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    Kevin Manthei Q&A

Click for Full Size Image Occupation: Composer
Web Site:
Projects: Vampire: The Masquerade, Sacrifice, EA Outdoor Sports Series, Scream 2/3, The Faculty, Majesty, Kings Quest: Mask Of Eternity, and the list goes on. Click Here to get the full list (click on "Credits" when you get there).

Kevin was kind enough to answer a bunch of our questions regarding the development of the music in Vampire, as well as a bunch of other general questions. Want samples of his work? Try our MP3 section (Vampire music only), as well as Kevin's music section (tons of Vampire [a lot that we don't have!] and non-Vampire music).

1. How did you get chosen to do the music in Redemption?

A successful composer is an avid business man. I am no exception. I send demos to plenty of producers and developers. I had been working on a relationship with Activision for a few months when Chris Hewish (Activision's producer of Vampire) listened to and passed on my demo to Ray Gresko at Nihilistic Software. We heard good things coming from Chris via Ray but actually I never talked to Ray until his call asking if I would like to score his game. Of course I was quick to say "Yes" knowing off the bat that Activision develops great titles. With Ray and his team's background, I was sure to be part of a great thing. Ray told me that he was very impressed with my music on my demo and had basically picked me to do the music if we could agree on the contract.

2. What drove you when making the music for Redemption? What type of inspiration did you have and what did you want your work to achieve?

What drives me in general is the vibe I get from the producers/creative people behind the product. Ray Gresko was my contact at Nihilistic. We worked together to flesh out the style he was looking for. I love it when producers know what they want or at least can explain the vibe of what they are looking for. Ray knew he wanted music that said: vampire, horror, medieval, sense of dread, etcS He also really wanted the music to be cinematic and gripping. We were going for a full on film score sound. I also liked that he wanted themes for characters. It's rare in games for me to get to do that kind of scoring. I wrote a love theme for Christophe and Anezka, a main theme, and Christophe's theme. For inspiration, I again fed off (no pun intended!) the producers desires as well as my own ideas I get from the producers. I always want my work to achieve what the original intent of the producer's desires are. My job is to listen to my client and give them exactly what they want, and then to blow them away by going the extra mile to create something even better than they initially imagined.

3. What kind of setup did you use (equipment-wise) to compose the music? Was this the same as most of your projects?

I use professional samplers with the best sample libraries out there. Apart from that, it's really not that interesting. It's what you do with the equipment than what equipment you have. I use the same setup in all my music.

4. Are there any future projects you can tell us about? NSI has stated unofficially that, should Redemption do well, an expansion could be on the horizon. Would you be interested in working on that project?

Check my "What's new" page on my website for a complete listing of all the recent and new projects I am working on. I am really busy with at least 5 projects that are all starting right now and will go for the next 6 months. I am really excited about Shiny Entertainment's Sacrifice: It's a great genre busting game that has allowed me to be really creative with the music. I am recording the score with a 26 piece orchestra in June. This will be the first game that I have scored with an orchestra and I look forward to doing it a lot more. I have also contracted to do music for Liquid Entertainment/Crave, as well as Infinite Machine's next title. Liquid's founder Ed Del Castillo was the producer on the original Command and Conquer, while Infinite Machine's prez is Justin Chin from LucasArts fame. As far as NSI and their future projects, I feel confident that Ray Gresko and I will be working together again. Ray has mentioned what the next title would be about and where it would take place. I would die to work with Ray again. It was a great experience working on Redemption and I consider it a highlight of my game music composing career.

5. Ever do much role-playing yourself? Do you consider yourself a computer gamer?

I don't do any role-playing. I guess if I had some friends who were into it, I would try it. Sounds like fun. I did do a little bit of D&D back in the early 80's when I was younger. It was ok, I just remember it being this huge universe of possibilities. I liked how you could use your imagination. I am a computer gamer and I love to play games. The problem is I work so much and I have a family, my wife and one year old daughter, that I don't get too much time to play games. I have been heavily into Warcraft II, Starcraft, Command & Conquer, Doom, Duke Nukem and Half-Life. I also like fast moving simulations like Panzer Commander and Panzer General II (which I scored).

6. How much of the World of Darkness have you read prior to the composition of the pieces for Redemption. Was this something that the designers really gave a lot of input on, or did you do a great deal of the research yourself?

