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Jesper Kyd: The Musical Mastermind Of SyFy's "Metal Hurlant Chronicles"

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After recently conducting an interview with another video game composer, I've gained a lot of respect for video game composers who have just as tough a task to write brilliant music as regular film composers do. They really have to think in three dimensions and within that frame, they really have to get the emotions of the person or persons playing the game. Along with that, they also have to guess the stops and starts that times interrupt the flow of what the music should really do in its' full organic form.

As a veteran game composer, Jesper Kyd should be familiar to all of those who have played the games his brilliant music has graced that include "Assassins' Creed", "Darksiders II" and "Hitman" to name a few. Kyd is an exceptional talent who I had discovered through his excellent scores for "Hitman" and most recently through the upcoming SyFy series, "Metal Hurlant Chronicles", which is an ambitious series based on the popular comic series "Metal Hurlant" which takes place on a different planet with a different cast (that includes James Marsters, Rutger Hauer, Michael Biehn, Michael Jai White and Joe Flanigan) which are linked together by the presence of an asteroid, which plays a vital role in their lives – and the future of their civilization.

For this very special interview with Jesper, he candidly shares with me his thoughts on composing for "Metal Hurlant Chronicles", his thoughts on composing for video games as opposed to film or television and other exciting things. So sit back and enjoy the grand musical mind of this underrated and wonderful composer.

Please tell the readers about what made you become interested in music and composing.

JK: I have been interested in music, movies and games as long as I can remember. When I was 13, I got my first computer, a Commodore 64 and started messing around with music software. At the time young people in Denmark were very involved with home computers and a computer scene was created. A year or two after getting the C64, my friends and I would start making C64 demos/demonstrations and that eventually led to forming our own gaming company. By this time, pretty much the only people I knew were programmers, graphic artists, hackers and computer musicians. Our first game on the Sega Genesis was sold to Sega and that's when we moved to Boston to continue making games. So I have been making music with computers since I was 13 and by 19 I became a professional composer and have been doing it ever since.

Let’s talk about your recent work on the upcoming series, ”Metal Hurlant Chronicles” premiering on SyFy in April. What got you interested in this project?

JK: I love comics. I grew up with the Heavy Metal comics which are based on the French comics anthology called Metal Hurlant, published by Humanoids. Humanoids has released most of my favorite comics, so when an opportunity came along for me to work on this TV series I was immediately interested. I also love the 1980s animated movie, Heavy Metal, so to be part of this TV series is a dream come true for me.

This is obviously a different medium as opposed to great video games you’ve done, when you saw the show did the creators and producers tell you if they wanted a specific sound and did they give you any instructions on what they didn’t want you to do musically?

JK: I have worked with the creators on several other projects so I think there is a trust between us, in which they allow me to be creative and come up with ideas without feeling restricted or tied to a temp score. As far as the music style, each episode takes place on a different planet in a different time. To enhance this kind of variation between the episodes I decided to score each of the 12 episodes in a different music style. That is really time-consuming since you can't re-use the music and you have to start over every time you work on a new episode. There are a couple of pieces of music that were re-used for the ending twist in Season 1 but for Season 2 there are no overlapping music between episodes.

How much music did you end up recording for the First Season of the show?

JK: There is a lot of music in this series and the first season was probably more than 2 hours of music for six 25-minute episodes.

Will there be a soundtrack album for it?

JK: We recently released the Season 1 soundtrack on the Sumthing Else Music Works label and will be ready to announce more details about the 2nd season soundtrack soon.

Let’s talk about your work in the video game realm. What inspired you to take on the projects that you ultimately got involved with such as “Assassins Creed”, “Hitman”, “State of Decay” etc.?

JK: I look for projects with an interesting story and concept. For example the end of the world zombie apocalypse scenario in State of Decay, how to manage your survival, how to keep surviving and stay alive etc., it's all really interesting to me. Assassin's Creed and Hitman also projected something very appealing to me. Ezio's personality and journey was something I thought a lot about and worked into the music. Had he been a more straight up character the music would probably have focused more on other things.

What is that process that you go through composing for a video game?

JK: You really have to get to know the project to deliver music that fits. This approach is well known in film and TV but for games sometimes you get very little to work with and you have to kind of feel your way around and hope the developers are patient enough to let you find your way. In many ways it's much harder to score games since you don't have a locked scene to work with.

It is challenging for you to come up with thematic material for the games you’ve done?

JK: Coming up with themes can be a challenge, especially when working on games early on when there is very little material available. Having a good line of communication is key, and working with people that are not afraid of finding the theme through experimentation makes the process easier.

Do you think the world of video games has become a great outlet for composers such as yourself and many others to expand and write music that would otherwise be hampered by films or television?

JK: I used to think so but over the last few years video game budgets have gotten to be so huge that some publishers tend to look at music from a very safe kind of perspective, which does not allow truly creative or original scores.

Do you think it is easy to write music for a video game as opposed to that of a television show or film?

JK: It's harder to write music for video games. For games you can have little help as far as visuals so a lot of the music has to be written in ways where you, for example, have the developer send a video of someone playing the game. That is not the same as me playing the game my way and so you can't always score to picture when writing for games. With TV and film, on the other hand, you have the moving image and can immediately see and feel if the music fits the scene. When writing for film and TV the main theme is often found when scoring a key scene and so you find a starting point to the theme this way. I don't find this approach works for games, again because you rarely have a certain scene that's like a key moment...the whole game is often like a key moment. Games can be like scoring a 30 hour movie that plays differently each time.

