There have always been bands working on other projects besides studio albums and concerts. Like Explosions in the Sky, who have composed several movie soundtracks. However, 65daysofstatic did something quite unusual for the music industry: they wrote the soundtrack for the videogame No Man’s Sky, an open world video game set in space with about 18 sextillions (!) planets. You can visit every single one of them, at least in theory. No wonder that there is a huge hype about this game. The game’s soundtrack is also the four Brit’s new album: “No Man’s Sky: Music for an infinite universe”. We meet guitarist Paul Wolinski for an interview at Uebel & Gefährlich in Hamburg to talk about the new album, working on a video game soundtrack, and the hype about it. He receives me with a glass of red wine in his hand. He seems tired, which is no surprise. The four guys from Sheffield have been touring Europe for weeks now.
No Man’s Sky is one of the most hyped and awaited video games of 2016. They released the first trailer in 2013, using one of your songs. Have you expected such a hype back then?
Paul: No. When they contacted us to use the song for the trailer, they showed us some screenshots and short trailers. It looked very interesting. We didn’t immediately talk about also producing the soundtrack. We didn’t expect the hype, at all, since Hello Games’ team [the game’s developing company, Ed.] only consists of 15 or 20 people. Not a single one of them expected such a hype, and neither did we.
To what extend did 65daysofstatic also benefit from the hype?
Paul: I don’t think it has been of much help for us. It’s hard to tell. We are on tour with the soundtrack. For us, it will always be the new 65dos album. We don’t play at big venues but still at smaller locations. Maybe, there are a few more people, but this could also have been achieved by us, because we have been on tour for years and are constantly releasing new stuff. It was going in the right direction. That’s quite normal. Millions of people have bought the game even though it got so many bad reviews at some point, strangely enough. That means, millions of people have heard our music. That’s a great feeling. Maybe, in the future there will be some people who’ll check whether we have released something new. It’s impossible to plan something like that.
Sure, but many people got to know you. Lots of gamers had never heard of you before. After the first trailer got released, some even wrote on twitter: „Who the fuck are 65daysofstatic?“
Paul: Yeah, many of them had never heard of us. That’s an incredible feeling, but nothing has really changed.
Which role did Hello Games, the developing company, play in composing the music?
Paul: The first time we sat together, sound designer Paul Weir told us: “Just write a new album. Don’t think about technical details. You do what you do best, and we’ll do the rest.” That was a great relief and also quite flattering since they just wanted our music as a band. At that point, we didn’t know whether we were allowed to make the soundtrack and whether we wanted to, but after those words, we really wanted to do it. The game’s sound design is way more than just our music. Paul was the boss. He had his own system, and we developed ours that somehow was similar to his, even though, we didn’t have any access to the game. We created our own logic and algorithms to build the sound surface snippets and include them in the finished songs. We were often in touch with Paul, but he only gave us some nice ideas toward the end. We were completely free. About some parts, he just said “Yeah, we’ll put that there.” He didn’t nag about it.
Did this freedom allow you a different kind of songwriting?
Paul: Yes. What really helped us to combine everything in a harmonic way was that we didn’t have to focus on the format. We wanted to finish the album first, because there are people who don’t have the game or don’t know it and just want to hear a 65dos album. However, we didn’t want to just hand it over to the developers so they could create some kind of remix or arrange the songs in a different order. They have no idea how the album was created, in which surroundings and with which instruments. We had saved tons of melodies, loops and sounds in a library to create sound surfaces around the album.
What have you learnt for your future songwriting?
Paul. That’s a good question. (thinks) I don’t really know. There’s a lot of potential in video games and their sound design, it’s a very interesting field. (thinks) A song has quite a rigid structure. You could also say limits. Still, it’s a good way to express emotions because it’s so compact. In games, there are more possibilities. If we talk about music, songs are rather old-fashioned. That’s due to an old, rotten music industry that causes suffering in commercial music. There’s no future. I don’t mean that songs are useless or boring. I just have the feeling there’s a world with way more possibilities for music. For us as a band it’s very interesting to act in such a world. Of course, it’s difficult to explain that to a record label. (laughs)
Like you, Explosions in the Sky have composed soundtracks for movies. Maybe, in the future, that’s a good alternative for bands.
Paul: For sure. Movie soundtracks are great fun. These are two different worlds and not every band is able to manage that. However, I’m glad that many bands do more than “just” music and concerts. And they should, because now’s the time for it.
Let’s come back to the hype around the game. It wasn’t sudden, it grew over time. I guess you have noticed, as well. Did it increase the pressure?
Paul: Not really. None of us is a great gamer, so we don’t really dive into this world or follow any news. It was fascinating how the game took shape, but we’re not responsible for it. We have been making music for a long time. We wanted to take on this challenge and wrote the songs very fast. It was tough because the deadline was tight. Still, we did it, even though there very many things to do. We only saw the game when it was almost finished, and they started to work on the sound.
In an interview with metro UK…
Paul: Terrible newspaper! (laughs) They write such crap.
Why did you give them an interview, then?
Paul: Another good question. (laughs) I didn’t really think about it. We wanted to promote an album, and everyone did their best. I have a big problem with all the English mainstream media, and if I had to choose one, it’d be metro. But we didn’t really want to argument with the label and stuff.
Was the interview good, at least?
Paul: I have no idea. (laughs) I feel like I have given about 50,000 interviews. (laughs)
During that interview you said that none of you had ever had a PlayStation and that you only had played the game when you had met Paul at the sound studio.
Paul: I have played about five hours now, but none of us has bought a PlayStation. It looks like a cool game and I think I understand why some people don’t like it. It’s a very special game. If you expect something like GTA you’ll get disappointed. Still, I don’t get most of the critique. I feel sad for the game studio because they’re only 15 people and were able to come up with something great. They should have lowered the price, but Sony got on board and made a huge blockbuster thing out of it. That fueled the expectations.
I haven’t had a chance to play the game yet, have read about the hype, though. A lot of gamers talked bad about it, said it hadn’t lived up to the expectations that apparently, the developers had created. However, the game still gets updated with patches and bug fixes, even though it has been released for a while now. Maybe, that’s the future of videogames: they get released and constantly updated and improved. In a few years, it will be the game everyone has expected.
Paul: Yes, maybe. As far as I know, it’s common for new games. It’s a so-called early access for fans. Developers can improve the game thanks to the feedback they get, and also get money to keep working on the game. No Man’s Sky can definitely become the game many have expected. But what’s even more interesting and unique is that it’s something you can constantly change and improve. That’s not possible with a music album, movie or book, or at least, it’s limited. There lie many possibilities.
Translation by 65kid Arabella Lutz.