Interview with Alexander Brandon - QAPete - 6-31-1999


Alexander Brandon, music composer extraordinaire for Unreal, has just finished his work on Unreal Tournament. We hear a lot about the programmers, level designers and the like, so I thought we should hear a bit from Alexander on him and his musical contributions to these games.

1. How did you end up getting involved doing music for Unreal and Unreal Tournament?

  Well, I was involved with Epic for a long time, since my friend Jason Emery and I produced the game "Tyrian" for them. We started working on an RPG using the Unreal Engine but it proved to be way too big a job for our small team, so we split up after a year or so, but I was still doing music. After seeing what Tim was doing I knew Unreal was going to be big, so I approached Michiel Van Den Bos, then doing amazing songs for what is now called "Age of Wonders", and then gave a proposal to Tim that we write the soundtrack. He gladly accepted as he's always liked our stuff. The rest is history! :)

2. What's your musical background? Favorite artists?

  Piano lessons on and off for about 5 years or so, but I've been playing since I was 8. I'm reasonably trained as a choral singer, and I've done some classical study.. that I really should be finishing up.

Favorite artists change from time to time but I still love people ranging from Bruce Hornsby to John Mclaughlin to the occaisional song by NiN, Metallica, and A Tribe Called Quest. I'm all over the place.

3. How do you approach composing music for games like Unreal Tournament?

  Every game is different. Unreal was much more researched in terms of music playback as it was more an adventure game than action, which I liked a lot especially since games of its kind were all turning out to be very similar to each other. Unreal didn't jump by leaps and bounds, but it didn't need to, and didn't want to anyway. It kept gameplay simple, which didn't win any strategy fans, but it was beautiful and had awesome monster AI, which is all I was looking for. The music filled the game very well I think.

Unreal Tournament was somewhat different. Deathmatchers (as we see from most posts to last's weeks PU mailbag) either like hardcore, metal or electronic based fast paced music or none at all. They're much more picky, especially in the US. Euro and Japanese players don't really care what music accompanies a fight as long as its catchy and fairly strong beatwise. So in this case we just did a number of different styles, ranging from orchestral to techno to fairly fast paced metal (I won't call it speed metal but its pretty heavy). There should be something in there for everyone.

4. What types of equipment are used in the music we'll find in Unreal Tournament?

  A Korg Trinity Pro, an Ibanez Jem guitar, a few processors, and the ever present Impulse Tracker by Jeff Lim that we use to compose it all. BTW, it should be noted that there are other contributors to this game... Michiel Van Den Bos did a lot of songs, he was also with me on Unreal.. as was Dan Gardopee, who also contributed two songs and is the other founding member of our team Straylight Productions. Peter Hajba, aka "Skaven", did a contributory song found in the distributed movie, and his colleague Tero Kostermaa also did a song. Andrew Sega, an honorary Straylight member, has a song in there as well.

5. How did you like working with the Epic team on Unreal Tournament?

  It was busy, but I kept regular contact with Cliff Bleszinski and several level mappers. It wasn't half as involved as Unreal but the job got done and when a song was needed, we would do one.

6. Will you be working on future Epic projects? Can you tell us anything about other future projects you'll be involved with?

  I hope that I can contribute to future projects but nothing has been decided yet on that front, it will be awhile I think before Epic will be needing music in its next big effort. In future we will be doing music for Unreal 2 and possibly some other fairly large name titles but those I'm afraid I can't disclose.

Thanks for your time, Alexander!


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