Lassi Vihko and Tommi Vihko of Geem Audioworks took the time to answer a few questions about their work on the Fashion Police Squad Soundtrack. Here's what they had to say!
Q1: The Fashion Police Squad soundtrack does not feature any typical runway music, which would have been an obvious choice. What led to that decision?
When we started development, the core design pillars were humour, satisfying action gameplay and novelty. Most of the genre choices were somehow tied to the design pillars. In the case of using runway music, we made the choice to go with an older style instead of the more modern house inspired beats. We felt that the fabulous appearance of the main character Des carried connotations of the ballroom and voguing scenes from the 1980s and 1990s – a time period which conveniently marks the rise of the shooter genre and chiptune music. Things like the metallic “HA!” crash sound typically associated with performing dips and death drops in voguing performances are sprinkled throughout the soundtrack. We listened to things like DJ MikeQ’s Paris Is Burning Ballroom Mix and The Ha Dance by Masters at Work for inspiration. We didn’t want to overdo the ballroom influences, though, to avoid cultural appropriation.
Q2: Do you mind letting us know what hardware or software you used to create the chiptune sounds?
Not at all! Our main tool for recreating sound from the 16-bit era was Inphonik’s RYM2612 software synth. It’s a wonderful emulation of the Yamaha YM2612 sound chip, which was famously used in the Sega Megadrive/Genesis console. For NES-era sounds we used AudioThing’s miniBit, which is a really simple and intuitive chiptune style software synth. Although not really chiptune, the third piece of the retro puzzle was the software version of the Roland Sound Canvas, which can recreate the sounds of the OG Playstation.
Q3: With the popularity of the “Boomer Shooter” genre on the rise, are there any games from this new wave that you looked to for inspiration?
Definitely, we looked at games like Ion Fury, Dusk and Post Void, for example. To be completely fair though, we didn’t really investigate the boomer shooter genre until very late into development, so most of the music was already composed when we were introduced to these games. At that point, we were more interested in the sound design of those games and how they were mixed.
Q4: Fashion Police Squad has some fairly unconventional boss fights. How did you approach creating the music for these interactions?
Lassi: The boss fights in this game were a joy to write music for. I took quite a different approach for each one. The first boss, Hugo Bauss, is the finale of the Business District levels, which have the most Sega-inspired tracks in the game. I wanted the track “Like a BAUSS” to be a continuation of that style. The jagged chiptune riff is purposefully un-funky to emphasize the dull, corporate setting.
The second boss is all about geek culture and pop culture references. The idea for the main theme was to take inspiration from turn-of-the-millennium music such as Spybreak! by Propellerheads from the Matrix soundtrack and combine it with chiptune and glitch elements. During the boss fight, the player is transported to three different alternative realities. In the first one, the music transforms in to a Metal Gear Solid VR missions pastiche. In the second, the music takes inspiration from Wolfenstein 3D, with faithful DOS-style 4-channel instrumentation. In the final phase I wanted to make traditionally epic boss music such as One Winged Angel from Final Fantasy VII. I had a great time remixing the boss theme for the different environments and gameplay styles.
The final boss theme “The Almighty Tailor” took inspiration from the excellent French electronic duo Justice. I combined the dark and heavy electro sound with a live recorded choir that’s actually just my own voice overdubbed 20 times. Recording sessions took me a week to complete, because the higher parts were so taxing on my voice and I had to keep taking breaks. The end result was appropriately ridiculous, though, with lyrics exclaiming “Socks with sandals” and “Gimp Suit”.
Q5: There is a lot of clear funk influence throughout the soundtrack. Are there any specific artists or albums from the genre that you pulled inspiration from?
Tommi: We listened to a lot of different stuff while making the soundtrack. Something that we kept coming back to was Prince, whose music felt like the perfect cross-section of fashionable and funky retro aesthetics. Other such influences were CHIC, Ohio Players, The Real Thing, G.Q. and Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall album, to name a few.
Lassi: In addition to these western disco-funk inspirations, I’m a fan of Japanese old school jazz fusion bands. I listen to a lot of T-SQUARE and Casiopea and was happy to include some of those influences on the soundtrack as well.
Q6: Do you have any upcoming projects that you are allowed to speak about?
We’ve been working as sound designers on an arcade racer set in space that’s coming out sometime in the near future. That’s all we can really talk about now, but we’re also looking for new work!
Q7: What have you been gaming lately?
Tommi: Splatoon 3, I’m a big fan of the series both in terms of gameplay and audio. Also, I’ve been playing through a lot of classic games (like Zelda, Mario, and Sonic) with my 4-year-old daughter who’s really into gaming.
Lassi: Splatoon 3! Additionally I’ve been playing the 2018 God of War and Stray on PS5. Stray has one of the best soundtracks in recent memory, and the game overall is just an absolute gem.