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February 2009


Composer Joris de Man
Return to the Zone



Joris de Man: Biography

Started playing violin at age 6.

Studied at Sonology at The Hague's Royal Conservatory.

Studied Music Technology at at the Hogeschool voor de Kunsten in Utrecht.

Started at Bitmap Brothers.

Has worked with: Louis Andriessen, Peter Eotveos, Alexander Knaifel, Johan de Meij.

Official Web Site


KILLZONE 2 (Soundtrack) by Joris de Man

Composition Credits (Games)

Killzone 2
Killzone: Liberation
N+ (Xbox 360)

Composition Credits (Film)


Composition Credits (Short)

Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones (Commercial)
Fetch & Snowtime









Composer Joris de Man

" It was great to be back on familiar ground and see if I could take it to another level; retain some of the themes we had for KILLZONE 1, and at the same time musically try to do something that was a bit more beefy and meaty than the first one. - Joris de Man


Composer Joris de Man shares about his epic score for the hit video game KILLZONE 2.  He returns to the game-verse he helped to create in the original KILLZONE, this time solely focusing on writing the original score.  He contrasts his writing experiences for the two games and the musical advantages that have come with the next-gen (PS3) consoles.


  Music from Killzone 2 by Joris de Man

Used by Permission


Killzone 2: Behind the Score (Documentary)

Watch:  Killzone 2: Behind the Score

Joris de Man and audio team at Abbey Road Studios

Joris de Man and audio team at Abbey Road Studios

The Nimrod Studio Orchestra

The Nimrod Studio Orchestra

Killzone 2 was released in late February 2009

Killzone 2 was released in late February 2009



Podcast Interview with Joris de Man

Listen to this interview (hover over drop down menu, scroll down and select "SoundCast Interview with Joris de Man")



tracksounds: It's been a couple of years since KILLZONE 1. What was it like coming back to the franchise and revisiting that music that you established a couple of years ago?

Joris De Man: Well, it was almost like meeting an old friend in a way. I know that sounds incredibly corny [laughs] but I suppose it's still the've lived through that franchise for a while. I mean, I used to work as a musical director at Guerrilla, so I was part of the franchise, so to speak, and then a few years ago I kind of branched out on my own and decided that I wanted to go freelance. So it was kind of nice to return to familiar ground, and I realized that it was a style and type of music that I'm very comfortable in. Also, it's just nice to see what the people at Gorilla have done with the franchise, because we see KILLZONE 1, which set up the whole storyline and characters, and then there's Liberation, which is kind of a continuation, but at the same time it was a 3rd -person shooter and not a 1st- person shooter, so story-wise they did a few different things with that. So, I think KILLZONE 2 is more of a return to form compared to KILLZONE 1. It was really great to come back to that and see what they've done with that in terms of the characters and environments. It was great to be back on familiar ground and see if I could take it to another level; retain some of the themes we had for KILLZONE 1, and at the same time musically try to do something that was a bit more beefy and meaty than the first one.

tracksounds: Right. Well now this time it's on PS3 of course, with a lot of increased power for you to work within for the music. What did it allow you to do, or what could you take advantage of now that you;re working on a game for the PS3?

Joris De Man: Well, the first thing that's apparent is the audio quality. You're able to use higher bit-rates for the music. We're able to actually use full surround sound now as well, as opposed to Dolby Pro Logic, which is kind of surround, but not true surround sound. In this case we could go up to 7.1 [channels], and I think a lot of the game environments are in 7.1. Some of the music is in 5.1, because music-wise, 5.1 versus 7.1 isn't going to have a huge bearing on what the music sounds like. So, being able to use full 5.1 surround sound made quite a big difference to it. And also, there was just more scope for the music. This time around we weren't just stuck to doing cut-scene music, which was partly a creative decision on KILLZONE 1, but it was also a technical issue. We couldn't really have any in-game music because there was so much leveleaming going on.  Playing music on top of that with the in-game sound effects and ambiance just wasn't quite feasible on the Playstation 2.

Of course, now with the power of Blu-ray and the PS3, and being able to using better compression for the music basically meant that we could do all of those things. So we looked at the game and decided where we're going to use music and how we're going to use it. So [then] I realized that we could actually have in-game music and that it was actually helping the game and adding to the overall experience. That's why we decided to have both. We ended up using orchestral music for the cut-scenes and MIDI for the in-game music. We had the the in-game music be interactive as well.

tracksounds: How do you go about it when you know you have to tackle on a huge project like this? Obviously you have some of your thematic material, some of which you've carried over from the first game, but do you write your in-game music first, or do you write your cut-sequence, big-symphonic stuff first, or do you do them simultaneously?

