An interview concerning Alan Wake Soundtrack by (Rick Damigella)

Alan Wake

The Feed recently caught up with composer Petri Alanko to talk about his soundtrack for Alan Wake.  This being Alanko’s first foray into the videogame music realm, we wanted to find out what his music background is and what inspired him in the creation of the aural atmosphere of Alan Wake.  While The Feed wasn’t suffering from writer’s block like Alan Wake, we didn’t want to spend time alone around Cauldron Lake either, so The Feed abducted a few readers to help with interviewing Alanko.  Click and come inside to see if your question made the cut.

The Feed: For your new listeners, please tell us a bit about yourself and some of the other projects beyond Alan Wake which you have scored for?

Petri Alanko: Well, due to my background as a hired gun and specializing in combining electronics with orchestral colours, I’ve done quite a few one-off gigs for advertising agencies – but nothing very specific, though.  Alan Wake is probably the only one heard all over the world, whilst the others have been territorial, or local (Finnish).  There have been sound library projects, music bank stuff, literally everything one can imagine.  Alan Wake was the first from the gaming field, and I enjoyed the experience very much.  I’d hate to see that remain my only game score gig.

The markets in my country are very, very small and the TV/movie sector has been badly oversaturated for years now, so I decided I’d rather try my very best in expanding outwards, to see whether I’ve got the guts for that stuff.  We’ll see, I hope for the best.

Alan Wake composer, Petri Alanko

The Feed: Tell us about what went into composing the score for Alan Wake.  Were there inspirations or preconceived ideas you started from or did you let the muse of the game speak to you?

Heh, sort of allowing the muse to recite, I’d say.  It’s been natural for me to “dive into a picture”, to feel and to dissect things from it, analyzing the minor details in order to build a big picture.  I always link a picture to a sound or a theme, melody, atmospheric background etc.  I do believe everyone has some of that in them, in different amounts and flavors, there’s nothing extraordinary and it’s just a matter of practicing.

In the beginning we did have a discussion of possible styles, but the end result was a bit different.  A lot of the score depended on the raw material, as I felt the long trees needed some scale of distance, length, air, space, and everything around the Bright Falls was more or less surrounded by mountains, bathing in sunlight.  That’s an easy view to compose to.

The Feed: What was the most challenging thing about creating Alan Wake’s music?

The sheer amount of work – I did it all by myself, composing, arranging, some sound libraries, programming, mixing, recording a few quite esoteric instruments.  Thankfully, I didn’t have to deal with setting up the orchestra microphones and recording stuff, as we had only 2.5 weeks to deadline when the orchestra sessions started.

I love facing the challenges, though.  I’ve got a pretty high stress threshold, I can take a _lot_ before I stress.  Having been a touring musician with analogue synths and fragile computers before the age of laptops has taught me quite a lot!

Composing-wise, the most difficult thing was to keep it believable (as in “real life scale”) and touching, at the same time maintaining the suspense and desperation.  It would’ve been easy to just Hollywood it to the max – don’t get me wrong, there are a multiple Hollywood-esque colours, but I’m willing to insist we did it with a northern twist – which was also the reason to minimize the size of the orchestra as well.  The smaller section doesn’t necessarily make a smaller sound, instead you can hear the individual instruments more thoroughly, the individual vibratos, the bows, everything.  Even though there was a lot of stuff going on underneath, the sound of vibrant sections was on top of it all.  There were many “how am I going to fit THIS in” moments, most of them I managed to solve with carving some space to electronics with an EQ – I never touched the orchestra.

The Feed: Our reader Andrew would like to know how you decided to balance the line between emotional and mysterious/spooky themes and sounds when writing the score?

I trusted my guts, literally.  I kept a numbers chart (an OSX application), which had all the themes chronologically, so I always had a clear picture what was put where.  I did a lot of “music bank” stuff, i.e.  generic themes that were meant to be put inside the action scenes as loops, and those had certain qualities as flags (“dark”, “forest”, “city”, “day”, and levels 1 to 5, marking the amount of action).  Also, I had made a lot of memos about the relationships and tensions within levels – and I’m pretty sure nobody else really understands those markings, as they were just symbols and quite abstract words.

Even though I had those magnificent charts and sheets and memos, I still reviewed everything about a million times and went with the flow.  I listened to everything all over again, adding and subtracting things, replacing instruments up until the last minute.  I knew how to stop, though: every time I had the “now THAT’S the right one” moment, I knew I’d gotten to a point where a theme was done.

Of course, a lot of the decisions were reviewed by (Alan Wake developer) Remedy as well and we’d discuss a lot of the motivations behind the scenes.

The Feed: Our reader Ray is curious to know what difficulties or challenges there were in matching the mood of the game play action in a game such as this.

The only problem was to find the right levels of suspense and action, people tend to overact and put too much into too little a bit too soon, so we kept the aforementioned action levels 1-5 quite separated from each other, action-wise.  Levels 1 and 2 being quite easy and more on the subjective side, a “discovering mode”, whereas levels 3-5 were emphasizing the action, all the way to the Rambo territory.

As the game was literally a subjective trip into something dark, we had to keep everything quite close, only releasing the full scale when it was needed – for instance, during a multi-Taken attack.

The Feed: Readers Marlon and Christian point out the game was in development for nearly five years and wanted to know how much time you had to put the music together for it.

Actually, only a few themes were done before the last year in production.  Most of the subjective, moody ambient tracks were created in the first year, but I was constantly concentrating on the stronger themes the last 12-14 months.  I didn’t work all the time, though, there was an odd month here, another there when I was just experimenting, building some of the sounds.  We could’ve done the whole score in a much shorter time – in less than one tenth, if needed – but I did enjoy the longer production time.  It’s a rare treat nowadays.

I didn’t actually count the hours spent working on Alan Wake, as it was more or less prominent in my life all that time.  Sometimes I’d open a rusty, squeaky metal gate somewhere and go “Hmm, this could make a nice pad sound if I record it in 192 kHz and slow it down…” – which I did, very, very often.  Then I’d transfer the file onto my laptop and start processing the hell out of it.  I’ve got a huge library of such sounds now.

The Feed: Andrew asks if you were inspired by other horror/thrillers for the melodies of the pieces in Alan Wake.

Heh, nobody’s going to believe me, but as a small kid the Finnish television broadcasted a lot of old back and white horror movies during the summertime in the 70’s and 80’s and there were a lot of really cool tunes in them – such as The House Of Ushers, for instance, a prime example of grade B horror quality – and they also had a good spree of Angelica movies broadcasted as well…  among others, European films etc.

I’m afraid I cannot point out any real titles, though.  I’ve got a lengthy list of soundtracks in my iTunes, and I like to listen to stuff usually without knowing where the particular piece of music was from.

One thing that’s going to haunt me forever is the theme of The Exorcist.  It’s a prime example of something relatively innocent put into a sinister surrounding, a highly effective theme.  The odd meter and the simple percussive notes combined with dark scenes of that film seen by a kid a bit too young – and a month’s worth of nightmares were the result.

The Feed: What is your reaction to have your work from Alan Wake get the full CD release and digital download treatment?

Alanko: I’m very, very delighted for the opportunity, although I realize the sales figures might not be overwhelming – I’ve got a Google Alert setup sending me stuff daily, and the amount of torrent sites advertising “The Complete ALan WAke SOunDTraCk” is astounding.

It’s a good selection, a sort of “the best of the best”, which creates a solid album.  No fillers, I think, as the tracks were selected based on the composition.

The Feed: What is your take on traditional orchestration in soundtracks versus using primarily electronic instrumentation?

They augment each other, rather than distract.  Used together wisely they create something previously unheard, but doing that takes some effort.  If you just put in some synth stuff, you’ll end up having a track of, well, just that.  Just some synths added to strings.  If they’re processed and treated similarly, they start to merge and glue together in a new way, creating more than what their sum could be aesthetically.  At times I felt like an alchemist.

I like to do FFT-based stuff, but I’m also a fan of analogue processing.  I do similar things with both the contemporary instruments and virtual instruments, just to maintain the integrity – and nothing’s done because it has to be done per sé, it’s done because I hear a sound in my head that cannot be created in any other way.  It’s got nothing to do with cost, effectiveness or having the string players play their violins with electric toothbrushes in the name of eccentricity…  no ego-tripping, here, so to speak.  Just hunting for a right sound.

If we’re talking about doing a synth-only score versus an orchestral score, instead of orchestral libraries versus orchestral, I’d say they both have their pros and cons.  However, due to the recent development in virtual instrument area, one’s willing to think that a synth-only score belongs to the 80’s and is more or less Jan Hammer-esque a la Miami Vice.  Or more TV stuff than game/movie material, X-Files comes first to my mind.  I saw a movie called “Sorcerer” as a younger fellow, and was thrilled due to the fact the score was done by Tangerine Dream – and it worked like one well-greased engine.

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case with synth scores.  Sometimes they’re so filled with preset sounds and off-the-shelf material that even calling them “cheap” would be an overstatement.

Recording real instruments requires certain decades old techniques that almost constantly provides a certain contemporary sound, and sometimes it just doesn’t fit in with the picture.  For instance, the brilliant remake of Solaris has a score by Cliff Martinez, which I simply adore.  It just works and boy, does it sound good! Anything else put into the orbit of a star helping dead people born again would sound…  inadequate?

On the other hand, The Last Samurai would’ve suffered from overwhelming synths.  😀

It’s all about taste and structure, about bringing something extra to life, creating a true audio entity speaking in believable sentences, that’s the beauty of a functioning score.  That entity must have a similar direction with a visual entity, or otherwise they’ll start arguing and both would probably collapse.  If they’re not communicating to each other, they both will be forgotten and perish.

The Feed: What would be a dream soundtrack project for you? It can be any genre from Film, to TV or Games.

This is always a tough question.  I’d LOVE to do anything with Chris Nolan, but he’s already got Hans Zimmer in his phone book, heh.

Oliver Stone has touched my heart more than once as well.  Robert Rodriquez manages to create unique, very believable worlds and his movies have that strong sense of character to sonically build onto – also, his way to interpret stories is more “real” than “bubble gum”, which I prefer.  Also, I’d love to score Alan Wake 2 if there ever will be one, as I feel I could bring it forward sonically.  I’ve got a _LOT_ of ideas for Alan Wake 2, but I’m waiting for their phone call.  If it happens, great!

Also, I’ve noticed I’ve enjoyed the works that George Clooney’s been involved with as a producer – a man with a lotta style – so that’s been a surprise addition to my list lately.  A pleasant surprise, I must add.

I feel I’d be very confident with all subjects dealing with psychological aspects, be that movie, TV or games.  Something based on action only would be less interesting to me.  No fighting games, so to speak.

Back to the question: My dream? A psycho thriller, definitely.  With some epic flavors.  Real characters, love, desperation, resolutions, decisions that turn your world upside down…   Yes, that would be it.

By the way, I’d also like to do a collaboration with some other composer as well, a bit like “this is my idea, build onto that, then send me some of your stuff”.  I wonder if I’ll ever have the chance to do that, though.

The Feed: Is there anything upcoming you are working on now that you can share with us?

I’ve got a meeting next week.  😉 Also, I’ve managed to find a good candidate for an agent as well, so hopefully he’ll help me forward outside of Finland.

