Abzu NL VGMFest
Image: 505 Games

Throughout the Nintendo Life Video Game Music Festival we'll be speaking to a range of composers and musicians with a mixture of in-depth interviews and shorter, sharper (and perhaps a little goofier) Q&As where we ask just ten rapid-fire personal questions; we're calling these shorter features 'Quick Beats'.

Today, our first interviewee is the Grammy-nominated, BAFTA award-winning composer Austin Wintory whose work includes the soundtracks to indie darlings like thatgamecompany's flOw and Journey, Giant Squid's Abzu, the Banner Saga series, and much larger projects such as Assassin's Creed Syndicate, to name a few.

So, let's find out some tidbits about Austin, including his musical heroes, his thoughts on the best decade for music, and what he listens to while driving...

Nintendo Life: What was the first song or album you remember buying?

Austin Wintory: Surely Star Wars. We had a vinyl that I was destroying, so I'm fairly certain I figured out a way to buy cassettes of it to replace.

What was the last music you listened to?

Neil Young's "Harvest Moon".

What was the very first video game you wrote music for, and how do you feel listening back now?

flOw was my first commercial release. I hear someone who was quite clueless at the time! And very lucky.

Which piece of yours are you most proud of?

Compositionally, I try to make sure and never release something I don't feel proud of. But it continues to bring me great emotional shocks and joy that Journey (in particular "Apotheosis", the finale of the score) seems to continue resonating with people nearly a decade later.

Which piece by someone else do you wish you had written?

I never really envy other composers in that way. Maybe the closest I've felt to truly wishing I'd written something was Jon Brion's song "Little Person" from the film Synecdoche, New York [see below]. It's pure elegant simplicity.

What do you listen to while you’re driving?

Usually podcasts!

Do you have a musical hero?

Jerry Goldsmith, Leonard Bernstein, and many many more.

Which decade had the best music?

The best part of music is how it's always changing. The '60s had the best bold, experimental music. The '70s saw an amazing fusion of the so-called 'cinematic' with the pop trends of the time (namely funk and disco). The '80s saw a rebirth of old fashioned, glorious orchestral music in the world Hollywood. I prefer the wider view that all decades are SOME form of music's best decade.

Ocarina, harp or bongos — which magical instrument do you take on an epic adventure?

Bongos strike me as the most atypical here, so sign me up for them.

If your house were on fire and you only had time to grab one keepsake before you flee to safety with your family, what would you take?

In my studio is a glass sphere which contains my father's ashes in a beautifully artful presentation. I think that'd be my one item.

Our thanks to Austin for speaking with us. You can follow him on Twitter and check out our other Nintendo Life VGM Fest articles in our ongoing season of music-focused interviews and features.