Joris De Man: So far the way it's worked for me is that usually the in-game music happens first, and then the cut-scene music comes in at the end. That's mainly a practical reason, because in KILLZONE 2 all of the cut-scenes are done using in-game technologies. I would almost call them “live cut-scenes.” They're not pre-rendered. They all use the in-game engine and in-game characters; everything except the first, main introduction cut-scene, which is kind of a KILLZONE tradition to have that rendered and set up the story, and everything else is done with in-game technology. And because that in-game technology is dependent on a number of factors, like if a story takes place in a certain level and that level is still being designed or tweaked, or the graphics team decides that some of the environments need to change, or some story element has changed, which has bearing on what the level looks like, then obviously that has an effect on the cut-scenes. Let's say something's taking place in a spaceship, and some of the game designers decide “No, this is not going to take place in a spaceship, we're going to do that in a level later on.” This cut-scene actually needs to take place in a desert. Then you would have a really weird situation if the cut-scene would still be in the spaceship. That can be held until the game designers, and everybody else that's involved in the process get those levels finished, before they can finish the cut-scenes. It then kind of makes sense to have the music for the cut-scenes at the end as well, because then we know that they're finalized. I spend a majority of the time working on the in-game music because there was a lot of it and it was interactive, which brings its own set of challenges. Then we tackled the cut-scene music at the end. It was a reasonably compressed schedule for that, but again, that's not unusual in game development and I've never really had it any other way, so that's how it goes.

tracksounds: So from what I've gathered, you only had a few weeks to do this project, is that right?

Joris De Man: Only for the cut-scenes. For the actual in-game music, I had quite a few months to work on that. Well, quite a bit more than that. Basically I had from the beginning of 2008, around March/April, to start working on it and working out how we were going to use the interactive music. There was a bit of R&D involved in that as well, as to how we were going to do the interactive music. There's different ways you can tackle it. There was a bit of to-and-fro-ing of saying “How are we going to do this music?” and “Let's do a few tests and see how it works”. Once that system was in place and we decided how we were going to do it, it actually just getting down to composing the music, looking at the levels and deciding what kind of music was going to go there and how it was going to work.

tracksounds: How would you compare your two experiences with KILLZONE 1 and KILLZONE 2?

Joris De Man: Each one is a really unique experience in its own. KILLZONE 1 was just a great experience because there was a bit more music in terms of cut-scenes; I think we had 45-minutes worth as opposed to half an hour. That was interesting because it was the first time I've really worked with a full symphony orchestra. I'd done a test recording of the Helghast March before, because when we were actually pitching the game to Sony,-it wasn't even called KILLZONE yet, I think it was called Cloning Marines or something-, it was just an idea that was being pitched to Sony and other publishers, and we were trying to do a 1st -person shooter for the PS2 and sell this epic storyline. So, I suggested to one of the directors that it would be great if we could do this music with a live orchestra and take it to another level, because everybody's doing MIDI stuff and it would be great to do something live. This must have been about 8 years ago, and at that time, game scores being done with orchestra were relatively new. Some people were doing it, but not as much as they are now, so it was quite a novel idea. Then he said “I'll give you a little bit of budget for that and if you find someone who's crazy enough to record it for that kind of price, then you're free to do so”, and so I found an orchestra in Moscow, the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, that could do it for a very agreeable rate, and so we recorded the main Helghast Theme there. That kind of became the musical benchmark for the game. Once we had done that, we sold the game and we said, “Ok that's great, we like let's do another 40 minutes of that. Then I had to write the rest of the music for the cut-scenes, and it was a big challenge because I had not written that volume of music for an orchestra before. It was kind of a trial-by-fire, and I got through it ok, so I was really happy with what came out of it, and it really connected with people. People really seemed to like the big, epic orchestral approach, and a lot of people remembered the Helghast March. So this time around we actually got to go to Abbey Road, which wasn't even originally going to happen. We were looking at different places to record, and figuring out time-wise what we were going to do. In the end, it was decided that the best thing we could do was record at Abbey Road with a bunch of guys called Nimrod Studios. They were helping out with organizing and some of the production on that. That was amazing, because before, we were working with Eastern orchestras and then suddenly now with these world-renowned players; some of the these people recorded on Star Wars and Indiana Jones, and we've got a trumpet-player who played for the Indiana Jones Theme. It was just absolutely amazing to work with that kind of level of musicians. It made me realize that those people really brought something else to the table. It's not just about your music anymore, but about how they take your music to another level. So, it's a different experience in a sense of how much good musicians can bring to a recording session. And that's not to say that the Prague or Moscow guys are bad, not by any stretch of the imagination, but there is definitely a difference. With them understanding this type of music, knowing how to push that, and play with intensity really brought the score to another level. It's been a unique learning experience for me, and they've both been a fantastic experience for me in their own right.

