After spending around five years on the music demo scene, Jesper Kyd joined his friends in forming a game company called Zyrinx and moved to the US. When this encountered difficulties many of them moved back to Denmark and formed Io Interactive. Jesper, however, stayed and launched a music studio in Manhattan. He now works from Los Angeles...
So how is it different writing a score for a Hitman game from writing one for a film or a TV programme?
Jesper Kyd: Music plays for the best part of the 10-15 hours it takes to complete a game like Hitman: Contracts, so instead of writing 15 hours of music, I tend to focus on music that fits several different scenarios. In-game music doesn't have to sit in the back or front, like it usually does in films. When I write, I'm scoring in such a way to have the music sit in the middle. Not background music and not extremely loud like you have in film action sequences - somewhere in the middle where it can be enjoyed while not competing with sounds and voices.
Do you have complete control over when and where the music starts or stops as the player works his way through the game?
Jesper Kyd: Yes, I implement the music with the Io team in a comprehensive way so that everything the game player can possibly think of has already been tried and tested - so we have every eventuality covered while still maintaining the musical identity. I have to make sure that all the emotions the game undergoes are accompanied by music that fits. When all the music is done, we put everything together, like a huge jigsaw puzzle.
When you start composing a piece of music, do you know exactly what you want in terms of tone and style?
Jesper Kyd: I write in many different ways. For Hitman: Contracts, I knew what I was looking for when starting a piece, but I always let the piece 'go' to see where it ended. It was a very enjoyable and organic way to write a score. For Hitman 2 I knew exactly what the team was looking for and I wrote a more orchestral score. Hitman: Blood Money is a mix of these two styles.
Our favourite game music of recent years is the Russian choral music in Freedom Fighters.
Jesper Kyd: Yeah, I'd just completed Hitman 2 for Io and we were gearing up on production for Freedom Fighters. This was a very cinematic action game and it needed a kind of alternative future sound to reflect the fact that events had turned out differently during the Second World War. It was also a very tragic, dramatic and emotional story and I thought the choir would add to the level of human emotion. As it turned out, I wrote the score right after 9/11 while living in Manhattan - so it was a bit surreal writing music for a game that told the story about an army invading New York. The project turned out to be quite cleansing for me and it was one of the most emotional experiences I've had writing a score...
In layman's terms, how do you go about making your music? What equipment do you use?
Jesper Kyd: I use five PCs and a G5. I have about 25 hardware synths and drum machines such as Machine Drum, MPC1000, Yamaha CS80 and VL-1, Alesis Andromeda, General Midi ProMega3. I use a Bitt Tree custom built patch bay system.
Uh, great, we love those. Thanks.