Interview with Gavin Dunne of Miracle of Sound
Gaming may have found its proper representative in the world of music!
Recently I had the pleasure of speaking with the talented Gavin Dunne, the man behind Miracle of Sound. For those of you who haven’t been brought to eargasm by this man’s musical awesomeness, Gavin writes amazing songs about video games. He’s doing pretty well on The Escapist at the moment and just got back from an appearance at Gamescom with Bioware to promote his newest song, Normandy.
Jordan Hedges: First of all, thanks again for taking the time to do this interview. It means a lot to the folks here at Nightmare Mode.
Gavin Dunne: No problem! Sorry it took so long.
JH: No worries my friend. Alrighty first question. At Gamescom you got to meet with Bioware’s representitives. What was it like to meet the some of the people behind Mass Effect and Dragon Age?
GD: It was actually really fun! They’re a surprisingly relaxed bunch of guys, very friendly and easy-going. Especially David Silverman. They kind of just went with the craziness happening around them. Plus they were all fans of my songs, so that was a bonus.
JH: That must have been a great feeling. I seem to remember some technical difficulties during the interview. Not that I had any problem hearing Wasteland Soul again. (This interview can be watched here.)
GD: (Laughs) The poor tech guy was so apologetic to me, I was trying to explain to him that I didn’t mind at all, I got two songs promoted instead of one! I’m sure the guys at Bethesda didn’t mind either! David Silverman’s face after that happened is pure gold. That look of ‘sigh’.
JH: Yeah, that was classic. Now I’m sure you get this all the time, but what inspired you to begin writing songs about video games?
GD: OK, kind of long story! So basically… I’ve been in bands for over a decade now, and have always been the eternal cliche of the guy who ‘almost made it.’ I’d had some bad times with record labels and bands in the last few years and was feeling kind of low about my career and the mistakes I had made. So to cheer myself up I decided to write a song about a game character, try to find some fun in music again. ‘Gordon Freeman Saved My Life’, had been floating around my head for a month or two and I wrote and recorded it in 3 days. I posted it on Youtube and linked it on the Escapist, and next thing I knew it had gotten around 15,000 views in one day. This was crazy to me, as I had spent years struggling and getting less views than that in a year. So I made another, the Ballad Of Clay Carmine, and posted that. Another great reaction. It was then I figured this was a niche waiting to be tapped into! It just feels natural for me to mix my favourite hobby with my music. There’s lots of inspiration to be had in games.
JH: I agree completely. There’s a lot of characters just waiting for songs to be sung of their exploits. I remember catching an article about Commander Shepard and watching your popularity explode from there. How did it feel to watch that happen from your end?
GD: That felt amazing. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced. To go from struggling to get ten people to come to my gigs, to having a song go viral like that… I was hopping up and down on my chair with excitement, phoning the girlfreind every ten minutes to let her know how it was going. That was the song that really made the Miracle Of Sound thing explode. I guess Bioware fans are just very passionate! I can understand why the song is popular though. It’s very catchy in an immediate, poppy kind of way. It’s easy to sing along with. A song like that doesn’t come around very often, it’s hard to write truly catchy songs. I always thought my songs were good enough for people to sing along to, just had to find the right way of getting people to hear them.
JH: I know I immediately fell in love with it. I have an embarassing play count for it on my iTunes.
GD: (Laughs) Good! I’m glad to hear that. I get a lot of people telling me it’s their favourite song ever – that’s a great feeling. Makes me smile.
JH: I can imagine. So what would you say is your favorite game/series?
GD: It’s a toss up between Mass Effect 2 and Fallout 3, those are my two favourite games ever. I also love Half Life 2, COD4, Zelda: A Link To The Past. And more recently, Deus Ex HR is blowing me away.
JH: Me too! Is there a chance you’ll be writing a song about it?
GD: I’ve already started one! It’s going to sound very like the soundtrack in the game.
JH: Can’t wait to hear it! So tell me more about your recording process. What instruments do you play?
