Sometimes a game needs composers from outside the game industry. And sometimes these musicians really nail it and eventually win a BAFTA Games Award for best music. That’s what British Sea Power did. I had a pleasure to talk with them.

We all try to drink plenty of water and take a crap at least once a day.

Music for Disco Elysium is not the first soundtrack you made as a band, but it is your first for video games. How did your collaboration with ZA/UM begin? Do you remember the first things from Disco Elysium you get to work with? 

Robert, one of the chief mind wizards (from Zaum, the game designers) came over from Estonia to meet us at a show we were playing in Birmingham he talked about an idea for music that would accompany a stick insect scene which immediately got us interested! After we had made a plan to work together on this wonderful strange world Robert started feeding all sorts of madness and mystery to BSP. I don’t recall particular pieces we first worked on., just a rush of different atmospheres which slowly started to make some sense.

The logic of experience: gameplay first, then music

While listening to the game soundtrack, your fans may recognise a number of themes originally coming from your songs, but adjusted so perfectly as if they were made only towards the game. Did you find working with game creators more difficult than making a music on your own with no such outer influence or the story was an inspiring foothold? 

Yes, it was a pleasure to live in other people’s minds for a time, and see how our imagination allied itself to the disco world. It was sometimes a long period to get the music right, as there was a lot of attention to the mighty details on both sides, other times it just worked straight away by magic. Robert had a good sense of our previous music and sometimes strange ideas to bring parts or complete songs into his vision, so it was a match made in heaven, or Birmingham perhaps. same thing really.

British Sea Power / photo: Mayumi Hirata

You’ve been on stage for 20 years already and you keep going as a band without killing each other, so I guess you all must feel like a family together. How do you remain fresh and creative? 

Yeah something like the addams family crossed with the beverly hillbillies, we’re getting wizened that’s for sure, we all try to drink plenty of water and take a crap at least once a day. As one of our head honchos Paul iterates sometimes ‘ work smoothly lifetime peace ‘.

Personally, I really like your music style on both, your albums and Disco Elysium soundtrack, which I find as a masterpiece by the way. Your music is quite eclectic, melodic and nostalgic at once. Maybe it’s such a hackneyed question, but it relates to the previous one, plus, I really wonder: what artists affect you the most? 

Its ebbed and flowed over the years, sometimes jam is tasty sometimes jelly. I started off in a school band with wood playing pixies, Iggy Pop and Roy Orbison covers. Scott and Martin started up a hip hop band in university. I guess we’d all say we liked Queen, and Neil Young.

Do you find some things in music industry particularly different now than what they were when you started? I mean your audience expectations or a music’s place among other medium of art. 

She ‘aint what she used to be!, ha . there is still fun to be had. At the moment it’s totally crackers. I’m not sure I’d like to be starting out life as a freedom rocker in 2020, think I’d just learn to grow vegetables properly.

What is elegance, and why are video game composers obsessed with it?

Music always benefits from being enhanced by visual things and vice versa. I mean music videos, films or video games. Sounds and pictures playing together become even more powerful emotional charge and may target more people via different medium. Do you get more fans after Disco Elysium? 

I’m not sure but i’d say yes. We’ve always liked images and the power music can have on it’s own to create a unique imagery in the brain the same way different light can transform an object. To have the pictures already in front of you the jobs already half done, but it’s incredible the power a little music has. We’re not gamers as such, but we’ve all played plenty of games.

First Disco Elysium sketches were a novel. Then came a video game. Now, could you imagine this story as a film with your music once again? 

Oh yeah , big time. There’s talk of a TV show based on the game. 

It is a very incomparable category of video game. In some way it connects tabletop RPG with solo experience. Did you play it once it was ready? And do you play video games? 

I’m planning on play it properly when I’m in my death bed, or when I’m waiting at death’s door maybe… whistling away with the birdies through the window. We’re not gamers as such, but we’ve all played plenty of games, role playing games, party games… I once dressed as a barbarian and fought some peasants in the Lake district. Rocking good stuff.

To have the pictures already in front of you the jobs already half done.

Would you consider recording music for another video game in the future? 

I’ve a feeling the next one we do will be Disco Elysium 2, but should David Lynch make a computer game we’d love to do it, otherwise we’ll see what comes out of the woodwork.

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Maciej Baska

In the games he happens to stand around at a random location only because there is a great music. For over a decade he's composed, written, recorded and mixed.