on The Long Dark by Hinterland Games, and Dauntless by Phoenix Labs. I’ve also got a very exciting VR project I’m composing for. This one is still under wraps for the moment though. Outside of games, I recently finished a feature (my first comedy!) called This Is Meg. I may also have some more television to mention at a later date…
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The Sound Architect