After Alan Wake I did the two DLC soundtracks as well, so they kept me on their list, thankfully.  😀

In addition to that, I’ve been building my sound library and tools, done a few remixes, wrote quite a few pop songs and had a vacation, a real one, first in a long time.  We’ve done a track with Slusnik Luna as well, “The Sun 2010″, soon to be released through a major European trance label.  Also, as a father of one (soon two), I’ve had a lot of interesting moments with my son, you know – worms, bees, plants, birds, cars…  it’s a world of surprises.  My son is, by the way, really good at finding interesting sounds, so I’ve been following him literally to every gate, stone, fence, flower pot and whatnot with a handheld recorder.  Also, before my son showed me, I didn’t have the faintest idea how hard one can punch a toy piano _without_ breaking it.  He’d make a good one man test field for just about any manufacturer.”

Alan Wake Soundtrack review by Square Enix Music (9/10)

“The first tracks that I would like to point out are a selection of semi-licensed additions. In game music, when licensed music is involved, it’s too often they are thrown together to create non-descriptive and disappointing mash-up soundtracks. In Alan Wake, though, you’ll find that the contributions from the semi-licensed artists are especially well-selected, and different to what you would expect to hear in any other game. The first featured are a couple of neo-psychedelic tracks from The Black Angels and Anomie Belle. “Young Men Dead” from The Black Angels is a fantastic example of a mind warping track. Dominated by Alex Maas’s dry vocals and a bizarre guitar riff, it excels through its simplicity. Less rock-centred, Anomie Belle’s politically inspired “How Can I Be Sure” rather takes upon a hypnotic downtempo style, concentrating on a trippy electronica beat and provocative vocals.

With these two tracks setting up a nice taster of what to expect from the rest of the licensed artists, you won’t be surprised to hear the similarly hallucinogenic and jazzy “The Beaten Side of Town” from Barry Adamson. With a walking double bass sequence, warm jazz vocals, and steady drum and hi-hat accompaniment, the track is the most prominent easy listening track on the album. The best contribution from the semi-licensed artists though comes in the form of “The Poet and The Muse,” from Poets of the Fall. The intricate guitar accompaniment, soaring vocals, and gentle flute accompaniment all combine to create a fantastic image, highlighted by a beautiful, harmonious chorus, first presented at 0:54. In all, the licensed music featured on this album is very impressive and exemplifies how licensed soundtracks should be done.

Although some of the credit can be attributed to the outside contributing artists, the main success of this soundtrack comes down to the touching and inspiring orchestral original score from Petri Alanko. Orchestrated by Tilman Sillescu’s Dynamedion and performed by the Staatskapelle Halle alongside a gorgeous piano backdrop, the four tracks from the original score featured on this disc are stunning. The first track, “A Writer’s Dream” starts off sweetly and delicately with a clear and crisp piano introduction and yearning strings. The dramatic and explosive transition into a fully orchestrated section at 0:30 brings about so much power in the theme, but only for a short moment, since it soon dies down and turns into an ominous, foreboding section.

The same sense of power touched upon at 0:30 in the first track is revisited in the more elaborate “Welcome to Bright Falls.” The orchestra yields a fantastic melody in the opening stages, and soon we are greeted with a rousing flute part and suspense-filled piano segment. What really makes this track is the gracious piano section from 3:26, which leads out to its end; reverberating, resonating, and delicately breaking (and working with) the silence, Alanko creates a remarkable atmosphere here. Similarly, the piano is just as inviting in the similarly melancholy “The Clicker”. However, its emotive power is shared among the accompanying string sections which it accompanies, which are beautifully performed by Staatskapelle Halle. Few orchestral pieces in a video game are as intimate as this one and the crystal clear recording quality only enhances the effect.

The two most powerful tracks on the album, however, come in the form of “Tom The Diver,” and the collector’s edition remix of the theme. Something about these two tracks is just so tragic and mournful. Though the original version features a larger array of instruments, “Tom The Diver (Collector’s Edition Exclusive Mix” is the most touching of the two; a spurring affair between piano and violin, it is amongst the most simple yet elegant tracks in game music.


Recently, we have seen the release of a large number of beautiful scores from both the Eastern and Western game music worlds. Amongst these, the music from Alan Wake falls into the realm of soundtracks which I find truly captivating on a stand-alone basis, both because of its licensed tracks and its original orchestrations. In addition, it absolutely complements the game play and takes the whole experience to the next level. While this collector’s edition soundtrack is not a complete one, it is nevertheless a fulfilling and cohesive listen that provides a stunning testament to the game’s overall score.

Overall score: 9/10″

Alan Wake Soundtrack review by (Gideon Dabi)

[NOTE: This review deals solely with the original score of Alan Wake written by Petri Alanko, not the licensed tracks.]

Nearly five years in production, Remedy Entertainment’s Alan Wake has already been put at the forefront of the fabled video-games-as-art debate as an example of a truly gripping and interesting game narrative equal to any on the silver screen. Though it’s considered an action game, everything about Alan Wake oozes atmosphere and drama – from the shooting mechanic itself to the mini television episodes that randomly appear.

The story begins with the protagonist, a best-selling author named Alan Wake (what else?), beginning a vacation with his wife in the wooded town of Bright Falls. Clearly modeled after Stephen King’s idyllic Maine setting, we gather fairly quickly that there is more here than meets the eye. Alan begins to realize quite quickly that, somehow, his work – a book he has no recollection of ever writing – might be coming to life.

Finnish composer, Petri Alanko, scores this moody, story-driven game, and does so with much fervor. Does Alanko hit the mark or – like the town of Bright Falls – did he leave us in the dark? Click the jump to find out!

My initial impression of a score is generally the one that stays with me throughout my listening/gaming experience. Recently, the scores of Dante’s InfernoBioshock 2, and Red Dead Redemption, had an immediate visceral response that barely wavered throughout the duration of the soundtrack/game. In short, seldom can I say that a game score has “grown on me.” However, such is the case with Petri Alanko’s fantastic score for Alan Wake. The score grew on me not in its musical aptitude, but in its contextual purpose.

“A Writer’s Dream” opens with a high, sweet and slightly melancholic piano ostinato. Complimented shortly by light strings, Alanko has a subtle, percussive, low cymbal/gong on the downbeat – deliberately dissonant to the melodic theme introduced. Just after expanding on the warm theme, a jarring and frightening modulation takes over. Before our ears can recenter themselves on the new tonality, the theme brilliantly returns to its original key. Much like a dream, somehow there is a cohesion but there are no rules. Had Mr. Alanko kept the theme in its original theme, the resulting piece may have been a bit easier to completely absorb, but it is obvious the intentions here were to keep the drama just a but unsettled, much like Alan’s dream.

Strangely enough, the most jarring response I had was the use of the piano; a most unexpected lead instrument in an action-horror-survival-like game. Though capable of being dark, the piano is a bright and warm instrument that usually evokes a certain emotional sensibility, not one of horror or action. Wisely, I gave it a chance and I never looked back.

“The Clicker”, a piece which comes much later in the experience is a two-minute marvel. It is largely piano, strings, and high, soft percussion. Coming at a reflective moment in the game, Mr. Alanko turns what might be scored by others to be heroic or even ordinary, and turns the moment into something far more introspective and emotionally deep. It is, once again, the use of the piano in a situation that one might never expect it that makes it so effective.

The action cues of Alan Wake are much more musical and lyrical in nature than one might expect an action thriller in the woods to have. In particular, “Mirror Peak” is a percussive gem but never falls short recapitulating similar themes to the slower, more emotional tracks. Thus, we never feel that the action scenes are disconnected from the plot-heavy or moving scenes because the voice of the score remains constant and intact. There are moments where Mr. Alanko flirts with schmaltz, but he always steers comfortably clear of it simply by never allowing the style or the emotion of the moment to detract from its musical integrity.

Lastly, there is “Welcome to Bright Falls”, which would probably be considered the main theme of Alan Wake. It is a simplistic, full, and satisfying string-heavy piece with piano and oboe. It is not a dark, scary or unsettling theme. I might even go so far as to say that this piece is beautiful and full of yearning – as though it were an entity trying its best to free itself from the story’s dark and brooding atmosphere. It is here that Mr. Alanko shows his artistically magnanimous nature by focusing on the beautifully noble cause of creating light wherever there is darkness. Alan Wake is a love story and an honorable battle within its dark and often frightening setting, and Petri Alanko’s score fearlessly defies this setting….just as Alan Wake must.

I had incredibly high expectations for this score as Alan Wake’s subject matter and genre are right up my alley. Mr. Alanko managed to change what I wanted out of the score. Essentially, he went so far in his own direction with what he wanted to achieve dramatically and musically using the tools he wanted – whether conventional for the genre and/or drama being played out on the screen or not – and managed to convince me that this was the better way.

Every artist makes choices within his own works or performances. It is imperative that the artist back up these choices no matter how insignificant they may seem. It is obvious that Mr. Alanko has made these choices with striking clarity and purpose. It is not often that a composer is able to reshape the listener’s esoteric view of a story and with an unabashed, beautiful clarity using simple but staggering melodies. Remedy Entertainment better know how lucky they are to have made this choice because Petri Alanko has certainly backed them up.

Square Enix Music published Alan Wake post mortem essay by Petri Alanko

It’s quite rare to come across a gig with which you’ve got plenty of time to “grow” into and with the characters and locations. Furthermore just as rare is the chance to test things and let everything evolve, teem inside one’s mind, grow stuff, so to speak. I had that chance with Alan Wake, and it turned out to be a rather educating journey into character development and theme composition. I’d say it was my high school, university and thesis. No, two theses, both in marketing and development. I’ve had formal studies, but unfortunately none of it all ever prepared me to this, neither did any of my previous gigs. I found it very valuable and would like to share it, now that I’ve had enough time to dissect some of it.

It all started about five years ago, when Remedy was looking for a guy who would be capable of composing orchestral music and memorable themes — and didn’t fear electronics, either. I’m known to be “a bit” on the geeky side, due to my university studies in the early nineties: I’d studied theoretical physics, musicology and computation science (or just “programming” nowadays). Also I’d studied in a conservatoire in Finland, classical piano among others, so I sort of had all the necessary features. No updates needed.

I’ve been in this business for quite some time, seeing better and worse times, and a mutual friend of mine and Remedy’s actually introduced us to each other. Shortly after his tip, I got a call from a Remedy representative, out of the blue, and was shown the first pictures and a pre-rendered movie — and asked whether I was interested at all. I tried my very best to hide my excitement, but I think the fellows on the other side of the table saw right through me. I could hardly sit still, my skin was going goosebumps all over; I wanted that gig badly, more than anyone else. We agreed to do a test before signing anything else besides the imperative NDA. I was given a rather healthy time span, two weeks, to score a video in which the surroundings of Bright Falls — the locale — were demonstrated, seeing through a flying cam. In the end of the video, the camera lands right next to our protagonist, Mr. Wake.

I kept doing notes whilst watching the video, right there on the spot, in the dark meeting room: just words, graphic shapes, a curve representing the form of a valley. Light, sun. Just words. I think I was quite quiet the rest of that day. I let the movie clip be that day; the next day I got up early and watched the clip again, browsed through my notes, wondering whether I could catch the same feelings, the same themes, the same other reality. I did. I remembered what each graphic symbol represented, understood, each blindly written word. It probably sounds a good leap towards the synaesthesia, but I’ve found it very easy to write onto the picture. Writing onto a movie clip is even easier. Somehow, it just clicks easily. After a short while I had a theme and motifs to at least three others. One of them began ringing in my head when the camera first landed next to Wake.

