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November 2010

 

Composer Mark Griskey
All Star Wars, All the Time

 


 

Biography


Graduated from California State University with a B.M in Music.

Studied composition and film scoring privately and at UCLA.

Is also an accomplished classical percussionist and jazz drummer.

Began composing for movie trailers and TV spots in the 1990s.

In 2001, began scoring video games for LucasArts.

Started as freelance composer in 2005.

Official Web Site
 

Composition Credits (VG)


Star Wars:  The Force Unleashed 2
Star Wars:  The Force Unleashed
The Chronicles of Narnia:  Prince Caspian
Iron Man
The Hulk
Utima X Odyessy - Additional Orchestration
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
Star Wars: Racer Revenge - Music Director
Star Wars: Obi-Wan - Music Editing & Additional Music
Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith - Additional Music Composition
Sam and Max: Freelance Police
Rayman 4: Raving Rabbids
Marvel Ultimate Alliance
Jedi Star Fighter
Gladius


Composition Credits (VG Trailers)

Van Helsing
Star Wars: Battlefront 2
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Medal of Honor: European Assault - Trailer Music
Call of Duty3

Trailers:

X-men 2
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Tristan and Isolde
The Scorpion King
The Ring
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
The Hulk
The Day After Tomorrow
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
Star Trek Nemesis
Spider-Man 2
Spider-Man
Serenity
Road to Perdition
Planet of the Apes
Peter Pan (2003)
Minority Report
Kingdom of Heaven
King Kong
Jurassic Park 3
I, Robot
Hellboy
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Equilibrium
Cabin Fever

 

 

 

Composer Mark Griskey

" I've been a fan of the STAR WARS franchise since I saw the first film in theaters when I was a kid. I think there was something that JOHN WILLIAMS so strongly established with all the films that you have to anchor it in that. You can't completely go away from that, and there's no reason to try to redefine it. "

Mark Griskey


Composer Mark Griskey talks with Tracksounds about his score for LucasArts sequel, THE FORCE UNLEASHED 2.  He talks about what it was like to return to the franchise after the huge hit the first game turned out to be, the unique challenges a sequel presents, and how he juggled both this score and his work on the upcoming, STAR WARS:  THE OLD REPUBLIC score.

  Listen to the SoundCast interview w/ Mark Griskey
 

 

 

CC: What was it like to come back to THE FORCE UNLEASHED after a year or so?

MARK GRISKEY: It was pretty cool. I loved the first game, and it was great to have a little bit of distance from it, and come back to that whole franchise again, with a bit of a fresh take on it. I think that the whole team had that attitude. We're not doing anything radically different here. We're obviously continuing the storyline where we left off, but we're trying to improve the game and make it cooler and more “unleashed” than the original one. Everything that worked, we're keeping.

For me, as a composer, it was nice to have hammered out some initial themes and groundwork for the first game. It was more of a fully developed game-score, but there were some questions we had in terms of musical direction. Everything from “How do we tie it into STAR WARS”, to “How do we make that transition”, to “How do we put it into the timeline to fit in the STAR WARS musical universe between episodes III and IV?” There was also the question of coming up with character themes. Some of that stuff was established, so it felt like we had some anchor points, but we had some new characters, new planets and a new story-line. It was comfortable enough because it wasn't completely new territory. I think, even for the first game, I was comfortable with the STAR WARS musical language that had been established in the films, and certainly for the games that I've worked on in the past.

There was a certain kind of pressure to really define some of the musical vocabulary for the FORCE UNLEASHED. I felt like this time around, I had a little more fun with it. It felt like that part was a little easier to run with. The schedule was very aggressive. There was a lot of music to do in a very short period of time. You're always going to have those deadline challenges, but I felt like I knew this character a little bit more, and I know the story-line a little bit more. I've already gone through one iteration of it, so it felt great. I said to myself, “Let's jump back in and do this”.

CC: You mentioned the time-crunch. Would you say that's the biggest difference from the first game to the second? Just the amount of time you had to write the music?