Ray sent me down tons and tons of stuff to look at and read before I set out on composing. At first I thought it to be a bit too much but then I started looking at it all and immersed myself into the games script/story as well as the games development documentation. It really helped me in a lot of ways to read the script of the game. It's such a subconscious thing absorbing scripts. But when you know a subject well and understand it fully, then you can unleash your creativity fully and easily. Ray also sent me some White Wolf books "Vampire: The Dark Ages" and "Vampire: The Masquerade." I only glanced through these as I got enough of a vibe and idea of the story through the script. In terms of the World of Darkness, I haven't really read any of that.

7. What's the weirdest thing you've been asked to compose?

I was just asked today to write some 60's lounge music for a website for an upcoming Disney film. I'm looking forward to doing that. I wrote Cotton Weary's theme song for his TV talk show in Scream 3. That was fun because I wrote some stupid cheesy piece of music that sounded like a Jerry Springer tune. Uggghh. I hate that kind of music. Recently I wrote the music for the trailer for a feature film called Impostor starring Gary Sinese. Anyways, I had to do a rip off (rip off is a term for writing something so similar yet different enough so you don't get sued) of a Moby tune. The goofy thing is that there was a vocal track in the Moby tune. So I whipped out my mic and recorded my best impression of "Yah". It's a hoot to hear myself singing on a feature film trailer. The trailer is available to see via my website. A nice gentleman from England recently emailed me and asked me to write a piece of music in midi format with just the melody and harmony so he could finish off the rest of the piece. He wanted to know how much I charged for that. That was a pretty strange request. Finally the weirdest one of all just happened a few days ago by a beta tester for redemption, He wanted my midi file of the Redemption theme so he could hack it up into a muzak version for the Malkavaian Madness Network. Huuhh? I enjoy variety, it keeps my enthusiasm high and makes life interesting!

8. Will all of your music be on the Collector's Edition CD? Is there anything that will be in the CD that won't be in the game?

I wish. Hey at least I got 3 pieces from the score in that CD. There was a lot of competition, and I think the dudes at Activision really wanted it to be more of one of the Hollywood soundtracks where there are a bunch of bands on it that create buzz and hype for the product. I think it's great that they are doing the CD. I want to release a CD with all the music from the game and sell it via Nihilisitic's web site and my own site. It would be awesome to sell the music from the game, after all, that's what a true soundtrack is: from the game/film. Your emails and interest is important in this. I have had only brief conversations with Nihilistic and Activision concerning this possibility. Once the game is out, then they can think about putting together a score CD. To answer your final question, all my music on the Collectors Edition CD is in the game. To wet your appetite, I do have an alternate version of the main theme where in the middle of the piece it goes really heavy into a 'metal' section. I also have a modern sounding dungeon theme that isn't in the game.

9. Were there any classical or modern influences on your work for this production?

Ray suggested I listen to Brahm Stokers Dracula and a few other related films. I listened and got feelings and vibes from the scores but we weren't directly influenced by any one work. The music is really more of an extension of my own styles that I have explored in my previous works and music. I am heavily influenced by many film composers and certain works. This all funnels down into my psyche and releases when I start scoring. It's all much more of a left brain thing than you think. The idea is to absorb and then release freely. For Redemption, I wasn't trying to do anything specific except to solidify the intent of the script and the discussions I had with Ray.

10. What's your method of attack for writing a song for something like a video game? Do you conceptualize it in your head and just go at it, or is the process more one of constant experimentation and refinement?

I choose sounds that are appropriate for the genre, and then I create a theme sometimes before hand on my piano and sometimes off the top of my head. Every game and project is different. From there, it's touch and go. Sometimes I will write a piece in just a few hours, other times it takes longer. There is always that brain dump period followed by the hours of refinement to make it just right. Really, most of the time, the trick is to not add too much. It's easy to keep going and going. I have learned over the last few years that just because I am writing music and getting paid for it does not mean I need to go overboard. As far as conceptualizing, I really do try to meditate on the piece at hand before I start. I try to imagine the sounds and instruments that would play the piece. I create a template before I start with all the sounds I want to use. Because I heavily use samplers, I have to load each sampler full of sounds. This forces me to zero in on what I want and need.

11. Can Florindo have a MIDI of the main Redemption theme so he can make a muzak(tm) remix for the Malkavian Madness Network? :P

As I told Florindo, nothing is stopping him from using his ear to figure out the notes and create his own Malkavian Madness Network remix. Have fun and let me hear the noise you guys create!!!! :)

And this concludes the interview. Once again, big thanks to Kevin for taking the time to answer our questions. While you're on it, why not visit his site?

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