Flying above the mountains and valleys bathing in an autumn sun is one of the easiest tasks, I’d say — and the nice Remedy folks liked the output, obviously. After a short while they gave me that gig. There were not enough chances in Finland to do things in that magnitude and I knew nobody outside Finland in the entertainment business other than pop music, so it was pretty clear I’d beat the shit out of myself if I didn’t give the project my 100%. Heck, the last three most successful movies in Finland had a budget of about 80% of Alan Wake‘s marketing budget, I suppose. That’s those three combined, mind you, which quite easily tells the story of the Finnish entertainment business in so-called traditional area, so no wonder they are increasingly using catalogue music. A sad truth, and unfortunately I’ve lately found the new colleagues abroad complaining the same. It’s always a nice touch to have a track in a movie that’s also cut into a laxative advertisement — and into a bathroom cleaner product ad as well. Go, producers, go… product placement gone bad, so to speak. Karma becomes true: you get what you deserve.

Shortly afterwards, the first leg began. I was given a rough manuscript, even some facial pictures of the people casted for the roles — the casting was still going on, so some of the faces kept on changing. Even the plot was changing constantly, and I had to adapt to changes quickly. Thankfully, what was originally Mr. Wake, was Wake to the end. The looks, the serious face, the rough style, even the stubble. Also, Bright Falls never changed, at least I never saw it changing, whatever’s the truth. It almost felt like every other character kept on evolving, growing, one might say, whilst the location stood still; as if decades went by fast-forwarding, leaving their marks on the characters, while the guys were honing the twists and turns.

The first stages of the score development were pretty rough to do. There was a lot of trial and error involved, but thankfully that phase of chaos lasted only for about one or two months and I concentrated on the stronger themes, knowing that the rest would follow once I’ve set the direction. Also, I never played these first cues to anyone. During that time I managed to compose quite a few strong themes — one of them being what’s now called the “Welcome to Bright Falls” theme. It was very clear from the beginning that it was exactly the right theme for coloring the arrival to Bright Falls just the way we see it in the game: Lots of early autumn air, sunshine, cool air on your face, smell of water and the shores, it was all there.

The other “old” themes were, of course, the eight notes of an Alan Wake theme, the ones that keep on surfacing every now and then, which I composed for an early game show concept trailer. It even got orchestrated, but back then it was far too furious (even baroque to some extent) to be used as Wake’s personal theme. Every time something essential or fundamental happens to Wake, those eight notes are there, even though Wake himself wouldn’t be present. Eventually, the Alan Wake theme evolved into a theme that can be heard in the “previously in Alan Wake” scenes. Actually, there’s virtually nothing in common with that original orchestral, “baroque” theme, but the same eerie sense of mystery is still all over the theme. Remedy wanted the “previously” cue to resemble a similar cue from, say, a TV series. After playing the game, I must say it really works. I do miss those other notes. Whereas the first eight notes represented Wake’s determination, search (of himself and the truth), current state of mind and an ongoing mission, the rest of the theme was bringing up his motives and tools, i.e. ways to overcome the situation in which he was involved with in the game. To grow and to conquer, so to speak.

Also, some of the more sinister ambient tracks were also created during that period. At that time there were no plans about using an orchestra, so I did my best to mock things as well as I could, with different commercial sample libraries and other techniques, in addition to some things done by myself over the years. I was prepared to do quick movements if orchestra was ever needed, so I kept my sequences quite clean, just in case I had to print out a rough score. Keeping clean and naming sequences are two different things, mind you. I never do the latter. Miraculously, I always find what I need. Also, that might be the reason why the only two assistant candidates I’ve ever had didn’t last that long.

Every time I was shown yet another movie or a pre-rendered cinematic, I always had to write something down whilst driving back home. Most of the melodies were actually created on the road. Sometimes the score I was writing into my ragged notebook was so complex that I had to stop the car. Sometimes I was just drawing those cryptic graphic symbols representing an ambient thing I kept hearing in my head whilst watching the pre-rendered clip for the first time. That actually tells quite a lot of Remedy’s standards: most of the ideas were so refined from the beginning, that there was an incredible amount of emotion involved on the screen. On the other hand, it also tells something about my way to work: I like to focus on the first impression, to avoid the so-called “advertisement agency downward spiral” because eventually it all comes back down to its roots — the first impression. No need for versions B to Z, A is all you need. But that requires some confidence, and is actually an antithesis to my other rules: go deeper. Let grow. Don’t believe the appearance. Find out what keeps them going.

I really like to go deeper than that first impression, because otherwise you’d end up with a “normal” score, something shallow. I was moved by the computer graphics, but I knew the score would be too thin if I just “decorate” it with underlining that was happening on the screen. I did two things: I sequenced a rough and dirty demo with the ideas I had gotten from the first glimpse, and then inspected the scene a much longer time with something combining the character motives and tools. I kept referring this as “peeling the character”, or onion method, according to a term used in our meetings. Sometimes peeling was harder as I wasn’t told everything about the plot and the people, and I had to literally run with my eyes closed. There were multiple “trust your feelings, Luke” moments along the way, I must say.

In the end, most of the themes were created this way to their final form. For instance, Mr. Wake was originally pictured as a victim, an epicenter of events and it wasn’t until the car crash in the forest moment when he became “a man on a mission”, but without a motive. The motive itself became clear a bit later, whereas Mr. Wake’s tool changed from emergency, a will to survive, to guilt, very, very strong guilt. And THAT’S when the scoring became the best job in the world. Just lean back and watch the cinematics or the storyboards and let the music flow.

Sometimes what I’d done reflected the final cinematic output because the cinematic team was proceeding at a similar pace, making finished clips along the way, doing tiny changes according to music. The boss of the cineteam really loved to make me cry, sometimes to an extent I started thinking it was a challenge, but the cinematics were just so damn good dramatically from the beginning. There were many “oh god, now I know what to do” moments.

Most the themes involving Alice were done by just looking at her/the actor’s casting picture and reading the few pieces of manuscript I had gotten — how much more Alan Wakeish could scoring be, by the way? Her theme had to be fragile, cozy, willowish (a.k.a. “bending, not breaking”) and a bit hazy, yet warm. Originally I imagined Alice watching Wake drawing further away from a cozy cottage in the countryside, “man’s gotta do what man’s gotta do” tears in her eyes. Quite an innocent scene, but I had nothing else back then. When I finally saw the cinematic involving Alice and Wake in their New York apartment’s coach, it clicked. Clicked, indeed — especially when the “Clicker” theme was combined to Alice’s.

There were multiple moments such as this during the game, I had a lot of fun combining the characters’ themes — sometimes the results were stunning, sometimes I kept them just to myself. Thankfully Remedy never wanted to hear a combination of AW/Barry theme. It was… different. What really brought Barry’s theme, “The Well-Lit Room” alive was one sentence I got into my head from one memoir, “There are always tears in a clown’s eyes.” Even though he’d been a comic relief throughout the game, I had to emphasize his softer side in the scene where Wake takes the Sheriff’s gun and says goodbye to his old pal, Barry. Barry’s reaction — he hugs Wake — was something deeper than just a New Yorker saying goodbye. It was probably the last time the two ever saw one another. Barry has obviously issues, with his shorter form yet somewhat larger waist, and his face isn’t a heartbreaker either, so he’s got a lot to compensate for and a lot to hide behind the jokes and easygoingness. After that realization, it was very, very, easy to go for that string melody line after the piano intro. The intro was originally “The Andersons” but we gave it up. Banjos, dobros, lap steel… well, let’s say it seriously had to go.

“Alice’s Theme” or rather “The Clicker” was actually much longer than what we hear now in the game or on the Limited Collector’s Edition CD, with happier sections which had to be removed due to the plot and what’s happening in the game. I still mourn the absence of her whole theme. The other rather tragic character was Tom Zane, the Diver. He’d gone through similar occurrences compared to Wake’s and was left to the “other side”. At the same time he’d lost his love, so I had the chance of composing to something heart-crushing. I’ve had my fair share of bad luck, so it sort of came naturally — the peak of the theme symbolizing his past, the settling ending representing his current motive. He’s actually the only one really helping Wake, in the end, putting himself in the line of fire, even sacrificing everything, including his own “life”. In a way I was composing a theme for a redeemer, a character paying with his own blood, and I had to use a viola for that. No other instrument can really describe flowing tears (and blood) better.

The orchestra question was brought on the table during October 2009, if I remember correctly. By then I was having a five-lane scoring highway in front of me, quite a monster task, that one — especially when taking into account that over 200 minutes of the music was composed during summer 2009 to January 2010. As I like to work by myself — composing, arranging, recording, mixing — I have become quite an ace to create timetables. There were at least six levels without music at all, and some character and location themes had appeared on the to-do list as well. The last weeks were on a tight schedule: up at seven, work from eight to noon, one-hour break, then continue from 1 PM to 6 PM, dinner, do orchestra stems and ambient tracks from 7 to 9 PM, have a cup of chamomile tea, try to sleep. It’s embarrassing I have to emphasize that I really liked such a military diary, but it was… invigorating? I really miss that time. However, I don’t miss the sitting still as I like to exercise, to run etc.

Thankfully, I got some extra hands from Germany for the orchestration. Dynamedion’s orchestrator David Christiansen did a really nice job. The conductor was well-managed to get the string section to sound like it should be, and phrasing was very important here as some of the orchestral nuances were tied to hand movements on the early cinematics, for instance. All of the orchestra tracks were mixed in five days, just before my deadlines. I had to combine a hefty load of electronics with the delicate orchestral tracks I had received from Germany, and in some of the cases I had to re-work everything underneath to lift up some of the more intimate stuff and to give way to the orchestra. In some of the cues there were 200+ tracks of ambient stuff, percussion, synth layers from analog gear, tiny effected sounds emphasizing what’s happening on the screen and bounced effect returns (which were again re-effected). I even created about two dozen reverb convolution samples for some of the more esoteric cues, raking snow, ripping paper, dropping ball bearings into a water glass… Due to my background, I had also created a special Ambient Machine for Symbolic Sound Pacarana’s processor just to help me create evolving musical drones, controlled by a keyboard and a multiple controllers. I ported that to Native Instruments’ Reaktor 5 later. It’s very prominent in the level 15, by the way.

In some of the cues there are only sampled strings, in some of them there are only real ones, but almost certainly there’s always something doubling the original string recordings, be that either Novachord or Mellotron or a single Tuvan monk doubling the contrabass section. In the middle of all that electronic mumbo-jumbo, it was always very important to keep the original immediate emotional strike just above the waterline: whatever happens in the background, no matter how much dark waters are swelling, there has to be a melody that someone could hum. You can’t really hum battle drum rolls, can you? With that melody, I tried to keep the character’s ultimate motif up and close. And it also helps to bring a character or a situation much closer to the gamer, the end user who’d paid his/her money for the game. In a way, putting your time and effort to the melodies is a marketing tool; it’s an effective way to engage the end user to the product. Engage their feelings and their ass will follow, as Gordon Gekko would say. To put the greedy sounding topic aside, I have to emphasize the importance of ethics: you’re only as true as your output is. Once you’re in it only for the money, your output starts degrading.

The first lesson I ever learned during the project was “never underestimate the power of a good melody”, even though using methods of scoring of a romantic movie didn’t seem to fit in the thriller environment. How wrong was I? That quote was a long time on my wall, as a reminder. It was only replaced by “a warrior is no less a warrior if he’s crying” right before the deadline. I wanted to keep myself on the tracks that way. Every morning I listened to some cues I’d mixed the day before to see whether they needed fixes and to see whether they moved me in any way. I remember fixing only a few out of what seems like a hundred. Probably the most important lesson was to learn how important it really is to keep increasing the output quality, to keep on learning, to understand that a composer is never graduated or “ready”. He’s always on the edge, leaning towards the wind.”

