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Battlefield 3

Battlefield 3: Composer Interview

Composers Jukka Rintamäki & Johan Skugge collaborated together on EA's Battlefield 3 title. Here they discuss how they became involved in the project and their time with the game.

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So, first of all, how did you guys become involved with DICE and Battlefield 3?

Jukka: Stefan Strandberg (sound designer for BF3) started looking for composers and was looking for an electronic approach to the music. Johan is a composer who is a wizard on synths and electronica and I think Stefan wanted to combine us two.

I'm more into composing traditional music and film music as well and Stefan knew my music from contemporary dance and from the band Silverbullit. He figured he would combine are ways of composing and also reckoned we would work well together, which we did.

What's it been like working with the game?

Johan: In one word - fun. There's great people involved and it was an open-minded creative environment. It's also a new medium to work with for us, so we were learning as we went along what we could do, and how to use the medium.

Could you elaborate the creations process? How did you came up with the electronic theme and did you get some broad directions for the soundtrack from the studio?

Jukka: Initially we had a couple of long night discussions with music and red wine, with me, Johan and Stefan Strandberg just talking about music in general and in games. Listening to music we like, playing different games to see what was in there and figuring what we wanted to do and what not to.

So Stefan had a very clear idea of what he wanted us to achieve, an electronic score that isn't mixing in any classic instruments or hardly any acoustic instruments. After that Johan and I proceed in the studio, starting with electronic music with our keyboards (modular systems, Korg MS-20, ARP Avatar and about 10 more keyboards and drum machines) and chains of effect pedals. We worked around often very minimalistic and harsh sounds, deliberately avoiding to make the big Hollywood sound, but rather dark and sort of uncooperative.

Johan and I would sit at my place and play different games, mute the sound and try out our own music sketches to different game situations and see what we thought worked the best. If we would play a game and really feel something about a scene because of the music we knew we hit the right note.

So, you didn't ever consider bringing big orchestral pieces into Battlefield 3's soundtrack?

Jukka: No, not once.

What kind of feelings are you hoping to evoke with the score?

Johan: The most important thing is to make it work with scenes. But since we have seen very little of the game while working on the score, we had to stick with what Stefan had in mind; trying to decode his vision of the overall sound of the game, and what feeling it should have. The soundtrack on the other hand has to work on it's own, and I think it does, because we managed to stick to the main vision - urban, dark music.

Obviously, the Battlefield series has a very recognizable theme song, but in this game it sounds more distorted than before. Was it challenging to remix it in a new way without losing the essence of the song, without making it too different for fans who love the original?

Jukka: From day one we were influenced by electronic music. When we started working on the main theme we wanted to create a dark, almost crawling theme that evolved to the hero theme but without strings and such.

The only acoustic instruments in the theme are some real drums, but they are also heavily processed through effects. We didn't think that much of it as challenging because the melody and the rhythm in the theme is so recognizable. We really tried to follow the idea of what we would like to hear in the game and hoped that other people would think the same.

When listening to it closely, I think I heard something that reminds me of Terminator films, or am I mistaken?

Johan: Well, You are correct, sir.

Do you feel creating music for a game is different than creating music for other purposes; for films, theatre, or just for listening?

Johan: Not in terms of creating a mood or accentuating what the scene is saying. But in games there are never fixed scenes. What happens and how long each scene will be is determined by the player. So the music has to be able to adjust in time, and different layers will come in at different times but still has to work. The player is also playing the music so to speak.

Since there are two composers, how did you share the duties; were there elements one of you focused more?

Jukka: Not really. The only thing I could think of is that Johan is a master on drums and rhythms, I try to get him to do all drums from now on - ha ha. And I tend to do concentrate more on harmony and melody. And that worked very well together.

Do you play games yourselves and what are your impressions on Battlefield 3?

Johan: I play one game - NHL, ha ha. I have actually not yet got the final game, but from what I've seen it looks, and sound, absolutely stunning.

Jukka, you were born in Finland but moved later to Sweden where you live now. Could you tell us a little bit about your career and why you stayed in Sweden?

Jukka: I moved to Gothenburg in 1995 and studied music science and philosophy there. Since 2006 I've lived in Stockholm and worked as a composer for film, art, contemporary dance and computer games here. I play in two bands, Silverbullit and No Science, No Science is me and Johan Skugge. With both bands we are working on new albums.

Johan, how about your career? What else have you been up to than creating music for Battlefield?

Johan: I've released some electronica and techno on different labels. I've also done some art music, but also commercials and tv-channel indents.

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