Interview with Olivier Zuccaro - E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy soundtrack composer
Game-OST managed to meet Olivier Zuccaro, composer of recent and a very interesting old school indie RPG / FPS - EYE: Divine Cybermancy. Hardly anyone of us had heard of him, and that is why more interesting to meet such unknown person who is capable of creating and doing unusual, atmospheric and enchanting music.
So, can you tell us how did you get into wonderful world of video games? We must admit that you came just out of nowhere, and in the same time you did such a great job working on the music, its style and how it fits into the game universe. How can you explain this situation?
Thanks! I think it all started when I laid hands on my first game. It was on the Atari 2600 (VCS) at the time, and I was too young to realize that I wanted to make my own games, but still, I became addicted to video games. Approximately ten years later Duke Nukem 3D lands on my PC. It was my first try at modifying a game.
Since then, every game that had a SDK or modding tools were an opportunity for me to discover how engines and video games technologies worked. After working by myself for a while, I joined modding projects like Stargate Special Unit, Unreal Fantasy, and eventually I started my own with a few guys from the Nofrag.com community, called Requiem Avenging Angel.
In 2008, I met the guys from StreumOn Studio. I contacted Pierrick to offer my help, but only to write a cue for a trailer. Instead, they asked me to join the project as the composer… and here I am.
Maybe you are playing in some bands, are you?
I was! I played in a private school orchestra as a saxophonist. Also as a bassist in both a metal band and recently a death metal band called Breeding Abhorrence, which split up in 2006 if my memory is correct. Since then, I've been improving my composition skills at home.
What games were you able to work on beside E.Y.E.: Divine Cybermancy?
My biggest modding projects were Stargate Special Unit and Requiem Avenging Angel. I also composed the soundtrack for "Diaspora", an independent game set in the Battlestar Galactica Universe.
When and why did you decide to write music? What groups / composers influenced you most?
My father being a musician, I kinda started playing on drums, bass guitars and electric guitars at the age of 3. I always enjoyed writing music… I worked with the ancestors of mod trackers on Atari 520, wrote some midi songs on Cubase LE and worked a lot on my first band songs with my brother.
My musical tastes are pretty broad: Pink Floyd, Marillion, Dreamtheater, Fear Factory, At the gates, Pat Metheny, Hans Zimmer, Kenji Kawai, Vangelis, Danny Elfman, Bear McCreary… and a lot more.
I can't really say that one influenced me more than another… At times I prefer to listen to soundtracks or progressive rock or even extreme music and it indeed affects my music.
Do you have musical education ? What instruments are you able to play and have in your collection right now?
I learned music theory for 5 or 6 years in a musical school when I was younger, playing Saxophone and learning rhythm tapping on a wooden table for hours. So you could say that I can play Saxophone, but it was a long time ago. I can play bass, guitar and a bit of piano… bass guitar is what I do best, but honestly, I'm not much of a great performer.
What hard'n'soft are you using in your studio ?
Well, this is not really a studio right now… I'm still working at home and I hope to upgrade my workspace someday. Anyway, I'm working on a PC with Cubase 5 and a lot of VST instruments (EWQL Banks, Omnisphere…), Edirol FA-66, Yamaha HS50m, Mackie Control Universal.
Was there any art or design document available when you began working on the game? Or did you receive game demo already?
Pierrick, who was in charge of musical direction gave me two videos and asked me to write two songs with this material. We worked together for two months, and after that, I finally got the internal release to work on the next cues for the game.
I never worked with design documents on E.Y.E., Pierrick always wanted me to get into the ambiance of the levels directly. It was pretty hard since I didn't know how the music would fit into the game… but overall, I think it turned out pretty well.
How much time did you spend working on E.Y.E.: Divine Cybermancy soundtrack ? What difficulties did you face during the work? Are there any tracks that not made into the game ?
I joined the E.Y.E. project on December 2008. The creative direction evolved a lot and I worked on the soundtrack all along with the level designers. Certain songs in the game are really different from what they were originally. For instance: the rejected version of qnB I gave you.