GD: Ok, well I usually write the songs one my battered old acoustic guitar, but I imagine the layers and things in my head as I do. My recording process usually starts with programming the drum machine, then I add the guitars and bass, then the vocals. Everything after that is usually ‘decoration’, unless it’s a song like Commader Shepard or Wheatley’s Song which are very synth-focused. I used Abteton to program the synths in those two, or sometimes I will play stuff in on my crappy Yamaha 80’s keyboard. Vocals are by far the most time consuming part of recording. I do up to 30 vocal tracks in some songs. I multi track and make lots of 4-5 part harmonies. This usually takes a day or two, then the mixing can take anything from a few hours to a few months. The mixing is where the hardest work is – making everything fit together
JH: It’s very impressive that you pull this off all on your own. Do you work with guest musicians? I think I remember seeing some credited for Sweet L.A.
GD: That, so far, was the only time I have used guest musicians. Reason being, I can’t play saxophone or jazz piano! I prefer to work alone. But if the song demands it, I’ll try and find some awesome musicians to bring it to life. I’m quite a control freak and I like to have everything my way (laughs). Part of the reason it never worked out for me in bands was because of this trait. I believe my way is the best and will not budge. That’s not to say i won’t listen to criticism. I just like having the final say.
JH: Based on the quality of your songs thus far I can’t blame you for feeling that way. Do you have a favorite game composer?
GD: Hmmm. Well, I absolutely loved Hanz Zimmer’s score in MW2. Jack Wall’s one in Mass Effect was great too. I don’t generally have a favourite composer when it comes to games, just favourite soundtracks!
JH: Such as?
GD: God Of War! That game’s soundtrack is just – chaos, power and rage. I love it. Also, Crysis 2 had a great main theme. And as I said, I adored Modern Warfare 2’s soundtrack.
JH: We’re in agreement on that one. I own the soundtracks to all three God of War games. Would you ever consider writing music for a game’s soundtrack?
GD: Yeah I would love to! Someone hire me please! Oh, the Assassin’s Creed 2 score was amazing too. And Halo 3, LA Noire, Bully… man so many great soundtracks in gaming!
JH: Any developers reading this take note! This man wants work! If you had the chance to write music for any game/series, which would it be?
GD: Something like Deus Ex. I don’t have any musical training and can’t read or write musical notation. So something very based in synths and programming would be awesome.
JH: What would you say is the most requested game/series to write a song about? By your fans I mean.
GD: Hmm, it was fallout before I did Wasteland Soul. A lot of people have asked for an Oblivion song. Oh, I know, TF2. I get a tonne of TF2 requests, but that won’t be happening I’m afraid! I never got into TF2 and I would not write about a game I know nothing about – it would be forced and fake and people would see through it. They might be songs about videogames, but they have to come from an honest place. All art does!
JH: I can definately agree with that. Glad to hear it! What’s the future for Miracle of Sound looking like? Any chance we’d get to see some of your songs live? Any tour plans?
GD: No tour plans just yet. I don’t have the financial means to do that. I am actually very poor, believe it or not! The future right now is just to try and keep pushing these songs and getting them out to a wider audience. My Youtube channel is partnering with Machinima soon which will be great for my more COD – focused stuff. Oh, and to get my song in Mass Effect 3. I keep nagging poor Bioware on that one!
JH: Glad to see things are looking pretty good! I’d love nothing more than Commander Shepard or Normandy coming on the radio while I’m wandering around the Citadel.
GD: I’d love that too! There was hints of using it during the end credits. Which would be awesome. Probably have it come in after the main theme or something. Who knows?
JH: I know I’m not the only one who’d like to see it! I think that about wraps this up, so thanks again for taking the time to talk to me today Gavin. Anyone who wants to increase the chances of this man’s work appearing in Mass Effect 3 should check the links below.
To thank Gavin for taking the time to talk to little old me, I’m giving him shout-outs to his various locations on the internet! Like his Facebooks! Tweet his songs! For goodness sake buy his music if you like it! Help this talented dude out!