Alan Wake reviewed by

“It’s amazing what a little bit of hype, a few commercials, and word-of-mouth can do for a game. I remember the debut trailer for Alan Wake back at E3 2005 and then it was completely off my radar…until about a week ago. I remember seeing the promotional display at my local GameStop. It caught my eye but that was about it. I mentioned it to a friend behind the cash wrap and he said it was getting some good reviews early on. Most games do so I thought nothing of it. It wasn’t until later that night while I was browsing the CheapAssGamer forums (which I frequent often) that I saw all of the hype from my fellow peers.

“OMG this” and “OMG that”. People were talking about everything from the graphics to the story and it was all positive. Considering Silent Hill: Homecoming left a bad taste in my mouth, my interest in a potentially GOOD story-driven horror/survival game was extremely high. Fast forward a few days and I bit the bullet, twice actually. I ordered Alan Wake on only to see Amazon put the game up for the same price the next morning, though with my Prime shipping, I would have it in two days instead of a week. Walmart, by some chance happening, arrived the day of release. I couldn’t believe it. And that’s where this review begins…

The game is broken up into episodes, six to be exact. Episode 1 is a great introduction to the game; the mechanics, combat, characters, it’s all there. The player is treated to some great cinematics early on, you can tell Remedy took their time (about five years) with this. The atmosphere is especially well done, providing a great sense of uncertainty while not relying (too heavily) on cheap scares. Without giving anything away, do NOT skip the ending of each chapter. This game has a GREAT soundtrack. Props to Petri Alanko, the soundtrack composer, for providing some of the best music in a game since Fallout 3. At the heart of all of this is the story. While a bit clichéd (though what game isn’t these days), Alan Wake is paced perfectly, minus a slight hiccup in the form of episode 3 which feels like it dragged on a bit too long.

I would like to make a special note that the AI in Alan Wake is some of the best I’ve seen. Unlike most games where enemies come at you one at a time, Alan Wake proves that AI can actually be smart (no pun intended). The player will often be attacked by 3-4 enemies at once, from all sides, with 4 or 5 more enemies coming out of the shadows a short distance away. This can make things quite frantic, but it is extremely fun and rewarding at the same time. Assassin’s Creed, I hope you’re paying attention…

Graphically, Alan Wake is very hit or miss. Some scenes look great, others, not so much. Remedy definitely nailed the atmosphere though; a perfect blend of darkness with just the right touch of light here-and-there. The inky mists that start to form before enemies take on their full shapes is excellent. There are a few graphical glitches, such as the occasional texture pop-in, but nothing major. I noticed a lot of jagged edges and blurry textures on the characters throughout the game. It wasn’t all that distracting but it was noticeable. Overall, the game looks good and you’ll likely be too busy taking in the scenery to nitpick.

When it comes to bringing the characters to life, the voice-acting is great…for the most part. There are a few characters that lack emotion, but the main characters do a pretty damn good job. I would have liked to of seen some better lip syncing but beggars can’t be choosers as they say. It’s something I’m sure they will improve with the inevitable sequel. The sound effects are equally good, though I did come across a small glitch where the sound cut out during a scene (lasted about 2-3 minutes). Nothing to worry about and if anything, the silence made the game even creepier since there were enemies all around.

Overall, I really enjoyed Alan Wake. I did experience a few moments of frustration, but they were [mostly] my own doing more than anything else. I must admit that every time I came across a TV, no matter what was going on around me or outside, I HAD to watch each and every episode of ‘Night Springs’. Fans of The Twilight Zone will instantly recognize the similarities between the two. Each episode lasts a good two and a half to three minutes and are scattered throughout the game. Definitely well worth a moment of your time.

When all is said and done though, I can’t help but feel slightly cheated out of my $60. The game, while fun, is a bit on the short side. I sped through the game on Normal difficulty in about 6-7 hours. That included some minor exploration every now-and-then. You could probably beat this in 5-6 hours if you don’t explore at all. With that in mind, if this is how ‘episodic’ content is going to be done, I approve. I would have preferred one more episode (roughly another hour or 2), but I’m extremely happy that Remedy didn’t tack on a half-assed multiplayer like many games have done in the past (or vice versa with the singleplayer). If you want to experience a good story, some great gameplay, and some excellent atmosphere, definitely pick this up. If you’re still not quite sure, wait for this to drop to around about $40. I will note that anyone who picked the game up at launch will see a code inside the game case, redeemable for DLC slated to be released sometime ‘this summer’. So perhaps that is the extra episode I was hoping for. We’ll find out in a couple of months.

  • Gameplay: The combination of flashlights, flares, and guns are a treat to play with. Practice definitely pays off but you don’t need first-person shooter precision to do well. Actual intelligent AI pays huge dividends when it comes to combat.
  • Graphics: The game looks good, though you will notice the occasional hiccup every once-in-a-while. The backdrops are amazing and some scenes will leave you just standing there starring. There are some moments where the framerate drops and textures get a little…not-so-pretty, but those happen infrequently and shouldn’t distract most people.
  • Sound: Hands-down some of the best atmosphere you will hear in a game. The voice-acting is good, though a few of the characters could have done better.
  • Multiplayer: There is none, though with three difficulties to play through, and plenty of extras to try and obtain, you should get a good 10-15 hours out of the game should you choose to find everything.

Final Score: 8.7 out of 10.”

Alan Wake Soundtrack review by

Alan Wake has a soundtrack that mixes alt-rock, psychedelia and pulp-twang with Petri Alanko’s haunting orchestral landscapes. Although more noticeably uneven when out of the game, the mix manages to create a pleasurable and less earnest listen.

The soundtrack is available in the Alan Wake Limited Edition box set. Not only nicely packaged in a faux book box, it also comes with a real novel, the game itself and plenty of other goodies. The soundtrack is on a CD and as such will play on any CD player. My mp3 player seemed to struggle to bring up names for each track, so I had to add them manually – listed at bottom.
Alanko has created a musical grammar for Alan Wake that reminded me of those sad unfolding 90’s dramas. The solitary piano and shivering violins avoid becoming too stereotyped though as does the brooding development of darker tones.
A Winter’s Dream sets us up for forthcoming disasters and sets out Alanko’s stall – a sweeping epic backdrop to play against. Although never becoming choral, these recreate similar emotion to Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings orchestration.
Welcome to Bright Falls is most iconic offering here, and reoccurs most often in the game – as well as plenty of trailers over the last few years. The strings take a lead throughout but are book-ended by piano and woodwind that combine to create moments shrouded in real emotions.
The Clicker is the shortest of the tracks and seems to be more functional than fully formed. Here, that album gives away a video gaming remit. Tom the Driver then dials things down as we move from the sweeping movements of the big screen to something much more like TV. And it all works well to signpost the album’s change of gear towards a more modern varied crescendo.
Where the grand motifs of Alanko touch on something disturbing, these modern songs keep that feeling rooted in reality.
Nestled amongst these orchestral pieces are some left-field modern tracks. It would have been easy for Remedy to reach for familiar or well known pieces to punctuate their game, but instead there has been considerable work tracking down these rare and underrated songs.
Young Men Dead from Black Angels is real neo-psychedelia with an energy that makes you want to reach for the controller again. We move from this back to Alanko’s work, but not before being stopped off at the amiably droopy vocals of Anomie Belle’s How Can I Be Sure.
By keeping the minor theme, both these tracks create a real sense of soulful blues. Where the grand motifs of Alanko touch on something disturbing, these modern songs keep that feeling rooted in reality. Barry Adamson is case in point, with a gravely lyric and blues lick, his Beaten Side of Town’s half-spoken half-sung narration brings to mind front-porch improvisation as much as anything intentional.
From here we are taken straight into the glamour of Barry Adamson’s The Beaten Side of Town. This is a real rock-opus, story within a story, and in the game a happy break from Wake’s concerns about the night.
It made the hairs on my neck stand up as its staccato strumming and electric lead called me into a world of 70’s James Bond mystery.
Dead Combo’s Pulp Fiction plucked melody stands out amongst this company. It made the hairs on my neck stand up as its staccato strumming and electric lead called me into a world of 70’s James Bond mystery.
We are returned to Alanko’s safe hands to finish. It left me impressed by the balance between well chosen original tracks and the commissioned material. It’s a combination that feels much more alive and human than some more earnest video games.
But as an album this mix still jars a little. I’d like to be given the space to journey into one or other of these musical camps. With the upcoming CD release of the score this will soon be possible, I only hope they also do right by their other musical choices and offer a CD of the modern music too.
Like the game that dialled down its open world ambitions, the soundtrack also keeps its feet on the ground. When it revels in the TV genre, rather than trying to be too filmic, the album really delivers. And when this works it adds a genuine feel of longevity to the game as a whole. “The volumetric fog, light, amazing sound design and of course the absolutely incredible soundtrack Petri Alanko has composed for that game, really does bring together an incredibly eerie feeling.” “Remedy is really pushing surround use and LFE (bass) response to build tension and create fear as new “phenomena” are discovered, while the score by Petri Alanko is appropriately spooky. Those of you with a 5.1 system and a decent subwoofer will greatly benefit.”

Jeff Talks Games: “Petri Alanko, who composed the score, deserves some serious praise for being able to set the mood and tone of the game. There were times I realized I was sitting on the edge of my couch even though there was nothing going on with regards to action – it was all based on the music.” “(In Googlish:) On the other hand, the game’s soundtrack is provided by Petri Alanko. This multifaceted creative is driven by a variety of genres throughout his career: Alanko compositions created for Alan Wake (emphasizing the main line) are of astonishing quality. Without any doubt, worth checking out the career of this unknown composer, to realize that there are true geniuses in every corner of the planet.” (check the original article in Spanish)

Game-OST interviewed Petri Alanko about Alan Wake Soundtrack, sessions and possible future projects

After 5 years of full time development we are ready for Alan Wake. It lost PC as a platform, changed many conceptions, became Xbox 360 exclusive and finally it is now cult for many people without being seen. Remedy, famous for its “when it’s done” adding last traits to game and plan to release it on May 21st. We were able to find Alan Wake’s composer Petri Alanko and ask him pretty intimate questions about AW. Check it out!

Hi! We don’t know anything about you, give us some words. What was your life before Alan Wake?

Well, I may be a newcomer amongst game composers, but I’ve actually done this more or less frequently since early nineties. I was a hired hand, doing pop production, composing pop/rock songs, all of which were probably too complicated and/or artsyfartsy to be hugely successful. I’ve had a few minor hit-ish songs with some local Finnish groups, though. The last seven years I’ve been closely involved with audio branding and sound design as well, among my clients there are Sulake Corporation (Habbo Hotel + other services provided by Sulake), a Certain Very Big Unnamed Finnish mobile device manufacturer (hah, my NDA says I shouldn’t mention the name anywhere) for which I did many things, quite a few record companies (the only missing is BMG I think), ad agencies… bits and pieces for everyone, it seems.

petri_alanko_color1.jpg image17.jpg

I’ve always been very interested in club scene as well, although my clubbing years are practically history right now – but my love to music still exists. I used to have a studio with one of the Europes leading trance DJs, Orkidea, with whom I had some great time doing music. His Metaverse album, for which I did production in cooperation with him as well as composing and programming stuff, is actually among my favorite productions. Also I’ve done some remixing plug other quite odd stuff under the moniker Lowland – check out Orkidea vs. Solarstone“Slowmotion (Lowland remix)” and also the album “Classical Trancelations”, released by Armada in 2008 (available in Amazon or iTunes), on which I’m interpreting the trance classics in a slightly different way, a homage to heros, so to say. The last 5 tracks are actually quite good, imho. By the way, “Lowland” is my family name translated into English, given to me by my English teacher in… whaaaat? 1980? Goddammit, time flies.

