Peter Reid Jones recently took the time to answer some questions we had about their work on the Evil Tonight soundtrack. Heres what they had to say!
Q1: Music and sound design are crucial elements in a horror title. Are there any composers you feel stand out in the horror game genre?
A1: The game that has probably scared me the most in my lifetime personally was Metroid Fusion. Akira Fujiwara & Minako Hamano created a superb backdrop for all the moments of uncertainty, be it the X parasites, sector 6 (NOC), the initial core meltdown theme, etc. Well, notably, the SA-X. The SA-X has single-handedly caused me the most recurring nightmares over my life, haha! Thankfully they have subsided, but that nonfictional, biological demon from freaking hell still holds that trophy. Even though Metroid Fusion is another metroidvania at its finest, the game still has great moments of slamming the brakes and disempowering/cornering you. The feelings of lingering uncertainty that make you lean into the screen, along with the sudden moments of urgency (both the feeling of “OMG what’s happening,” and the feeling of “barely staying ahead of the thing chasing you by a hair”), I take much from Metroid Fusion as the game that has scared me the most, and I don’t get scared easily.
Q2: How do you approach composing boss battle music?
A2: By overthinking it haha! I always love to inject leit motif if the game calls for that. But overall, I prefer to handle the chord progressions first and foremost as that’s my favorite thing in music. Any transitions/bridges that can use a quick time signature change for spice, as well as key signature pivoting, I throw those in as well. Curveballs, if you will. But above all, how integral is this boss to the game's story? What challenge/urgency/threat does this boss pose to the player? Is it a quick-time bop, or is it an urgent fight for your life? Did this boss used to be a friend or relative, whatever emotional or familial attachment involved? The emotions must be congruent, otherwise the boss fight can accidentally be more of a chore instead of an invested struggle.
Q3: How do you create your percussion sounds?
A3: Percussion is a slight shortcoming for me in that I need to work more on sampling and processing, but I have come a ways. I tend to use drum kits and am most inspired by RWBY & Quake II, or I use big cinematic drums to layer in with everything else, or I use sample packs of synthesized drums. I tend to lean into the sample packs for layering ambience and tone/mood into the tune.
Q4: The title screen track "Evil Tonight" is a gorgeous composition featuring violist Michaela Nachtigall. What led to this collaboration?
A4: Oh, she’s the bee’s knees, I absolutely love Mklachu along with everyone else. *Wonderful* string player. We met through my sending her my Beach Boys cover of I'll Be Home for Christmas in 2016, meeting in-person the next year during GDC 2017! Got into MBTI discussions, favorite game music, and the rest is history. On the MBTI spectrum, she and I are wildly ENFP to the point of being on that same emotional wavelength where you just get what the other person wants to express. I felt that the viola was the perfect sound for Violetta’s lingering, lost, longing character. Michaela knocked it out of the park without breaking a sweat, like I knew she would! She immediately came to mind as a candidate, and the title track speaks for why. My virtual viola VST just, yeah, it would have broken the mood haha.
Q5: With the success of games like Omori, Hylics and INSIDE as well as games like The Forest of Drizzling Rain receiving remakes, do you believe we are going to see even more horror games in a 2D format?
A5: I certainly hope so! I feel like my favorite scary moments occur in the confines of retro/2D, as the abstract element can bring about all the more uncertainty and crazy moments. Like this little moment of dialogue (click here). It's simple if not tame, but still speaks to the medium’s capabilities. The silence, Sweetheart’s neurotic bursts of rumination, and then that maniacal laugh OH HO HO HO!! I feel like this is a perfect example of why most horror movies and more realistic AAA games have to find other creative ways of surprising the human senses for peak macabre.
Q6: There are an enormous number of RPG maker horror games on platforms like steam and itch.io. Did you draw inspiration from any of those games?
A6: Indeed I did! One favorite memory of mine from college was watching Markiplier’s playthrough of Mad Father with a group of friends at the time. That was a WILD ride and I loved every bit of it, haha! The mad father’s twisted desire to do *that* to his own daughter, again all the perfect macabre moments were present in my opinion. I suppose I do hold that game to a standard, yes! Heh, talking about it makes me want to watch/play it again!
Q7: What have you been gaming lately?
A7: I tend to crave games that have a great sense of movement and quick-paced, reflexive elements. Recently I got deep into Monster Hunter: Rise/Sunbreak much to my pleasure of getting back into the franchise since MH4U. Otherwise, I still love returning to Brutal Doom/Project Brutality mods haha! For me, that’s the ultimate gameplay game that doesn’t get old. Perfect movement/mobility/control as I obliterate evil incarnate, what’s not to love?