tracksounds: Would you say you're a little spoiled now, having worked with members of the LSO?

Joris De Man: Oh, totally. How can I not be? This was an absolute dream for me to work with these kind of people. Yeah, I feel very spoiled, because next time I might get the chance to record with an orchestra, it's almost don't really want to do anything else, you know? [laughs]  But yeah, absolutely spoiled. I couldn't have wished for a better result.

tracksounds: Now, you were talking about how those members of the LSO play versus those in Prague or elsewhere. Would you say that because the members of the Prague orchestra are playing “pure” classical music more, that they have a bent towards that?

Joris De Man: Yes, especially with the Moscow guys, I noticed a bit of that. It's really strange, it's just different performances. I wouldn't even say that they're necessarily any worse than the English players. There's just a different approach to it, where you can sense that the English players have been playing on so many movie sessions, they kind of understand what you're trying to do, and they kind of say “Ok, I see what he's doing, so let's do it this way”, and you kind of get the sound that you're looking for. There are other elements as well, such as the quality of their instruments, the fact that they've played together for a long time, and equally, a lot of it probably depends on my writing as well. Having gained experience from writing for them last time, I kind of figured out things like “Alright, this works”, and “This didn't quite work”, and “Why didn't that work?”, and you don't make those mistakes again. Then you end up writing something you know is going to work with the players you're working with. So each time I do something like this it's a learning experience as well. I mean, I don't know everything. I'm largely self-taught, so for me a lot of it is a learning process of seeing how they play it and knowing how it's going to sound, but by the same token, coming back from the recording session and saying, “Ok, these are the things that worked and the things that didn't work, and so next time I have to try something different”.

tracksounds: Well, in this go-around you didn't have to handle the sound design. Would you say that was an advantage to you, a disadvantage, or neither?

Joris De Man: I actually think its an advantage, to a large degree. We had more sound designers on the project this time around and I always think that the opinion of different people helps to get something really creatively strong. I had a really strong sound design team on KILLZONE 2 this time around. I think it's hard to compare the two because you're working in a different ballpark as well. There was so much more possibilities this time around, with more sound memory, more sound capabilities with the hardware, more capabilities with the ambiance in the game, stuff like that. Also not having to deal with both things at the same time probably is an advantage because you can take a back seat and look at how someone else tackles things and say, “Alright, that's really interesting. I wouldn't necessarily have done it that way, but actually his way is better”. It's actually quite good to not try and do everything. That's definitely one of the things that took away from KILLZONE 1. I probably “had my fingers in too many pies” at one point, because I was also partially involved with the storyline, cut-scenes and other bits. Now it's actually quite nice to say, “I'm going to focus on this bit”, which is the music, and writing for the cut-scenes, and not get involved in too many other things. I think that has definitely helped the project. The sound guys at Guerrilla have done an absolutely stellar job, which I think is seen in some of the reviews as well. It sounds really great, and I'm glad this time around not to have been involved because I think it would've been too much, with the volume of music I had to write as well.

tracksounds: How can you draw, or do you draw upon your sound design/editing experience while you're composing, even though you weren't doing that for this particular game?

Joris De Man: Oh, totally, because I think one of the important things about sound design is knowing when to do it and when not to. That's something that, to a degree, I'm still learning as well. Obviously knowing how sound design works and looking at scenes and thinking, “Ok, what would I do?” helps. It would help, for instance, if we were working on a cut-scene, and some of the sound-design wouldn't be finished yet; you can look at a scene and kind of anticipate what's going to happen sound-design-wise with it. You kind of know “Alright, there's a big spaceship taking off from this particular scene”. Then I know musically, not to put too much there because there's probably going to be a big sound effect there or something like that. Also in terms of just holding back the music. I have a tendency to overwrite a lot of music and a lot of notes. Or, not necessarily, overwrite a lot of music, but to orchestrate very densely. It was good this time around to realize that and say “I don't really need to do that much...there's sound design going on in this bit and I can actually hold back a little bit ”. It'll probably also save a bit of time in the process as well. It was definitely in certain cases a “less is more” approach. It definitely helped in certain instances.

tracksounds: For the music I've heard thus-far, there's a lot of stuff in there that fans of big, bold film music are going to like. And then for the in-game music, as you've said, there's a lot of the electronica-feel there. You're from both worlds, but do you get the same kind of pleasure writing and hearing both equally, or is there one you like doing more than the other?

