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Benn Interview: Part 4 - Gaming

Welcome to the fourth part of this interview. Now, we’re focusing on Benn’s history with games, and his music both inspired by and made for them. Enjoy.

How did you get into gaming?

I think I’ve always had a general interest in gaming. I think it took me a while to get seriously into it because I was always waiting for graphics to start to move towards my expectations. Graphics aren’t the be-all and end-all of a game but in the genres I enjoy they are important. There are a group of friends that I’ve had since I was younger that have always played FPS style games; we used to play Halo endlessly and then when Call of Duty (1) came out we would speedrun the game in one-day sittings and whoever won would win £500. Then when Call of Duty: World at War came out we would meet at one of my old houses and we would set up huge LAN parties and race to Round 30 on Zombies. I think that the older we all were the more intense the prizes were as well. Since then I’ve kept an eye on the emerging technologies surrounding the gaming industry for years and am now more interested in the business side of gaming.

What was your first console? What’s your favourite (or are you more of a PC guy)?

When I came to the U.K. I obviously had a huge language barrier, and so I found myself shying away from watching television (and still do) simply because I couldn’t understand English well enough to keep up with the programmes. Instead I was given a Vectrex, which to me at the time looked like it came from space. The village I came from was so remote that I had never seen a gaming console before. Looking back at it, it was clearly a really simplistic machine, but it didn’t feel like it back then. I remember the game Spike and Solar Quest which I swear I could play blindfolded if you put it in front of me now. I didn’t put that shit down. 

Right now, I think it’s safe to say I’m a PS4 guy, purely because all of the people I know play that. I don’t know or care if it’s better than Xbox as that isn’t important. There is a company in the UK that build specialist PCs and they sent me a PC last year that I haven’t bothered to open yet. I went to a Metal 2 event in London last year which really did excite me though. I’ve never seen graphics like it before and I look forward to seeing it come to market in 2020. I think at that point graphics will meet my standards and I’ll find games easier to immerse myself into. 

What are your favourite games/game series?

I think that my favourite gaming series is probably The Elder Scrolls. I’ve played every Elder Scrolls (and every Fallout) to completion multiple times and have helped pen books for lore with both. I’m so SO excited to see the reaction of the Elder Scrolls fans with their current work. It’s incredible. I like horror games as well, but I think that since VR was introduced, the developers have tried too hard to adopt the technology and in the end their games have suffered. It’s a shame because VR could be the perfect environment for that style of game. I like various other series as well; Call of Duty, Battlefield, World of Warcraft, Command & Conquer, Age of Empires, Metal Gear Solid, Killer Instinct, Street Fighter, Pokémon, Far Cry.

What are you playing at the moment (if anything)?

I can’t remember the last time I played a game, I was sent a few PlayStation Pros which I really want to try out, but I haven’t unboxed those either; I do miss it, but I just have other things to do in the limited time I spend at home. I played four unreleased games in 2017, three from American developers. All of those were absolutely brilliant, which is exciting as it proves that next year will be worth unpacking the PlayStation for. I think the last games I played were Overwatch and Battlefield 1.

A lot of your music is inspired by games. Do you make game-related music simply to express appreciation for the specific titles they’re inspired by? Or are there other reasons too?

Sometimes it’s because I find an angle that I’m interested in, and sometimes I am asked to create music for a game. Most recently everything I have written for games has been by request and that is always interesting as I’m writing songs without completely understanding the games which is odd for me. In the past I would immerse myself into a game and then try to connect stories that others might not. The best part of that is when a developer then takes that notion and adds it back into their game; I love the feeling when I see that happen.

I don’t think I would write a song for a game that I didn’t like. I’ve been offered lots of spots for songs on games and I turn down so many just because I can’t understand the concept of the game or (more recently) even the reason that the game exists.

Have any of the developers of the games you’ve made music about reached out to you because of it?

Yes. The last four gaming songs that I released were either requested by developers or lead to developer communication/invitations.

What game-related music are you planning on making/releasing in the future?

I have started playing around with some ideas for a few records that may or may not end up materialising. If they would come into fruition it would be the end of the year and the beginning of the next year respectively.

Is there a lot of game-related music you’ve made/started work on that’s ended up being shelved/unreleased? Off the top of my head (and don’t take this as criticism), I remember whispers of a Wolfenstein album, a Halo album, a Fallout album, an Evil Within song, and a Destiny song...

Yes, those are all correct and have all been created to various ends. I can go through them in order with reasoning behind their abandonment.
The Wolfenstein album was abandoned because I simply didn’t think the album was good enough. The music was industrial metal and was honestly just boring. I think we wrote something like eight songs for it and although some parts of the songs were good, it just didn’t work. 

The Halo album was short lived and I just simply didn’t know enough about the lore to feel secure enough with writing an album of any value to the listener. 

The Fallout EP was fucking cool and I’d love to drop that, but that is out of my hands and I’m not sure what the plans are for that EP. 

The Evil Within was such a weird series of events. One day I was sent an email asking for me to write a song for a UK trailer for The Evil Within and they gave me a rush of the video for the trailer, and so I started writing. It wasn’t until I went to try the game a few weeks before release that I decided that I wouldn’t finish the song. The game didn’t sit well with me, and so I dropped it.

The Destiny songs were deleted the day that Bungie died, for various reasons.

Have you ever made music for a game’s soundtrack? What games (if you can share)?

I have written four full soundtracks for games under a couple of pseudonyms. Two were for iPad/iPhone story games, which seem to be doing very well, and two were for console games, both of which performed mediocrely. I really love writing soundtracks, I think it was what I was born for. Forcing instruments to find their own voices is really challenging and trying to bring specific emotions to the forefront of a player’s mind is something I’m qualified to do; just look at the capabilities of the technology we studied for Diplomat.

There are a couple of developers that I’d love to write for; Santa Monica Studios is a group who I’ve loved for the longest time. I think their games are magnificent, but I feel as though I could bring something to the table for them. The Chinese Room are another company that I would write for as well. I have a strange philosophy when it comes to the business side of composing for soundtracks which is that I have never/would never charge for my time. I just enjoy it so much and really feel like working completely instrumentally helps to quantify and control some of the negative sides of me. It’s like I am able to find a way to express my angers, loves, and fear without moving a muscle. The soundtracks are a part of me and I would never charge a studio to add a part of me to their games.

That it’s for Part 4. The original plan for four parts didn’t quite work out, so be sure to check back soon for the fifth part of this interview. Thanks for reading.

Part 1 (Z) | Part 2 (Music [I]) | Part 3 (Music [II])

Interview by Jacob Evans 17/18

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