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Interview with Fallout: New Vegas composer Inon Zur

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Posted October 23, 2010 - By Rick Damigella














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Inon Zur

The Feed got to talk with composer Inon Zur about his music for the newly released Fallout: New Vegas.  The veteran video game soundtrack creator delves into the creative process for composing the music of New Vegas, talks about video game soundtrack releases and takes questions from The Feed’s readers.  Mr. Zur was also kind enough to provide us with some pieces from his New Vegas soundtrack, so you can enjoy some post-apocalyptic listening as you check out our interview with him.

The Feed: This is your third trip into the wasteland.  How different was it for you scoring New Vegas versus Fallout 3?

Inon Zur: It's very different.  We decided to go on a different route on Fallout 3 basically.  I took it a little bit more into the larger, some what orchestral score and large scope of score in terms of orchestration.  In New Vegas we actually went small again and this is I think the first game that basically the whole score is made of sound design synthesizers along with a string quartet.  The Lyris Quartet which is a pretty known string quartet here in Los Angeles, performed the score for Fallout: New Vegas and along with them I've sort of created quite a twangy, a little Western, but a very twisted western sound.  So the whole thing sounds quite out there.  Basically let's think about weird blues played by a string quartet and synthesizers with some weird twist to it.  That's Fallout Vegas.

The Feed: How much of the music is done on synthesizer versus with the live strings?

Inon Zur: There are also a few guitars but overall most of it is synth and the string quartet.  I was very, very anal about getting this pure and unique sound of string quartet along with the synthesizer and I don't think that somebody before me did it on games.  I think it's a very interesting concept.

 

Fallout: New Vegas - "New California Republic Theme" »


 

The Feed: What were the challenges of coming up with that sound and doing something so different from what you did in Fallout 3?

Inon Zur:
We did have quite an extensive discussion, me and Scott Lawler, the audio director who did an amazing job on the whole music front.  We were thinking how to create first and foremost an American music.  Second, something that will be associated a little bit with Vegas, associated a little bit with desert, a little bit with the whole Vegas trip, of gambling, but something that is totally post-nuclear war and in total disarray.  So then we started to throw things into the kitchen sink and we kind of followed a little bit of the score for the movie There Will Be Blood, which is much harsher and the whole atmosphere I think that they captured beautifully.  We wanted to capture, the desolation of this weird new born land that we find in New Vegas once we emerge from our first adventure of being shot in the head.  So this is how we got to it. 

The Feed: Was it exciting to be able to experiment with a very unique and new sound like that? Since some of your recent projects from Prince of Persia to Dragon Age: Origins have some very specific sounds that gamers would expect to hear.  Did it give you a chance to really stretch your creativity a little bit?

Inon Zur:
Yes and more than that.  From Fallout Tactics to Fallout 3 to this one, this game was always where I stretched my creative muscles the most.  I can say, for example for games like Dragon Age I really stretched my creative senses as far as how to recreate you know a freshly style of this kind of score.  But for New Vegas you have to create something that's not existed before.  And it's not more challenging or less challenging but it's a total different challenge.  And this really, really calls for a lot of experimentation, a lot of searching for sounds, searching for melodies, searching for what will really cause from a psychological point of view the player to feel what we want him to feel.  So this is the journey. 

The Feed: How much music did you end up composing for the game?

Inon Zur: I would say close to 80 minutes. 

The Feed: We have a couple questions from our viewers.  The first one is really more of a comment from one of our viewers named Seth, who wanted to thank you for integrating music from the Fallout and Fallout 2 soundtracks into the game.

Inon Zur: Basically Bethesda and Obsidian got the right to integrate some other previous scores from Fallout and I think they did it very successfully.  Although, most of the music, I guess 70 to 80 percent of the music for New Vegas was specifically composed for the game.  We took some music from Fallout 3, some from 1 and 2 and inserted it just to sort give the player a little bit of the old and loved sounds of Fallout.  But this is just a sample.  Most of it is new.

