Pigeon John, "The Bomb"
Ken: It’s interesting; “The Bomb” by Pigeon John wasn’t normally a song I’d listen to at all. But when Patrick found it and sent it over to me and I’d heard it I was like, “Oh my gosh!” At first, I was meh on it, but then I Immediately knew it was going to work in the game. It became one of my favorite songs as time went on. Our project coordinator was watching NBC the other night and some pilot show was on and that song was used for the pilot. I was like, “What?!” I was proud that we found that song, but we found it first! You can’t use that! I’m hoping that pilot doesn’t do very well, because that’s our song. (Laughs)
Patrick: We wanted to get good hip-hop stuff and when people hear that song, it gets in their heads and they want to sing it after that.
Ken: You have no idea, you just walk through the studio and every day a different song gets stuck in your head. You might have people who at first say they aren’t too crazy about a song, but then two days later they’re singing it.
To go back to how you were saying everything had to mesh together really well, I made up a playlist of the songs on Spotify and you were right, it sounds cohesive. There were things I couldn’t pick out as new, it’s just very organic.
Patrick: It was really important that they fit together. Thank you.
Does working within the downloadable space mean you have to employ different compression rates or different codecs for the audio files? You have a much tighter size limit compared to a retail game.
Ben “Crossbones” Cooper, contract sound designer: No, from what I can tell, I came in on the project a little bit late, there’s been no compression done on the old .WAV files. We don’t have super special codecs for downloadable games.
Ken: The good thing is over the years with XBLA and PSN games they’ve upped the limit as to the size of the game. I was very nervous about that at the beginning of the project and the middle of the project. You don’t really know until the levels and everything else gets in how big something is going to be.
What’s the difference between the audio files of the music from the original releases and what you’re doing with THPSHD?
Ben: We don’t have too much of a difference. It’s not like we have songs that were digitally enhanced or anything, but we have updated .WAV files from all the labels for all the songs. It’s been a little bit strange mixing levels with the songs because you’ve got almost three decades of music and three decades of recording technology and compression rates. The most of what we had to do was normalize the songs to zero decibels. From there, there’s something like Bad Religion’s “You,” which was recorded with very little compression to begin with, and it has to sound at the same level as “Flyentology” by El-P. It’s cheating a little bit, pulling down something compressed like that to get it to sound almost the same volume as an old punk song from Epitaph.
Right, that’s a big thing now with how compression is used because everything is cranked to 11 right now because of how people are listening to music.
Ben: Looking at the waveform for the new songs we have, we’re dealing with artists who have a conscious effort to fight the loudness wars. These waves are not maxed out when you’re looking at them in an audio program.
Anthrax featuring Chuck D: "Bring the Noise"
Patrick: When we first started the game that was the number one song we wanted to get from the original soundtracks. Everything was about that song; Josh was going to pay for it in order to get it in our game. We knew the soundtrack was very important to the game and we wanted to make the highest quality game possible, so, anything it took to get “Bring the Noise” in there, we were going to do. Fortunately for Josh, he didn’t have to fork over a bunch of money to get it.
Ken: We all thought “Bring the Noise” was going to be the most wanted song, but that ended up not being the case: it was “Superman.”
It was funny with that song. Dealing with so many publishers and producers over the course of this, at one point we were talking to a label and they said they knew Chuck D and they could talk to him for us. We were like, Are you kidding? It was outside of the realms of going through Activision. We told them “Yeah, go do it. Just talk to him!”
Patrick: That’s the one tough thing about this soundtrack, the bands wanted to be in this game. If you talked to every member of Anthrax they’d say they want to be in the game but then you have to talk to all these other people that have to give the rights to the songs. That’s been the biggest headache.
Ken: Nothing is free. I don’t know how many times a band said, “Yeah, we’ll do it for free. For sure.” Some big bands. Then we’d find out how much something cost. “Oh yeah, that’s not free.” There were some songs we wanted where one could have eaten up our whole budget.
Can you say how much your budget was?
Patrick: No, we can’t. We’re an Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network distributed title so we have about half as long to make a game and about a quarter of the budget for the soundtrack of a retail game. That’s one of the most impressive things about getting all these songs; it’s kind of a double edged sword when people were talking about how they wanted “Superman” in the game. We thought we were going to have to hurry up and buy that before they realized every single person wanted that song in the game and the price was raised!
Ken: Before the VGAs, we were talking internally — me, Josh and Patrick — that we needed to get these songs now because as soon as this gets released and all the fans are wanting all these songs, all of a sudden what was going to be an affordable song is going to cost a whole lot more. It’s one of those things where I don’t know what I’m more proud of: the game or the soundtrack. They’re both awesome and we’re very protective of the songs we have in there. I treat it like a child. If someone says, “Yeah, I’m not too sure about this song,” my response is “leave.” (Laughs)
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