Interview with Jesper Kyd

Two years and a half ago, when we needed to decide the name for our project, we sat in front of a PC, during an hangout with all the original founders and we started thinking of something that could actually represent us in few words. We wanted to be that "tool" with which the fans would have been able to explore and understand the Assassin's Creed franchise at best and for this reason we decided then to "borrow" the title of a song from the first Assassin's Creed game: Access The Animus.
This short introduction is essential to explain the reason why we are so proud today to be able to interview the composer of that very song, Jesper Kyd!

Jesper worked on Assassin's Creed 1, 2, Brotherhood and Revelations and on September 25th, his four soundtracks will finally be available on CD (by Sumthing Else) and there are plans for releasing them also in vinyl during 2016.

Here you go then with this interview! We hope you can enjoy as much as we did!

Q: For those who donít know you, can you tell us how did you get involved in the music world and how did you start working in the gaming industry?

A: I founded a game company with my friends in Denmark and our first game got sold to Sega. That's when we all moved to the U.S. and my role was to create the scores for all our games. My friends later moved back to Denmark and started IO Interactive (Hitman). I stayed in the U.S. to continue working on game soundtracks.

Q: You have worked on the soundtrack of numerous videogames. Which one of them was the most interesting and challenging for you to work on?

A: Each project has its own set of challenges.

Assassinís Creed 1 and 2 were particularly challenging since this new mega franchise from Ubisoft needed its own sound. Creating a typical orchestral score was not going to cut it; we were looking for something more unique, something to set the world of Assassinís Creed apart from other games as much as possible. I didnít create these scores from a purely historical perspective like the current Assassinís Creed scores. We were looking for something to make it clear that the Animus is where the games took place and that meant that all the different settings would be warped a bit to fit the sci-fi vibe of the great story and concept of this world. We really needed to make this complex idea of exploring genetic memories through ancestors into something more than just a clever storyline. Patrice (Dťsilets) wanted this aspect to be infused in everything throughout the game and so my Assassinís Creed scores all infused historical inspired settings with the Animus.

The three moods I was asked to work with for the original Assassinís Creed were: tragedy of the crusades, war and mysticism. Mysticism was something I felt would really support the in-game music and that became a huge influence on the music for the three different cities in the first Assassinís Creed: Jerusalem, Acre and Damascus.

Q: Apart from videogames, you worked on movie productions. Which are the differences, if there are any, between composing music for a movie and for a videogame?

A: There is a huge difference; it's like night and day. For a movie it's all about enhancing the scene you are scoring. You can end up working on one scene for several days or weeks, experimenting with different ideas to find the best possible solution to the mood and feel needed. You often work with more people on films in general, since there are producers, line producers, director, music editors, mix and dub engineers etc. For video games I usually work with people in the audio department and in most cases you are further away from the creative leads on the project.

Q: Most of the Assassinís Creed Community considers you as THE composer of the franchise. You actually worked on AC1, AC2, ACB & ACR. How did you get involved in this franchise?

A: When I met up with Patrice (Dťsilets) and Jade (Raymond) at E3 to show me the ideas for the game, I remember thinking this was the most ambitious game I had ever seen. A game where you could leap rooftops or walk down streets, a game where you could see a tower way in the distance and then actually go was unheard of. I thought, if they can pull this off this will be the first next gen game.

Assassin's Creed 1 - All Star Team

Q: Which one of the games you worked on was your favourite in terms of inspiration for your music? Is there one of them that holds a special place for you?

A: Assassinís Creed 2 was special to me, as was Brotherhood. In Brotherhood I got to do a lot of the things we didn't get to do in AC2, so for me Brotherhood is the action part of AC2. For AC2 there was a lot of focus on the exploration music. The team really wanted to set a romantic mood in the game and there were a lot of testing being done with lighting etc. to find the most atmospheric and romantic mood. I had never seen anyone focus on this so much in a game and I loved the idea of creating something really deep and atmospheric.

It was both a challenge and a great opportunity. I had never written anything remotely close to Renaissance music before, so I researched this music style, as well as instruments available at the time, writing methods etc. then I took all that and blended it with my own music style to come up with something interesting. The team and I agreed that if the music became too true to the Renaissance sound it could start to annoy the game players. The team wanted music that would stand on its own as well as be enjoyed in the game. Very few players probably like to listen to actual Renaissance music, so why create something that people are not really going to care about?

However, we didn't want the music to be just used for functionality, meaning here is an action moment so play action music, or here is a game set during the Renaissance so play Renaissance music, we didn't want that kind of simplicity. The team wanted more and so I worked on coming up with a new style, which became the sound of Assassinís Creed. This idea of duality in music is something I have always loved. Many of my favorite scenes from movies have moments when you have music that on paper is not supposed to work with a certain scene, then the music does the opposite of what you think and that's when I find myself getting really into a movie scene or gameplay moment.

"Home in Florence"
ďHome in FlorenceĒ is a good example of this idea. The synth sequence really doesn't belong in a game taking place in the Renaissance, but it works and that makes it extra cool in my opinion. Of course the synth is in there to also remind people of the Animus and because of this it makes sense. So the music becomes Assassinís Creed in a way that you can't fit this piece of music in another game and make it work without it sounding like Assassinís Creed. That's the goal of all my game music, to write a score where all the tracks sound so much like the game world that it doesn't belong anywhere else. This is not how all games are scored. Sometimes you can take a score and add it to a similar game and it will work fine. I don't feel that's the case with most of my scores.

Q: Do you receive specific information on the story/plot of the game before starting to work or do they give you a general description of the mood for the game?

A: For the first three Assassinís Creed games I worked on I would be provided with lots of info but I usually try to focus on the essence of what makes the score a perfect fit.

Q: Since your last AC game, while other composers gave their experience to the Assassinís Creed franchise, did you miss working on it?

A: Compared to the first three titles, Assassinís Creed Revelations was a different experience working under difficult circumstancesÖI didn't really get to unleash my creative force on Assassinís Creed Revelations. Darksiders 2 was my next score and it felt great to get an outlet for all my ideas again.

Q: Can you tell us a bit more about some of your future projects?

A: I am actually busier than I have ever been but I canít disclose too much right now. I just finished the score for a new Chinese movie based on a best-selling Chinese novel. Currently I am working on 2 new films as well as 2 games to be announced.

Q: Last but extremely important question: your equipment is catching fire and you can save only one object from it. What would that be and why?

It would be the CS80 or the Eurorack system.

Jesper Kyd and his console
This was our last question. We would like to thank you again for your time. It was great to have you with us and we wish to see you working again on a new Assassinís Creed game.

Thanks to you and all the Assassinís Creed fans for their support!

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