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Marc Canham: The Musical Mind Behind The Video Game "inFamous: Second Son"

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Video games are a great medium for most composers to explore both their own musical genius and their gift of improvision. Composers really love it when they're allowed the freedom to write their own cool melodies and have fun with material that would not only benefit the game, but also show a side of the composer that most people wouldn't have expected them to have in a musical sense.

Marc Canham is one such composer that loves to live dangerously, musically speaking. His style of music is in the style of acclaimed Academy Award Winners Elliot Goldenthal and John Corigliano. Music that you could easily call "musica concreate" which in other words is very avant garde and experimental which personally suits him to a tee. Embracing this style, Marc has been looking for the perfect project to team up with the game developers at PlayStation and the end result is a unique and interesting score for their latest RPG video game, "inFamous: Second Son" that was recently released on the PS4 platform as a standard and limited edition gaming experience.

For this very special interview with Marc who I had the great privaledge to talk to over the phone (and honestly, could've talk to for hours on end) and during our delightful conversation, we talked about inFamous: Second Son, how much he got to experiment on the score, his take on how video game music is different than composing for that of a feature film and his favorite score that he's written and surprise, surprise it is not for a video game. So sit back and enjoy picking the mind of this very talented composer.

Let’s talk about your recent work on the video game, inFamous: Second Son. What got you interested in this project?

MC: I have known the Playstation team for sometime now and I’ve been in contact with them since the end of 2012. The programmer and I have been wanting to work together, but we couldn’t find a game that suited my style of music. We developed some ideas and found inFamous: Second Son, a game that needed aggressive music that was more up my alley.

This is obviously a different medium as opposed film, 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 wanted you to do musically?

MC: Yeah. You have to think in a three dimensional way. It takes more imagination in terms of taking the players on a journey. A film is pretty much the same except as a composer you can relax because it’s more linear, and you pretty much have a locked in visual. In a video game, you really have to guess musically. You still have to capture it in a third dimensional way.

Did the game’s producers want a big orchestral score that would capture the moods of the game, or were they looking for a different sound?

MC: I spent five months on the project, which was a luxury. They wanted a Nirvana styled sound, a nod to Seattle with a loose edge to it, but not a garage band. It started as quite a broad challenge. A term that came up was “digital danger.” Not just strictly synths or drums, but an organic hybrid; An alien world in which the music would mutate into something dangerous.

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

MC: Two hours of music in total. Once I was done recording, the music editors took the original recordings to pull them apart to make the music more interactive within the game.

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

MC: Jamming with the percussionist was the first meaningful session. Then I was left alone for a month. After, we did the rhythm sessions with drummer Brain (Guns N’ Roses) and cellist Martin Tillman. Half of the lines on guitar were performed live on the sessions. During a break, Tillman started fooling around with the various parts. Those sessions were a real turning point, where the odder the sounds, the better! At Sony Studios in San Francisco we recorded with an orchestra, doing a few sessions there which were great fun and then it was back to London!

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?

MC: In a way. You have to track the music to a film. You can’t do that in a video game. It’s a less linear piece of music.

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

MC: It’s a film called The Disappearance of Alice Creed, I’m proud of that score. I wrote it for a quartet and other sounds, with studio trickery added at the same time.

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

MC: Alien. That was a seminal score for me. The video game The Last of Us. I like to think that was a project I really could’ve delved into emotionally and would have suited my sound.

Please tell the readers about your future upcoming projects.

MC: I’m currently working on a studio film. I can’t tell you the name of it yet. I’ve been wanting to do a live event. I’d like to go around the world for what you would call a “selfish” project. It’s been such a long time since I’ve done something from my own brain. I want to something to be refreshed by.

A very special thanks to Marc for being very gracious for his time in talking to me. You are so cool! Also special thanks to Phil Janus for setting this interview up. I'm very grateful for the opportunity! God bless!

The hit video game, inFamous:Second Son is currently available for the Playstation4 game system @ Best Buy, Game Stop and http://Amazon.com

The inFamous: Second Son Soundtrack is available on Sumthing Else Music Works/Sucker Punch Productions @http://www.amazon.com/inFamous-Second-Son-Original-Soundtrack/dp/B00IMSLM6I/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1397514097&sr=1-1&keywords=infamous+second+son

Please feel free to visit Marc's official website for his current and upcoming projects @ http://www.marccanham.com/

Here is Marc's Bio:

"Throughout his numerous scores and collaborations, Marc Canham has delivered filmic landscapes built on elegant twists of musical genres. From his critically acclaimed score for the film 'The Disappearance of Alice Creed', to his interactive 'The Secret World' and 'Far Cry 2' soundtracks, Canham skillfully crafts a world where acoustic and 'invented' sounds co-exist. He is equally at home in front of an ensemble at Abbey Road as in his studio 'workshop', creating music using an array of found objects, synthesizers, guitars and instruments from around the world.

In recent years, Canham's enthusiasm for collaboration has led him to team up with some of the most exciting musical talent around. His compositions have been remixed and re-interpreted by UNKLE, Amon Tobin, and Diplo, and he has also worked with the likes of Sean Callery, Philip Glass, Paul Hartnoll, and Baaba Maal.

Defining Canham's compositional style is not straightforward. He manages to blur the boundaries between the two approaches of live recording and studio 'magic', making organic sounds feel otherworldly, and his electronic approach feel alive and human. His focus is not restricted to the notes on the page, but also captures the details between them, allowing musical spaces to complement the revolving structures that form the framework of his compositions."

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