In short, life has been easy and good, hopefully it’ll continue that way. I like peace and tranquility, being alone with my ideas, let them grow and evolve. I do have my social side as well, but it seems I’m more or less a typical Finnish Jekyll/Hyde.

If I find time and necessary motivation, I’d like to do an album combining that club scene thing and ambient stuff involving real instruments – not the most original idea, I’m afraid. Usually all the projects heading that way end up being just hideously bad and uncommercial in a way beyond one’s imagination. 🙂 In pro music world they have a special word for such records: “Crap”.

But: anything works as long as there’s a good melody and it moves something inside your head. Hopefully something else than just a toothbrush. 😀

Whom did you want to be when you were child? When did you start to study music?

It’s easy. I wanted to be a composer since – what, age five? My grandmother noticed I had musical tendencies and bought me a cheap electric organ, which soon was sold and we got a piano. I was four then. My parents took me to a local conservatoire in Lahti, Finland (the place I was born and lived in the first 18 years), which was horrendous as a first experience. I thought they were going to send me away! 😀 After the first lesson I didn’t want to leave, I wanted to suck it all in – so I cried coming in and going out. It began there and then: I knew I wanted to play music. The desire to compose songs came a few weeks later, although I was very aware of the patience needed. I probably did my first “composition” years after that, probably at the age of 11 or 12. It was a peppy and ridiculous song along the lines ofDepeche Mode á la 1981… oh dear, I’m blushing. It was a really bad song, I have to say, and I knew it already back then.

Do you  have musical education? What instruments are you able to play and have in your collection right now?

I played piano for what seems ages now, it was an active part of my life from age 5 to 19, until my graduation from high school. I’ve let my technique rot, unfortunately. I’ve also studied classical organs (one of my teachers was Kalevi Kiviniemi, who’s a brilliant and innovative organist) – hey, if there’s ever going to be Alan Wake 2, I want to play some church organ stuff in!

(Having said that, the Remedy people probably ditch me from their buddy list. :-D)

I also studied Musicology at the University of Jyväskylä and got somehow lured to study theoretical physics, Pascal and C, but to be honest, that’s not my slice of bread. I dropped out when the allure of the pop world became too forceful to resist – In reality, I was broke, had no food in the fridge (I’ve lived with a can of beans and a rye bread for 5 days in the early nineties – now if that’s not bad then I don’t know what is) and had realised I’d be going straight towards the unemployment if I continued that path. One thing lead to another and there was I, recording, mixing, programming synths, doing studio stuff.

There were only a few guys doing that professionally back then, making samples and sounds for a living – add songwriting to that and you’ve got a few coins in your pocket. Coins, not notes, mind you. Back in the old days (pre-virtual instrument era) it was, for example, just a synth or a sampler plugged into a mixer with a dreadful delay or digital reverb in a send channel. You had to learn to be creative – restrictions have been my best teacher. Keyboards are my main instrument and I’ve got a decent collection of analog synths and instruments – all of which are used on a daily basis. I don’t like to keep things just because I want to own something.

My gear (mostly used in Alan Wake):

• Apple Mac Pro (with 16 GB RAM, 8 TB hard disk space) with MOTU 2408 mkIII + 24 i/o and RME FireFace 400 interfaces and CME UF80 keyboard and Logic Pro 8/9
• Clavia Nord Modular G2X (used as an external processor a lot)
• Roland JP-8000, JD-990, XV-5080 (well, not used in AW. Actually I don’t remember the last time I have had them switched on. I may have to delete a few sentences I wrote earlier… and sell these.)
• Roland SH-101 (red), SH-2, V-Synth XT (all of which got used a LOT in AW, I had V-Synth GT as well, but its USB midi clock sync was so bad it was beyond my sense of humour, so it had to go during the early stages.)
• Sequential Circuits Pro-One (with SynthWood modifications), serviced and fully functional, very prominent during the last 5 levels, doubling bass, adding depth, multitracked, doubled, quadrupled – I quite seldom use only one of something, I like layers.
• Oberheim Matrix-12 and Xpander (you can hear these in level 15, for example), my favorite analogue all-in-ones. Those two midied together = damn! It’s like with sex, if it’s a bit dirty, it’s right. 😀
• Access Music Virus TI Polar (if there’s distorted noise or dissonances, it’s this one)
• Open Labs Miko LXD (with Hartmann Neuron VS + Nuke controller, used as a substitute for my Neuron, which was malfunctioning badly at times and now it’s gone)
• Waldorf MicroQ Rack (mostly off all the time)
• UseAudio Plugiator with all plugs – Odyssey model gets used a lot, I’m searching for a nice Odyssey instead, by the way. Or the Creamware Prodyssey module with knobs.
• Unitor 8 mk2 and AMT8 MIDI interfaces
• Kenton Pro 4 MIDI/CV interface for the analog machines
• Line6 Pod XT Live
• Eurorack Modular (9 oscillators, 7 different VCFs, 8 ENV generators, 4 LFOs and loads of other modules… it’s a black hole, actually. Sucking all my time right now as I’m doing analogue noodlings to be used as building blocks for later use)
• Symbolic Sound Kyma/Paca with a TC Konnekt interface (ADAT pipe to 2408mkIII)
• Focusrite Liquid Mix and Liquid Channel
• Universal Audio UAD-2 with Neve and SSL plugins as well as Roland stuff and “the usual classic things”, Harrison EQ… a workhorse, this one.
• Yamaha D-85 Electone electric organ from late 70’s (also not used in AW)
• Yamaha VL-70m for some woodwind-ish things and esoteric breath instruments – I’d like to have a VL-1, though.
• Korg DSS-1 sampler (which has its fifth disk drive right now, it just eats them alive, I’m afraid)
• A brandless cello, a trombone and a nice acoustic guitar (Martin, if I remember correctly), which my father uses a lot – oh, and a beaten-up huge upright piano which sounds like a grand piano because of its tuning. A friend of mine tried his best to tune it and it just sounds great. Unfortunately I don’t have space for it in my studio, so I have to grab my mics, laptop and FireFace 400 everytime I need something real.
• Haken Audio Continuum (I sold this over a year ago, but I did some nice background pad things with it and Kyma’s Stinger/Atmospheric Machine which I created for this project)

How did you get this Alan Wake job? Did you have experience in creating game or movie soundtracks before the Alan Wake? Are you freelancer or Remedy in-house composer?

A mutual friend of mine & Remedy’s people introduced us to each other, I was and still am a freelancer. I had done quite a few classical-ish things during the years and Remedy asked this fellow if he knew someone who could deliver a catchy theme for an early teaser trailer. Well, obviously they liked my output, considering the current situation. 

It’s actually quite flattering, because they could’ve chosen any other top name from their list, but these things are more of chemistry than of fancy titles and Curriculum Vitaes. It just “happened”, so to speak. The first clip I saw was so full of believable atmosphere that the theme practically wrote itself. When I saw the first picture of Alan Wake (with a gun in his hand, the other holding a flashlight), that was it. I sort of knew what it needed. Things come out easily with me, though, I’m not sure if this is the right way to put it in words, but it seems I’m sort of a synaesthetic as I “hear” what pictures are craving for.

Maybe I just wanted this job so bad they decided to surrender and let me do it. Maybe I had the right spark in my eyes. 

What’s the very first thing you do while you are creating your music? Could you estimate an average time you spend for creating a single composition?

Considering AW and its cinematics, I set some dogmas for scoring, some sonic boundaries which I knowingly refused to cross. The boundaries were level-dependent and I never set the same rules twice. I carefully studied the environment, people involved, time of the day, weather… oh dear, people will probably think I’m just another seriously anal control freak knobhead. Which I probably am! 😀

Usually it begun by staring in awe at the raw cinematics cut byStobe Harju (if he ever makes a movie, I really, really, really want to score that – a nice fella with lots of attitude, vision and experience) and after the tears settle, I’ll start analyzing what moved me. I need to have an anchor around which the rest of the music is created. Usually it’s a very tiny thing, I’ll call that a trigger. It can be something as simple as Alice’s pose on a ferry in the beginning of the game, or the way the Remedy people had managed to create “sense of weather”. In that same scene (arriving Bright Falls) the whole setting is very believable, very tangible, every detail’s in its place.

Some things come out easily, such as the “Eight Alan Wake Notes”, which I heard in my head the moment I saw the first picture of him. Actually, that’s a variation of Johann Sebastian Bach’s B-A-C-H, for which I have a weak and soft spot in my heart. Bach is something I really enjoyed to play and listen to when I was young. Also, the same notes hold the illusion of suspense and thrill, them being quite dissonant when played together. Again, this 8-note thing has an echo from the 70’s and 80’s, as almost every TV action/thriller series had a “to be continued” at the end of an episode, and Alan Wake’s supposed to be an episode-based thriller game, so… of course I had to find something along those lines. And it just came out, by accident.

I sometimes used different tunings for those notes, to have them stand out from the wall of sound. I usually tune everything to 443 Hz, so I really had to vamp my tunings at times. I also managed to insert those eight notes to practically every cue in the game – sometimes all eight together, sometimes it comes out one note per bar… it’s like the whole score’s breathing those notes over and over again. Luckily, it doesn’t sound like I’d be repeating myself, heh! Note also, A L A N W A K E = eight letters… I even had an old keyboard which had letters A L N W K E written on every key starting from C1, then starting again at F#1. I wanted to see what I could get out of the sequence. Sheer lunacy.

(By now it should be obvious I’m interested in layers, riddles and numerology.)

Then there were action cues, which require a horrendous amount of data. Just doing the percussion tracks could easily take a day. The song itself is seldom very complicated in an action scene, but just the sheer number of control data and notes… oh dear. Luckily, the string library I’m using enables me to do some complex things quite easily.

Alice’s theme cue was five minutes, by the way. Five minutes and I’d done the whole piano track. There’s also a character which I’d like to call only as “Diver”. After hearing the character’s history it was like, what, half an hour? As I said before, I need a mental trigger to get things done. Diver’s a really tragic character, by the way. Odd and tragic.

Maybe we forgot somebody else like sessions musicians? Name those guys!

When I did AW score, I worked alone. I tried to get people involved with ambient cues etc., but the prices they were asking for was stupendous, “Ahha, they got rich with Max Payne, I want 10000 euros for a guitar track”. That was probably the best I heard.

I always heard a slide guitar – or a dobro, or a lap steel – blended in with the more ambient stuff, á la Daniel Lanois, but never managed to find the right guy to work with. Well, maybe one day. (sigh) Hmm, I wonder if Remedy would like to do an Extended Edition: Alan Wake The Redux -Complete Re-imagined Experience… nooot.

Again I hear them erasing my name from their notebooks. 😀

You wrote in your Twitter you had orchestral sessions in Leipzig. So, were all symphonic parts “live” made? Or we are wrong and old good samples were used here too.