 

Fallout: New Vegas Soundtrack - "Desert" »


 

The Feed: Is there any specific piece that stands out as your favorite that you've put together for New Vegas?

Inon Zur: There's lots of stuff that I like there.  I think the piece that really captures the most of the type of this new sound of New Vegas is the end credits.  We're going to feature it on my website and this I think is the piece that is the best of what the score of New Vegas is all about. 

The Feed:
Did you have a hand in choosing any of the licensed, classic songs that made it into the game?

Inon Zur: Not really but I was definitely aware of what's going to be in it and I definitely stated my opinion about it.  I think that the choices were really, really good.  I wish we could have got a little bit more songs though because the selection to me is a little small and I think this is sort of a budget thing.  But I think for the next one we will probably get more songs.  Because I know people really like them.  Like the radio stations and stuff. 

The Feed:
The next one? Care to elaborate on that?

Inon Zur:
Oh! There's a next one? I didn't know?!

The Feed:
Fair enough.  Does it present a challenge for you as a composer to work around and with those period pieces?

Inon Zur:
Actually not really because the score for New Vegas is basically portraying more of the psychological place that we want the player to be and the songs are giving them more of the adventure of the era.  So its two different elements and both of them are working in a way to enhance the audio part of the game but the actual target is very different.

The Feed:
Will you do a soundtrack album for Fallout: New Vegas?

Inon Zur: We are still contemplating on that.  We’re considering it, let's put it that way. 

The Feed:
What do you think about the fact there is enough of a fandom in North America to support releasing video game soundtrack albums?

Inon Zur: Well I'd like to mention pioneers, first and foremost Mr.  Steve Schnur who is the president of music at EA, is one of the really people that are pushing so much to get the soundtracks and the music of video games out there.  He really realizes that people are looking for this music.  And he does so much for this and I have to really tip my hat and give him a lot of credit for this kind of major movement in starting to really put all the soundtracks of music out there.  Because once EA is doing it all the other people are following up.  Overall we know that soundtracks overall are not like usually like best sellers you know.  It's not Rhianna or Lady Gaga, but, I think it's a great vehicle for the avid players and there are a lot of them out there, to get the other aspect of the game, get adventure and experience the game from the different point of view, from an audible point of view without actually looking at it.  I think it's a great vehicle that could even deepen their involvement in the game.  And it's a great vehicle for us too.

 

Fallout: New Vegas Soundtrack - "Mountains" »


 

The Feed: Speaking of soundtrack releases, let’s diverge a moment over to Dragon Age: Origins.  Your website says the soundtrack for the Dragon Age: Origins DLC, Leliana's Song will be available for digital download starting this Monday.

Inon Zur:
Yes.  You know we were really excited about Leliana's Song because it actually brought to Dragon Age a totally different kind of sound, more like a folky sound, but sort of more in an antique way.  We were so excited about it because it is so much not what people really think about the music from Dragon Age and it's so different from Origins.  So like hey, what the heck let's release a soundtrack on that and yup, there we go.

The Feed:
One of our viewers named Jeremy wanted to ask you, is the Prince of Persia soundtrack available on CD?

Inon Zur: You know this is a very good question.  I actually have to ask Ubisoft about it because about a year ago they requested us to edit a soundtrack version and we did it and we sent it to them.  Never heard.  And with marketing sometimes it takes forever, but as far as I know, no, it's not out there yet but there definitely is a version for it.  And I will basically push that it will be out.

 

You can follow Inon Zur on Twitter and through his website.

Interview with Fallout: New Vegas composer Inon Zur
http://www.g4tv.com/thefeed/blog/post/708196/interview-with-fallout-new-vegas-composer-inon-zur/
http://images.g4tv.com/ImageDb3/253059_LGST/go_falloutnewvegas_sndtrk_desert.jpg
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