Interviews: Sean Beeson - Composer
Posted by Corbie Dillard
The man behind the music.
For those of you who aren't familiar with his work, Sean Beeson is quickly becoming a name among video game composers around the industry. He's created musical scores for such games as Eternity's Child, Mecho Wars, and the upcoming WiiWare title Rage of the Gladiator, to name just a few. He's even scoring another one of Luc Bernard's upcoming iPhone/PSPmini titles called Steam Pirates.
With Ghostfire Games' Rage of the Gladiator title getting a lot of news coverage as of late, we thought now might be a good time to catch up with Sean and find out a little more about him and his work. You can find out what he had to tell us in the exclusive Nintendo Life interview below.
Nintendo Life: What made you decide to pursue a career in music composition?
Sean Beeson: My love of creating. I have always loved to invent and design, whether that is writing music or throwing together quirky meals. However, I have always had a passion for playing the piano and improvising, so I guess the rest came naturally!
NL: How long have you been creating musical scores for video games?
SB: I have been working on scores for games professionally for about three or four years. Prior to that, I had worked on game scores but not as a full-time career, mostly just hobby-mods like 'The Morrowind Orchestra' and 'Hull Breach'
NL: Where do you get your inspiration from when you sit down to create a video game soundtrack?
SB: My inspiration comes from many places, all of course filtered through my musical personality. Sometimes I pull inspiration from the classical masters, and other times from my contemporaries. Regardless, I simply focus on creating music that is interesting and entertaining.
NL: Can you tell our readers a bit about the actual process you go through in creating a soundtrack for a video game?
SB: Yes. I first ask myself, what I would want to hear? What would the music be like if I were actually living that moment in the game. I then set out to realize that aural-vision.
I typically like to sketch my pieces first. What this means, is that I will just compose the vital parts of the piece, to construct a solid form. It may only be a melody line, sometimes with chords, other times just small motifs. After constructively sketching the foundation, I then flesh out, orchestrate, and produce a final track.
This process can take anywhere from 6-14 hours of work per minute of game music, so you can imagine the immense amount of effort that is put into a sound track.
NL: How did you come on board with Luc Bernard's Mecho Wars/Steam Pirates title?
SB: I have known Luc for years, in fact we go back even before the days of Eternity's Child, though I have always been a fan of his artistic vision (makes my job easier to have strong visual inspiration) and his approach to collaborating.
Luc is really good about allowing me to create my vision, and this freedom has been essential to the success of our collaborations.
NL: You also scored the soundtrack for Luc Bernard's Eternity's Child release. Were you disappointed in the reception of the PC version and what are your thoughts on the WiiWare version of the game that has still yet to see a release on the service?
SB: Haha, I knew this question would come up! I was a bit disappointed with its reception, but not because of its low scores.
I was a bit disappointed by how fans and critics alike, let the shortcomings of the game affect their opinion of the art and music. Some reviewers seemed to enjoy giving the game as low of a score as possible, and this meant having to slam the art and music.
NL: How did you come to work with Ghostfire Games on their upcoming WiiWare title Rage of the Gladiator?
SB: I actually meet Ed the CEO of Ghostfire Games, through Luc! I believe they were both fans of each other's work and I just got caught in the middle.
The musical pieces we've heard from Rage of the Gladiator seem quite a bit more dramatic in style than much of your previous work. Was that your intention with this particular project? In regards to production, I wanted to create a score that was intense and comparable to a larger title, but would still maintain a sense of character. I wanted to create a musically cinematic experience without having to divorce the game from the soundtrack.
Compositionally, I simply wanted to write music that was compelling, entertaining, and emotionally driven by the action in the game!
NL: Can you tell us any specific musical composers, video game or otherwise, that you admire or enjoy listening to?
SB: I have always been a fan of composers like Debussy, David Haas, and John Williams, but lately I have been listening to a lot of older game scores, including the Strider, Quackshot and Castle of Illusion soundtracks. They may age, but their 'nostalgia' factor and affect on me never wears thin.
My musical tastes, like many composers, are incredibly varied though! One week I may be listening to Herbie Hancock and Yanni, the next Van Halen, and Rimsky-Korsakov! It all just depends on my mood I suppose.
NL: What are a few of your favorite video game compositions that you've created and can you name a few of your favorites from other musical composers around the industry?
SB: Here are a few of my favorite pieces that I have written (I tried to give you a variety) with links to them:
Lately I have really been into the music from the TV show Dexter, as well as Williams' Harry Potter scores.
NL: You musical style has been compared to Danny Elfman. Are you a fan of Elfman and has he played any role in your stylistic approach to your soundtracks?
SB: I think Danny Elfman has had both a direct and indirect influence on my style of writing and orchestration. I have always been a fan of his harmonic language, motific writing and use of chromatic percussion. However I am more directly influenced by impressionistic and late-romantic era composers, both of which have influenced Elfman.
NL: Are you working on any new video game soundtracks that you can share a bit of information about with us?
SB: I do have a few ace soundtracks up my sleeve, however some of them I can't talk about just yet!
The soundtrack for Steam Pirates (Luc Bernard's new RPG game) was finished not too long ago, and I recently have completed scores for about half a dozen titles ranging from iPhone games to downloadable/retail console titles. I will also be starting on a new Luc Bernard game within the upcoming weeks, so keep your eyes peeled on my site for an announcement or two.
Also, I currently have about six hours of music in my website's music player. Within the next few months, that number will will increase by at least two hours. So again, keep your ears peeled on my site for some new tunes in the new year!
NL: Any advice you can offer to any aspiring music composers looking to make a career out of it?
SB: Absolutely! Always remember the three P's:
1. Patience - Working as a freelance composer can be a constant battle. Things can go from booming to to bust in the course of a year. A personal career can take a while to fully blossom, in fact it can take a lifetime, so during that time make sure you practice!
2. Practice - Work your chops and train your ears. Once your career takes off, you may not have much dedicated time to devote to improving your skills as a composer. If you have down time between gigs, write a piece of music in a style that you are uncomfortable with, and find a way to work around those insecurities! Just like anything in life, if you don't practice, you can't expect yourself to be on the top of your game.
3. Persistence - Stay tough. This career has ups and downs, and the success of a composer isn't measured by their credits, (or at least I don't think so, haha) but by their ability to create great music.
If you practice, are patient, and never give up, you will be successful!
NL: Is there anything you'd like to tell our readers in closing?
SB: Check out my website, www.seanbeeson.com, and enjoy my music! I love writing a variety of pieces, and I hope you can enjoy listening to them. Feel free to embed my Soundcloud music player for others to listen to!
Also, I am always looking for new and exciting projects, so if you know of any commercial projects that are looking for a composer, let me know!
NL: We thank you for taking the time to take part in this interview with Nintendo Life and we wish you continued success in all of your various projects.
SB: Thank you Corbie and Nintendo Life for this opportunity!