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Austin Wintory Interview: Exploring Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded, The Banner Saga, Journey
There are some people within the video game industry that make waves when they become attached to a project. We look at the project differently and react to it differently when we finally experience what they have to contribute. In this case, Austin Wintory is the sort of individual that brings unparalleled creativity to each of his musical compositions and Gaming Blend had the opportunity to explore what makes the soundtracks stand out so much for Wintory's projects.
Find out how Austin felt about being nominated for a Grammy for the impeccable score to thatgamecompany's exclusive PS3 title, Journey, as well as Austin's approach to tackling the music for Stoic Games' The Banner Saga, and how he managed to pull out all the stops for the collaborative bonus soundtrack for Monaco. Oh yeah, and we also find out a little bit more about how Wintory got attached to Al Lowe's Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded, which is set for release on May 31st.
Gaming Blend: First up, congratulations on the Grammy nomination. That's an amazing feat for a video game soundtrack.
Austin Wintory: Thank You.
Gaming Blend: What was it like first finding out that you were nominated for a Grammy and your music was being matched up against the likes Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Howard Shore [for Hugo], Hans Zimmer with that impeccable Dark Knight Rises soundtrack and one of the greatest composers of all time, John Williams? That's an amazing list of names just to be nominated with.
Austin: Well, as many times as I've been asked that, I still have yet to formulate a great answer. It was and remains rather surreal...especially given the context of it being a [video] game score and that whole idea...the novelty. But basically, John Williams especially, has been a hero of mine my entire life. So the notion of being a co-nominee alongside him, for anything at all, nevermind something as established and well known as the Grammys but it really could have been the Topeka Gazette Annual Round-Up of Film Scores or something was pretty indescribable.
It was sort of like a life-long dream that I didn't even realize that I had, because it was so far-fetched seeming. So it was pretty surreal, even now. With six months of time to digest it, it still hasn't quite hit.
Gaming Blend: Maybe many years down the road you can tell your kids or grandkids about the time you were matched up against the legends who scored the soundtracks to The Dark Knight Rises or the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
Austin Wintory: (laughs) Maybe so. I'm sure they'll say 'we don't care about old movies!' and they'll only want to know what's going on then.
Gaming Blend: But, do you think you could have taken home the Grammy had maybe they knocked Reznor or Williams off the list?
Austin Wintory: Oh, you know...that's all...(chuckles)...who knows? I have no shame in losing to anybody on that list, especially Trent Reznor, who obviously via Nine Inch Nails was very much in with the recording academy on his home field. It's much more novel for him to have won the Academy Award for the Social Network, for example, then to be nominated and/or win a Grammy for anything that he does. I think he has something like eight or nine prior nominations. My prediction going into was: Should I lose, it was going to be to [Trent Reznor]...and I was right (chuckles).
Gaming Blend: Before Journey you worked with Jenova Chen and thatgamecompany on the earlier iterations of flOw before it landed on the PlayStation 3. Heading into the soundtrack for Journey did you go back and kind of rekindle the experiences from Chen's previous games like Cloud or Flower to get an idea of how they do the zen-gaming experience, before getting into the head-space for Journey or was it just a natural progression that happened once you joined the team?
Austin: Uh, well certainly back when we did flOw which was six or seven or eight years ago I was familiar with Cloud and I [further] familiarized myself with Cloud. When thatgamecompany were working on Flower, I would periodically go and play test the game and check it out. And even though I didn't work on the game in any professional capacity, I did sort of check in from time to time and at the very least would kind of cheerlead in avant sorts as someone who was clearly excited about the game that they were making. And when it came time to do Journey there was no real discussion of flOw or Flower, or Cloud, so much as just the emotional goals that [Jenova] had for Journey.
You always draw on prior works that you make together, you know? And we worked on [Journey] for so long, it was about three years, so certainly within that time conversations would come up in which we would talk about flOw and Flower. By and large Journey was self-propelled. It knew where to take us and we were just sort of following it.
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