Jason Graves – Tomb Raider and Dead Space
FSC: What inspired you to compose music?
JG: I’ve always loved writing music. Even in elementary school I enjoyed making music instead of practicing my proper piano lessons. My band director in high school, Alan Atkinson, was a big inspiration and even performed some of my music at school concerts. I also have to credit my parents, who always told me to follow my dreams and supported me every step of the way, especially those formative years and directly after college. I honestly wouldn’t be where I am now without them.
FSC: You’ve had the chance to work on some big video games, such Tomb Raider, Dead Space, Devil May Cry, the upcoming Evolve, and many, many more. How special is it to be associated with these titles?
JG: “Special” would definitely be the understatement of the year! I grew up with a lot of these titles and consider myself a huge fan. So to be able to work with the people responsible for creating these universes is a real privilege.
FSC: What do you prefer about composing for video games over film and vice versa?
JG: I’ve found games allow for a lot more creativity, musically speaking. The last thing a developer would want is a score that sounded like something that’s already been written. Basically the opposite of the temp track situation in film, where it seems most composers are asked to copy the temp music the music editor has been using for pacing, cuts, etc.
But the immediate interaction and instant gratification that comes from scoring to picture with film is also a lot of fun. I’ve found if I chose my projects carefully, I can also have the same kind of creative freedom in film.
FSC: If you could choose any upcoming major film project to work on, what would it be?
JG: If we’re considering a complete alternate reality I would love to score the last Hobbit movie. I’ve always been drawn towards fantasy films and haven’t yet had the opportunity to really stretch out and compose a proper epic fantasy score. I feel like fantasy and sci-fi are fertile ground for adventurous harmonies and sweeping melodies.
FSC: What other composer has inspired you the most to this point?
JG: That’s a definite toss up between Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky. I love the drama and orchestration of both, plus their melodic sensibilities and how they underscore drama, especially in the ballets they’ve composed.
FSC: What did you want to accomplish in Adrenaline?
JG: I had the idea of scoring the entire film with a rock band, but really underscoring the scenes properly – not just dropping rock riffs under the action and acoustic guitars strums under a quiet scene. The composition part was straightforward enough, but the trick was I couldn’t just hire a band to come in and record. I kind of needed them on call all day so I could lay down the tracks as I wrote them.
So I spent some time practicing and building up the studio guitar, bass and drum selection and played everything myself. It was the best of both worlds because I got to write everything on guitar but also score it all to picture and make it sound like a full band.
FSC: How challenging was it to work on such a well-known game as Tomb Raider?
JG: I think the biggest challenge on Tomb Raider was finding the proper instrumentation to fit the amazing world Crystal Dynamics had built. There was definitely a lot of pressure to deliver a score that hit all the right touchstones, from vulnerable to epic and everything in-between. Thankfully, I was brought in three years before the release date, so I had plenty of time to experiment and try different things. Of course, it helps that Crystal was such a pleasure to work with. They were up for anything I suggested and really just wanted whatever worked best for the game, whether it was a tried and true technique or something totally crazy out of left field.
And that’s what I love the most about games. You’re actually encouraged to innovate and be as original as you can. It’s truly a team effort – everyone is trying to make the best game they possibly can. And I get to work with some of the most creative people in the industry.
For more, visit Jason’s site at www.jasongraves.com