Petri Alanko Exclusive Interview - Part 10 Comments
The G4 Staff recently got a chance to interview lead composer for Quantum Break, Petri Alanko, and got to know a little more about the EDM and rock-loving musician. A man that's not just relegated to the world of video game compositions, Alanko has worked on almost every type of project a composer can become involved with. You can check out a preview of the Quantum Break soundtrack here as we anxiously await and game's release, and join us below for part one of our exclusive interview with Petri Alanko.
How did it feel to be back in the studio working on another game with Remedy Entertainment?
For the first two years I was just smiling all the time. I was back collaborating with my dear friends and making a bunch of new ones, talking with people, listening to a million stories. I’m quite sure someone has blessed me since getting to work with a real AAA title isn’t that common anymore, as the world’s gone all casual gaming. Working with Remedy is always very rewarding as their people are of top quality, some of the hardest-working and at the same time life enjoying people I’ve ever known. There are only a handful of people I respect more than Remedians, really. What they’ve done during Quantum Break is grow from Max Payne through Alan Wake into a full-blown hi-tech studio with top crew. Their facial animation is nowadays easily the best in the world, I’d say even better than in most movies I’ve seen lately.
It felt like going back home after a long trip round the globe. The personnel doesn’t change that much which is quite odd in the gaming business, but that probably tells more about Remedy being a big family rather than just your average company. Anybody visiting the company would probably feel the same: they’re very laid-back and friendly, very easy-going, but when it’s time to set the world on fire, those guys are the ones. I like that. It gives them the edge and makes their moves look so easy, like snapping your fingers and out comes a AAA title with Hollywood stars.
Quantum Break is a fairly large project, and has been being hyped up by Microsoft and Remedy for years now. When were you brought on board and what were your thoughts when you were asked to work on it?
I was immediately sold on the project by their presentation in mid-2011, if I remember correctly. “Sold” as in “they showed me stuff and I yelled YES before any sentence was properly finished”. I was very thrilled right from the start - and, knowing their production path, I knew it was to be a long and challenging road ahead. I knew the map and the direction, so nothing came as a surprise though. One of the first things I asked myself, however, was “how am I going to decorate this world?” Thinking about the scope and the possible asset list needed, all the sounds, all the events… it was a composer’s dream and a sound designer’s nightmare. However, since I happen to be a bit of both, I made a plan which I followed until January 2016, when I finished the soundtrack mixing. Since I usually work alone, I had to be very meticulous and focused, and sometimes it can be very consuming. Which is why I still, after the project’s done, go to lunch with my friends at Remedy. I just happen to enjoy their company, their stories, their experience, their past lives…funny people, very likable guys. We’ve been discussing about two dozen game ideas whilst eating, and I seriously hope someone’s been recording our conversations.
Were any other composers musical influences for your work on Quantum Break?
Well, I’ve been a fan of NIN since their very early recordings, some of that, their combination somehow probably surfaces in some sound selections. There are many influences…Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, Chris Franke, Ennio Morricone, Philip Glass, Cliff Martinez, Clint Mansell … Even Ultravox is present: every time I used an Arp Odyssey or MiniMoog, I thought of “how would Conny Plank record and mix these.” I still to this day think Ultravox’s Rage in Eden album was probably the most undervalued album of the eighties, and it’s one damn brilliant piece of music. I must have forgotten more than I’ve remembered, but I actually (in some way) stepped into my younger years and walked a short while saluting my heroes. Some lusher sections of my score are clear nods towards Michael Stearns, whose huge concept albums (such as Encounter) were a part of my earlier years. Vangelis, oh my gods. He traumatized my youth with his Blade Runner score, and it was one hell of a job. Well, except for the saxophone tracks, but that’s just me - and even those pieces were magnificent compositions.
How do you find the balance between engaging the audience during gameplay and impacting them emotionally?
It’s a dance on a rope. Never take what’s obvious, and dig deeper. If one doesn’t work, I’ll try my next trick. I’ve found it extremely effective to build onto the deeper layer, and leave the surface alone. Sometimes, of course, there’s only action or a punch in the face, and you don’t really need motive and history for that moment, but overall I try to reach a point in the past, even in the middle of mayhem, and try to build something that reaches the serene (heh) moment in the upcoming future.
One of my screenplay copies had about five or six different underline neon color pens which I used for different musical arcs within the storyline, and about the same amount of tiny Post-It marking stickers with two-three letter codes. It all started as a joke after one cinematic director asked me whether I’d read the screenplay, and shortly afterwards it was all I read. However, getting sucked in helped me understand the delicate balance of power inside the screenplay and the characters, and once I had that colourful jungle in front of me, I simply divided it into two halves: the good and the bad - plus before and after the point of no return, which in this case, was tied to fates of characters.