A lot of people would assume that when it comes to video game music, there’s not a lot of crossover with game music composers and famous musicians. That would be a very wrong assumption. Every now and then, famous musicians from all kinds of genres will dip their toes into the world of game music.
This goes beyond just contributing one or two of their more famous tracks to Guitar Hero or Just Dance. In these particular instances, either a famous artist will compose the whole soundtrack or just one song specifically for the game. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at artists who have contributed in some way to games, for better or for worse.
David Bowie – Omikron the Nomad Soul
Let me start off by saying, Omikron is a very bad video game. It is a terrible video game and David Cage is responsible for it. It was a game that wanted to be a lot of different games in a genre busting masterpiece but it was just kind of a very confusing hot mess. The thing that distinguishes this game and makes it noteworthy, however, is that David Bowie worked on its soundtrack.
Initially, Cage had a wishlist which included Bowie, but also the likes of Massive Attack and Bjork. But after contacting Bowie and talking to him, he soon explained that he had no interest in the idea of contributing one song, and instead wanted to become fully involved with the games production. The storyline, the setting, even the characters were all things Bowie now had a say in. He was even the face and voice of a major character in the game, as well as appearing as one of the games ‘virtual bands’.
In the end, Bowie, along with composer Reeves Gabrels, wrote eight songs for the game which would later appear on his album Hours.
Nine Inch Nails – Quake
Unlike Omikron, Quake was considered by many (including myself) to be a good video game. Trent Reznor, a fan of id Software, clearly thought he was in the right hands. He was a fan of the studio after having played Doom, and the studio were, of course, fans of his work too. Particularly American McGee (yes, that American McGee). They soon struck up a deal with Reznor offering to do the soundtrack completely free of charge.
New to ambient sounds, this was Reznor’s first foray into the sort of music he’d soon become known and win awards for.
As a thank you to Reznor, a particular weapon was added to Quake. The Nailgun, named for Nine Inch Nails, as well as the ammo boxes for the weapon which contained the Nine Inch Nails logo.
Reznor was also later approached to work on the soundtrack for Doom 3, but his music was ultimately scrapped in favour of former Nine Inch Nails drummer, Chris Vrenna. Though samples of Reznor’s Doom 3 sound design still exist thanks to people digging through files.
Stewart Copeland – Spyro the Dragon 1-3
Stewart Copeland is a name that might not be immediately recognizable to some. For those people, he happens to be the drummer for The Police. He was commissioned by Insomniac Games to develop a soundtrack for their new title, Spyro the Dragon. Enjoying the project so much, he agreed to continue working on the soundtracks with Spyro 2 and 3.
When composing, he’d first play through a level to understand its themes and to get a feel for it. Then, he’d create a piece that was fitting.
As for the remake with the Reignited Trilogy… Not only did Copeland give his seal of approval for his tracks to be remixed but he also created a new original track to work as the title theme for all three games.
Bonus fact for those who love a bit of trivia: He also composed the ending theme to Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare. It’s the only other video game he’s worked on.
Jimmy Urine – Lollipop Chainsaw
Lollipop Chainsaw is a weird game so it makes sense that someone just as weird should act as its composer. Or, at least the composer for the games boss music. Suda 51 and Mindless Self Indulgence frontman Jimmy Urine seems like a match made in heaven, really.
On top of all of this, Urine also voices a character/boss in the game, Zed. The character was even based on him.
It all seems fitting, given that Urine began developing music in the early days on an Atari computer. And, grew up surrounding himself in games, referencing them in his music and album art.
Daughter – Life is Strange Before the Storm
The soundtrack in the Life is Strange series is always one of its key elements. Songs that capture the spirit of the characters and their situations. Knowing this, when the developers were looking for ideas and sounds for the prequel to the original game, Daughter was a band that spoke to them.
The band admitted they knew nothing about the series but still took on the job. After playing the game, they soon saw what the developers saw. Their music was a perfect fit. The themes they used were represented throughout the game. And, the prequel they were scoring was just as emotional. Daughter was a perfect fit.
The entire band worked entirely from concept art and scripts, not having any parts of the game to play through, and managed to come up with and release a full soundtrack with music they wanted anyone to be able to listen to, not just people who played the game.