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Luc St. Pierre: Composing And Stealing The Musical Essence Of A "Thief"

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What do video games and the Oscar have in common? Well, I can easily say that one composer that emerged from the world of composing video game music to becoming not only an A-list talent, but an Academy Award winner. That man was Michael Giacchino, who not only won a well deserved Oscar for Pixar's "Up!", but is a great talent that has emerged as a great defining musical voice in the industry today with scores to hit films such as "The Incredibles", "Ratatouille", "Star Trek", "Star Trek Into Darkness" and "Super 8". Of course, there are other talented composers in this realm such as the excellent Jasper Kyd, Chris Tilton and many others that one day will get their shot.

The focus is on the solid work of Canadian composer Luc St. Pierre, a very talented composer who's latest score is for the soundtrack for the just released hit video game, "Thief" for the Playstation 4 and Xbox One consoles. Writing a very solid thrilling and suspenseful score for the game, Luc accomplishes alot more than most music soundtracks don't today and that is put an emphasis on themes and melodies that makes the music that much special. Luc has also had the privilege to lend his talents to the Oscar nominated short film, "The Lady In Number Six" which was directed by Oscar winner and good friend, Malcolm Clarke that should be a true contender to win on Sunday night. Luc is a very interesting and intriguing composer that I would personally like to see him compose for a full length film and see what he could do with it.

For this very special interview, Luc and I discuss his work on "Thief" and "The Lady In Number Six", the process of composing for a video game as opposed to film, assembling the "Thief" soundtrack, working on short films as opposed to full length films and his upcoming and future projects. So please sit back and enjoy the musing of this very solid composer.

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

LSP: As far as I can remember, it was a quick but well-thought-out decision. After my band split up, I just told myself, okay now it's time write my own compositions, and from there it never stopped, leading me to classical music studies at Université de Montréal with Alan Belkin.

Let’s talk about your recent work on the video game “Thief”. What got you interested in this project?

LSP: Although my main body of work has been in films and television series, after being invited to pitch on the project, the more I was thinking about it the more I thought it would be interesting and fun to write music for a completely different medium with a fictional storyline as opposed to the sometimes harsh reality of documentaries.

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

LSP: We had numerous discussions about the sound, the mood and the pitfalls in which there was some dangers of falling into, like being too epic. On top of Garrett being a very complex character, an anti-hero who steals for his own pleasures and reasons (he does not steal for anybody but himself), there were also the settings where all the characters would evolve… that dark, foggy, dirty city. The idea was to create a dark mood and ambience where the action would take place, alongside a more action-oriented music style giving the right feedback to the players as the game evolves.

Did the game developers want a big orchestral score that would capture the moods of the game?

LSP: We knew we wanted some orchestral sounds in “Thief”, however the challenge was to use it in a way not to make Garrett look too heroic, and stay away from the temptation to sometimes be epic. The use of gritty electronic sounds was a key element, combined with some lush orchestral sections; the challenge then became to find the right balance between those antagonists.

How much music did you end up recording for the game in total?

LSP: We recorded about 25 minutes of live music, mostly for the cinematics, but in all for the whole game, there was about 2 hours and 30 minutes of original music written for the game.

From your point of view, what were the recording sessions like?

LSP: Most of the tracks were recorded in my own studio although the percussion was recorded in a bigger studio with an astounding collection of instruments. We just had to go in the basement where all the instruments were stored and just like kids in a toy factory, pick up whatever we wanted to do some experimentation. The sessions involved two full days of percussion and idiophones recording and then many weeks and months of electronic manipulations. The final recording session was with the orchestra at Smecky Hall in Prague, and then mixed in my personal studio.

Let’s talk about the upcoming soundtrack album. How did you assemble it?

LSP: In order to provide the gamers with the very same vibe as if they were playing, we took the tracks straight from the game without further enhancement. There is a chance that we might release more material in the future though.

Are you happy with the way the album ended up and do you think fans of the game will enjoy it?

LSP: I am really happy with the results we got; marrying the electronics with the orchestra was still a challenge sometimes. Now whether or not the reaction of the fans will be positive, I certainly hope so since I generously left off a lot of myself in this music, keeping in mind the legacy of “Thief.” But ultimately it was important to never forget that I was at the service of the game.

Let’s talk about your Oscar nominated short film that you wrote the music for, “The Lady in Number 6”. What inspired you to take on the project?

LSP: The director Malcolm Clarke, whom I have worked with since 2002, called me one day and told me about this short doc he was putting together and without really knowing what I was embarking on (since I usually blindly say "yes" to Malcolm) after watching the movie there was no way I was going to say no to a 109 year-old lady who can still play the piano and has such a philosophy for life.

