If you’re a fan of heavier sounds, like half of our editorial team, and you enjoyed the musical vibe of Wolfenstein: The New Order, then you’ll be interested in what composer Mick Gordon had to say in our interview with him. This award-winning creator has scored games like Need for Speed and Killer Instinct – he gave us some insight into the making of the new Wolfenstein’s OST, talked about inviting a guitarist from metal band Meshuggah into this project, and even shared his Spotify playlist. Enjoy!
Wolfenstein: The New Order, then you’ll be interested in what composer Mick Gordon had to say in our interview with him.
gamemusic.net: Putting music first is still uncommon in video games. Wolfenstein: The New Order manages to stand out, though! What do you think made the developers invest more in audio and what are your general feelings about this project?
Mick Gordon: I absolutely loved the Wolfenstein universe that Jens and the team at MachineGames created. Jens is a huge music fan and designed games with music in mind. Plus, the game is set in the 1960s which was obviously a very rich time for music.
gamemusic.net: Many players expected the soundtrack of New Order to be permeated solely by distorted guitars, yet it’s not the case. Do you like to utilize contrasts in your works?
Mick Gordon: I like to explore other alternative ways of nailing an emotion. Heavy guitars are very aggressive, but what else is aggressive? There’s distorted synths, big drums, erratic sounds, etc – all these things combined can create the same feeling that you get from distorted guitar but in a different way.
gamemusic.net: Which stage of creating music to the latest Wolfenstein game do you consider the most interesting, and which the most tedious? Would any of those be the birth of the main ideas, the recordings, or maybe polishing the final details?
Mick Gordon: It’s always an unpredictable and ‘free’ process – I don’t really find any part of it tedious, it’s very varied. There’s a lot of time spent trying out ideas and figuring out what we’re going to do. Once we’ve nailed the sound and direction there’s a lot of time spent on production. Generally it’s all very varied which keeps me interested – it’s never boring.
gamemusic.net: In what way have you adapted the music to specific gameplay fragments of Wolfenstein? Were there many guidelines from the development team or perhaps you decided everything mostly on your own?
Mick Gordon: I visited MachineGames at the start of the project and we played through the game and made a big list of all the various places we thought music should go. It’s important not to have too much music, I think. I’m actually a fan of less music – if the scene or the moment works in the game without music I prefer we leave it out. If music might add something, we often try a few different ideas to see what fits best.
Originally we tried no music, but it was missing something. I struggled with it for months, trying all sorts of different approaches. I only managed to write the scene when I traveled to MachineGames a second time – in the office I felt really inspired by the super-creative team. I pulled out the laptop and did the scene in about 20 minutes, thanks to those guys!
Once we’ve nailed the sound and direction there’s a lot of time spent on production. – Mick Gordon
gamemusic.net: Did you collaborate on the Neumond Classics album? Our editorial team awarded it with a Mark of Recommendation – whose idea was it to record such an extraordinary piece of music and how did it develop over time?
Mick Gordon: When I visited MachineGames I happened to walk past one of the art rooms and one of the artists was drawing a music poster for one of the levels. It was a poster for a fictional band called Die Käfer and it was promoting their new song Mond, Mond, Ja, Ja. I saw this and said: “Well, if there’s a poster in the game then we need to have this song!”. So, myself and Alex Pfeffer wrote and recorded the song in a couple of days and the team really liked it. They ended up running with the concept of 60s-inspired music under a fictional Nazi regime and developed the Neumond Classics album.
gamemusic.net: Fredrik from band Meshuggah was invited to the recording of this soundtrack. He certainly managed to smuggle their unique sound which fits the game perfectly. Please tell us more about this cooperation.
Mick Gordon: Fredrik is an absolutely incredible musician and one of the most incredible people I’ve ever met. The team is full of Meshuggah fans. Jens had the idea to reach out to Fredrik to see if he’d like to write a few tracks and he jumped straight in with tons of excitement. I’m a huge Meshuggah fan and it was a massive highlight for me! He’s just on another level – I had to nervously ask Fredrik for MIDI files of his tracks because I couldn’t work out what on earth he was doing…
I had the pleasure of mixing this track – Fredrik man, that riff!
gamemusic.net: You had the opportunity to compose music for various genres, from racing games to shooters. What would you say is your own ‘trademark’ that you’re trying to include in your soundtracks, regardless of the game?
Mick Gordon: I try to make music that punches through to speakers and grabs you by the throat. It doesn’t always have to be loud and heavy, but it has to be clear with what it’s trying to do and ultimately make you feel something.
gamemusic.net: Is there any specific method or procedure, in terms of audio engineering in general, that you managed to develop on your own as you have been gathering experience in music production for video games? Or does every project require an entirely new approach?
Mick Gordon: Well, you’re always learning, of course, constantly striving to get better and better. I still feel like I don’t know anything – everything seems new and exciting. I’m obsessed with training my ear to make better EQ decisions at the moment. It’s a real art and very difficult, but rewarding, too.
Any game that ships is a success in my eyes. – Mick Gordon
gamemusic.net: Creation of sequels to the ‘legendary’ video game series does not always turn out to be a success, considering e.g. Duke Nukem. Weren’t you afraid that all your effort might go unnoticed if the game itself happened to be a flop?
Mick Gordon: It’s always a concern – sometimes you might dedicate years of your life to a project. Any game that ships is a success in my eyes. I’ve worked on a number of games that never came out – some weren’t even announced. That’s years of work that simply got thrown away because of various reasons.
gamemusic.net: Does the fact that the music of New Order contains quite a lot of heavy guitar riffs has something to do with your personal taste in terms of music? What are your favorite bands, for instance?
Mick Gordon: I actually love everything – really, I listen to everything. Here, I’ll look at my Spotify playlist and list the first 8 musicians that appear in the playlist: Ryoji Ikeda, Ellie Goulding, Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza, Godspeed You: Black Emperor, Kavinsky, George Crumb, emptyset.