Gaming Tree House was lucky enough to conduct an interview with composer Samuel Laflamme! He is the composer behind the musical score for the recently released horror game, Outlast II. We’d like to thank Samuel Laflamme for taking the time to conduct this interview with us! Hope you all enjoy!
Gaming Tree House: What’s your personal favorite video game soundtrack?
Samuel Laflamme: Probably the soundtrack from The Legend of Zelda. It’s a classic but still really efficient and memorable theme. I also really enjoyed the soundtracks from the first and second Warcraft games, and StarCraft, from the 90s. They really marked the dawn of more orchestrated video game scores for Video Games at the time.
Gaming Tree House: Who are your musical influences?
Samuel Laflamme: I’ve been a hardcore soundtrack fan since a very early age, but throughout my 20’s I also started to become a lot more interested in pop and electronic musicians. So, I’d say I draw influences from some very eclectic sources; from John Williams to Nine Inch Nails, Hans Zimmer to Bjork; Danny Elfman and Bernard Hermann, to Radiohead, Johann Johannsson to Peter Gabriel.
Gaming Tree House: How did you get into composing video game music?
Samuel Laflamme: Before Video Games, I did a lot of TV shows, commercials and feature films. I’ve always been really interested by the potential of music in storytelling. In 2012, my good friend Samuel Girardin, from Game On, introduced me to Philippe Morin, the co-founder of Red Barrels Games. Phil and I quickly found that we shared the same vision of a good score, and how the music can be done as an efficient storytelling tool. It was important for us to make a timeless score for Outlast. So basically, Outlast was my first video game project.
Gaming Tree House: What are the first steps you take when starting to compose a score for a game?
Samuel Laflamme: For any project, I want to be sure I understand the nature of the project and, hence, the goal of the score. Then I start to think about how to create the sound palette, what kind of instruments I would like to have, and what role the music will actually play in it all. I have to chat a lot with the creative directors, directors (in movie), and whoever I will work with during the process. It’s important for me to have time at the beginning to explore ideas and find unique iconic sounds or melodies that will help to brand the project musically.
Gaming Tree House: Do you like to have a soundtrack that stands out or one that’s more in the background or ambiance?
Samuel Laflamme: Honestly, I just want the music to be able to forge its own place in the project. Too often, the music is used to patch something that’s been poorly executed, such as poor acting, a bad voice over performance, or an editing issue. When every step of the project is flawlessly executed, then the music is allowed to find it’s own rightful place.
But why not try to stand out? Again when everything is well done, then the music can stand out just as the art design has to stands out, as game level has to stants out… You can even have an ambiant track that still manages to establish its own identity; I think the Joker’s theme in The Dark Knight is an excellent example of that.
Gaming Tree House: What’s your favorite video game to play?
Samuel Laflamme: You will laugh but I still prefer the old party games you can play with friends in a same room. I still love playing Nintendo 64 Mario Tennis, or SNES Mario Kart. I also dedicated an amazing amount of time to Mortal Kombat 2 when I was teenager, and for me it’s still an unavoidable game!
Gaming Tree House: Does difference in genres change the approach in the music? If it does, how so?
Samuel Laflamme: Yes and no, I would say the biggest difference is not in the genres, but in how the projects approach them. I think I could do three different horror movies/games and see them needing a completely different approach. It depends on the purpose and the role of the music. For the Outlast series, I felt free to try a lot of things during the process, because I have much more time than working on a tight schedule on a film. So in this case, the nature of the project leads me to a different approach of creation. I try to see every project I do from a really creative and artistic point of view, and not from a production-centric point of view. I try to reinvent myself. I need to explore, and have a lot of conversations with the other creators involved in a project to really understand my role in it. The different genres of music lead me to different goals, or different emotions. But I wouldn’t say that the genres make different approach in creativity.
Gaming Tree House: Which game genre to you prefer to work with?
Samuel Laflamme: The games that are more cinematographic, or based on strong story telling. Outlast was a perfect match and a perfect project as a first video game project for me. I came from TV and movies, where good storytelling is always the best asset, and what I love in my job is to use music to enhance the story. I love finding new musical ways to tells story. Working on a project with good script like Outlast is always a real pleasure!
Gaming Tree House: Have you ever ran into a vision problem between yourself and the developers/publisher?
Samuel Laflamme: Not really, the real problems are more about schedule or budget because, ultimately, the music will be the result of discussions and visions shared between the developer and me. I believe in strong collaboration, and I think when I’m chosen by the developer on a project, it’s because he feels I’m the right one for it. From this, I consider my point of view more then welcome within the team, and my job is to understand the purpose of the project, the nature of the characters, the pace of the game/movie, etc etc, so I can figure out what’s the main goal of the music, and have a good sense of what could be the best music I can do for it.
Gaming Tree House: Outlast was an undeniable success, with that in mind, why did you decide to go to a completely different musical style for the sequel?
Samuel Laflamme: Because I didn’t want to copy myself. I remember having a meeting with Philippe Morin at the beginning of Outlast . They said it didn’t feel right to continue in the same direction of Outlast 1, and I answered:” Great, because I don’t want to copy myself in that second one.” I needed to continue to find new ways, to explore, to find myself in another unknown space. Probably the success of Outlast 1 was due to it’s originality. I think I needed music for Outlast 2 to continue to surprise and to be original. But the big different distinction is the location where the story of those two games is told. And from that simple element, both games needed different scores. Also, I still continued to use some sounds from Outlast 1, to get both games in a same world. Some chords at some points are really “Outlast” and I used the same musical scale for both projects.
Gaming Tree House: Was there any challenges you ran into when switching to a different musical style for the sequel?
Samuel Laflamme: Yeah totally, basically all the same challenges I faced in the first one. First, try to do the best score for that project. So, it came with a lot of thing to think about, trying to conceptualize a new musical palette, fitting it in the new universe of the game. Second, I knew people loved the first score, I had this concern of doing something better for the second one, and at some point I became anxious about it, so the moment I decided to go in a totally different creative way, based on the story of Outlast 2, it became clear I was in the right direction, again on the way of finding new crazy textures that scare people.