After viewing the film, did you immediately come up with themes or did it take you a little while to get the tone of the film?

LSP: Alice is a concert pianist so the movie is filled with excerpts from the classical repertoire, hence the presence of Chopin, Brahms, Beethoven, and Schumann…I was a bit nervous at some points since I had to interweave the score between the great masters. Humility was key and the idea was to stay with Alice, simple, classical yet very fragile due to her age, hence the theme with a very classical harmony and a light fragile melody. This movie had to be approached with a lot of humility by the musical content and the main character Alice.

How much music did you record for “The Lady In Number 6” all told?

LSP: I believe I wrote 20 minutes of music.

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

LSP: There seems to be a temptation to describe film music as being a completely different animal compared to game music. But if you put aside the delivery format, which is obviously different in terms of structures, layering etc. the rest is just music. Coming from a movie point of view, my first cues were returned with the mention ''too story telling’’ so that was my first adjustment toward composing music for a game.

Do you like working in documentaries and short films? What appeals you about them?

LSP: Writing music for a documentary is quite interesting from the point of view of the music structure, in my opinion, as the music is used a bit differently compared to a fiction; the presence of a narration gives an extra layer of information that the music does not have to repeat, whereas in fiction, the music could be that hidden narrator sometimes. Notwithstanding the fact that after scoring a documentary, you are slightly more informed about a given subject.

What is your favorite score (film or video game) that you’ve written?

LSP: I love most of the scores I wrote to be honest but since music skills are an ever-evolving and learning process, I am tempted to say that my last projects would be my favourites… “Thief”, “The Lady In Number 6”, “Prisoner of Paradise”, to name a few.

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

LSP: “The Mission” scored by Ennio Morricone.

Please tell the readers about your future upcoming projects that we should look out for.

LSP: I am presently working on a documentary feature called '”Better Angels”' by Malcolm Clarke who also directed “The Lady In Number 6” and “Prisoner of Paradise”. It will consist of a classical orchestral score featuring a yangqin, the Chinese version of the hammered dulcimer, and will be recorded in Prague as well.

A very special thanks to Luc for spending time with me in doing this excellent interview and getting into your mind as a composer and a musician. Thank you so much. A very special thanks (double thanks to!) Greg O'Connor-Read, who's the best and I enjoy working with you immensely! You're the grandmaster!

Tune in to "The Oscars" on Sunday Night, March 2nd at 8:30 ET/5:30 PT on ABC.Please visit the official site @ http://oscar.go.com/ for the list of nominees including "The Lady In Number Six".

Please check out the official site of Luc's Oscar nominated short film @ http://theladyinnumber6.com and the official list of theaters showing the film @ theladyinnumber6.com/2014/01/28/lady-number-6-coming-theatre-near/

The "Thief" was just released on Tuesday by Square Enix available for all the major video game consoles including PS4, XBOX One, XBOX 360 and PS3 @ http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dvideogames&field-keywords=thief&sprefix=thief%2Cvideogames&rh=i%3Avideogames%2Ck%3Athief and please check out the "Thief" 101 Game trailer @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_HEeHUmzjI along with the "Thief" Uprising trailer @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3QQHurZrrU

The soundtrack to "Thief" is available on Sumthin' Else Records and now available to order @ http://www.amazon.com/Thief-Original-Soundtrack-Directors-Cut/dp/B00HULTT4A/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1393541606&sr=1-1&keywords=thief+video+game+soundtrack

Please feel free to visit Luc's official website @ http://www.lucstpierremusic.com/ for more information on his latest projects including the Oscar nominated short film "The Lady In Number Six" and future projects as well as Luc's official Facebook page @ https://www.facebook.com/pages/Luc-St-Pierre-Composer/577891012298170 for daily and weekly updates on his projects.

Here is Luc's Bio:

"Luc St.Pierre began playing music at 6 years old. Born in Ottawa, Canada in 1965, he studied piano for many years while performing in a variety of musical ensembles before entering the Universite de Montreal to pursue his interests in orchestral and electroacoustic composition with Alan Belkin and Marcelles Deschesnes. He subsequently worked in both the U.K. and Belgium collaborating with several world renowned producers to develop his eclectic and highly original style.

Nominated three times for a Gemeaux Award in the category of Best Music For Drama, Luc St.Pierre's work continues to draw on a very broad range of musical influences, allowing him to create masterful compositions in genres as diverse as 'trip-hop' and electronic soundscape, to classical orchestral scores of great sophistication and beauty."

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