Interview with Miracle of Sound´s Gavin "Gav" Dunne:
Here you'll find Miracle of Sound on The Escapist.
You also should give thanks to Gav, since he's giving away one of his songs in high quality for free. He left us the choice of the track, and as a D&D-nerd who loves to play the dwarf, that choice was pretty clear: have fun with 'Nord Mead', a wonderful song about the benefits of strong drinks in fantastical environments!
Download: Miracle of Sound - Nord Mead (MP3 320 KBit) Click right and "save as"...
Eurogamer: How do you come up with this stuff? Is it all created in nightlong poetry-slams with yourself or did you just instinctively start to hum "Krogan...leopard...Shepard..." while playing the game and wrote it down?
Gavin "Gav" Dunne: Your description actually fits really well for how MOS got started. I was playing Half-Life 2 and started randomly humming 'Gordon Freeman Saved My Life' - it just popped into my head. I was a bit down at the time due to my old band falling apart, so I decided to make it into a fun little song and record it to cheer myself up. And then it just ... took off! Nowadays though the songwriting is tougher as I need to make a new one every fortnight. I treat it like a job - I sit down and work 9 to 5, sometimes a lot longer, up to 70/80 hours a week even. It's a lot of work - writing, recording, mixing and mastering a song every fortnight - but it is fun, creative work that leaves me with something that will last forever - so it's all good.
Eurogamer: At what point did you realize that there could be potential for a career as a videogame-bard?
Gavin "Gav" Dunne: I think it was when Commander Shepard went viral I realized the bigger potential there. The others had gotten great views but this one grabbed the attention of Bioware themselves and of a huge part of the gaming community. I emailed the Escapist to see if they'd like to have me as a contributor and they were like 'Yep!' And so music became my job, a dream come true.
Eurogamer: One man (well, you) is all it takes to be a 'miracle of sound'? Sometimes it sounds like there's a ton of instruments and a full choir.
Gavin "Gav" Dunne: I do everything myself except for special occasions when I need a female vocal (or jazz musicians, on Sweet L.A.). I record every voice and instrument separately, one after the other. My mixes are gargantuan, messy, clusterfucks a lot of the time. I use up to 100 different tracks sometimes piling on layer after layer of sound. I use Cubase 6 to mix vocals, guitars etc. and a program called Kontakt that lets me play realistic string and orchestra sounds through my keyboard. As for the 'choir', it's all me - I just sing in each line one after the other and the computer plays it all back together. As you can imagine, it is very time consuming! Try to imagine it like a painting - you add more layers and colours one at a time to make the overall piece shine.
Eurogamer: There seem to be many different musical influences in the Miracle of Soundsongs. I'd say there is a good part of Rock-Metal in there, but also Devo-esque stuff ("Wheatley´s Song"), 80s-Wave-sounds in "Commander Shepard" or a bit of Gary Numan in "Little Sister". How far am I off and how do you go about picking a tune for a game and theme?
Gavin "Gav" Dunne: It's different each time but generally I try to pick a genre or a musical 'feel' that fits with my own experience of the game or of the particular aspect of the storyor character I am writing about. Obvious examples would be the robotic electro style in Wheatley's Song (Portal 2), the Nordic, chanting balladry of Sovngarde Song (Skyrim), the dark cyberpunk synths of 'The New Black Gold' (Deus Ex). Then sometimes I like to pick something totally off the wall and odd for fun - such as 'Necromorph Soup'. I don't think anyone was expecting a funky, funny little disco shuffle about a game like Dead Space! It actually annoyed the hell out of some people, too, which was amusing.
Big musical influences for me are Bowie, Nine Inch Nails, Devin Townsend, Iron Maiden, mid 80s U2 - anyone who mixes up their style a lot and tries different things.
Eurogamer: You said one time that you have been in bands for quite a long time and that you are one of those guys, who always almost made it. What kind of bands were those and have you already "made it" with Miracle of Sound?