Not all were done with the orchestra, unfortunately, only something like 45 minutes, perhaps. Most of the time there’s a lot of stuff underneath the orchestra, among them a serious amount of samples, some of them done by myself, some of them from different libraries. I really love Audiobro’s LASS (Los Angeles Scoring Strings) library, by the way – no, this is not an advertisement, I’ve paid dearly for the library. During January 2010, when I did the mixing, I replaced some of the more synthetic stuff with Novachord samples or Nord Modular G2X model, in order to increase the eerie vibe needed for the unique atmosphere in the game. You can almost feel the autumn chill in the picture. The guys at Remedy are frighteningly good in details, especially Mr. Saku Lehtinen, who was my main contact at Remedy. I miss the analyzing and the discussions, if we only were able to enjoy a bottle of decent wine whilst discussing, it no longer would have been work. 😉 His verbal input was one of the key elements on my scoring: telling stories, opening the backgrounds of the characters, etc. It all helped me a lot.

The sessions in Leipzig were about as smooth as one can imagine. No glitches, no hickups, nothing, just sheer professionality and quality output. I can recommend both the orchestra and the fellows arranging the sessions. As I mentioned earlier, the time was an issue, so we had to choose which cues to record with the orchestra and which had to survive with samples. I think we ended up with right choices.

Tell us how orchestral sessions were going. Maybe you can remember name some funny moments from there?

It was a really fast-paced session. One especially funny moment happened the day before the sessions: my back practically stuck after sitting still a few days, I was unable to move and it hurt like nothing before – I was forced to visit the local health center to get an injection just to be able to sit, yet alone fly to Germany. Ok, there was me laying on the operation bed, with my pants down, on my stomach, in full agony – I was almost crying because of the pain – and an older nurse opened the door before dragging the curtains in between myself and the waiting lobby… “nice ass, mister” was heard from behind, with some whistling. Thank you, audience…

The doctor gave me five painkiller and relaxant injections before I could move again, and in addition to that I also got a healthy (well, not really) dose of prescription medication to be taken with me to Germany. A real party pack, so to speak. I’m not a fan of pills or medical substances, but that just had to be done.

Anyway, the next morning I was supposed to be at the airport at 5 AM in order to catch the plane – which, eventually, took off 90 minutes late. I thus missed my next leg, so I had to spend the time at the Frankfurt airport with my sore back. I couldn’t take any of the pills, as they made me feel a bit… well, so not me. And of course there was an unhealthy amount of bumpy air from Frankfurt to Leipzig. More pain and agony.

I’ve never stopped wondering how painless the whole string session was. The orchestrator, David Christiansen, had done a beautiful job listening to my stem tracks and interpreting them in the most incredible resolution. I had no time to prepare my pre-scores, so we had to use only mp3 files – which turned out to be a killer solution. We also shared one indulgement: we both happen to like quality marzipan, which was found out by accident. 😀 After the first day we all had a dinner and a lengthy discussion with some gulasch and fish. I really enjoyed that day.

After the sessions the next day I was hurried back to Leipzig airport and the chauffeur who drove me there literally stepped on it. 185 km/h just before the curve, then pedal to the metal, braking and full throttle ahead again. I almost shat my pants during those few minutes it took to drive from Halle to Leipzig. I’m not a slow driver myself, but that guy was easily the fastest cab driver on this side of Earth. He even had Recaro seats in his car – and I still don’t know whether this was a practical joke or not. I mean, I should’ve known this if a cab driver has driving gloves on.

It was <THIS> close I didn’t puke then. Because of fear. Damn, Jeremy Clarkson would’ve been jealous for that driving.

The pain wasn’t over yet, though. The leg from Leipzig to München was made with a propeller plane, which trembled so heavily that it was practically an impossibility to drink orange juice. You see, it didn’t stay in a cup. It probably wouldn’t have stayed in a bottle either. Also, I almost ended up with a loose tooth filling after trying to take a nap and resting my head against the plane’s body.

I was a bit anxious to hear the tracks as they were sent to me one day later. My fear was wiped away after hearing the first recordings: Incredible work. Just 100% pro stuff. A big thank you to them.

There’s a lot of stuff going on in the cues: most of them had well over 100 tracks of audio or virtual instruments, the record being 172 discrete tracks going to 12 summing buses, if I remember correctly. The longer cue, the more tracks.

If it is not a work top secret then,  could you tell us about music from a professional point of view: which sample libraries and VST plugins did you use in your work? What software and hardware did you use?

Hollow Sun Novachord library (it’s the most definitive one, easily), Audiobro’s LASS string library was the main thing, with a very little Vienna and EastWest Quantum Leap Orchestra thrown in – the latter two are a bit too much in the “laminated teeth” or “rubber boobs” department, a bit unreal. There’s one cue which was done only with EWQL and I regret I didn’t have time to replace the strings with either LASS or Vienna. Project Sam Symphobia was in there as soon as it came out, it’s used much in conjuction with real strings and in action cues. Also, some Omnisphere “unreal” string patches were used. I really like the granular engine in it. Ivory’s Italian Grand and the main package saved my ass many times. I also used PianoTeq3 – or misused. A few sounds have nothing in common with pianos, but were still great. Percussion stuff is almost 100% Tonehammer, their range of products is just unbelievable and the playability of the libraries is beyond words. I don’t have endorsement deals (hint, hint, hint, damn you), everything is bought, so I think it’s safe to announce my favorites without guilt. 🙂

Soniccouture’s Glassworks provide some eerie whistling here and there, and I love their bowed piano as well, layered with pretty much everything.

The Audio Damage plugin stuff is great, very unique and of highest quality. Their EOS took care of the longer reverbs in the ambient cues, with multiple instances. I think I’ve bought every single plugin they’ve ever made. Just absolutely fabulous stuff. And their customer support really works, unlike many others’. Unfortunately, during the scoring I ran into some problems, contacted a few customer support addresses and I’m still waiting for their answers – after almost two years. I’d like to name the two companies, but I think everyone knows the leading library manufacturers… 😉

Fabfilter plugins were also used, especially in level 5 and 13. Arturia’s soft synths are my soft spot, I have to admit – and without Native Instruments’ Kontakt 4 the whole project would have been an impossibility. Logic Pro eats your RAM alive, so Kontakt’s memory server function (which allows one to use the RAM memory outside Logic) really came to rescue. I’d like to buy a nice bottle of Single Malt for the guy who invented that. Oh god, how I wish Apple made a similar memory server plugin for all AU plugins used inside Logic… that ridiculous 4 GB limit is used up a bit too soon with Logic 9.1. UAD-2 and Neve 1073 and 1081 EQ were used all over the place, I really love their high end. Also, Izotope Alloy and Ozone 4 are used in every cue.

I mentioned earlier EastWest. I use their EWQLSO Pro XP, but with Kontakt 4. Their Play plugin is virtually unusable due to constant bugging and memory issues. If that’s not the real case, sorry, but that’s what I’ve been told.

Oh! Audiofile Engineering’s Sample Manager, Loop Editor and Wave Editor… a trinity no sound designer with a Mac cannot live without. I like to do a lot of atmospheric stuff, so looping comes handy – and Loop Editor really saves time.

Celemony Melodyne was used a lot in some of the musical stingers. I resampled several stinger samples, combined them, then used Melodyne Editor to tune the components and harmonics, then I redrew them totally into a new shape. A cool trick, a very musical one. Or, you could tune everything to octaves or unison, then loop the whole thing and – voila – you have an organic pad, with orchestral quality.

Reaktor, Kyma, Neuron VS… the usual shit. I did create a stinger/atmospheric machine for Kyma, which cross-vocodes etc. all sorts of strange samples. I later ported it to Reaktor, using its granular engine, which eventually allowed me to “bow” things back and forth with Haken Audio Continuum or midi controllers. I also made a grain cloud based subtle doubling effect for Reaktor, as I miss my Eventide… it turned out to be really nice and smooth sounding widening effect, and later on a friend of mine has used it on every vocal track he’s mixed ever since.

Oh, one thing one cannot miss: Expert Sleepers did a really nice plugin for connecting and controlling your old synths’ CV ins and outs via an audio interface, the Silent Way. Actually, there are much similarities with MOTU’s Volta, but this one is much cheaper and their customer support’s just fabulous. Also, the development cycle seems to be shorter as they’re a smaller and therefore more agile company. It’s not as much eye candy as Volta, but hey, sexiness comes from the inside. 😀

We saw something like guitar processor PODXT Live on your Twitter photos. Does it mean we can hear guitars in soundtrack? Bring up the light on this dark things!

Unfortunately, no guitar. It’s used in conjuction with my Mörkö (the modular synth). I used several tape delays and cabinet models with eerie stuff, utilising Pod Farm. I really enjoy destroying sounds, tearing them into pieces, I have to admit. There was one theme which was in 7/8, 143 BPM in the beginning, the melody played by a dobro and there was a Norwegian fiddle playing the haunting melody. The theme eventually became a bye-bye ballad, in 4/4, about 65 BPM.

Sometimes I chain things in a really complicated way. Everything is patched into my interfaces, so I can use Logic as a patcher and feed signal into Kyma/Paca, send it to Mörkö, add some diffusion or delay with PodXT and then have everything chopped up by Audio Damage’s more esoteric plugins (Replicant, Automaton, Dr. Device). Or Reaktor. I’m quite interested in programming my own things, but I’m still much more into composing and playing instead of coding.

There are a LOT of feedback samples, though. Most of them were recorded by yours truly with guitars or bass and amps, but several more unorthodox methods were also used: two iPhones feeding each other, recorded by an Edirol R-09 and a pair of OKM in-ear microphones. Cheap stuff, great results! Also, I recorded a few megaphones feedbacking, then lowering them by several octaves, processing, cleaning, processing again…

We suppose Alan Wake has much music. How much time did it take to write all cues and what difficulties did you face while working on this soundtrack? How much music was written and what part of it will appear in the game?

Time needed for writing? Five years. Nooot… Actually, if everything would have been ready when handed over to me, I’d done the whole thing in 3-4 months, but I’m VERY thankful of having that much time. It really helped to see what’s rotten and what’s not. I had to “kill many darlings” during the process. There were no fights nor there were any rows between myself, Saku and Stobe, but some of the things just hurt a bit. My main philosophy is comparable to a coder’s job: if your customer wants to have something changed, there usually is something that bothers them. If there’s a bug it’ll have to be fixed.


Most difficult part was easily Mr. Wake’s “inner development” during the progress of the events. How do you manifest primal fear and denial of factual happenings with music so that it’s understood by most players? I’ve feared for losing my life several times, so I’ve got quite an insight, one could say. Some of the cues are trying to reflect and emphasize the cycle of thoughts leading towards what we recognize as fear, just provoking the player’s thoughts and feeding something existing inside your head, not on the screen or the shiny disc the game comes on. I tried to steer away from the most obvious – and at first we thought we’d need only 70 minutes of music, but somehow we ended up having 243 minutes of music…

I had a lot of time to think about the characters and did my best to avoid the usual traps. Mr. Wake, for instance, could have easily been considered as an action hero, whereas according to my judgement, he’s a reluctant anti-hero, guilt being his main instrument.

Having said all that and having faced all the difficulties, I seriously do hope every single minute gets used. If that’s not the case I’m going to break a few bones around here. 😀

In short, I enjoyed this project very much. After having to “enjoy” regular music scene for quite some time, it was a breeze and a rare treat to encounter a company which was a) able to communicate accurately their ideas, b) had same personnel in every meeting, c) had a clear vision, d) always returned my calls, e) had loads of great folk working and finally f) determined to give 100% output. Oh, and g) had created a flawless plot for the manuscript and a huge amount of believable characters, that’s the key. Everyone I spoke to at Remedy had a spark in their eyes, no matter how tired they were towards the end. You just cannot have quality output without that spark: intensity and passion produce best results.