MARK GRISKEY: Yes. It was similar in a certain way. First there was certainly a lot more time pre-production-wise for me to start coming up with some ideas, but really, to get those approved, and honed in, and making sure we were all on board with what we were doing musically with the score, it took a lot longer in the first game. By the time I got up and running with the first game, I said “Ok, we've got main themes, now it's time to generate a lot of content. It was pretty much a crunch too. It happens in all of these things, and is typical of games and films. It's typical of TV entertainment in general. This time around, thank God that things seemed to go very smoothly in terms of getting new themes approved and new musical directions. So that crunch was different. At least we didn't have those extra complications involved. I don't know if that's the right word, but it was almost like running several marathons day after day. [laughs]

It's exhausting physically, but your adrenaline is up and you're excited about the project. You just get up, plow through your whole day and you just take a nap and then do some more.

CC: Let me slip in a question that comes up from one of our Twitter followers. This is @purplecliff, and he wanted to know: What familiar themes might you be reusing in your music this time, whether it be from the classic JOHN WILLIAMS stuff or the original FORCE UNLEASHED?

MARK GRISKEY: The Force Unleashed Main Theme, composed by JESSE HARLIN is going to be used again. I'd say in a fair amount of the score, but in a much more woven-in way. We've had a chance to think about how to incorporate things in a variety of ways throughout; whereas, in the first game, it was primarily the music that played in the menu loop, and it was incorporated into a couple of the action cues. But I think here we were able to develop and find sections of the main theme that were identified as the more “heroic”, or “light-side/adventure” element of it. Then there's a kind of a darker theme that we were able to weave in through some of the cut-scenes and ambient music, and reused again in some of the action sequences. Darth Vader is in this game, and the Imperial March is also in this game.

CC: Nice!

MARK GRISKEY: You can't have Darth Vader without the Imperial March. Not only is the actual WILLIAMS music being used -I'm not sure which actual cuts ended up in the game from the films-, but I used the Imperial March Theme several times in the cinematics. I was able to modify it and make it work specifically for the game, so we didn't have to try and shoe-horn in the clip that was recorded for the film and somehow try to make it fit into the game. The Force Theme is used with a few different variations, which is nice. There's one cinematic where Yoda....I don't know how much of this is announced, by the way...

CC: I think the Yoda thing is out there already.

MARK GRISKEY: Ok, so Yoda makes an appearance in the game. We didn't really quote Yoda's Theme but the Force Theme has some interesting treatments because Yoda's using his Force powers to see the future, as cloudy as it is. He offers advice to Starkiller, and we took that opportunity to incorporate the Force Theme but a more introspective, moody version of it with a slight harmonic change in it.

CC: How about General Kota?

MARK GRISKEY: Thank you. He's obviously in the game, and his theme is definitely in there. I would say in terms of volume of content, we definitely used his theme more in the first game than here, but we found some very specific key moments where it made complete sense to incorporate it again.

CC: That brings up an interesting question in that with STAR WARS, there is probably a level of expectation that few if any other franchises have upon it. Be it the films, games or anything attached to it that has music involved. Maybe you worked with JESSE on this, or maybe it was something that you just tackled yourself in your own mind and psyche. How did you deal with fans' expectations of the music for a STAR WARS game?

MARK GRISKEY: I just try to think like a STAR WARS fan myself. I've been a fan of the STAR WARS franchise since I saw the first film in theaters when I was a kid. I think there was something that JOHN WILLIAMS so strongly established with all the films that you have to anchor it in that. You can't completely go away from that, and there's no reason to try to redefine it. I've used this analogy before; of course, everyone knows what a lightsaber sounds like. We're not going to change the sound of the lightsaber. But for the sound effects that are in the game, we might actually create a bunch of new lightsaber sounds so they can specifically match the gameplay, instead of trying to shoe-horn the sound-effect from the libraries that were cut specifically for a scene in the film. So we're always trying to anchor in the sound of STAR WARS, whether it's voice-acting, sound-effects or music to the films, and also to the extended universe of games.