Most of us noticed the strange naming pattern you were using in your work: qnA, qnB, qnC, etc. What does that mean?
Haha… it's actually a "clin d'oeil" (a nod as we say in French) to pigFreezer a friend from Nancy. He was using some strange name patterns for his songs a few years ago. And since I didn't really know where and when the songs would end up being used in the game, I didn't want to find a name for each of them, so I used the pigFreezer's technique to name my songs =]
It means "Cue Number X" and I didn't want to use numbers so I put letters instead. "reJ" is for rejected songs, and "extended" is for an extended version of the songs I liked and that I wanted to give a different feeling to or a longer version.
We're also noticed that your name mentioned in one of the game's trailers. Does that mean that your work on E.Y.E. wasn't limited by making soundtrack only? Did you work on some other aspects of the game?
Yes, I also worked on sound fx, on some of the trailers and I made the secondary websites (angel corp and metanarcho). I also worked on some UI prototypes that didn’t make it into the game.
What is the very first thing you do while creating your music? You can't just sit down and began compose, right? :) Or can you?
Singing in my shower or in my car! I always have something in mind, whistling or singing… I record it on my phone and then I try to work on it when I come back home. I wish I could just sit and compose… but sometimes, it's just really hard to put some notes together. Also, I can have more inspiration while being away from the computer or my instruments,, which can be pretty frustrating.
Cyberpunk isn't the most popular theme in the world - not just in video games (or even in the plane of music), but in the whole - so it might be difficult to feel the atmosphere, right? Where did you get your inspirations working on E.Y.E.? Maybe alcohol or drugs helped you a bit? :)
Haha... alcohol, sometimes!
But on a more serious note, it's not really difficult to create something when you have an inspiring universe before you. Pierrick gave me guidelines and lots of inspiration he had for the game, like Ghost in the shell or Blade Runner to name a few. After listening to a bunch of stuff he gave me and trying to find similar artists, I began to find my own style and started digging for specific sound textures that truly portray the universe of E.Y.E..
Maybe you can remember some interesting moments while you were working on soundtrack and/or the game?
Two moments actually. My first song, which is qnA, was a one shot… it was already in-game when I got the first internal release.
The other moment was when I met Kirumi, a level designer from Nancy. I worked with him for like 6 months on the soundtrack for a level without knowing he was living five minutes away. The first time we met, we visited an abandoned factory near my place to take some pictures for the game and when we got back, we worked on the soundtrack (qnT) which is not in the final game. But it made for a really interesting and inspiring afternoon.
And to some general questions. What recent music albums did you like?
Mechanize (Fear Factory), Inception OST, Mass Effect 1/2 OST, Human Target OST (Season 1), 8 (Uneven Structure), Shatter OST, Soldner X-2 OST.
I don't think all of them are "recent", but I can’t stop listening to those albums since the last few months.
What video games did you play recently, and what titles d'you like in the whole?
Mortal Kombat 9, Marvel vs Capcom 3, Sacred 2, Crysis 2, Divinity 2, Terraria, Brink, Magicka, Jamestown, The Void, Shatter, Amnesia, Revenge of the Titans, Atom Zombie Smasher…
MvsC3 is just awesome. Magicka, Jamestown, The Void, Amnesia, Revenge of the Titans and Atom Zombie Smasher are indies gems… Oh, and Terraria. I'm actually on rehab... I just couldn't stop playing.
Are there such a person exists with whom you want to work with?
Definitely Bear McCreary, I discovered him on Battlestar Galactica and it was mind blowing. He has a such peculiar way of writing his soundtracks… I think its work is the most innovative I have listened to over the last few years.
We are sure you have some plans for the future. What are they?
I can't really talk about that right now… but yeah! I do have some plans and you'll be the among the first to know when there’s something to reveal.
Thank you for you answers and spent time, Oliver. We looking forward to hear your music in future!
Thank you guys to give me the opportunity to talk about my work :)
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