Cris Velasco – Mass Effect 3, Assassin’s Creed: Unity – Dead Kings, and Clive Barker’s Books of Blood
FSC: What inspired you to compose music?
CV: There was sort of an instantaneous epiphany that got me into composing. I was studying a variety of subjects in a community college, just trying to find something that would inspire me enough to pursue it full-time. At this point, I’d had no formal education in music and I was taking a very basic Music Appreciation class because it sounded like fun. We learned about a different style or era of music each week. Jazz, rock, blues, classical, etc. This one particular day we studied Mozart and his 40th Symphony. I had never heard it before, but it moved me and completely changed my life. I knew at that moment that I wanted to be a composer. So I stayed at this school for one more year and took every music class they offered…theory, ear training, music history, piano, and even some private composition lessons. I had never composed a note before in my life. I couldn’t even read music at that point. Somehow, I had a knack for it though. I spent all my free time writing music, clicking it in with a mouse one note at a time into a notation program called Finale. I put together a portfolio and used it to get into UCLA’s composition major. It’s been a hard road to break in to this industry, but one that’s offered me an extremely rewarding life!
FSC: What’s it like to work on a franchise like ‘Assassin’s Creed’?
CV: There’s an added bit of pressure when you’re working on a big franchise like Assassin’s Creed. The fan base is usually huge so there’s LOTS of people hearing your soundtrack. I’ve been very fortunate to work on some other big franchises like God of War, Mass Effect, and Borderlands though so I’ve somewhat learned how to personally deal with that sort of pressure. The great thing about a game like this though is that the production value is amazing. It is so thrilling to be a part of something so massive. If I still want to play the game after I’ve worked on it for so long, I know that we have something really special on our hands.
FSC: What was your main focus in expressing this soundtrack?
CV: The focus was on finding an interesting way to present a soundtrack mostly of “dark” music. I didn’t want it to ever start sounding muddy or uninteresting. A lot of thought went into the arrangements and orchestration to try to avoid this. If you’re dealing with a somewhat limited palette it can be tricky to not make the music sound monotone or one dimensional. It was also important to focus on giving the music a modern approach while giving a continuous nod to the early Classical and Baroque era of composition.
FSC: What was the most memorable part of your work on this?
CV: Just working on such a fun franchise and taking the music in a new direction is what I remember best from this experience. Every day when I sat down in my studio, I’d be completely energized just knowing that I was working on Assassin’s Creed.
FSC: If you had to work on a project along with one other composer, who would you choose?
CV: I assume you meaning living composers. John Williams seems like the easy answer, although I’d be much too flustered to get any work done. I wouldn’t mind being a fly on his wall though as he works on Episode VII right now. But I think it’d be a lot of fun to collaborate with John Powell. He has such a great grasp on writing for orchestras, choir, and electronics. Plus, he just seems like a fun guy to hang out with and have a beer after a long day in the studio.
FSC: Favorite soundtrack is… ?
CV: It’s probably still The Empire Strikes Back. I have lots of “favorites”, but this one just edges the others out. It was pretty much the soundtrack to my childhood. The writing is so intricate and layered. I think it’s a score that will stand the test of time.