CC: Let me slide in another Twitter question. This comes from @john_axon: How do you tell the story of TFU 2 through your score?

MARK GRISKEY: It's interesting. TFU 1 and 2 have a strong story-line. There's a script, and the way these video games work is that cinematics help guide you through the story-line, and it happens at book-end sections of the game to help you move to the next level. For the game-play itself, I think the cinematics are the script. That's where I spend a lot of time in the beginning. I read that script over and over, thinking about my themes, and trying to get visual art of what the cinematics are going to look like, or some rough animatic versions. It would be like stick-figures moving around and some of them might look more detailed than others but I can at least get a visual idea of the themes. I focus on that, and it's like scoring a mini-film. It carries into the game-play, because the game-play isn't simply “go fight a bunch of people and see more cinematics”. There's small milestones within larger milestones, and maybe some puzzles to unlock, things to figure out, and environments to interact with. It's similar to film in that it's based on a script and a strong story-line, but with all the game-play aspects and especially the way the games are developed, often the other people in the creative team are still trying to figure out what that's going to be as I'm working on it. So things will change throughout. It really comes from the story-line. There's a story to tell and that's going to be reflected in all of it. For example, when Darth Vader is in a scene, there's going to be the Imperial March. I just ask myself a lot of questions and try to find out as much of the game as possible. That's what gives me my inspiration. Visuals, and just imagining what the final player experience is going to be.

CC: I asked you originally what it was like coming into TFU 2 as opposed to when you first started on the first TFU. Now I'd like to ask how you feel coming out of TFU 1, and on the verge of TFU 2 being released, with the thought in mind of that THE FORCE UNLEASHED 3 has been canceled.

MARK GRISKEY: When we finished TFU 1, for me especially, there was a lot of audio tech that was being developed; so much that I really didn't know how good the game was going to come off when it was done. I had story-lines, the concept art, and I was able to see builds of the game as it was in production, but I was never able to see the final version of the game until it was on the shelf, and I had finished the music well in advance to that. It was a big question mark. I thought the story-line was great, everything I'm seeing in terms of what this game is supposed to be is great, and I hope it's great. I had so much fun working on this that I wanted to make another one. Honestly it's proves itself with sales figures to make it financially possible to do a sequel. We were absolutely thrilled to do a sequel shortly after the release of the first one, because it was selling so well. TFU 2 wasn't a big surprise to me, because I knew well in advance that this was going to happen. I was very excited and ready to take it to the next level, and I think we did so. In my mind, I still think it's a very powerful franchise, and I hope that LUCASARTS will continue to put TFU games out. I think TFU is here to stay, but that's just me. I don't make those decisions. I know there's been some changes over at LUCASARTS, so until I get any official word from them of what's going on, I can't really comment on the future of any future games.

CC: Maybe you could just write some “this would have been the music for TFU 3” music. [laughs]

MARK GRISKEY: That would be fun.

CC: I'm just garnering off of what I've heard of your music, and just little bits and pieces of what I've seen, and if TFU 2 is to this franchise as EMPIRE STRIKES BACK is to the first trilogy, could you imagine ending after EMPIRE STRIKES BACK? Even if you lose money, you'd still have to make the third one. If that's an apt analogy, I can't imagine it not happening at some point in time. So from the fans' perspective, I think everyone's hoping for a miracle to take place and we can see the conclusion, assuming the third installment would be the conclusion.

MARK GRISKEY: Yes. There are a lot of trilogies in the STAR WARS universe.

CC: And you're running out of time to fill in!

MARK GRISKEY: There's that, but we can just keep expanding on the universe and take it new directions, but we want to stay canonical with it, fitting in to the larger picture of the STAR WARS universe. I think there's room for what-if scenarios and not having to make everything completely aligned with the film. I don't make those decisions, but I think there's room for it. The fans will accept it too, if it's grounded in the STAR WARS universe and it stays true to the franchise.