(sigh) I have to mourn alone in the darkness now that it’s done. I really, really miss the development stage.

Does the game have interactive music? If yes, tell us how music is tied to game locations, events, action-moments. Can player actions affect the soundtrack? Also, is there any cut-scene music and special themes for each of game character? Well, many questions, but this is interesting thing, you know. And, final one about interactive music: will change of daytime affect the soundtrack? More darker on street – more darker the music.

Most of the action scenes are more or less dependent of player’s actions, but no interactive music as such was done. Almost every action cue was stripped into components (percussion, fx, instruments) and practically every component fits in with other components. Of course there are harmonical issues, but I’d say almost 50% of the material is more or less “modular”, fitting in with the others.

I wasn’t closely involved with audio engine development (although I wanted to have time for that and had a lot of ideas), so unfortunately I’m not much of a help here. I’d love to have my say if there ever will be a second round.

All of the cues were “daytime/nighttime” categorized, this was a must since the earliest stages. The instrumentation changed from medium-sized group of strings and a grand piano to pretty much everything else and their ugly neighbour as well, heh! At one time I had small contact microphones taped and glued to my studio chair and the mouse pad when I needed low-end thuds for the night scenes.

During the daytime I very rarely used doublebasses, the lowest was probably cello, but in the nighttime ambient scenes the highest violins were used only as an effect. The action scenes were an exception, of course. Also, grand piano was doubled with all kinds of strange things in the night scenes, and a good dose of dissonant and feedbacking samples were lurking in there all the time.

I created a set of stingers using only a piano and bowing its strings with a guitar string, treating them with Mörkö and Kyma… although I really don’t know whether they were used at all. 😀


There are some rumors about the ingame car, in which we can travel from location to location. So, somebody says there will be radio which we can listen to. Is that right?

Er, I think someone else at Remedy could give you a much more precise answer to this… I had no connections with in-game devices and functionality and whatnot – I was merely a monkey watching gameplay and cinematics, composing to them. I’ve heard a rumour, according which they have a selection of licenced music tracks, so they must be used somewhere in the game, I think. Maybe in the cinematics? 😉

Generally, how can you describe the soundtrack? Can you tell us about key compositions and what tracks are your favorite?

It’s a sad, moving, dramatic, very, very touching soundtrack to unfortunate and unbelievable incidents experienced by a writer, who lately has had some rough time and is now looking for a new direction. It could be described as a “romantic score for a psycho-thriller game”. A bit unusual choice, I’d say.

Because the game or a movie is usually tied to a certain present moment, the observer/player doesn’t have any idea in which way the main protagonist will evolve – and thus the composer must emphasis both the current time and the repercussions and reflections without giving out too much information. And THAT is the hardest thing.

To select a favorite is a choice which ones to love and which ones to reject. A tough one, this question. My favorites are the first cinematic scene, a flashback in the middle – and probably the most sentimentally moving cinematic in the whole game scene ever: the ending. Stobe Harju and his team made me cry a lot during the making, not because they’re rough (ha!), but because the output was so touching. I’m not willing to spoil anything, but if there are no tears seen on the players’ chins, I’ve failed. Mr. Wake’s agent, Barry (who’s my favorite in this game), has also a very memorable theme when the time comes. If I had to choose one, that would be it.

Every character in this game having some issues, so there was a lot to write onto, so to speak. I thought of Alice being a willowy, bending-not-breaking type of a character, so her theme is a fragile twine of her strength and will to love. Her love is obviously a choice, Mr. Wake being such a typical artist, a writer with issues. Of course, seeing her face for the first time signed the whole thing. She’s not your usual size-DD-breasted chick heroine with pointy ears, daring clothing and a sword that shines and plays meandering flute melodies whenever hobos are around – instead, for once in the gaming history, a protagonist’s wife is a believable human being, believably cute and nice-looking. I’m sure the guys at Remedy were so in love with Alice’s “face and body”, the original actress/model. At least I was and I haven’t even met her in person, so how are the other guys surviving, don’t know. Poor fellas. Rumour has it the photographer had to lay down on her lap, I was told. I’m sure it was the only way… 😀


It is obvious that Alan Wake was created under cultural phenomenon named Twin Peaks. We won’t ask you anything about Angelo Badalamenti. But, what other music, movie or even book inspirations did you have?

Well, being an European, I lived my childhood watching Finnish TV broadcasting everything it could afford in the Saturday evening – which was French, Italian, Swedish, Finnish and Russian films. And the usual early black-and-white and Technicolor U.S. films as well – there were no Grease nor Saturday Night Fever on our telly back then. In the early 80’s everything started to change and all of a sudden American TV series weren’t anymore 7 years late. The change continued throughout the 80’s and 90’s. Twin Peaks was an eye opener for me, I have to admit.

I’ve always admired the guys who did The Perfume soundtrack (Tykwer/Klimek/Heil). It’s a brilliant work, so tied in with the picture, full of secondary layers I’m so fond of – secondary layers being the motives behind action, not the actions itself. Also Cliff Martinez could be mentioned among the minimalist geniuses, his Solaris score was unbelievable and otherworldy, it’s been on my iPod/iPhone playlist since its release. During the last season of Galactica re-make I had to swallow tears a few times, thanks to Bear McCreary (”Gaeta’s Lament” almost killed me). I had never been a fan of James Horner, until I saw Avatar. And all of a sudden I had to buy a few soundtracks.

One could mention Hans Zimmer as well – but who could NOT mention him: his Gladiator score is a masterpiece. Everyone always speaks of his epic score (well, him being Mr. Epic, heh), but there are lots of brilliant, more subtle cues in the movies (Angels & Demons/Da Vinci Code: “503”/”Chevaliers de Sangreal”, if I could create such an uplifting halo around any piece of music, I’d be thankful; another prime example from the Angels & Demons is “Election by adoration”). His writing style has adapted a certain eerie vibe lately, which I happen to like very, very much.

Among other references there are Nine Inch Nails and all the side projects (Mr. Reznor is a bright fella, I’d say), Depeche Mode during the 1983-1995 era, Ultravox, Swedish thriller books by Lapidus and Larsson, two shelves of rock biographies, Rammstein, Daniel Lanois (Acadie’s been on my playlist for ages as well), Johnny Cash, Top Gear (the car show on BBC), Brian Eno, Recoil, Peter Gabriel’s “Last Temptation of Christ” score – and a Finnish metal group Kotiteollisuus. Wow, now that I see all that written down it’s a miracle I’ve managed to write anything at all. 😀

What references did the Remedy give you just before the start?

Not too much Hollywood, no woodwinds, no brass, reduced string section. Be close, be believable, represent the subjective fear, don’t step over the fear/horror line. That was it in a nutshell, I felt I had free hands afterwards, there were only a few second calls or retractions, about 5-7 minutes worth in total. Some electronic/orchestra combinations were ditched totally, though. I stopped experimenting quite quick, somehow. 🙂 The electronic side lived on, though, and were used in the action scenery.

They also showed me a _lot_ of pictures taken from their ground trip to Northwestern USA, with pictures of the ground, woods, trees, moss, weather, cities and tiny towns, buildings, everything. I’ve got a strong connection between my output and what I see, so that practically casted the foundation of the score. There was a similarity between the woods here on our latitude and over there, so reflecting the fundamentals became easy.

I had seen almost every cinematic in its early storyboard phase, so I was also given the opportunity to enjoy seeing the development of them as well. And what development it was! The pace of the cinematics was there already in the beginning (so, obviously, Stobe had thought of it all thoroughly from the start), they lived and breathed, they were only “decorated” later with mo-cap and graphics, but the pace was there.

I did one piece involving a “travel piano” (Saku’s fitting term for an ostinato motive) in the very early stages of development and it stuck there as is to the end. That became later the Bright Falls theme. To be able to find something like that in the beginning defined most of my path, made it all easier.

I would like to say this whole project has been among the easiest, if not THE easiest ever. It took a long time to accomplish this, but there was never a sense of “ohshitohshitohshit ohfucketyfucketyFUCK”. Not even close. I have quite a strong stress resistance and I’m not stressed easily, if at all, but my Worry-O-Meter really didn’t show a sign during the making. I like things to be built on a no-bullshitting-and-merry-talks-then-backstabbing idea, so I wanted them to tell me immediately with their own primary words if something wasn’t satisfying. Either they were easy on me or didn’t use their “down the drain” card often, I don’t know. I hope they’re as satisfied with the score as I am.

The song «War», which would be available in March on new Poets of the Fall‘s album “Twilight Theater”,  was used in game.  Where will the song be used (main or end titles)? Will there be some reflections of it in the game?  Like it was in Max Payne 2 where some characters hummed “Late Goodbye” and one of gangsters played main theme on piano.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but it’s going to be a hilarious and very uplifting moment. It really is, believe me. 😀 No cuddling and kisses, though.

Alan Wake will receive  DLCs in the future. Will they use existing music or you will write new cues for them?

The could be edits coming at my way, but I’m afraid that 243 minutes will hold some stuff for DLC as well.

Me, being now AW-deprived, I’d LOVE to do more music, but it all depends on the schedules and so forth. Remedy does know that if they need me, they just call and I stop everything I’m doing at the moment, immediately. No matter if I’m in the toilet or having my lunch – or anything more intimate than that – I’ll stop and that’s it. You could say I’m loyal. 😉

But what does a poor man have if not his pride and loyality?

What plans (especially on games) do you have after release of Alan Wake?

I really don’t know. Right now I’m having a home vacation after a Thailand vacation and just sleeping a jet lag (and a production lag) off, jogging, taking care of my health right now. No issues, just slowing down aging and trying to lose five kilos.

Unfortunately, during the making (such a long time, after all), I had to say “no” to so many calls – a few of them were quite interesting cases – that eventually they probably have thought I’ve already begun my retirement or just am a shithead. Well, I haven’t, I’m not. If you need a game score or a strange club mix – just let me know.

What composers, musicians or vocalists do you want to work with?

I’d like to find someone like Lisa Gerrard, but with an even wider style asset… Also, I don’t know too many good solo string players, they all seem to be a bit limited to one style or are so keen on plain classical music and score sheets that their ability to improvise has degraded somewhat.

I’ve noticed I work best and most effortlessly in a group where everyone has their strict roles, which overlap only if asked to. I enjoy exchanging views and ideas, brainstorming. I’ve got a vivid imagination and lots of experiences in my past, so I’ve got my guns full.

I would say the Tykwer posse would be one of the me-like groups. McCreary does it all by himself, so he cannot be on my list… hmm, it has to be someone not unfamiliar with electronics. This one’s probably the toughest questions ever. There are only so few composers giving me chills that I’m running out of names. There are no Finnish names at all on my list, though. Unfortunately I’ve yet to see and hear a really good score in a local film, it’s all so unimportant and plain. Very Finnish. 😀 Hmm, Alexandre Desplat did a wonderful score for the “Girl With A Pearl Earring”… Oh, one thing. If phone rings, and it’s Zimmer, Remedy goes to second place, but just barely. 😉

That, however, is going to be the most unlikely thing since the Big Bang. I realize there are thousands of people trying to get their foot in the Hollywood door – and I’m not even sure whether I want to be involved with all the backstabbing and yes men (having encountered such posse enough already in my life) – but it’s a case-dependent thing. I’d say the AW score’s done in my own style, that’s my card. If someone likes it and things click, I’ll go and do my very best. I’m known to work my ass off – not one missed deadline so far, none. Since 1989. 🙂

Wow, I’ve forgotten one person who’s really been important to me all my teen years and beyond: Alan Wilder (from Depeche Mode). I owe him big time and he doesn’t even know that. I would LOVE to do an ambient score with him. His influence on European pop music is probably greater than anyone’s willing to admit. I’d like to be the first on the barricades, though.

