Posted by .

Aaron Miller
Aaron Miller, member of Hexagram, and VFX for the Xbox Live Arcade title Bloodforge, took some time out of his busy schedule to sit down and answer a few questions on both projects he is involved with via e-mail. I thank him greatly for his response, and hope all goes well with Hexagram and everything going on Climax Studios with Bloodforge.

How did it come about that you wound up working on the soundtrack for Bloodforge?

Aaron:
I work for Climax as a VFX artist normally, but music is something I’ve been doing all my life. When I heard they needed music I jumped on it, I already had some ideas of what I thought would be cool for it, they liked what I did for the early tests of the game. So I got the job to do the whole thing.

Was it established at the start of the project that they wanted a more orchestral score to the album than a stricter Metal one?

Aaron:
Yes definitely, it just so happened that what they wanted, and what I brought to the table, were the same thing, a metal score would have been the obvious thing to do, or a metal/orchestra mix, the game is full on a lot of the time. But I didn’t want it to just be another metal orchestra mix soundtrack, it really needed an ethnic edge to it, I think the metal side to it would have been distracting from the rest of it. I was asked to keep it tribal, ethnic drums. That’s why I went for a very large set of percussion instruments and then added the Horn section. Actually in the initial mock ups, I just wrote a big tribal drum track, that was cool, but it needed something else if we were going to have different themes in the game.

It seems that most of the time, the music to Bloodforge remains rather subtle and somewhat passive prior to going into a battle, where things pick up. That, or when you head into a cutscene. Was it hard to work within the confines of music that would seemlessly mesh between these and the roaming exploration aspects of the title?

Aaron:
Initially it wasn’t too bad, keeping it fresh with new pieces was the tricky part, I used the environment and characters, as a guide for the textures in the music. The gameplay was there for pacing, some of the levels and characters weren’t created when I was scoring the music, I would generally ask for as much info on what I was writing for. This meant I used concept art for a lot of the atmosphere in the game. I would write the music and look at the art, and try to see if it gave me the feeling of what I was looking at. It seemed to work when I got glimpses of it in game.

Setting the proper tone in a video game is almost crucial, and it seems like you managed to work within the story of the game well as far as emotion and atmosphere goes. Was working with the general tone of the music important for you as well?

Aaron:
Yes definitely, the tone is vital to getting the atmosphere in the music, just writing for a scene is great but you need to get the bigger picture. Particularly with a looping piece of music, they have to work across the board in a particular level, which means you’re trying to capture the tone of a whole environment, in only one or two short pieces of music.

Given today’s interest in classical orchestration/composition in Metal, did you find any Symphonic groups to be a huge influence when composing the score? If not, were they any previous works on any kind that helped fuel the material?

Aaron:
I didn’t really get any influence from any Symphonic groups, but I did look to movies for reference, I was also given ref to look at by the Director. James Horner’s score for Apocalypto was a great score to listen to, particularly for the raw ethnic feel that had to it. I did look at Danny Elfman’s Planet of the Apes score too, I’m huge Elfman fan, him and Hans Zimmer are two of my major influences, Elfman has great feel and textures to his work, and Hans Zimmer has some astonishing melodies! But, you have to be yourself and not let other peoples work make yours what it is, otherwise your just not being true to yourself. I could have gone down the Basil Poleduoris route too, but I just wanted to try something slightly different, even though it probably did come out little like Basil’s work in palces. But Id say Bloodforge is just my interpretation of the imagery I was given.

You also work with a group called Hexagram. Was working on the material for Bloodforge that much different compared to writing songs to go onto a band’s album?

Aaron:
Yeah totally! Writing music for say Hexagram, is more therapeutic, writing for a score is definitely more calculated, as you have technical issues you have to be concerned with. Exactly how long does the piece have to be, what’s the pace, what’s the tone you are going for, or you have to make do with only certain elements of a piece of music being used. Does this piece have to fit anywhere else, you can only play it so many times, and you have to make it work with stings, and try to make them seemless, and work in multiple situations. Writing music for a band is all about writing the song, you have no limits, well, not so many, it depends on who else is involved with you. But, you can be very emotionally attached to both, that’s the only thing I find similar, I love writing music, it doesn’t really matter to me what it is.

Did the compositions for Bloodforge happen to take longer than what you normally would spend on an effort? Or was this easier to write than coming up with groups of three, four minute plus songs?

Aaron:
Hmm that’s a tough one the yare very different forms of writing. Writing the music for Bloodforge was much more of a process, you had scheduled times for things, deadlines where music had to be finished. I could have spent weeks scoring a piece for Bloodforge if I had the time. Bloodforge was more a matter of, you have this much time, to write this much stuff, go and do it. Once it’s done it’s done. Right now with Hexagram, I have no deadlines to hit, so there is no pressure. I grew up writing metal so I can write that stuff day in day out, without any worries Ill ever run out of material, it’s only the inspiration that wavers.

I read that you put Hexagram on hold for the time being while working on Bloodforge. I also see there’s an option for Downloadable Content on the Bloodforge main menu. Have you gone back to writing new material for the group at this point, or are you still developing material for this game to possibly coincide with future DLC, or even possible future projects with Climax Studios?

Aaron:
Unfortunately can’t comment about the downloadable content part in Bloodforge, but I’m always ready to write more music for any future releases. I’m always writing music too, regardless of what its for. Whether it’s the band or scoring work.

You sent me some various links prior to this interview to help me get to know you a little better outside the Bloodforge contributions. I heard some of the Hexagram material, but what really caught me was the other soundcloud link for some of your other personal compositions. You did some Metal versions of Dubstep songs. Does this combination spark your interest and may lead to a solo-style album in the near or distant future? Or are “Megatron” and “I Just Want You” tracks for video games, and nothing more?

Aaron:
Hmmm haha Cool, I’m intrigued you liked those, yes I’ve been working on a load of stuff for a new project, which is as you say a kind of dubstep metal mix, I’ve been playing with style for years actually, way before I heard Korn were going release a dubstep/metal album stuff. I do have a fair amount of material which is my take on these two genres. It sounds pretty awesome!! I’ve yet to come up with a name for the project, it has a working title called Datura Inoxia, but will no doubt change later one. Hexagram fans may or may not like it, but it’s what has got me excited at the moment. The stuff on my soundcloud page was early tests, my newer stuff is much more polished. That’s all been pretty top secret, until now.

So, what’s next for Aaron Miller? Are there any future plans ahead for you that you’re excited for? Or are you focusing more on what’s happening right now with Bloodforge and the potential of Hexagram?

Aaron:
I’m seeing this as a new beginning for me. I’m concentrating on scoring work for other people, and getting more work as a composer. I have a some other projects that I’m doing the music for, but of course I can’t say anything about them, but I hope to be out there scoring more and more. Hexagram is also a big thing in my life, but we are also short of a drummer, as Adam has taken time off of drumming for the foreseeable future, we will get back out there once we have the lineup sorted, Hexagram does have a second album waiting to be released. I also want to try to get my new project up and running too, I’m very very excited about that.