Striking up the band with Olivier Deriviere

The Access The Animus team welcomes you back to the website.

This time we are glad to greet you with an exclusive content and we want to consider it like a gift for our community and for its enthusiasm and interest in our work.

At the beginning of December, we've been contacted by a very special artist, someone who recently worked for the AC franchise and who gave an important contribution to the AC4BF: Freedom Cry game experience. The DLC allows the player to live the slavery era and it gives the deep and heavy feeling of experiencing it. It is not usual for videogames to deal with important topics like the ones revolving around human crimes and, surely, it’s not easy to give the right portrayal of them. Apart from the story development and truthfulness, there are a lot of other factors that helps the player to actually live the experience. One of them is, without any doubt, the music that accompanies the characters along the scenes and gameplay. In AC4BF: Freedom Cry, the soundtrack definitely contributes to build that feeling. This is the reason why we are very proud to offer you an interview with Olivier Deriviere, the AC4BF: Freedom Cry soundtrack composer! Before starting, let us introduce him briefly for the ones of you that do not know him yet.

Interview with Olivier Derivière

Olivier Deriviere is not new to the videogames industry. His passion for music and, especially, for music in videogames rose up really soon when he was a teenager. During those early years, he learnt a lot of the technical aspects of writing music for interactive media. His devotion to music studies and his particular perspective of composing a score, allowed him to reach such a quality level in his work to be chosen to write the soundtracks for successful games such as Obscure I and II, Alone in the Dark and Remember me. For these projects, in the following years, he received positive feedback from the most important videogames media. IGN, for example, described his Obscure soundtrack by saying "It sounds terrific" and everyone who played the game (we included) knows how truthful this review was. Miguel Conception from MTV, in one of his soundtrack reviews, named him "the game music's eclectic daredevil" and who better than such a composer could have been chosen to score the soundtrack of AC4BF:Freedom Cry?

Here we go with the interview, then. We hope you will appreciate this artist as much as we do and, if you liked and enjoyed his work in AC4BF: Freedom Cry or if you just want to let him know your opinion, feel free to leave a comment below.

Q: During your career you have always shown to be interested in compositions intended for entertainment media, focusing primarily on the world of video games. What is particularly attracting you to this kind of entertainment? Are you a gamer too? And what are the differences between composing music for video games and composing them for other entertainment areas?
A: Video games are my very first passion, before music I think which might sound weird but it is a fact. I’ve always been a hardcore gamer trying to find different experiences through all the genres video games came up with and I think what still attracts me today is the fascination of the worlds and ideas created in games. Composing music for games is a working process and many would argue it is the same for a movie, which I completely disagree with. I think you have to understand what makes games different to other entertainment media in order to figure out what are the differences for scoring them.

Q: You composed the scores for Alone in the Dark and Obscure, titles intended for the horror videogame market. After listening to the Freedom Cry OST we felt that you transferred some horror tones into your latest work. Is there a reason for this? It seems to us that you like horror, is that so?
A: Generally speaking I actually don’t like horror but I do enjoy scoring horror games because they usually let you explore human fears and emotions in very unique ways. Music has a greater role to play in horror games which is really interesting. Concerning Freedom Cry, the horror part is in showing you the terrible things that slaves were enduring in the eighteenth century.

Q: Your second to last work was the composition of the score for Remember Me, a title which stands out for its strong sci-fi, almost Blade Runner – like elements. In this beautiful work of yours you let all your desire to experiment emerge, thanks to the addition of electronic tunes that create a connection to the sci-fi world. Considering the fact that the AC saga has a strong sci-fi element too, we are curious to know which are the three elements that you consider to be the most important for a score dedicated to this kind of setting.
A: The choices for Freedom Cry were really difficult to make. What made them easier was the standpoint of the game: you don’t actually play in the future, you only play as Adéwalé. The story is much more centered on him than on a mission for his creed. The sci-fi components were therefore pushed a little behind because we wanted to focus more on the human aspect of the main character and his journey to his roots. I believe each game of the franchise is unique and we have to give a strong identity for each.

