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Developer Chat: MGR: Revengeance Composer Jamie Christopher

Posted on May 29, 2013 AT 02:38pm

While some games feature hours of original music, their soundtrack albums are usually just a single CD or the digital equivalent (if they get released at all). But with Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance’s music consisting of both an instrumental score and a series of vocal tracks, it seems only fitting that it would get two releases. With a vinyl version of the vocal collection being issued on June 4—digital and CD editions of both it and the instrumental score are already available—we spoke to composer Jamie Christopher about what it was like to do two, two, two scores in one.

EGM: Given that Metal Gear mastermind Hideo Kojima is something of a perfectionist, how hard was it to get the gig doing the music for Revengeance?

Jamie Christopher: I’ve done music for quite a few Japanese games—both Lost Planet games, Warriors: Legends of Troy, Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams, et cetera—so I think that helped me out landing this gig. I did some early game trailers for Revengeance, and everyone seemed to enjoy the hybrid style I did, so I was hired for the full game.

EGM: What kind of direction did you get from him, and did it ever run counter to what you were told to do by people at Platinum Games?

JC: I worked directly with Platinum Games, who in turn interfaced with Kojima Productions and Konami. Kojima Productions provided some invaluable boss character description and lyrical inspiration for the songs. Everything was very streamlined and, after a little trial and error at the beginning, we all seemed to be on the same page with the musical direction for the game.

EGM: The game was originally being made by Kojima Productions, but was then redone by Platinum. When in that process did you come in?

JC: I came onto the scene after Platinum Games had already taken over, and we started completely from scratch.

EGM: The soundtracks for many of the Metal Gear Solid games—from 2001’s Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty on—have been done by Harry Gregson-Williams, either on his own or working with other people. Did you listen to any of his work before you started writing music for Revengeance, or did you intentionally avoid it?

JC: Having played Sons of Liberty, I definitely knew the theme. With the theme being so recognizable, I asked if they wanted me to reference it. But they explained to me about how they wanted a new “sound” and theme for Revengeance. After seeing the fast gameplay and reading the storyline, I understood why. And to be honest, it was very freeing to not have to reference the Metal Gear Sold theme and come up with something completely original for this game. That being said, while many of the songs in this game have a heavy metal/electronica influence there are still musical ties that I tried to make to the Metal Gear universe.

EGM: This, as you mentioned, is not your first game soundtrack. How did working on this game compare to the other games you’ve done?

JC: The most unique thing to this game’s score was definitely the songs we produced. I wrote, co-wrote, and produced thirteen original vocal songs for the game, which was kind of like writing a whole album of material. I’ve written songs for projects before, but never so many. I knew right off the bat that I wanted to treat the song production more like a real album, so I started assembling a “band” for the project. One of the most important members was Logan Mader, a heavy metal producer and the ex-guitarist for the band Machine Head. We co-wrote and co-produced half of the songs together, and he brought in many of the wonderful musicians that played on the songs. The list of people that worked on the music to this project was pretty big.

EGM: What made you want to do some vocal stuff as well as the instrumental score?

JC: Platinum Games had the idea from the start to have vocal songs for the boss battles, and I thought it was a great idea. The concept was to have the music for the boss battles really stand out and make them something unique. Purely orchestral music wasn’t enough of a shift in intensity. And also, for the boss battles, the music ramps up in intensity the further into the battle you get. For example, the music usually starts out with an instrumental version of the first half of the song, then progresses into the second half, and then finally the vocals kick in. That way it continues to ramp up in intensity and not get too repetitive.

EGM: One of the singers you worked with on this is John Bush from Anthrax and Armored Saint. How did that come about and what made you think he’d be good for this?

JC: Everyone on the team loved John’s voice, so we reached out to his record label. They were really cool and agreed to put John in touch with us. He turned out to be a great guy and was really excited about singing on the soundtrack. So after we wrote all thirteen of the songs, we went through and started pairing singers with the bosses based on their vocal quality. John perfectly fit the character “Khamsin,” and also sang on another battle song. He really rocked it.

EGM: I’ll understand if you want to skip this question, but I have to ask: did you try to get any other big singers for that song or for any of the other songs?

JC: We cast out a pretty big net in looking for singers for this game, some big names and some not. Everyone seemed really excited to work on the game, so it was great to have our pick of singers for the game.

EGM: Revengeance is a rather short game. Does that mean you had to do a lot less music for it?

JC: Actually I wrote quite a lot of music for the game. Probably about two and a half hours of original music, not including the stem breakdowns.

EGM: Besides your gaming soundtracks, you’re also doing some music for the TV show Revolution, which is produced by J.J. Abrams. J.J. has, in the past, plucked music people from games—Michael Giacchino, who did Lost and Fringe, came to Abrams’ attention from his work on Medal of Honor. Is that how you ended up doing stuff for Revolution?

JC: The main composer for Revolution is my good friend Christopher Lennertz. I’m co-writing additional music with Chris for the show, which has been a lot of fun. So I haven’t been “plucked” yet by a big name director, but hopefully soon.

Paul Semel, Contributor
Paul has been writing about movies, music, video games, books, TV, toys, celebrities, and other fun stuff since the early-’90s. A regular contributor to EGM since 2004, he's also written for Entertainment Weekly, Bikini, Maxim, Raygun, Walmart GameCenter, Rides, and Emmy, among others. Please follow him on Twitter at @paulsemel. Or don't. Whatever.

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