To celebrate his 20 year anniversary of working in the business, FHM Gaming decided to chat to Frank Klepacki, legendary composer and audio director, formerly of Westwood and the current maestro at Petroglyph. We asked him about what the games industry is like on the inside, his up and coming projects and pizza toppings.
If you've ever played a real time strategy you've probably heard his work. Things he's been part of include:
Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun
Disney’s The Lion King
Command & Conquer
Command & Conquer: The Covert Operations
Command & Conquer: Sole Survivor
Command & Conquer: Red Alert
Command & Conquer: Red Alert: Counterstrike
Command & Conquer: Red Alert: Aftermath
Command & Conquer: Red Alert: Retaliation
Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3
Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3: Uprising
Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun
Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun: Firestorm
Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2
Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2: Yuri’s Revenge
Command & Conquer: Renegade
Lands of Lore 2
Emperor: Battle for Dune
Lands of Lore 3
Pirates: The Legend of Black Kat
Earth & Beyond
Star Wars: Empire at War
Star Wars: Empire at War: Forces of Corruption
Universe at War: Earth Assault
Panzer General: Allied Assault
Do you get time to game much? If so, what have you been enjoying lately, and what's your favourite genre?
Here and there I do, I recently finished Infamous 2, and have now been playing Magic The Gathering 2012 on the Xbox360. I don't mind what genre it is as long as it's fun and I can get into it.
What's the games business like on the inside? What's the best part of it all?
Working for a developer is fun and creative, though like any gig can sometimes be stressful too. You just have to manage you time and tasks as best you can based on the outline of whats expected in each milestone, and scope of the project. The best part for me is seeing the game completed, even when it's step by step, as I enjoy admiring every else's work that comes together during the development.
And the worst part?
I really couldn't say. I'm used to the bumps in the road along the way so I try not to dwell on it negatively and just push forward. Rise to the challenge of solving issues and relying on teamwork. As far as the industry in general, the only thing that is always disheartening to hear about, are layoffs in different companies that seem to happen annually. Sometimes theres circumstances that force it, but if it happens every year, you have to wonder what could change in management to prevent it in the future.
AND THEN I WAS LIKE...
Who inspires you as a musician and sound designer? What motivates you to keep doing what you do?
A combination of things, I suppose. I enjoy working with the development teams I'm part of, I enjoy creating and brainstorming ways to improve and customise our audio pipeline and tool usage, it's a cool feeling to be out in the field and record sounds that you can use in the game or create new sounds with, and working with a live symphony is pretty awesome as well. I play multiple instruments so I find it inspiring to switch which one I'm going to start an idea with. Listening to other great music, meeting others in the industry you can swap stories with - it all contributes.
If you weren't an audio wizard what would you be doing for a career instead?
When I started, I was just as interested in art and my skill set was about equal in the beginning, so I might have gone that route.
How would you describe your experience at Westwood?
Awesome. It was a great run, and it had a great company culture and family vibe to it. We did some historic games there and I was so thrilled to be a part of it the whole way. It took me a while to realise I had a solid career there. Just seemed surreal to think of it that way. But as they say, if you love what do you you don't have to work a day in your life.
Whats in your DVD player at the moment?
If you could have a half hour chat with any figure, real or mythical, living or dead, who would it be and what would you discuss?
John Williams. I would ask him all sorts of detailed questions about his approach to composing. Even though I've studied his music quite a bit already, I'm a huge fan of all his work and would love to meet him.
What three things do you take with you to a remote, uninhabited desert island?
A solar power generator, a music studio, and my wife.
What have you been listening to lately? Any music you don't like, and why?
I always defer to my iPod and usually discover new music through the genius feature, or through word of mouth from friends & colleagues. Lately I've been listening to E.S. Posthumus, Rush, and the soundtrack to Making The Grade that I just recently purchased. Bonus points for anyone who has seen that flick or even knows what it is. [laughs]
Got any other game composers you reckon our readers should be listening out for?
Sure! There are so many, but I will rattle off the first few that come to mind: Vince Dicola, Jonathan Wijngaarden, Alex Brandon, Richard Jacques, Steve Burke...
What are you cooking up in the studio now ? Any Petroglyph teasers for us? Think we'll be seeing any more Command and Conquer?
Right now I'm celebrating 20 years in the biz, so I'm working on my seventh solo album that will encapsulate the many styles and sound palettes I've worked with over the span of my career, but with all new material.
At Petroglyph, I'm working on an epic project called End Of Nations, the first major MMO-RTS game which just had a tremendous showing at E3 this year winning several awards, and we are going all out on the soundtrack for this utilising a live symphony combined with my signature rocktronic styles that will take this to the next level. I consider it to be some of my absolute best work to date.
I'm also wrapping up Rise Of Immortals which just went open beta, and is a MOBA style game which is a lot of fun playing against friends and wreaking havoc. Don't know much about what the future of C&C is since I'm out of that loop. But it will always be a legacy I'm proud of and passionate about.
If anyone invades London, they'll have to deal with a REALLY, REALLY fucking big tank first
AND Speaking of cooking, if you were a pizza topping, what would you be, and why?
Pepperoni with 9mm bullets. Why? Ask Arnold's pizza shop.