FGL Community Spotlight – MusicIs
Ariel S. Guez (aka MusicIs) has the singular distinction of being the winner of the first ever FGL Game Audio Jam. He’s produced audio for games the past 5 years as well as being a working multi-instrument performer. His game credits include; Cyber Chaser, Battle of Heroes and Kurechii’s Chicky Duo.
FGL_John had a quick chat about the FGL Game Audio Jam, audio and All things Ariel related, which resulted in this awesome interview. Enjoy!
Q: First off, congrats on winning the first ever FGL Game Audio Jam!
M: Thanks! I have to admit, I was tensed. Even though I compete almost always with other composers, I can never get the tension out, who got the better fixation according to the clients, or artistically-wise, so I’m happy that was me!
Q: Was it a fun experience overall? Do you like working with tight time parameters and no direction given?
M: Well, I like working in a reasonable deadline. Which in this competition was more than reasonable. In general, I can appreciate the pressure on creativity, but not on the insane level. Sometimes I need a lot of research before I can find what works best and that takes its time.
Overall, definitely had fun with it. The game reminded me a bit of the old Amiga game classic zool2, which is where I also drew my inspiration. So it was going back to the good old days a bit.
It needed a kind of bright music, with a wink toward candy and something that is out-wordly and turning in cycles, that was what was going in mind when i thought about the music
Q: So, is your background in performance? engineering? production? composition? a little of everything?
M: well i’ve been a self taught guitarist at first, doing all sorts of rock-metal stuff, the usual teenager. Later after discovering improvisation I went to study at a jazz school for 3 years, and i’ve been doing jazz gigs ever since. I’m actually a full time musician.
I played with tons of bands in different styles along the years. like pop, rock, bossa nova, funk, punk, indie rock. Just about anything you can come up with.
I also do music for improvisational theater, playing all sorts of instruments. mandolin, percussion, piano, and guitars of course. Performance wise, this experience is the closest thing to real time composing for a certain “feeling” which also really helped me advance in the craft.
Q: So being mostly a performer, do you find it rough to switch hats to producer, engineer, mixer, etc. as all of us indie game audio guys have to do?
M: First, I’m mostly a musician, not a performer. I can be a full time composer for a few months or part time arranger the next, or just the jazz guitarist the next. so there are these hats also!
But those hats you’ve mentioned, oh yes of course. It’s always a challenge. When you are composing you are in a different zone, you have to think about all the aspects of the game and how to materialize them musically, elements, arch-types that works for a theme etc.
Then there is the performance of the composition, which encompasses how you well you can play the composition and choosing templates of different instruments, which is part composing and part performance, and then there is the engineering/mixing part. Which means you have to let your ears rest, before you take decisions about what to strengthen or filter, and most importantly maintain a neutral and fresh perspective over the outcome. when you work on electronic music its much more simpler-performance-wise. but on real acoustic VI(virtual instruments) you really have to know how to play each one, so they would sound good.
What works for me is to try and keep an open mind all time and be criticizing all the time, until you can’t anymore, well that is optimal, but you know what i mean..
Q: haha, yeah, it’s tightrope. Listening to the track, it sounds like all VIs. What gear did you use? (DAW, plug-ins, etc.)
M: You’re right, that is what i like using the most in games. I think it was some of the stronger synths of Kontakt, like Massive and Absynth. I also used an old cubase synth, i think its Monologe. Halion 1 also i believe.
Q: What about the sfx, any particular libraries?
M: Well it is hard to remember, since i use modifications from other projects, and modify them also. But my raw pool is a lot from free-sound.org, and other free resources or my own recordings, very rarely I buy libraries.
Although there was a modification i did to some part of SoundMorph free libraries. they have some cool futuristic sounds there. but my usual process is taking something raw and start adding layers, stretching, filtering etc. I usually have to sketch a few instances, just to warm up before I get something good.
Q: So you mostly work from a custom set of sounds that you created from a preexisting set of sounds?
M: Basically. it goes back a few reincarnations from the original sound. But as a rule I never use the same sfx for the same project, at least not knowingly.
Q: Were there any particular mixing or mastering treatments or tricks you used?
M: Actually there is a known trick perhaps, after you export the track of music. Because of the out-wordly feel of the game, I felt it would be nice to have a really small amount of delay on the whole export. that way, you have everything kind of floating, but really on the back of your head.
Q: So running a delay over the entire mix? That’s interesting.
M: You could do that on all kind of music tracks, I’ve noticed it does wonders, it really smoothens things.
Q: Do you think you bring a certain style to your game audio or do you try to be a chameleon?
M: Hah! That is a Good question
Q: Is having a definable style even important to you?
M: That is a great question. Do you want to be a joker of all trades or master of one?
In film scoring, I already have a more definitive sound that is i think, unique to myself and also in some projects, where i’m requested to really come up with something that has no real reference, that is usually coming up with my own kind of style for that particular game.
I always try to find my own voice, however difficult it is when you have a “too clear” frame of musical context. It really depends on how much time you have to research it. Of course sometimes you can be lucky and come up with something amazing from scratch. but that’s rare.
So, my bottom line is, definitely. That is something i strive for, and I think everyone should, otherwise what’s the point? To be another performer of a cover? Or a clone, etc?
Q: What’s your go-to music to listen to for enjoyment?
M: I enjoy a good deal of avant-garde music, like John Zorn, Frank Zappa, Captain Beef Heart. The usual jazz crusaders, Eric Dolphy, Parker, Bill Evans…
And as much as I can take from classical. love the impressionist period- Stravinsky, Ravel, Debussy and of course Beethoven if you want to be more down to earth.
Film scores are also great, but its more like “how did he go there” instead of really enjoyable listening music.
Q: Any particular genre you enjoy creating more than others for game music?
M: Yes! I love the power of orchestral. It can be less precise when it comes to casual gaming, but it has immense impact when done correctly. I also love the possibilities of orchestration and the textures and all the wonderful stuff you can do with classical music, it also makes room for some powerful melodies.
What i mean by less precise is that in casual games, the more “toy’ish” sound works best.. so if you compose for an orchestra in casual games, you would have a harder time making it cute and cuddly. well at least to me.
Q: How has FGL helped you out?
M: Lots! I think i’ve met here more developers than the usual marketing i do I also enjoy the game feedback forum, tons of new stuff ALL the time.
I’ve worked here with quite a few fgl developers, they were all friendly and communicative, and very responsive in terms of payments etc.
Q: If you could change the audio jam, in any way, how would you change it?
M: Hmm. Perhaps if a developer without audio could hook up with the audio jam, that way the winner could also get a nice gig from it.
As it is, it really can show a wide array of ideas, once more composers will be aware of it.
Q: Will you be entering in the next audio jam?
M: No, I think i will be off the next one, just to see what people can come up with. I think i will be on the one after though.
The audio jam is a very good idea, and I think once the word is spread it will shake us all!
Q: OK, that about does it! Anything else you want to throw in here? Shout-outs, plugs, this is your time!
M: Well, you can hook me up on my website at http://arielguez.com. I’d love to hear about any project you got there. My goal is to make something better of what’s already there. We are all in it together, musicians, developers, publishers, consumers, to make something the best we can do, to justify that we can make something unique, special, and most importantly, fun!
The next Game Audio Jam is scheduled to start this July 17th, with a couple interesting changes. Hope to see you all then!
Thanks to Ariel for taking the time for this. You can check out more about him and his work at;
https://soundcloud.com/the-j, https://www.facebook.com/ArielGuezComposer or http://arielguez.com