Exclusive Interview: Composer Oleksa Lozowchuk ‘Dead Rising 2′

Bloody Disgusting is proud to bring you an exclusive interview with Dead Rising 2 composer, Oleksa Lozowchuk! Dead Rising 2 is the Capcom sequel to the critically acclaimed Dead Rising. After the jump, you can read how Oleksa became involved in the project, the approach taken in composing and his relationship with horror before and after coming on board. 
Dead Rising 2 hit stores today, so make sure to go out and get your copy! Check out the official Dead Rising 2 website!

1.  How did you become involved in the Dead Rising 2 project?
I was finishing up leading audio on a sports title at Blue Castle a little over a year ago, and the DR2 team had a trailer for an upcoming E3 show that needed to be scored right away. I dove in, scored it in a day or two, everyone liked it and it ended up being my initiation into the world of Dead Rising.  I spent about a month getting to know DR, the first game’s music, how it was used, what the loyal fan base enjoyed about the original, and then coming up with an overall music plan that could appeal to Western sensibilities, and take the music to the next level for the sequel.  
 
In October I had to give a presentation of the main themes to some senior creative personnel from Capcom. They were pleased with the main themes and told me to simply continue with my musical direction.  After that I put together the list of other people I wanted to collaborate with on the soundtrack, as I knew I’d need help with additional music once things were rolling full steam ahead (there is over 6 hours of original music in Case Zero and DR2).  I got the Humble Brothers and the Soule Brothers (Jeremy and Julian Soule) involved with some boss battle music, muzak and cinematic underscore.  And I brought in Klayton (Celldweller) to collaborate on the end credit theme song for the game, since we had licensed tracks for the game from him and one of his label’s other acts, Blue Stahli.
 
 
2.  What was your relationship with horror upon coming aboard Dead Rising 2?
Besides watching Children of the Corn, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or Freddy movies as a kid, I never had much interest in horror, as a genre, before becoming involved in this project. The closest I had ever come was doing some music for a couple of psychological-thriller type MOWs that involved some creepy characters, and a TV special about a famous media mogul who had sexually abused his own daughter.  But I don’t think there’s any other project out there that can prepare one for the crazy world of Dead Rising.  It has its own flavor of horror since it mixes spectacle with action and survival, and this time around, DR2 is set against a backdrop of complete glitz and indulgence in Fortune City.
 
So there was a learning curve at the beginning…but I found that horror, in many respects, is just another metaphor for real life.  We all struggle against forces inside and outside us in order to do what we feel is right… so I’d ask myself ‘What would Chuck do?’ Then I’d hone in on what I felt was raw and emotionally visceral in his struggle, so that it could resonate with the scene and the viewer.  At one point, I was scoring a cinematic that insinuated that Chuck’s daughter, Katey, was transforming into a zombie, and I knew something was brewing (I have three young kids)…as I started to have chills up my spine.
 
3.  Dead Rising is an interesting game in that the underlying premise is pure horror: A man fighting against vast hordes of the undead. However, the game also has a great amount of humor thrown into the mix. How do you express that in your music?
Dead Rising just has a certain aesthetic to it, unlike any other franchise…it’s actually quite freeing, since anything is possible.  You’re free to take iconic musical elements and take them over the top, and sometimes even in an opposite direction.  You try to conjure feelings in the user that puts a smile on their face or makes them want to come back and explore more. Sometimes this comes about through choice of instrumentation; other times, it’s by concentrating the music to areas where people naturally gravitate towards: anywhere you find food or alcohol.  This could include: underscoring killing zombies, or regaining health while eating some sausage, with Bratwurst Polka music full of loud tubas, accordions, crashing cymbals and yodelling; listening to Poison-like glam Rock while downing a bottle of whiskey then throwing up in the Americana Casino; using ‘meowing’ pedal steel guitar and B4 rotary vibrato in Rosie’s Diner; parodying old cinema orchestral cliches at the Fortune City Movie Theatre, where users can gain Prestige Points; using a Theramin voice and bassoon to conjure typical magicians’ muses; and so forth…
 
There was also room for some humor to be expressed when introducing certain boss battle/psycho characters.  For example, in one of the ‘el cheapo’ casinos, the Slot Barn, there’s a one-hit wonder Diva psycho who is trying so hard to make a comeback that it hurts.  So I ended up writing a song for, and ad-libbing plenty of hilarious material with our actress, Patricia Drake, backing her up with a 80’s type Casio-Disco track full of blasting horns, wah-guitar, slap bass and Moog synths.  There was so much good material from the session, that it actually helped inform the psycho’s character, and we included 8 or 9 versions of her ‘hit’ song in the game, all themed differently (hunger, eros, inspiration, comeback tour, etc.) , and full of raunchy noises and hilarious commentary.  Mixed with her leather apparel and styling, the washed up Diva’s music ended up providing some memorable comic relief.
 
