Sound Q&A: The Sound of a Sequel

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Sony's God of War garnered critical praise and awards for its soundtrack, including Outstanding Achievement in Original Sound Design and Original Music Composition honors from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences. Chuck Doud, director of music at Sony Computer Entertainment, talks about the soundtrack sequel for the recently released God of War II, featuring music by Junkie XL, Shadows Fall and even a track by a MySpace contest winner.

God of War II
God of War II
Did the success of the first god of war sound come as a surprise?
Chuck Doud: We were really happy with it. With that soundtrack we achieved what we try to achieve with every soundtrack, which is create a unique sound that really dovetails into the vibe of the game.

How did you approach making the sequel?
One of the things we wanted to do was incorporate more live players. For the first God of War, we had a live choir but everything else was sampled instruments. We didn't really have the time or the money to record a live orchestra, but this time we wanted to do it up right, so we did everything live. We went to London and did all the brass at Abbey Road, then we went to Prague and recorded a 40-voice choir and all the strings. So it was pretty exciting.

What made you guys turn to myspace for consumer-generated music?
We knew we wanted to run a contest, and when we sat down with marketing, this was one of the ideas that came up. We supplied some of the multitrack stems for consumers to incorporate into their songs. The guy that won, George Doman, used some of the isolated strings and brass.

How tough is it to make a soundtrack that fits a game yet can stand alone as a record?
Everything starts with complementing the game, but when all the stars align you end up having a signature sound that allows it to stand out from the pack. It all comes down to themes—you've got to have strong thematic material. The trick of scoring a videogame vs. a movie is that a movie is over in two hours. But how long do you play a videogame? Maybe 30, 40 or 100 hours! God of War II has a little over two hours of original music, but we also work a lot with the multitrack stems, making many remixes to get the most out of the original music.

Do you see videogame soundtracks becoming as popular as movie soundtracks any time soon?
I think you're going to see more music from videogames, and one of the things that will push that is the quality of the music. One thing we're making a push toward is actually having songs associated with a game. That's what really sells soundtracks—how much would the Titanic album have sold without that Celine Dion track? It would've done all right, but it wouldn't have been that blockbuster hit. So the best balance is having a strong orchestral score with things that complement it, like remixes or a signature song that ties into the game and can stand on its own.
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