So, the big name list? Not in any order:

Zimmer, Desplat, Tykwer, Wilder, Reznor, Horner.

The no-big-name list? Their secretaries in the same order. 😀

We are pretty sure you’ll become rock-start after Alan Wake! Do you plan to work on solo album after that maybe?

To be honest, I’d be flattered, yes – but unfortunately the fame or fortune always bring their bad cousins in as well and I’ve done a lot of work to be this modest and humble human being that I am right now. I could use a steady income happily, though, as living is pretty expensive in the capital area here in Finland. Just the size of my electric bill is, well, astounding (thanks to analog equipment). They aren’t using golden envelopes yet, but that will happen next, I’m sure. 🙂

I’d like to work with interesting scores (that’s as much “solo material” to me as I can imagine, at least it is that right now), it really doesn’t make difference whether it has to be up, close and personal or Epic With A Capital Letter, as long as the story and the characters are believable.

Hmm, rock star. They usually get the occasional model chick and mon?y, don’t they? Hmm. I wonder if my wife would let me have rockstardom as a hobby? 😀 She’s probably the most understanding person on the face of the planet, but I don’t think even she would be that flexible.

Here we usually ask something like “do you plan to commercially release game soundtrack” but, if you don’t mind, we will change our text a little bit. So, we are sure some game industry people are reading us and, guys!,  we want send this thoughts to you. Dear American and European publishers! Please, publish game music! Publish it all on 2-3 CDs or in digital form. Not that small 10 track promos, please! Don’t be greed.  Even if there are small music cues gamers will be happy to hear them. Publish music commercially or release it for free! No releases means music fans will rip tracks from the favorite games and you will lose money. With iTunes and other digital distribution stores it is more easy to publish soundtracks. Also, many labels are glad to release music from modern games, just look on the Japan! And look at your colleagues! Ubisoft released cool 2-CD set for Assassin’s Creed II, EA released 2-CD for Mass Effect 2. THQ brought 3 (!) CD set for Red Faction: Guerilla. That are very good examples. In other words, make your music more available for listeners, it’s very important. Spread these words of truth everywhere! Ok then, so now you can answer our favorite question: what fate awaits Alan Wake soundtrack? Will it be released separately from the game?

First, I have to agree with you 100%, I’m thinking exactly the same, being a gamer myself. Publishers sit on their scores gratuitously, with no real reason. I’ve signed an agreement with Remedy concerning a possible release of the game soundtrack (which, could be heavily expanded, imho), so they’re really considering something. I’ll be the first to know, though.

I wouldn’t want to think this way, but obviously, some game studio bosses don’t seem to consider game music as real music, compositions that have value and weight by themselves. Instead, the music seems to be dead weight to them, something that they couldn’t avoid adding. Luckily, it seems (I emphasize: according to what I’m told and seen), that people at the Microsoft Game Studios are thinking different now. Music is not a separate product, but an independent co-product, it’s a promotion tool tied to the original product, a tool which can have an even longer life span than the game itself – which leads to the fact that the game itself could prolong its life by means of nostalgy reasons given by music. I’d like to think a good score could sell a few games as well. Plus, you can take the score with you when you go out.

If ripping a soundtrack is the only choice given to gamers, it’ll soon lead to a problem: the compositions are rarely in their original form and are heavily edited, usually mastered/limited/eq’d to death, thus being a bad ad for the composer.

I know that in Japan there are huge amounts of game soundtracks for sale in the dept. stores and music stores – I really do welcome that trend over here. That and the clothing style. It would be cool to have the score out in the stores over there.

Is there anything you could advise to rookie composers and amateurs?

Well, a lot. But it would be safer to go case by case. There are multiple issues, though:

Are you being paid by the compositions only or is there a “physical work” fee, i.e. production expenses included as well? Make sure every imaginable expense is solved in the contract before you start working on it. If in doubt, don’t sign. You don’t sign if you don’t trust. If anyone tells you “hey, you can trust me, we don’t have to sign anything, we’ve got a spoken thing here”, don’t go there. Agreements and contracts are done on paper because people trust each other. Even though making paper kills trees.

Basics: Know your libraries and tools to and thru, be them PC or Mac based, it really doesn’t matter. One cannot pay too much for a good acoustic job, quality interface and great monitors. And a decent chair. Also, buy a tea kettle or a coffee machine. If you stall, make a cup of coffee. Eventually it becomes your second nature, and your brain gets accustomed to tea/coffee breaks – and start solving problems without thinking. A prime example of Pavlov’s dogs.

Usually what you hear first in your head is what you’ll return to. Don’t let it fool you, let it grow – if you remember something after, say, two weeks, it’s worth doing. I’ve done enough cases years ago with practically every advertisement company to trust my first gut feeling. Sometimes it’s a tough job trying to pursue your client to do the same (to trust YOUR vision) – but hell, if they’re willing to pay for versions a, b and c thru z, then return to a, then go and earn a fortune. 😀

Don’t go for the obvious. This seems to attack #3, but works in conjunction with it. Try to dig deep into the character. What’s driving him/her, what’s the motivation? What are the reasons behind the motivation? Suddenly you have at least three different ways to think about the whole cue.

If possible, use electronics and computers to _augment_ your music, just having great production only leaves everything empty. Don’t let the production style come between you and your song, preventing the music from coming out.

A good tune is something you can whistle or hum, and which you can remember whilst taking a shower. It’s not easy to hum a drum’n’bass beat, I’ve tried that. I’ve seen a certain movie now four times and I still don’t remember one melody. But there are good DnB loops in there. Oh wow.

If you get stuck, take a break and after the break do something else. You could take the original idea apart, mute every second track, etc., listen to effect returns only – one could write a book on “how to survive the writer’s block”. Been there, done that. No block lasts forever, the most important thing to do is give time to it. If you don’t have time, do the tricks I mentioned. Make tea or coffee, see #2.

Don’t fall into the Movie/Game Trailer Syndrome, which most of the game music people are suffering from. In that disease every cue has to sound like Star Trek’s trailer: so full of everything and their cousin also. And a choir. And stingers. And loads of bass rumbles. And everything’s limited beyond death, rebirth and redeath.

Support the boutique plug & library manufacturers: Tonehammer, Soniccouture, Audiobro, Hollow sun, Audio Damage, Sonalksis, Fabfilter… ok, Kontakt 4 is the leader, even though NI is no longer a boutique company.

Do not, I repeat: DO NOT update your computer in the middle of a production. I had to do it three times and almost ended up selling every piece of crap I had and shooting my leg. Ten times. Stupid moves, those things. Just don’t go there.

You’re now having a unique opportunity to say “hello” to all russian people and Russia in the whole! Yeah, yeah! 🙂 Bears, KGB agents and hard-drinking red-nosed brutal men with Russian doll in one hand and bottle of pure vodka in the other are among them as well?

Heh… that’s one hell of a stereotype chosen, I must say as a representer of a nation who spends most of its time either in a sauna or in a forest drinking, driving old Toyotas to death whilst drunk, trying to woo ladies resembling a genetic hybrid between a cow and a tractor… (I think I’m going to get pretty badly beaten if I ever visit the Forest Finland again.) 🙂 To be honest, I love my country and all the quirky stuff in here. There aren’t dolls here in Finland, but I know what you mean.

I haven’t actually addressed a crowd as huge as your readers before, I’m afraid, but… Well, hello, y’all! Hopefully something moves inside when you finally have a chance to play Alan Wake, I really hope so – otherwise I did one hell of a lousy job. I put a lot of heart and brain into AW’s music and right now I’m a bit afraid what you’ll find. So far my only experiences of Russia have been several flights over your enormous country – and an old Etyde piano (my first) plus a hefty load of music sheets arranged for piano and composed by Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Kabalevsky, goddammit, you name it, I’ve probably played it! No matter what you’re expecting from Alan Wake, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the plot and the gameplay, there’s just so much going on in the game. Life is way too short not to invigorate it a little bit with a good game. Recharge your controllers, AW’s coming.

Talking about vodka: among my favorite drinks is Russki Standart, a friend of mine introduced me to that whilst visiting a local Russian restaurant here in Helsinki and we had a blast… and not any hangover the next day – it must be either the food or right choice of booze. As I said: invigorating, the meaning of life. 😀

Thanks for your time!

Thanks to you. 🙂

One of the Wired blogs, Geekdad, reviews Alan Wake Soundtrack

My favorite new section to have created on Game People this year is most likely our Soundtrack reviews. It made me appreciate what else is going on while I’m ploughing through the latest game.

Not only that but it gave me a thirst for collecting Game Soundtrack CD’s. There is some great music to be found out there. But also it is a great way to bring those video game memories with you in your day.
This week Catherine (Soundtrack Gamer) reviewed the Alan Wake CD. Although currently you have to buy the Limited Edition version of the game to get this, after reading her review I really hope it gets a standalone release:
Alan Wake has a soundtrack that mixes alt-rock, psychedelia and pulp-twang with Petri Alanko’s haunting orchestral landscapes. Although more noticeably uneven than when in game, it actually creates a more pleasurable and less earnest listen.
It made me go back to play the game again and appreciate the work that had gone into the atmospheric orchestral backing to my favorite set pieces.
Alanko creates a musical grammar that reminds me of those sad unfolding dramas of the late 90’s. The solitary piano and shivering violins avoid becoming too stereotyped though. There is a light touch and brooding development through each of these original pieces.
Like Catherine, the most memorable theme for me is that of the opening moments: Welcome to Bright Falls is most iconic of his pieces, and is used most often in the game – as well as plenty of trailers over the last few years. The strings take a lead throughout but are book-ended by piano and woodwind to create some movement moments.
But this Alan Wake CD isn’t just about those orchestral moments, there are also band focused tracks too:
Nestled amongst these orchestral pieces are some hard-found modern tracks. It would have been easy for Remedy to reach for familiar or well known pieces to punctuate their game, but instead there has been considerable work tracking down some happily rare and underrated songs.
Young Men Dead from Black Angels is real neo-psychedelia with an energy that makes you want to reach for the controller again. We move from this back to Alanko’s work, but not before being stopped short with the amiably droopy vocals of Anomie Belle and How Can I Be Sure.
While keeping the minor theme, both these tracks create a real sense of blues and soul. Where the grand motifs of Alanko touch on something disturbing, the modern songs keep that feeling rooted in reality.
Barry Adamson is case in point, with a gravely lyric and blues lick. The Beaten Side of Town’s half spoken half sung narration brings to mind men jamming on their porch step before going in for supper. We go straight into Barry Adamson’s The Beaten Side of Town, which takes us from the porch to a much more glam setting. This is the work of the rock-opus, a story told within a story for us, and a break from Wake’s concerns about the night.
Dead Combo’s Pulp Fiction sounding plucked guitar melody easily stands out in this company. This makes the hairs on your neck bristle as its staccato strumming and electric lead guitar call us into a world of mystery not far from 70’s James Bond.
Almost without meaning to I had pretty much replayed the whole game. Only this time through I had noticed every song along the way. I think I enjoyed the game all the more for it.
Wired: Excellent mix of orchestral and contemporary styles.
Tired: No stand alone release yet.”