Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag Freedom Cry DLC expansion has officially launched today. Keeping in good timing with this new piece of playable content, we were given the opportunity to interview the composer for the DLC's soundtrack, Olivier Deriviere.
The classically trained composer has worked with and recorded music with a number of different prestigious symphonic orchestras and has taken his talents to Ubisoft's bread-and-butter abode in the Assassin's Creed franchise. With the opportunity to pick the brain of Deriviere, we find out how he came up with the original score and what fueled his passion to make it tick. Check it out below.
Gaming Blend: So how did you get attached to the project and did you have any previous working experience with Ubisoft titles or properties before going in?
Olivier Deriviere: It happened so fast. I remember I was working on several opportunities and I received this phone call from my manager saying that Ubisoft called and offered me a project that she said, “I couldn’t say no to”. I really was intrigued as they told me it was about their main brand and that they wanted me because I would bring a different feel to it. How could I say no to that? Before that I had some limited experience working with Ubisoft years ago for Heroes of Might and Magic Kingdoms and some third party games.
Gaming Blend: You were able to work with The Brussels Philharmonic who did their recording in Belgium, while also collaborating with La Troupe Makandal, who were recording at Avatar Studios in New York, while also dealing with Ubisoft's Montreal studio – what was that process like trying to compose music while dealing with so many different groups scattered around the world?
Deriviere: It may have been the most challenging music production I have faced so far. Everything happened in about 2 months. It started with my first meeting with the team in Quebec City to introduce me to the game. We talked and it became obvious that the score should include a traditional music feel to it, not as a background idea but as a true component.
I had to record the traditional music first because I wanted it to be the rhythmic foundation of my score. Then for about 4 weeks I wrote the orchestral music, which is quite complex and I knew we would need a great orchestra to perform the hard rhythmic parts. Thankfully I had the great opportunity to work with The Brussels Philharmonic, and to record them at Galaxy Studios in Belgium was a real treat. It was really intense but I think the energy that is in the final score is a reflection of the intensity of this music production. On a different emotional level, what was really moving was to gather the two cultures once again 300 years later and unite them.
Gaming Blend: It's not often we get to hear traditional Haitian music in video games. In fact, I can't name one game where I've heard that kind of music before. Was it your decision to dig deep into Haitian roots and work with La Troupe Makandal or did someone recommend them or was it a decision handed down from Ubisoft?
Deriviere: Haitian music takes its roots because of slavery; it was a way for protestation and solidarity so it felt completely natural to me to include this music as the real score, not just as an illustration. But what is really interesting is how the music progresses in the game. You start with a much more western feel and the more you play, the more the music becomes influenced by the Haitian music. This progression is a reflection of what happens to the main character, Adéwalé who becomes increasingly affected by his forgotten roots. We even chose to add the original recording of the Haitian songs in their purest acoustic form, with drums and choir, to further immerse the players in this culture in the final credits of the game.