Back in the 90's, I was into playing first-person shooters that were out at the time, including Doom, even though they were shareware versions. While Doom was fun to play, there was another game named Heretic which I liked as well because of the dark medieval fantasy theme it had. One of my favourite parts about Heretic was the music which really fit the atmosphere of the game.
A couple years ago, I started getting into doing remastered versions of the music from classic shooter games including Doom and Heretic. In March, 2012, I started to really listen to the music from the sequel to Heretic, Hexen, for the first time. I had never played through Hexen before, but the music just sounded so amazing to me when I was working on remastered versions of it.
I went to look up information about Kevin Schilder, the man who composed the music and did sound design for Raven Software's games. I ended up finding him on Facebook so I sent him a message asking if he's the same one who worked at Raven Software. He didn't get back to me until January, 2013, but we talked about his music and things plus I even showed him the work I did on remastering his music which he liked.
I recently talked to him about doing an interview which he agreed to. I had asked him a few things before, but I wanted to ask him some new questions.
- What got you into music and sound design?
I have a long history of experience and education in music that started with saxophone lessons at age 9. I played in lots of bands over the years and eventually got a degree in performance. I went on to teach band for 6 years. So, I was pretty solidly established in the music field. The one thing I had never really done was make music of my own. Though I enjoyed performing and teaching, I really wanted to try composing. It was just the right set of opportunities that allowed me to begin working in the game industry as a composer. Sound design just sort of came along with the job, but it turned out to be something I also loved to do.
- How did you get into video games?
I was in the right place at the right time and knew the right people. I was friends with the guys who founded Raven Software. When they gave me the opportunity to work with the company doing music and sound design, I took it. It was a big risk to leave my job in teaching, but I loved games, computers and music, so it sounded like an opportunity I didn't want to miss.
- What are your inspirations for your musical style?
I have never set out to imitate or emulate anyone else when I have done my composing. In fact, I purposely choose not to listen much to other composers when I am working. I am always trying to do something original. So, I become concerned that I will find myself copying someone else if I spend too much time listening to them. I am always trying to keep my mind clear and hear only original ideas as they come to me. I've certainly listened to and performed a lot of music over the years and those experiences help me compose. But any strong similarities to other composer have been purely coincidental.
- Could you talk us through your creative approach/process?
I'll try. It's an inexact science and I approach it different ways depending on what I have to do. I like to start in silence. Clear my head of noise and anything else musical. I'm listening for musical ideas in that silence. I often bring up a piano sample on my keyboard and just begin to play small motives, melodies or chord progressions. What seems to work for me is starting with one, simple idea. I record it and then listen to it. As it plays, I listen for the next missing part. I then record that. Most of my compositions build that way. The hardest part is creating that first simple idea or theme. Once that is in place, the rest begins to reveal itself in my head. I guess composing is very personal and everyone does it differently.
- Would you have gotten into doing orchestrated music if you were able to?
Absolutely. I have extensive experience playing with live musicians and the orchestration of wind ensembles and orchestras. My educational background included training in orchestration and conducting. Traditional wind and string music and instruments are the foundation of most of my composition. I think we were moving closer to the idea of working with a live orchestra, but it never happened.
- Do you have any advice for composers trying to break into video games?
I have not had to "break into" the industry myself, so I may not be able to offer the best advice. But I went through a lot of demos and resumes over the years and tried to help people with advice when I could. Here are a few thoughts. Start with anything. Compose for free. Get experience, even if it doesn't pay. Don't limit yourself to video games. Compose for anything you can to help build your portfolio. Unfortunately, the top video game makers are often looking for the top name composers in the industry. It will be hard to land those kind of jobs without experience and connections. Make high quality recordings of your music and assemble a professional demo. Include music that is synced to something visual. Submit to employers who make products that will use your style of music. Make contact personally if you can. Let them know how interested you are, but don't bother them. Network with people in the game industry. Once you meet someone, it's harder to turn them down.
- Do you plan on creating new works on your own?
If the mood and desire hit me, then yes. I spent so many years being creative for hire, it's been hard to just consider doing something for myself. If I find I can afford to just spend free time composing, I would love to just create what comes to mind and see what is in me. It's something I think about all the time, but so far it still seems like work.
- Bobby Prince, the music composer for id Software's Doom, did music and sound effects work on an indie game named Wrack. Would you be interested in working on indie projects as well?
Absolutely. I am a freelance composer/sound designer now, so I am open to projects of any type. Nothing is too small or too large. I also have a very broad range of experience with musical styles and genres, so it would be both fun and feasible to work on something very different from
things I have done in the past. The most satisfying thing about composing is when you have been able to make something that works well with a project and pleases everyone involved. It would be my pleasure to do that on any indie project. http://kevinschilder.com/