Q: When were you contacted by Ubisoft for the opportunity to create the soundtrack for Freedom Cry? How does the selection of the composer for a video game soundtrack work?
A: It was last June when they called me with an offer to score the game. I really was flattered but at the same time I knew it was for a good reason and when I first saw the game I understood it was not a regular Assassin’s Creed game. There is no rule to being selected to score a game, sometimes it’s after an anonymous pitch, sometimes it’s because they heard your work on something else, sometimes it’s because you live in the same neighborhood as the creator of the game…

Q: How did the Ubisoft production help you when you started working on the soundtrack? Did they provide you with guidelines and other material concerning the DLC, following you throughout all of the process or did they leave you with complete independence and freedom about your work?
A: I really have to praise Ubisoft for their confidence in me. At first we really didn’t know what to do to capture the essence of the game with the music but after lots of discussions we came up with strong components. It’s a collaborative process; I talk a lot with the team and I try hard to capture and understand what would bring the game’s experience to the next level, and if music can help then I’m devoted to make it happen.

Q: For inspiration and “professional advice” you turned to a "La troupe Makandal", a group from New York dedicated to Haitian music and dance of Haiti with the objective of recording and understanding some ancestral and traditional music. What kind of collaboration did you have with the group and how much time did it last? What did strike you the most about this group, their traditions and their music throughout this partnership? Is there any particular anecdote that you might want to share with us?
A: Everything happened so fast; back at my studio I searched for about two weeks on the internet to find some documentation and history of Haitian music. Luckily I ended up connecting with Lois Wilcken who wrote a great book “The Drums of Vodou.” But she brought much more to the table. She helped me find the right songs that would be accurate for the time period and as the executive director of “La Troupe Makandal” she offered to gather her group to perform the score. On July 17th I was recording the group at Avatar Studios in New York City and was completely amazed by their performance and devotion. When they started performing their ancestral music, Christian Pacaud, the music supervisor and I were intrigued. Though they were playing with a metronome it was challenging to get the right sense of the beat and for a little while we thought that they were just improvising with no real connection with the click. But soon we became hypnotized by their sound and started to become familiar with the form of their music. Hatian music is really complex and I have to praise the Brussels Philhamornic for their sense of adaptation.

La Troupe Makandal

Q: Another important collaboration for this soundtrack was the one with the Brussels Philharmonic orchestra. So while working on the project you found yourself to co-operate on one side with Belgian (and indirectly French) elements and the other one with traditional Haitian elements, representing in a way a projection of what is shown in Adéwalé’s story in the DLC, like you said on Minnesota Public Radio. Was it an intentional choice? Is there a greater influence of the first group or of the second one in the Freedom Cry soundtrack?
A: When you look for an orchestra you have many aspects to consider.
The Brussel Philharmonic Orchestra
The first is, of course, the quality of the players, the colors and sound of the orchestra and finally their availability. When the Brussels Philharmonic came to the table I was sure it was the right orchestra. They sound really lush and full but also they have the European approach to performance. It’s very delicate and subtle and I was really looking for this sound. It was also a factor that they were Belgian. As you may know the French and the Belgians enslaved many Africans and to be part of this reunion several centuries after this terrible age made the collaboration very emotional.

Q: The Freedom Cry OST is anomalous within the Assassin's Creed saga. The music of the saga was mostly born with lots of connections to the sci-fi tone of the story, but over time they acquired more epic and orchestral tones. With this work of yours, a new element is introduced within this sector , namely the choral music. In fact, the main theme of the DLC contains some choral music that bears in the mind of the player not only the ethnic aspects of the character, but also gives a sense of "ancestral freedom" to which the African tribes are linked iconographically. What did inspire you the most to compose this music? Which are the factors that led you to choose this style?
A: I think the very difference between all previous games and this one in the franchise is the connection between the main character and his environment and history. At that time choral music was used by slaves to express their feelings but also to manifest their contestation and to build some solidarity. It was impossible to separate this historical music away from the actual score. I think all the Assassin’s Creed games have an amazing sense of historical acuracy for the environements, the characters you encounter, the locations. All the details are genuine and I thought for this iteration that the music should follow this authentic approach.

Q: Are there instruments that you favored to use during the creation of the Freedom Cry OST? Is there one in particular that you think makes the difference?
A: For Freedom Cry we have an excellent string orchestra with an incredible drums section and a genuine choir. I was blown away by each of their performances. What I think makes the difference is the communion of all three.

Q: Is your relationship with Ubisoft limited only to this work, or can we hope to see other future collaborations (maybe again for Assassin's Creed)?
A: I guess you’ll have to ask them :)

This last question ends our interview, thank you very very much for this opportunity and, having listened to your work, we hope to soon hear again another of your scores.
Thank you very much for your questions and interest about my work and about AC! Have a great New Year!

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