Interview with Luca Balboni, soundtrack composer of Tormented Fathers

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Interview with Luca Balboni, soundtrack composer of Tormented Fathers

Luca Balboni is an appreciated Italian music composer, who has written soundtracks for feature films such as “Mine” (starring Armie Hammer) and “Watch Them Fall”, as well as for animated films and music albums. He’s also had the chance to improve his skills with Christopher Young and Hans Zimmer, two of the greatest film music composers of the last decades.

Last but – definitely – not least, together with Nobuko Toda, Luca has composed the score of “Remothered: Tormented Fathers”… He’s succeed in making the Felton Villa even spookier and terrifying!

In this interview with us, Luca talks about the process behind an effective music score, he explains how the audio clues in “Remothered: Tormented Fathers” work and shares with us some of the tricks he’s used to enhance the eerie atmospheres you will find inside the house.

Who are the music composers who has influenced you the most during your career?

It’s hard making a list of composers, especially considering that music evolve as the years go by: I’ve gone through periods where John Williams, Danny Elfman, Alan Menken and Ennio Morricone were my main influences, then I deepened the knowledge of Hans Zimmer, John Powell, the Gregson-Williams brothers and Henry Jackman.

More recently, I’m enjoying authors like Johann Johannsson, Lorne Balfe and Junkie XL – I think they’ve brought a breath of fresh air to soundtrack composing. Not to mention Justin Hurwitz, who’ve created an authentic masterpiece with “La La Land”!

How do you approach to write a new score? Do you start from the script or do you prefer having a chat with the director in order to understand the atmosphere and feelings that will fit into the story?

My workflow has changed a lot during the years, my experience at Hans Zimmer’s Remote Control has been a turning point in this respect, too. I’m not talking about style (probably, even composers who are younger than me tried, at least once, to write something in the mood of “Pirates of Carribean”), but about my approach to film score.

Classical music has been very important for my education, in the first place within my family and, then, at the conservatory. When I started composing, I used to get lost in musical twists and turns, very interesting if seen from the point of view of absolute music, however less prone to the language of cinema.

I’ve understood that building complex themes or complicated symphonies is not always needed to get to people’s hearts. Quite the opposite, sometimes a single sound or even a moment of silence at the right moment can strike a chord and can be helpful to find a glimmer of originality among everything that has already been written.

Cinema speaks its own language and you have to learn how to listen to it.

The script is very important when writing a new score, but the director is the key. It’s the director who will guide you through everything he has imagined and felt for the movie, which is, by the way, his own creature. Then, we as composers have to bring these feelings to life and translate them into music.

How did the collaboration with Chris for the soundtrack of “Remothered: Tormented Fathers” begin?

For years, we’ve spoken about cinema and we’ve kept each other up to date with our works. We’ve realized that we have similar tastes and ways to work. Together with trust and mutual respect I think that all of this is fundamental to start a fruitful and solid partnership.

As soon as this occasion with Remothered showed up and Chris asked me to help him with the soundtrack, I immediately told him I was eager to start this first collaboration together!

After several and meaningful experience with cinema, “Remothered: Tormented Fathers” represents your debut with videogames. What’s the difference between writing a score for a feature film and doing the same for a videogame? Would you like to repeat this experience in the future?

Of course, actually I find that writing music for a videogame is very similar to the cinematographic approach. Nowadays, certain videogames are just like movies. The only thing that changes is that with certain games, like this one, you have control on the evolution of the story.

How did your collaboration with Nobuko Toda go?

Being on the same project with Nobuko Toda for this first title helped me to work on a solid foundation, given her log-time experience in this field. I’ve already hold her in high regard – in particular for her music in “Metal Gear Solid” – and it was a pleasure when Chris told me that we would have taken part in this project together. For example, one of the themes of “Tormented Fathers” that you’ve probably already listened to in the announcement trailer worked as a starting point in defining the style and mood – these, later on, became decisive in the makings of the soundtrack.

In “Remothered: Tormented Fathers” the soundtrack works in a “traditional” way, that is to highlight the moments of emotional impact. However, it doesn’t do only that. In the game, music also gives clues to the player as it marks the distance between you and your stalker. Can you please tell us something about this? Which strategies have you carried out to replicate the feelings linked to the sense of escape?

Together with Chris Darril, I’ve outlined four stages of the chase: “calm”, “suspicious”, “hunting” and “stalking”. With the distances in meters (-35, -20, -10, -5), some variations followed. However, these don’t necessarily correspond to the mood of your enemy. If he isn’t aware of your presence, the enemy doesn’t have to be necessarily alarmed even if it’s very close to you. At the same time, if you make too much noise, he will try to chase you, even if you’re quite far from him. It also depends on you and how good you are in hiding or… running away!

On your Facebook page, we’ve seen that you took advantage of a cheap broken violin to enhance the atmospheres of the game. Do you have any other fact like this that would you like to share with us?

During the music production stage, sound patches have been created, in order to characterize the game’s atmosphere and story as much as possible. The most of the orchestral music has been recorded with virtual instruments, followed by a huge work of realism behind it when considering expression, dynamics and so on.

Here and there, you can find some “easter-eggs” like cutlery or metallic materials, whose sound has been processed. I’ve also recorded my own voice trying to make throaty or high-pitched expressions according to the needs and to better dub the words in virtual choirs, like the menacing “Re-mo-the-red” that you’ve arguably noticed at the end of the Greenlight trailer (note: put your headphones on and click this link to listen to the choir).

One of the real instruments I’ve used the most it’s without a doubt the violin you’ve alluded to in the question, whose strings are worn and broken for the most part: by randomly playing them with the bow, I’ve managed to get very particular and creepy sounds… Well, that is what I needed for this project!

Remothered’s fans have already listened to some of the music you’ve composed for the game. Which kind of soundtrack should we expect? How would you describe the score if you had to use three words?

Creepy, romantic, dramatic. Wait for a sense of melancholy and romanticism when you will hear the talented Arianna Rossetti singing. The voice of the professional opera singer Satomi Yanagibashi will give you chills: together with her we’ve characterized several chases in the game.

Is there something you would like to tell to the fans that are following the game development?

Get ready to the comeback of the real survival-horror, the one that glues you to the seat thanks to the atmospheres, the characters, the story… and – I hope – the music, too!

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