Joris De Man: [laughs] It almost varies on any given day, really. Sometimes I really enjoy just doing the big, bombastic stuff, so to speak, and doing something that's very percussive and aggressive. I think one of the pieces I sent you, -which I don't know if it will appear on the website as well- is the ATAC Attack piece, which is very electronic in a way. One of the things they were asking for was that “We really like the orchestral stuff but we're also a bit worried about having a game that's just full of orchestral stuff...could you maybe try and put some modern elements in there to juxtapose some of the cut-scenes with the in-game music, to put a little variety in there?” That's an interesting challenge, to do something that retained some of the orchestral elements, with some modern elements in there, and try to juxtapose them a bit. It depends; I really enjoy writing big themes, and one of the things I really try to do in an orchestral score is create leitmotifs that find themselves back into other pieces in some form or way. So, for instance, on the Axis Intro, -it's called Axis, which is a silly name, because it's just the name of the company that made the intro cinematic- [laughs]...

tracksounds: I saw that and I wondered what that was, but now it makes sense...[laughs]

Joris De Man: ...yeah, it's the “Birth of War” track, and I tried to use that as a contained theme, so there's a couple of themes in there I can later on repeat in some other shape or form. So, Visari's Theme, -who is kind of the main bad guy- is in there. There's two or three other tracks where that particular theme finds itself back into it. There's an ISA Theme as well, which is featured in the Helghast March, and that finds its way back in the score during some of the pivotal moments in the story. So I'm almost really trying to score it in an old-school kind of way, where you have those leitmotifs and they find their way back. I think themes in general are very important to establish emotion and some kind of continuity.

tracksounds: If you had to describe the music for KILLZONE 1 and 2 in one word, how would you summarize it?

Joris De Man: Without wanting to sound arrogant [laughs], I would all it “epic”.

tracksounds: Epic.

Joris De Man: Yes. I think in general, it's got a very grand and big sound to it. There was little holding back on it, let's put it that way. If there's any drama, it's big drama. [laughs]

tracksounds:  I'd have to agree. That's a good word for it. Now, I know this has been asked of you before and I always ask you every time and get a similar answer but I'll ask again anyway. Is there any progress on a full soundtrack release of your music for this game?

Joris De Man: Well we're still in talks with Sony and other people to try to make that happen. Obviously I think it should happen, and I've had so many requests already. [laughs] I even got a link the other day from someone who saw that someone had bootlegged KILLZONE 1 on eBay. And not just one CD, but someone actually ran these on a production line and was selling these by the bucket-loads, so it would seem really silly not to. I really hope we can make it happen. It's unfortunately one of those things that's not always up to the composer; it's dealing with the publisher and the company that holds the rights to make that happen. But, I'm hoping in the day and age of digital downloads that the risks for them to do that is so little that it's worth doing. It used to be a problem that game soundtracks in general don't tend to sell that great. So if there's any CD manufacturing then it's a big risk for them that they don't necessary want to take. Then they might just keep it for a Special Edition or something like that. But now with iTunes and those online tune-stores, it should be feasible and I'm really pushing for it to make that happen. All I can say is watch your space, but it's definitely something we're pushing for, and the sooner the better, as far as I'm concerned.

tracksounds: Do you have some other projects you can talk about now, that are in the works?

Joris De Man: I'm working on a small game at the moment, called SCRAP METAL, which is for a friend of mine who works at Slick Entertainment. It's an XBox LIVE game, which is coming out in the next couple of months I believe. It's going to be completely different, kind of hard-etched industrial-type stuff, so it's going to be quite an escape from my usual orchestral onslaught [laughs]. And then, I'm just actually kind of looking ahead to future projects. I haven't gotten any major gigs lined-up at the moment, but I'm hoping that with KILLZONE 2's release some interesting projects will come my way.

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