CC: Well that kind of segues me to a couple of my final questions; now that you talked about expanding the universe. The universe is definitely expanding, going back in history with the other project that you worked on, which is STAR WARS: THE OLD REPUBLIC. We're very much looking forward to next year. You were working on these two projects simultaneously. Is that right?

MARK GRISKEY: There was a nice little overlap there.

CC: Was it nice? [laughs]

MARK GRISKEY: It was “nice” as in a decent amount of overlap. Let me try to say that a little more intelligently. [laughs] There was definitely overlap between those two projects.

CC: How tough was it?

MARK GRISKEY: It was tough, but honestly, it was fun. Where it happened in the project for me, I had a little bit of breathing room. I think I had 10 minutes of music I still had to write for THE OLD REPUBLIC, but after crunching on that huge project, where there were so many composers involved, and so much project management that I had to do, and composing the music; I had to jump into TFU, knock it out, and then go back to TOR, and finish it up. But that last 10 minutes would've come out so smoothly if I hadn't moved off to TFU. At the same time, diving into TOR, I'm still in STAR WARS land, but I'm thousands of years into the future, and it's a whole different story-line. I was surprised at how I mentally recovered. Physically I was still exhausted at that point, but it seemed very fresh. It didn't seem like “Oh no, it's terrible that these two projects are lining up”, and that they were on top of each other in terms of then they needed the music delivery. It was like “Oh fun, I get to jump over and do this one now”. Then I jumped back to the first one. So somehow it worked. It was all STAR WARS all the time for me, but it was like a solid year between ramping up TOR and finishing up. It started with TOR, and I finished with TOR, and somewhere in the middle we knocked out TFU 2.

CC: That's amazing.

MARK GRISKEY: It was “drop-everything” and JESSE HARLIN at LUCASARTS was great at helping me out and trying to juggle all of that. He backed me up and told me we had a little more time to get everything we needed for TOR, but we needed to jump in both-feet-first for TFU 2 right now, and get that off our plate. But it was fantastic. We did the two games with 3 big orchestral recording sessions, several days each. We also did two big choir sessions in various locations, plus some sample-based music for some of the underscore cues in TOR.

CC: Hopefully we'll be able to sit down and talk again about THE OLD REPUBLIC when that comes closer to release next year. I know that's an epic project. I remember the documentary saying that there was about five hours of music for that game, so that lends to lots of good questions that I think we can come up with, so I look forward to re-visiting that with you in the upcoming months.

As always we hope that there is some sort of soundtrack release. I know the last one didn't get an official release, but maybe this time around. I was hoping that the Special Edition of TFU 2 would include it, but it doesn't so hopefully they'll do something for us this time. So MARK, thank you for coming on and joining us, and sharing with us about your recent endeavors in the STAR WARS UNIVERSE. We look forward to seeing how it all comes out in the game itself in just a couple of weeks.

MARK GRISKEY: Thanks and let's do this again. It's always a pleasure to speak to you. It's been fun working on this, and I can't wait to finally sit down and play it.

 

Want more of THE FORCE UNLEASHED?


 

 

 

More Interviews

   

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Oscar Araujo (2014)
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Jesper Kyd (2012)
Kim Planert (2012)
Robert Duncan (2012)
Sam Hulick (2011)
Alan Menken (2010)

Mark Griskey (2010)
Tom Hajdu (Tomandandy) (2010)
Doug Adams (2010)
Sean Williams(2010)

Jamie Christopherson (2010)
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Clinton Shorter (2009)
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John Ottman (2008)
Inon Zur/ Stuart Chatwood (2008)
Jesse Harlin (2008)
Jeff Beal (2008)


 

Miho Nomura (2008)
Mark Griskey (2008)
Harry Gregson-Williams (2008)
Jeff Rona (2008)
Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard (2008)
Ramin Djawadi (2008)
E.S. Posthumus (2008)
Tyler Bates(2008)
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James Dooley (2007)
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David Robidoux (2007)
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John Debney
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Christopher Lennertz (2003)
Erik Lundborg
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