Continuing part 3 our discussion with Martin Millar, we delve into his work for indie game soundtracks. You can read previous portions of our interview below:
- Part 1 - Martin Millar artist highlight
- Part 2 - Graphic Design interview
- Part 4 - Indie Game Soundtracks
Unique Drops: We've covered a lot of your visual art, but you're also a musician. Give us an idea of how you fell into making music as well.
Martin Millar: Getting into music was a funny one, I’m a Metal head at heart and love bands like Iron Maiden, Faith no More and Queen growing up. But I think it was around 92’ / 93 when the euro pop dance type songs from 2 Unlimited etc started to flood the commercial charts and Happy Hardcore was big among my friends that I just became so frustrated with it I said to them at the time “This is shit, anyone can do it – Christ I could probably make it on my Amiga in my bedroom!” and out of pure stubbornness I went off to prove a point. Ha little did know a few years later I found out a lot of those tracks were in fact being made by on an Amiga or an Atari ST. A strange thing happened though as I was taking the piss out of the scene there was some bands I was actually getting into and loving because they had a harder sound and used their equipment and would produce songs the way a rock band would, so I started to slowly get into bands like Prodigy and Chemical Brothers. The first time I heard that beat crash in on ‘Break & Enter’ on Jilted Generation I knew there was a whole darker harder scene that I wasn’t aware and wanted to be a part of.
UD: Did you take any instrument or music lessons, or are you self taught?
MM: Ha none at all, I did try and learn how to play the guitar numerous times but never managed it. Piano wise no, no lessons and all self-taught (isn’t it obvious?!?!) basically I sit down and try and get what’s in my head into the computer so far it’s been working.
UD: What are your musical influences?
MM: Musical influences when I was younger as I said earlier would have been rock and metal bands (Maiden / Rage Against The Machine / System of a Down) I then moved into more hard techno and breakbeat (Chemicals / Prodigy / Orbital / Underworld) then more IDM (Aphex Twin / Boards of Canada / Clark) but there has been artists and bands such as Queen and Jean Michael Jarre that have always been there from since I remember that I keep going back to their old albums. Again video game soundtracks from the C64, Amiga and arcades have been hugely influential and it feels like it has come full circle for me.
I know that hasn’t narrowed it down much but I have huge respect for people who have an amazing work ethic and aren’t afraid to push themselves in new directions – so yeah Brian Eno, Mike Patton, Ennio Morricone and just recently Richard Vreeland (from Disasterpeace) I hold in high regard.
UD: What sorts of tools do you use in your music production for your current projects?
MM: Mid to late 90s I started out on Octa Med on the Amiga and then slowly upgraded to other tracking software on the PC, then I think around 2001 I was introduced to Reason and haven’t looked back since. I have tried other packages every now and then just to mix it up but I find I know Reason inside so when it comes to producing something quickly it just flows better for me.
I know the package sometimes gets a bad reputation and certain people say “you can’t do this or that” to me it’s just a tool, when I hear stuff like that I just picture people arguing over a pen or a pencil, at the end of the day it’s what works for you and what result you get at the end of it.
UD: What is the soundtrack production process look like?
MM: For the past few soundtracks I have been working on it has been a case of me seeing a gameplay demo or screenshots early in development and I try I get a feel for the style straight away. Thankfully I can get a vibe that both I want to be working on and what the programmers had in mind to begin with. Time invest on the tracks and albums can vary, for example last year I started Void Raiders I would work on 2 or 3 tracks at the weekend, send it back to the developer, if they like it and give me the go ahead then I would work on a larger batch for say a constant week or so. But I like to keep a couple of projects on the go so if you become stuck on one soundtrack or feel like I have hit a wall I just bounce onto the other and chop n change in that manner.
UD: How did you get involved with indie games? Do you do work other than music for those projects?
MM: I basically just set down one day and said ok if I need to get into this scene I need to throw myself out there, and that’s what I done initially. I just looked on development forums and blogs and got in touch with guys (making sure I picked games that I knew would personally interest me in working on) I was straight up with the developers and studios, told them what I had done in the past with my previous Bocuma albums and soundtracks and just asked would did they think I would be of use. Then we just started from there, the ones that took a chance on me I am so grateful as I am only starting out in this scene like themselves but they know I am not in it for the money (tho that’s always a bonus) but for the love of gaming, my love of music and my respect for them as developers, programmers and graphic artists.
Other than the music I try to promote and push the game as much as I can to whatever audience I can get it out to, and if any graphic design or promotional work is needed they know I am at hand to help out. Pavel (one man development machine from Void Raiders) has joked with me and said one day I will be making my own and doing the graphics and everything ha for now tho I have enough projects on the go and I am having so much fun with the soundtracking.
UD: What are some of your favorite indie games?
MM: Super Meat Boy
Super addictive and an awesome soundtrack from Danny Baranowsky, challenging in (a lot) of places but it always has that “just one more go” addiction.
Love this hidden gem, soaked in nostalgia and just transports you back to the 80s. I am pretty useless at it but yet I keep going back to it for another go.
Beautiful graphics, atmosphere and gameplay all complimented by a sweet soundtrack from Disasterpeace which balances between the beautifully uplifting to downright haunting.
Unhinged, crazy, addictive, sexy, stylish game. Again the synth wave score just put the cherry on top. That camera angle can be slightly nauseating tho *warning – don’t play hungover or drunk.
I love loading this little brawler up, Streets of Rage and Final Fight fun but in a twisted medieval universe, with loads of humour and some RPG elements thrown in. Great multiplayer fun and one I still continue to play with my son.
UD: Do you have any particular indie game projects that you especially enjoyed?
MM: This is all still quite new to me and I have only progressed down this path since mid-last year and for that reason everything I have worked on so far I have really enjoyed. From the ambient tracks I got to produce for Twisted Gravity, the techno fuelled chip tune glitch beats that is Story of a Cube, the gritty distorted breakbeat rock for Infinite Recursion and I am actually about to start another one soon for DropCore which I can’t wait to get cracking at.
I think though if I had to pick one it would be Void Raiders, not just because I am having so much fun with the futuristic neon sci-fi synth wave style of music but it was the first game I seen the art style and (like the rest) I thought “damn, that looks so awesome – I wonder would the let me in on that?” and I actually had the nerve to get in touch with the developer. Plus since then I feel closer to the project, not only because it’s been going on the longest out of the above but it feels like I have went through the ups and downs with the developer that goes on in the indie world. That’s why I have so much respect for these guys, like film directors they have all of this going on in their head but instead of out sourcing it they usual end up doing most of it themselves. But yeah I’m just loving the rollercoaster ride of it all and look forward to each game and hopefully it will continue!
We certainly hope it continues as well. That wraps up our interview with Martin, but there is still another post to come, highlighting the games Martin has been working on.
I'd really like to express my appreciation to Martin for taking the time to correspond with me and answer these questions.