Making Muzak is also a lost art, so we worked hard to make DR2’s mall music both as inspiring, and as forgettable as possible.  The premise was to have it authentically attractive for older/senior people who wanted to feel young again.  Depending on the circumstance, the contrast the Muzak provides during gameplay, can be quite comical, especially when the user is in the middle of a zombie onslaught, and they have to pause the game momentarily to answer a phone call.  Soothing sounds will wash over them, and prepare them to enter back into the world of Fortune City.
 
Basically, Fortune City provided quite a few opportunities for us to express humor in the music of DR2.
 
4.  Dead Rising 2 takes place amongst the strips and casinos of Fortune City. What was your approach in creating the music for the various locations?
A lot of the environmental music had to be written before the locales were fleshed out in the world…so I’d look at one-line names of places on map legends and throw caution to the wind.   Everything is viying for the users’ attention in Fortune City, so we needed attractive music that could add real character to the visually stimulating environments and the elements within: 
 
A lot of times it was spur of the moment inspiration.  Our Audio Director, Dieter Piltz, would say, hey there’s a Tiki bar going into one of the strips tomorrow…I’d look in our mixing room on the floor beside him, and there was a ukelele…bingo…I’d go and track a Polynesian tune in my music room, and put it right into the game.  The process was similar for other locations… I’d bring in a bunch of instruments from home (congas, flutes, accordion, violin, guitars, harmonicas, hurdy-gurdy, etc.) or download the latest updates to various software synths/samplers and eventually find use for them in the massive world. There often wasn’t a lot of time to think, I just had to react.
 
The Casinos were themed, so I focused on creating music that would immediately give the user a sense of the space they were entering.  The Americana needed a mixture of barRock, glam Rock, Rockabilly, Country/Bluegrass, and Zydeco.  So I tracked a lot of different guitars, banjo, keyboards, and drums for those sections.  The Atlantica Casino needed a Poseidon-like theme, so I did an Enya-like track with a great female vocalist, Kami Lofgren.  I got her to multi-track endless vocal harmonies, and to mimic dolphin cries and sing Latin words that conjured the underworld…The Yucatan Casino needed a jungle/tribal feel, so I culled many different references on You tube and created a Mayan-like sound scape with various wooden flutes, south-American and African percussion, and down pitched Hangdrums, etc..The Slot Barn Casino has a vintage el-cheapo feel to it that is less glamorous than the others, so I did some Wonderland 70s type music replete with tons of sleazy lead synth lines, and over the top analogue keyboard sounds, and even some distorted cello..  The two malls, the Pallisades and the Royal Flush, mirrored much of DR1’s use of Muzak in the corridors and bathrooms…so we went with consistency in these types of tracks, since it gave the world its own character…there was Zamfir-type panflutes, old DX7 electric pianos, Simmons electric drums, schmalzy glissandi strings, Loveboat flugel horns, nylon stringed acoustic solos, shakers, brush kits, more shakers, etc…in real life, obviously, they pump in whatever Satellite feed that has every type of music imaginable…but we didn’t have the space for such variety, and it proved to be too memorable when the tracks repeated themselves…as I mentioned earlier, we focused on music that was almost forgettable: if you removed it, you would sense a loss of some dark humour at play…and the Food Court area music was themed to each restaurant, keeping things festive with Mariachi (violins, tenor guitars, trumpets, handclaps, etc.), Django Jazz, Latino-Lounge (double tracked octave split bass lines with grooves), Italian godfather-like music (mandolins, harmonica, lonely operatic tenor, etc…)
 
Oh, and the strip clubs and peep shows had their own appropriate music that would elicit natural responses.
 
5.  Of the Dead Rising 2 compositions, which do you feel captures the atmosphere of the game the most and why?
On the more serious/thematic side, I’d have to say the track ‘Case Zero’ – it’s a longer piece that involves a variety of musical elements and main themes introduced throughout the story of DR2.  You hear the Plight of the Zombies theme, Chuck’s theme, the Conspiracy theme, even some of TK’s theme (of Terror is Reality); and it builds from an eerie minimalist/Sergio Leone vibe (similar to some of the ambient music from DR1/DR2) into an explosive burst of rhythm during Chuck’s pursuit to find more Zombrex for his daughter, and then climaxing with straight-up heavier guitar-driven metal, when he realizes that he has to face hoards of the undead (The beat even matches the cadence of Chuck’s weapon attacks.)
 
On a lighter note, I’d have to say all of the DR2 Muzak is equally special…
 
Thanks for the chance to share.  It was a real privilege to work on Dead Rising 2, and I hope people enjoy listening.
 
Best,
 
Oleksa Lozowchuk