The video game industry has been blessed with some incredible musical talents over the years, with ex-Rare composer David Wise being a standout; there's a strong chance you you will have heard his work. Having created acclaimed scores for games like Battletoads, Wizards & Warriors and Donkey Kong Country in the past, and the likes of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and Snake Pass more recently, Eurogamer has now interviewed the composer and musician about his illustrious career.
The conversation turned to Wise starting out in the industry, working with Nintendo and also his future plans.
Originally I wanted to be somebody like Phil Collins, someone who goes from being a drummer to writing songs and preferably being quite well known for it. On the way to that pursuit, I was working in a music shop. Two guys came in one day - [Rare founders] Tim and Chris Stamper - and I was demonstrating a Yamaha CX5 music computer to them. This was the early days of MIDI, and the CX5 let you connect keyboards to computers. I'd written some of the stuff I was demonstrating, told them when they asked, Tim asked if I had an office. I thought 'yes, I've sold another one', so I took them upstairs, started getting the finance papers out - and they offered me a job.
The legendary composer then went on to talk about his time spent with Nintendo and his affection towards the company:
I loved working on Nintendo titles. I feel very privileged to have worked with such a great developer of video games. It's very inspiring, so for me that's a huge highlight.
When I'm choosing a new project, I have to like the developer - but then there are very few people in the games industry that aren't fun to work with. It's more about the title, and whether it looks fun to play. I've always gone for projects that are a bit quirky, a bit Nintendo-esque, they're the ones I like to work with. Fun, cute graphics, the sort of games where if I saw them, I'd want to pick up the controller and start playing. I'd rather work on titles that give me a big grin.
Mr Wise then spoke about his influences when creating the score for Snake Pass, citing the surroundings more than the actual serpent itself:
What with it being a snake in a very tropical, Amazonian area, everything's very woody. There's lots of bamboo in the game so we've got lots of bamboo marimbas, bamboo shakers, poles, bamboo percussion - a lot of it is based on organic-like sounds. We've also got guitars as well which can sound very South American.
With no signs of slowing down anytime soon, Wise expressed his desire to work more with an orchestra, however understands the expense:
Musically, working with a little more orchestral integration would be lovely, given the choice - but obviously it's a very expensive luxury. I'd love to spend time exploring new sounds as well. These days there are so many people developing new sounds that it'd be nice to take those and do new stuff with them or explore where those sounds can go.
There is so much stuff I want to try, and I'm not sure I'm going to get it all done in this lifetime. I could do with another four or five to do all the things I already want to do in this one. I'm proud of writing many of my pieces but I'm always looking forward to bettering them with each new piece I write or each game I work on. I'd like to think I haven't written my best stuff yet.
Recently, we were lucky enough to speak to the man himself about creating "Aztec rock and roll" for Snake Pass. He certainly continues to produce quality soundtracks to help elevate games of all kinds and sizes.