Olivier Deriviere agreed to talk to us about his newest work. During the intreview he told us about the creation process of writing the music to the newest production Dontnod Entertainment. Along with us he recalls his childhood not only as a games lover. We invite you to read the following intrerview.
I literally fell in love with the moving pixels. – Olivier Deriviere
gamemusic.net: In your interviews you say that what got you started was your passion for music. What gave you the incentive for you choosing video game music as a permanent career, though?
Olivier Deriviere: My first passion has always been video games. I’ve studied music since I was 5 and it feels it’s a second nature for me. When my dad showed me Load Runner on a C64, I literally fell in love with the moving pixels. It’s a real fascination that I still have when I play any game. But the very day I knew that I was going to be a composer for games was when I first played Shadow of the Beast on Amiga. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and experiencing. You really can say I had an epiphany on that day.
gamemusic.net: What was the reaction of your parents when they learned you would earn a living by composing video game music? Were they against it or did they support you?
Olivier Deriviere: My parents have been very supportive. What may sound incredible is that one day, when I was 14, I used all my savings and bought an ATARI Falcon 030 because it was the next generation of computers with DSP. It was the next step for producing music. I spent my whole time looking for music software that never came out. Eventually I found a SoundTracker that was made by a French developer, we became friends and years later we started a company together to produce music for games: Ameo Prod.
gamemusic.net: While you have only a few scores under your belt, it seems it was enough to earn recognition among video game music enthusiasts. Over the last five years, how many offers have you declined and maybe regretted it later?
Olivier Deriviere: I always push for quality over quantity. For each of my scores I spend a lot of time with the developer trying to create a unique music identity and implement it the best way to improve the player’s experience. Though I’m not a Hollywood based composer, I feel I have had some really nice opportunities but there’s also a lot of luck involved to get on a project, whether it’s a big or a small budget title.
gamemusic.net: Last year you worked on the score for Of Orcs and Men. What are your memories of that time? Are you satisfied with the music you composed?
Olivier Deriviere: Of Orcs and Men was a terrific experience. The team at Spider Studios is so passionate; this is exactly what I’m looking for when working on any project, a great team. It took us quite some time to come up with the idea of using a cello quartet instead of the usual approach of recording with an orchestra for the fantasy genre. In the end, the game is about a desperate orc that tries to redeem himself by going on a suicide mission to save his own race. It felt right not to go big but rather to develop an intimate score that would support his melancholic yet heroic journey. I’m pleased with the unique feel the music gives to the experience.
It took us quite some time to come up with the idea of using a cello quartet instead of the usual approach of recording with an orchestra. – Olivier Deriviere
gamemusic.net: While working on the Of Orcs and Men score, you cooperated with a string quartet, Boston Cello Quartet. How did that cooperation turn out? And how did the idea of using a viola quartet predominantly throughout the album come to be?
Olivier Deriviere: I was really honored to have the Boston Cello Quartet perform my music; these musicians are some of the best in the world! During the first meeting with Jehanne Rousseau, CEO of Spiders Weavers, we talked a lot about what would be the intentions of the game. She said: “Dark, Brutal and Melancholic,” and it appeared to me that a cello sound would fully capture those emotions but they were not really familiar with this instrument so I went with the audio director, Sylvain Prunier, to record a cellist friend. We came back with 30 minutes of solo cello playing all sorts of mood and effects and that was it, they were delighted and really excited about the musical direction.
gamemusic.net: The creative process behind video game music has changed greatly over the last ten years or so. How do you see the future of music composers?
Olivier Deriviere: Actually I’m not sure the process has changed that much in the last ten years. On most big game productions you often have an audio director that supervises an external composer that doesn’t even experience the game. This methodology is one of the most common approaches. It brings good results but I hope composers can be more involved in the process. Looking at the indie scene I see a lot of involvement from the composers and this adds a lot to the experience.
gamemusic.net: In one interview you mentioned that the works of Aphex Twin and Shostakovich served as your inspiration when writing the music for Remember Me. Why them exactly?
Olivier Deriviere: Remember Me is a unique world where you can digitize your memories and the main character in the game, Nilin, can manipulate and change them. I wanted to capture this in the music and as a huge fan of Aphex Twin I found his work was a really good start for me. He is known for sampling live sounds and manipulating them so I thought I would do the same except that I would use a live orchestra. And this is where Dimitri Shostakovich influenced me a lot with orchestration. When listening to his symphonies you have a great sense of clarity and simplicity.
gamemusic.net: Will the music for Remember Me only serve as the background for locations and battles or will it influence the plot and atmosphere of the game in some special way?
Olivier Deriviere: For each game I score my main concern is the player; I want the music to support his or her actions. Remember Me is a linear game based on Nilin’s story so the music tells her story but follows what the player experiences. When you play a game you have a structure in the level design, a sort of narration and this is what I mainly follow, guided by the creative director’s intentions. On the other hand, the instrumentation, the melodies and themes are based on the story and the world.
gamemusic.net: What was your main goal when composing the music for Remember Me? Were you able to achieve it?
Olivier Deriviere: My main goal is always to add another layer of experience to the player with the music. I don’t think of music as an illustration but rather as a support to the gameplay mechanics. However, music also has to be interesting as it can carry a lot of information and emotions. For Remember Me, my main goal was to bring a great meaningful score that supports the player’s journey and only gamers will tell if I succeeded or not.
gamemusic.net: In the tracks from Remember Me you shared, especially in the main theme, one can hear a mixture of electronic sounds and a symphonic orchestra, mainly the string section. Could you tell us a bit more about this track and whether or not the rest of the album will use a similar mixture of sounds?
Olivier Deriviere: The OST will feature about an hour of manipulated orchestra score but the whole game features a lot more music, essentially electronic music. The track you’re talking about plays at the very end of the game, when Nilin has recovered all of her memories and therefore understands who she is. I know it may sound surprising but except for the lead sound there is no synth in this music. The electronic sounds come directly from the manipulation of the live orchestra and this is true any time you hear the orchestra.
gamemusic.net: Can we expect the Remember Me soundtrack to be released on CD this year?
Olivier Deriviere: The OST will be available on every digital platform such as iTunes, Spotify and many more on June 4th.
I know it may sound surprising but except for the lead sound there is no synth in this music. – Olivier Deriviere
gamemusic.net: What was you biggest challenge when composing the Remember Me score?
Olivier Deriviere: The biggest challenge was to find the right way of manipulating the live orchestra to keep its natural sound and to glitch it enough to make it sound weird yet enjoyable. Frankly, in the beginning, I had no idea how to do that and it took me quite some time to achieve such a sound. It’s a risk but one that Dontnod and Jean Maxime Moris, the creative director, wanted to take and I can’t be more thankful to them.
gamemusic.net: In late 2012 CD Projekt announced they were working on Cyberpunk 2077, a new game set in a cyberpunk setting. Would you be interested in composing music for it?
Olivier Deriviere: From what I read on this game I think it will be exactly what I want to play as a gamer: narration in the gameplay rather than a story disconnected from the player’s actions. Also I know they want to focus on the punk side and this is really exciting! Of course I would love to participate in such a project since CD Projekt is one of the best studios out there. So many ideas can be explored for such premises!
gamemusic.net: Do you think you have your own unique style that makes your music recognizable?
Olivier Deriviere: It’s not that I don’t have a style but I think what I do for each game is tailoring a sound. I try hard to create a unique soundscape and when someone listens to the music and says: “This is Remember Me music” or “This is Alone In The Dark music”, then I can’t be happier. I really want the music to stick with the game, not with my name.