Gavin "Gav" Dunne: I was in rock bands before this. It was, again, almost 100% my own work and when I played live I had a full band. We got signed to a label then everything fell apart due to mistakes by both myself and others. The old cliche! As for 'making it' nowadays, I feel I still have a long way to go. When I am making a comfortable living without having to worry about money at all - that's when I think I can say I've truly made it.
I don't think you ever truly 'make it' on an artistic level either - I feel that an artist should always keep pushing and pushing to make their work better and better. There's always something you can improve with practice and hard work and I feel my own work has a long way to go before it is of a standard I can be truly satisfied with. Having a very direct line of communication with my audience helps a lot. I get a lot of great feedback from them and I can sometimes use it to make the songs better.
Eurogamer: CDs are dead or so I heard. Why does "Press X to Rock" exist?
Gavin "Gav" Dunne: Nah, I don't believe CDs are dead yet. They're just very expensive to produce for a very small independent musician. I'd love to be able to do more hard copy stuff for fans but I just can't afford it. The Escapist funded 'Press X To Rock', that is why it exists. We may do another one in the future, too, if there's enough demand.
Eurogamer: Have game-companies considered to use your songs to promote their games?
Gavin "Gav" Dunne: Yeah! Bioware collaborated with me for 'Take It Back' but it wasn't in any trailers or anything - they made a music video for it and put it on their Youtube channel for ME3's launch. I would love to have developers use my music or even commission me to make them something awesome for a game or a trailer. So devs, if you're listening - hire me! Show me the money! Haha.
Eurogamer: What kind of crowd is drawn in by your live-gigs? Are they already chanting along with every song?
Gavin "Gav" Dunne: I have only played one live gig as MOS actually. It was at a role playing convention here in Ireland and yeah, there was a surprisingly large number of people singing along and dancing. It felt great! I'm playing again at the Escapist Expo this year, that's the only other live show I have planned. http://www.escapistexpo.com/ I don't plan on doing a lot of gigs though. To be honest I get incredibly bad pre-gig nerves and find playing live terrifying. It was fine when I had bands behind me - 4 other guys up there eases the nerves a bit - but now that it's just me up there it is a very scary experience to the point where I actually physically puke with nerves beforehand!
Eurogamer: Your song "DNA" is about the movie Prometheus. Movie? What´s a movie? What´s going on here? No more game-songs? Have you betrayed us, the gamers?
Gavin "Gav" Dunne: Haha, yeah. It's a slow summer for games, for a start. Not much there to write about. But every artist enjoys doing something different from time to time. I don't want to limit myself exclusively to games as there are many other great, inspiring stories out there in other mediums. But I have very geeky taste in movies, books etc - so everyone can relax, my songs will be remaining mainly within nerd culture - Sci-Fi, fantasy etc. The reception to DNA was generally very positive, so I plan on doing more songs about stuff in other mediums. I actually have a few songs planned about a certain popular fantasy book to TV conversion that's been doing well this last two years - wink!
Eurogamer: Have you considered making music for games instead of music about games?
Gavin "Gav" Dunne: Absolutely. I would love to! It's something I hope to seriously look into organizing at some stage, once I have made MOS a solid career. If you know any devs looking for soundtracks give them my number, hehe.
Eurogamer: Your new album raises a final question: are you a 'shooter guy' or do you suck at Call of Duty?
Gavin "Gav" Dunne: Ha! Good question. Both actually. I am a shooter guy, I love shooters. My top games are Half-Life 2, Mass Effect 2, Fallout 3 (yeah, I know technically RPGs there but you catch my drift), that kinda thing. I try not to let the fact that I suck hopelessly at shooters limit my enjoyment of them. I had to stop playing COD online as it was making me rage too much - sometimes you just have to accept you do not have a natural ability like some other people and will never be as good as them, no matter how much you try - but that's ok - I would rather divert my energies into being good at music!