How would you feel if you were offered to score the film version of “Assassins Creed”?

JK: If the project fits with my vision and music style, that would be great fun to work on.

Many people feel that you should’ve been the composer to have written the music for the film version of “Hitman”. Would you have wanted to do it if you were offered it?

JK: The Hitman movie sounds nothing like the Hitman games and I don't feel the movie has much to do with the actual games. If the Hitman movies were closer to the games, it would be fun to score.

You did a very important musical restoration writing a new score for the 1928 film “The Passion Of Joan Of Arc”. Can you tell me what led you to be involved with a classic film such as this one?

JK: I was commissioned by the Danish Film Festival in LA to create a new score, so that's how that came about.

What was the process in writing a new score for a film that is very memorable?

JK: Well, each movie is a different experience and since there was no director or producer involved for this score, I was free to do what I wanted. I focused on delivering something different, something that sounded truthful to the experience, something unique I hope.

What is your favorite score that you’ve written to date?

JK: I don't really have a favorite – my latest score is usually my favorite at the moment of writing it – until I get started on a new score.

Name a film that you would love to have written the score for?

JK: Invasion of the Body Snatchers :)

Please tell the readers about your future upcoming projects.

JK: I am working on a new next gen sci-fi game which will be announced soon.

Very special thanks to the awesome Jesper Kyd for being so gracious with his time to do this fun interview. You are a lot of fun and I'm very grateful to know you. Also very special thanks to Greg O'Connor Read who again has introduced me to another cool musical cat. You're the best!

"Metal Hurlant Chronicles" debuts April 14 on SyFy at 8/7 EST/CST

Please visit the shows' official website @ http://www.syfy.com/metalhurlant Based on the popular comics anthology Metal Hurlant, each of the 12-episodes in this series take place on a different planet with a different cast, linked together by the presence of an asteroid, which plays a vital role in their lives – and the future of their civilization. The international cast includes James Marsters, Rutger Hauer, Michael Jai White and Joe Flanigan.

The Metal Hurlant Chronicles Season 1 Soundtrack is now available on Sumthing Else Music Works
http://www.sumthing.com/p/metal-hurlant-chronicles/

Please feel free to visit Jesper's official website @ http://www.jesperkyd.com for samples and updates on his latest and upcoming projects.

Also please feel free to visit Jesper's Facebook page @ http://www.facebook.com/JesperKydFanPage

Here's Jesper's Bio:

"Danish composer Jesper Kyd started writing music for visual media in the European ‘demoscene’. At 19 he became part owner of a video game company which later evolved into IO Interactive, the studio behind the Hitman series and Freedom Fighters. Renowned for creating unique scores with a diverse array of live instrumentation and manipulated sounds, Kyd’s soundtracks feature a mix of styles ranging from the iconic orchestral/electronic hybrid scores for the HITMAN series (BAFTA Original Music Award) and anthemic choral score for FREEDOM FIGHTERS, to his four evocative, brand defining scores for the history inspired ASSASSIN’S CREED series (ACII voted most popular theme music by fans in Ubisoft poll) and the post-apocalyptic themes of the BORDERLANDS series.

In television Kyd also composes a variety of music styles for METAL HURLANT CHRONICLES, the English-language science-fiction live action series based on the popular comics anthology “Métal Hurlant,” also known internationally as “Heavy Metal” magazine. From 1960s cold war drama to distant future, fantasy to medieval, METAL HURLANT CHRONICLES spans a wide range of self-contained stories linked together by an asteroid, called the ‘Métal Hurlant’, which passes close to the planet where each episode’s story is taking place, thereby changing the outcome.

Directed by Guillaume Lubrano (WE Productions), the first season of METAL HURLANT CHRONICLES (2012) stars Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner), James Marsters (Buffy The Vampire Slayer), Joe Flanigan (Stargate Atlantis), Michael Jai White (Spawn), Darren Shahlavi (Arrow), Scott Adkins (Zero Dark Thirty), and Kelly Brook (Smallville). The series is currently showing in 22 countries across Europe and premieres in the US on SyFy, April 14.

Kyd’s other credits include the faded Americana acoustic score for Microsoft’s STATE OF DECAY, the fastest selling original game on Xbox Live Arcade, and the surreal fantasy score for the action-adventure DARKSIDERS II, created by comic book writer/artist Joe Madureira, which garnered numerous critic accolades including Entertainment Weekly’s “Most Played Best Songs of 2012,” Machinima’s “Top 5 Songs of 2012,” “Best Video Game Score of 2012” and “Top 10 Best Video Game Scores Ever” from Minnesota Public Radio.

Recent projects include the uplifting orchestral album “LEGACY” recorded with the Budapest Symphony Orchestra, the acclaimed follow-up to “ULTIMATUM”. Kyd is currently scoring several next generation video games as well as season two of SyFy Channel TV Series METAL HURLANT CHRONICLES starring Michael Biehn (Aliens, The Terminator) and John Rhys-Davies (The Lord of the Rings), which will be broadcast in Spring 2014 across 80 countries internationally."

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