Throughout the Nintendo Life Video Game Music Festival we’re speaking to a range of composers and musicians for 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 we’re talking to Darren Korb, in-house composer at Supergiant Games, the studio responsible for Bastion, Transistor, Pyre, and most recently the sublime Hades, a game we awarded a thoroughly-deserved 10/10 in our review (it is what we and practically every other gaming outlet like to call A Very Good Game™). These questions were taken from a longer conversation we had with the composer recently, and you can look forward to hearing more from the voice of Zagreus himself in the very near future.
In the meantime, let’s find out the answers to the really big questions. You know, Which magical instrument would you take on an epic adventure? — important stuff like that…
What was the first song or album you remember buying?
First album I bought was two albums at the same time, it was Off The Deep End by Weird Al and Monty Python Sings, those were the first two albums I bought on the same day.
What was the last music you listened to?
Last music I listened to was Queens of the Stone Age.
What was the very first video game you wrote music for, and how do you feel listening back now?
I think Mine, Windbag, Mine from Bastion was the first piece of video game music I ever wrote. I guess technically I did a piece of video game music for a student project that Amir [Rao, Design & Studio Operations at Supergiant Games] had done in school, so I guess technically that’s the first piece.
But Mine, Windbag, Mine, I still feel good about it, [and] a lot of my past stuff, I feel like it’s representative of where I was at at the time, and I don’t really have a revisionist desire for any of that kind of stuff even though maybe I’d do it differently now. I feel like I liked it at the time, I still like it, I’m at peace with a lot of my past stuff in that way, I think.
Which piece of yours are you most proud of?
I think at this moment it might be In the Blood, just because of how we recorded it. It was an original song I was recording at Abbey Road with this chamber orchestra and I brought some tracks — I’d recorded the rock tracks beforehand and brought them in, and yeah, it was just such a wonderful experience doing that and recording the vocals live there with Ashley [Barrett, singer/songwriter and longtime Supergiant collaborator] and while the chamber orchestra was there, [an] unbelievable experience. I’m super proud with how it turned out and I love the sound that we ended up getting with that, it was a blast.
I mean I think maybe God of the Dead is close second, just because it was so much fun to work on and its just such a monster of a piece. It’s nine minutes long or something and it was such a fun thing to do to make all the different movements and for that second section to challenge myself with how hard can I rock, how fast can this be where I can still play the riff in a convincing way. Let’s go, let’s see how hard we can riff!
Which piece by someone else do you wish you had written?
One song that I think is a nearly perfect song is No Surprises by Radiohead. That is one of those tunes where back in college I used to have my iTunes library on shuffle a lot and I’d be doing whatever and whenever that song came on I had to like stop and sit there and listen, because it just demanded my full brain to sit there and listen to that song. I would aspire to write something as cool or as beautiful as that song.
What do you listen to while you’re driving?
It depends, I mean these days when I’m driving I usually have my son in the car with me, he’s usually in charge of choosing the music, so it’s a lot of satellite radio these days. Sometimes I’ll do a little Yacht Rock Radio, sometimes he’ll do SiriusXMU which is kind of like the indie college radio station type vibe. So a lot of that stuff.
We’ve started listening to Les Mis in the car, [the] Les Misérables soundtrack, my son liked that for some reason, so I’m into it.
The movie soundtrack or the Broadway one?
The original Broadway cast usually, but we’ve been liking the 10th anniversary concert one, which is like the entire show. The soundtrack leaves out a bunch of the show we discovered, but that 10th anniversary one, they call it a ‘dream cast’, where it’s all these highlights from all the casts.
Do you have a musical hero?
At this moment in time I think it is Louis Cole. He’s so incredible. I have several, I mean Jeff Buckley I feel like as a vocalist and a writer, I really love what he did, it was really remarkable. I think The Beatles really are one of my favourite bands and what they accomplished in the span of like eight years or something, writing 300 really good songs.
Which decade had the best music?
Oh gosh, that’s a really tough one. So I have to say the ’60s, and the reason I have to say the ’60s is because The Beatles’ entire catalogue was from the ’60s! I mean I just feel like you have to go with whatever decade that is.
Ocarina, harp or bongos — which magical instrument do you take on an epic adventure?
Harp. I mean it wouldn’t be very transportable, but harp is my favourite of those three instruments.
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?
I have this guitar; I mean I’d probably take just for practical reasons my acoustic guitar. I’ve never had like a really nice acoustic before and recently I got like a Martin acoustic, which just sounds so beautiful, and it plays great and I’m so happy with it. So I’d probably take that.
Our thanks to Darren for speaking with us. You can follow him on Twitter and hear his work in Bastion, Transistor and the multiple GOTY award-winning Hades, all available on Switch — and other platforms.
Be sure to check out our previous Quick Beats interviews with the likes of Austin Wintory and Yuzo Koshiro, and keep an eye out for plenty more in the coming days as the Nintendo Life VGM Fest continues.
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