Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Sips Co. HQ
GI: How did your involvement with Silent Hill: Downpour begin?
Daniel Licht: I was approached by Konami. I know that they wanted to get someone that the fans might be happy about to take Akira [Yamaoka]ís place. We know Akiraís very popular with the game. I guess the idea is that the composer for Dexter might come up with some interesting ideas for Silent Hill.
GI: You also worked on the Hellraiser series. You have something in common with the design director for Silent Hill: Downpour, Brian Gomez, who also worked with Clive Barker on Jericho. Did you work closely with Clive Barker?
DL: Well, Clive Barker hired me, definitely. Iím pretty good friends with Christopher Young. Iíve actually worked for Christopher Young for awhile. Heís the composer of the first Hellraiser. But Clive was aware of my work and picked me to do Hellraiser IV. I didnít work with him specifically other than he had to okay the score. Itís not like he came over every day, I worked with the director on that and the producers.
GI: Where does most of your inspiration come from?
DL: Other than the great horror masters of the past? Obviously Bernard Herman [composer for Hitchcock classics like Psycho ĖEd.] aÖ is that what you mean by inspiration? Or inspiration for this particular job?
DL: Well Iím absolutely influenced by scores like Gerry Goldsmithís The Omen, and Alien, and Iíve studied a lot of 20th century composition. Iíve always liked to incorporate a lot of atonal and experimental sounds into my work. Thatís kind of one of the things that attracts me to working in the horror genre, is that you can push the envelope a bit and go out on the edge. But then thereís also a very emotional aspect to a lot of music. Thereís always moments Ė obviously because thereís a lot of death Ė thereís a lot of emotion going on. So horror films tend to have music with a lot of strong emotion to it. Thatís always been important in what I like to do.
GI: You mentioned sound experimentation and I know youíve used human bones as instruments in Dexter. I also know that in the past Akira did sound design for Silent Hill games. Do you have any part in the overall sound design of Silent Hill: Downpour?
DL: Iím not involved on the sound design, other than I am doing some ambient music. In certain sections it may be hard to tell whatís sound design and whatís music, so Iím doing some kind of ambient, washy, tension sounds. Iím not involved in the specific sound design elements like the heart effects or room tones or anything like that.
GI: Iíve read that you aim for subtlety in Dexter rather than hitting viewers over the head with heavy string sections to accompany a jump scare or something. Are you taking the same approach to Downpour or are you trying something different?
DL: Well, Iíve played some of the earlier gamesÖ
GI: Whatíd you think?
DL: Itís a great game. I really like it a lot. I havenít played them all just because I have a PS3, but Iíve had walkthroughs of the games I havenít played just to get an idea. Iím trying to study the history of the game, so that what I do comes out of what has come before me. Iíve done that in the past with films. I did a Hellraiser, obviously I had to look at the other Hellraisers. I did an Amityville, and I had to look at the other Amityvilles. And I did a Children of the Corn, so itís something Iíve had to do before. Itís always something you want to do, and put your signature on something, but you always want to serve whatever it is youíre working on first. If itís something with a deep tradition, you generally want to acknowledge the tradition.
GI: Fans of Silent Hill love Akiraís work. His music is a little more out there and noticeable than most horror soundtracks. Are you going for something thatís more traditional for horror games, similar to Dexter, or quirky like past Silent Hills?
DL: Yeah, I definitely want to do something that has a personality and is not just functional. In Dexter the music is a part of the feel of the show. Itís not just functional music. It really has its own character. Part of the reason is that itís noticeable. I donít do the obvious choices in terms of the music with Dexter. Iím playing against picture a lot. I donít try to get attention, I always try to serve the story in the picture and move that along.
But yeah, I do want the music to make a statement, absolutely, and give a unique feel to everything. I do think thatís important. I think people spend a lot of hours playing these games and the music may loop or whatever, but I think if itís good music it adds to the experience. I think thatís what people have felt about the music in Silent Hill. I think the music is interesting and it adds to their experience. That is definitely on my mind. I want to keep the music interesting and adding to the experience of the game, but not distracting from the gameplay, if that makes any sense.
