07/11/2009

Interview with Marc Baril

Marc Baril

Interview by CM Forum, brought by Ghakimx

As we all know, music is a good way to enhance an experience, even when it's as simple as playing a video-game. It's also well known that like everything else related to Crash, the music has changed a lot with time, as different composers would step in. Marc Baril brought another new direction to the series, and with it came soundtracks that would make players tap their feet, hum and whistle. With music ranging from tribal themes to addictive rock, Marc has decidedly provided a lot of catchiness to the games he's worked on. This is our interview with him, which explains a bit more about his past experience at Radical Entertainment and how it's like to be a composer. Our thanks go to him!

CM Community (CM) - How did you get started composing music for video-games?
Marc Baril (CM) - I was jamming regularly (playing music) with a bunch of guys and one of them was a sound programmer at Radical. At the time the company was very small and he did the sound programming and was also doing the music and sfx. One day he asked me if I'd be interested in doing music for a game I said: sure!
I got the contract to do the music for Speed Racer SNES then they liked it so much they offered me a full-time job. I became the first dedicated audio content creator hired at Radical.

CM - How long did you work at Radical?
CM - I worked at Radical for 15 years. I am now a freelance composer.

CM - In your opinion, which of the Crash games you composed for has the best soundtrack?
CM - I love them all!

CM - Do you have any personal favorite pieces of music outside of Crash? Have any inspired your work?
CM - There's a ton of music that inspires me from all styles and genre, old and new!

CM - How did you decide on what feel the music of each game should have?
CM - That's the thing that most people don't know is the composer does not decide the music direction. It's the same for film or TV. He or she may make suggestions of styles that would work but typically the designers and or producers are the ones making the call. (in film it's the director)
They don't always know what they want ( more like what they don't want!). There is always infinite possibilities for any game as far as the style of music. It then becomes a matter of preference, taste and how they want to position the game versus other product or previous versions of it.
The composer basically delivers to the specs he was given.

CM - You worked together with Spiralmouth when doing the music for Crash Tag Team Racing. How was it like?
CM - It was a lot of fun. Gabriel Mann came up to Vancouver and we talked about how were going to do this. He's an amazing vocalist/arranger/producer. I wish I could have gone down to L.A. and be there for the recordings but schedule did not allow.
I ended up doing the mockups using vocal samples and he basically took what I did and replaced it with the real thing and adding his own touch to it.

CM - Which Crash game has your favorite soundtrack by another composer?
CM - Twinsanity : Spiral Mouth

CM - Occasionally some of your compositions last far longer than what the average player will ever hear in-game (like the Green Bowl Groove in Crash of the Titans). How were the lengths of the compositions decided? Were you given free reign, or did they come from a directive from someone else on the team?
CM - As an in-house composer I did not get paid by the minute of music I created so there was no real restrictions to the length of music I did for the games. Most music for games are done by freelance composer who are paid by the minute of music they deliver so they write to specific duration so the company they do the music for does not get hit with an unforeseen bill! That's why the Crash games I've done while at Radical had over 2 hours of music which is a lot more than your average game.

The composer does not decide where the music goes in a game or how it's triggered. So sometimes the Sound Director would really like to use a specific tune in one area or situation so it does not matter to him if the track is way longer that it needs too. He likes it and wants to put it there and that's where it goes.
Conversely when you hear a short tune that repeats forever and ever in a game don't blame the composer! He had nothing to do with the implementation of his music in the game. That's either a mistake, who ever implemented the music couldn't find anything better or they could not pay for more music to cover that spot. I tell you composers do not like to see their short cues looped indefinitely and implemented in places in a game that would have required a much longer track. It does not look good on us even though we had nothing to do with it and we are often unaware of it until the game comes out. So to go back to the original question let's not forget that games (and film and tv for that matter) are not there to showcase the music of the composer. The music is there to support the game any other concerns are irrelevant.

CM - The music you've composed for recent Crash games is very consistent in style, even going as far as creating a few leitmotifs that would be unified with the games (most famously "Turf's Up"). Was this something you had planned from the beginning or did it happen with time?
CM - I was asked to come up with a catchy tune for a trailer of the game and the tune was well received (I'd even hear co-workers whistling in the hallways, that's always a good sign ;~) so it basically took a life of its own and I'd spread snippets around.

CM - The soundtracks in Crash of the Titans and Mind Over Mutant pride themselves with a balanced use of acoustic instruments (such as guitars) and synthesizers, among others. How was it like making this selection?
CM - The overall direction that we came up with was to have the explore type of music (more orchestral , moody or laid back in nature) and emphasize the fun aspects of the fights by having poppy riff or melodic oriented kind of tunes there as opposed to go for dramatic and intense music as we did for COTT. Either way it's always conscious and deliberate decision to either, better support the game play, differentiate the game from previous versions or other products on the market.

CM - An interesting thing about the composers of the series is that everyone's had their own unique style. When you first started doing the music for Crash, did you at any point think of recreating a previous style, or did you already know you'd end up making your own?
CM - When Radical got the Crash franchise the mission was to re-invent it. Crash was going to be re-designed they wanted him to be more teen oriented, hip and cool. The music had to reflect that new look as well. I knew it was a daunting task. When you work on a such a popular IP with such legacy and hordes of dedicated fans of all ages, people don't like you to "mess" with their beloved character.And frankly it's impossible to please everyone. Especially when it comes to music it is such a personal thing and everyone have their own opinion and preferences as to what should be the music would for Crash. Despite of it all when I look back I'm proud of my contribution I did to Crash and I look forward to hear what the next games will sound like.

CM - Finally, what's your opinion on Crash?
CM - It's a great IP, funny, cool character. Lots of potential and I'd say the best ever Crash game has yet to be made!

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