Interview with Assassin's Creed Composer Jesper Kyd


Posted December 11, 2010 - By Rick Damigella

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Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood Pre-Order Bonus Character Revealed

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood has been a big hit for Ubisoft.  Just this week, the NPD Group announced that the game placed second amongst the top 10 games sold in the US in November (right behind COD: Black Ops).  One of the da Vinci’s behind Brotherhood is Jesper Kyd, who has composed the music for all three of the core Assassin’s Creed games. The Feed got to talk with Jesper Kyd about his music for AC: Brotherhood and he was gracious enough to answer some of our readers’ questions as well.

The Feed: This is your third foray into the world of Assassin’s Creed.  How would you compare your latest set of music for AC: Brotherhood to the music of the previous games?

Jesper Kyd: This time around I focused on creating a dark and aggressive sound using live instruments that were available during the Renaissance in the 15th Century.  These live recordings are then filtered through computers and analog gear to create a more contemporary and modern sound.
The Feed: Since this was a direct sequel to AC:II, as opposed to the location change between the first two games, did you find it challenging to keep things fresh sounding?

Kyd: No, it was a lot of fun and the storyline is very different from AC2 and so the story is what I primarily focused on.  Once Rome has been freed, the AC Brotherhood music starts to sound a bit more uplifting, which is more similar to the AC2 music style.

The Feed: Which is more interesting/challenging as a composer; composing for a game like this with an historical context, or something that is more fantastic with less basis on something that is real or historical?

I don’t think one is necessarily more challenging to compose for than another, however I do pay very close attention to the historically accurate content that the AC team puts into the series and research the subject matter closely. 

The Feed: Our viewer Craig wants to know how did the time period and setting of the game influence the soundtrack?

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood Soundtrack Review Jesper Kyd

Kyd: I did a lot of research for the time period as well as opera music, especially comedic opera which was very popular around 15th Century Italy.  While listening to an opera would be too demanding on the player (and would take too much attention away from the game) I am nonetheless very inspired by opera music for the AC2 and Brotherhood scores.  Especially for Brotherhood, I am using voices in all kinds of ways, not just traditional opera singing. 

We thought a lot about what it should feel like walking around Venice in AC2.  Beauty and atmosphere were something we wanted to convey when not engaged in the dark side of the story.  So we aimed to have this beautiful music fit with the amazing architecture, and then when things get going in the underground, there is a different mood that kicks in, a mood filled with darkness, mysticism and danger.

The Feed: Our viewer Andrew asks if you went back and listened to your previous AC scores to get an idea of what you wanted to do or did you just start from scratch?

Yes, it was important that the AC Brotherhood score fit with the music of AC2.  It’s the continuation of the story and the location and time period are the same.  There was also some music from AC2 we didn’t get to use, or only used once in AC2.  People who are familiar with the AC2 soundtrack release might have heard this music already.  However, there is a lot of new music in the game.  I wrote almost 2 hours of new music for AC Brotherhood.

The Feed: Viewer DoomJX wants to know “how fun it was doing the music for such an awesome game?” because he very much enjoyed it!

Kyd: It is great fun to work on the Assassin’s Creed series.  I am a gamer myself and the AC games really are my favorite games to play (as well as GTA) ? so I am a big fan of sandbox games and I am very happy to be able to contribute my music to such an awesome franchise.

The Feed:
Mike asks how does it feel that thousands of people will hear your music? (Actually, that number is considerably higher!)

Kyd: It’s quite a surreal experience.  It’s hard to explain – I received an email from a Hitman fan that told me he only listened to Metal music and that Hitman 2 had opened his eyes to symphonic music.  That’s a great feeling – knowing that I might be able to open someone’s mind to a different or new music style.

The Feed: This also marks the third soundtrack album release for the AC series.  That must feel pretty good.

Kyd: It feels good : ) I worked really hard on the AC Brotherhood score and it’s great to see how gamers get the fact that this needed to be a much darker and aggressive score – whereas the AC2 score is more uplifting.

The Feed: You’ve got a large number of game soundtracks to your credit.  Is there a genre of gaming or a particular music style you haven’t been able to explore yet in a game? 

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood Soundtrack - "Master Assassin" »

Kyd: I am fortunate to have been able to write music for most game genres – from first person shooters to sandbox games to fantasy MMO’s and music games.  A category that would be fun to write a score for, that I haven’t worked in yet – is the horror genre.  I have written music for horror films but have not had an opportunity to write a really scary score for a video game.

The Feed: What is your take on traditional orchestration in soundtracks versus using primarily electronic instrumentation?

Kyd: I like both orchestral music and electronic music and I think that shows in my music.  I think it’s harder to write good electronic music since there is no education or basic rule set that covers this genre.  However I feel that most of the good electronic music is found in the music industry by bands such as Royksopp, Massive Attack etc.  Rarely does a good electronic score come along for a film or a game.

The Feed: Our reader Chris has an interesting question: “I am a poor college student trying to make a mod that will impress future employers.  Any advice for music for my game?”

Kyd: Well, it all depends on the game and what kind of atmosphere would be appropriate.  Try to think of a soundtrack as something that will enhance the game experience – not just something that you would expect, or that will fit with what you already have.  An example is if you have a scary movie with scary sound fx but instead of using scary music, you use a children’s song – suddenly the scene switches from scary to creepy.

The Feed: Jorrin asks what was your first music-related job and how did you get interested in composing music?

Kyd: My first music job was creating the main title music for a game called USS John Yong on the Amiga computer.  My interest in composing sort of just happened.  I started writing music every day on the C64 after my Dad bought this program called Electro Sound.  My music was horrendous and many of my first songs were re-makes of my favorite songs on the C64.  I would tape my favorite songs and listen over and over and then map out each instrument in Electro Sound.  It was great practice.  It took over a hundred songs before I started finding what I responded to.

Writing music is really about becoming one with your taste in music and finding what kind of music is your favorite.  If your current song doesn’t excite you the moment you are writing it – well then perhaps it’s not the style of music you should be exploring.  Stay true to yourself and your instincts – don’t think about what’s popular or think about making $$$.  Don’t listen to what other people say and just write another track as soon as your current track is done.  Keep writing music all the time.  Some of my best music was written because a previous track didn’t work out.  So you learn and you go back.  Learning is the most important thing, and not taking failures in your music writing too serious is key.  As long as you learn – you are on the right track. 

The Feed:
What would be a dream soundtrack project for you? It can be any genre from Film, to TV or Games.

For me it’s most important to be working with good people – a dream soundtrack project can really be any genre as long as there is a good vibe with the team. 

The Feed: What’s next for you? Is there anything upcoming you are working on now that you can share with us?

Kyd: I have been working on my album and just started working on my next project.  I also have a couple of film and TV projects happening but nothing I can talk about yet.  I look forward to sharing these with you in 2011 and beyond.


Interview with Assassin's Creed Composer Jesper Kyd


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