GI: Iíve noticed this is your first time composing for a video game. Tell me about the process.
DL: Itís interesting because in a sense when I work on a TV show or a film I think of the music as functional pieces. In other words, I write all my themes first. I might write a chase theme, or a love theme, or an action theme, or a suspense theme, and then Iíll have those in my pocket when Iím ready to score the film. I might write them to a different scene or use them in different places. With a video game youíre doing the same thing, but youíre not always locking those themes to picture, if you know what I mean. You are for the cutscenes Ė youíre scoring the cutscenes Ė but the process of coming up with the material is the same, really.
Some people who are working on a film or TV sit down and theyíll just score the scene. I tend to think about the music and then I mold the music to the scene. So itís a similar kind of process. Iím going through the game and trying to give an arc to it as well. Definitely between each level Iíll give an arc to it. Obviously youíre going to start with suspense then you go into a fight or an escape or whatever music. Iím trying to set up the levels so that they build. So in that sense itís a similar process, but itís just not tied to footage.
GI: Tell me about the instruments youíre using.
DL: I actually did use some mandolin for some of it because I know that was a key instrument.
GI: Great, thatís one of the things I wished theyíd use more of in the entire series.
DL: Yeah, so that was kind of calling back toÖ I think it was Silent Hill 1.
GI: Yes, they have it at the very beginning of the game. Wasnít it flamenco style or something? Iím probably wrongÖ
DL: Itís tremolo, a fast tremolo pick. So Iím using that. I still have a ways to go. Iím really just getting started with the music. In terms of what I intend to do I am using some piano. I did notice that on some of the blogs certain players have said there are similarities between Dexter and Silent Hill, and with sort of the dark, repeating figures, I did notice Akira did that sometimes. I do the same thing in Dexter, so we have a similarity of styles in a certain corner. He tends to be much more of an industrial sound than what I do, but I am working with some of the industrial sounds as well, to keep with the nature of the game. Iím also bringing in my style as a composer, I tend to use more organic sounds as well. Iím also bringing in some of my organic sounds Ė very tense or eerie sounding sounds.
GI: Are you going to be playing on any human femurs for Silent Hill: Downpour? Using a ribcage as a xylophone or something like that?
DL: Would you like to offer yours?
GI: Sure, if youíre looking for one. My body could be sacrificed for much less meaningful purposes.
DL: I donít have any ribcages available right now, but I do have a percussionist I work with who does have some human bones and stuff. I may use some human bones in the game. I guess they came from Mexico or something. There will probably be some human bone work in this Silent Hill as well. I guess itís becoming a signature of mind.
GI: Is it tough following Akira, who earned such a rabid fanbase? Do you have anything to say to the fans?
DL: I really like his work. I have a lot of respect for his work, and I really like the series a lot. Iím trying to do my best to honor that and bring something new and exciting to that at the same time. Thatís my intention. Iím hoping that the fans will be happy with it.
GI: From what Iíve heard I think theyíre going to be. Iím a big fan of video game music and this is very impressive so far.
DL: Iím a big fan of music in video games as well Ė as long as itís good.
GI: Do you have any personal favorites?
DL: For video game themes? I donít know about particular themes, but I like the music in BioShock. I like the way it works and is placed. I just hear stuff that I like. Iím spacing right now, but I just hear good themes in it, and people put a lot of effort into it. Thereís a lot of creativity.
GI: Whatís your favorite Silent Hill? Either composition-wise or based on what you thought was cool.
DL: Thatís a good question. The one I know best is Homecoming, just because thatís the one Iíve played end to end. Other than that I like Silent Hill 2, the guitar pieces in there are really nice. The other games Iíve just gone through and seen clips from. I didnít keep track of which games they were so itís hard to say. I liked a lot of it.