An Interview with the Composers for CYBERPUNK 2077

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Cyberpunk 2077 is due to release on December 10 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One with next-gen versions on their way. Well, as with any good video game, the soundtrack is key. For this very hyped game, the soundtrack was composed by a team of three: Marcin Przybylowicz (The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt), P.T. Adamczyk (Gwent: The Witcher Card Game), and Paul Leonard-Morgan (Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III). I was given the opportunity to ask each of these talented individuals a few questions via email and wanted to share their responses.

Paul Leonard-Morgan

Tommy: What’s it like composing a soundtrack like the one for Cyberpunk 2077 with two other composers as opposed to composing a soundtrack by yourself?

Paul: Before last year I had never collaborated with another composer, then suddenly I was composing with Philip Glass on Tales From The Loop on the one hand, and Marcin and PT on Cyberpunk on the other. The main difference is taking the time to get on the other people’s wavelengths. Normally when you start a soundtrack, you develop a “colour palette” – sounds that you want to use for the compositions. But when you’re collaborating, to begin with you’re thinking “I like this, but will the other guys?”. After a while, as you get on each other’s wavelengths, it’s easier. I also had this feeling of “how’s this going to work, there are 3 of us, how will it sound like a unified soundtrack”, but it turned out brilliantly – we all have our unique styles, but by our choice of instruments, there’s an overall “sound” to this score, yet with a ton of variation. It was also amazing having Marcin and PT as a sounding board – we would send each other parts of our tracks for feedback / direction, and share our unique samples which we were creating for the game, so it became this wonderful blend of all our styles and sounds. Those two were so great at guiding me about how to develop my themes for working in the game – they have the patience of saints, and are also insanely talented! I knew about Marcin from the Witcher, obviously, and his melodies are great. And when I discovered the beats and basslines which PT did – Wow, just wow, blown away by them both.

Tommy: What was your personal inspiration and approach to your tracks for Cyberpunk 2077?

Paul: We all wanted to create a sound for the game that is truly unique and never been done before. I always surround myself with visuals from the project that I’m working on, so I spent my time surrounded by the beautiful mockups of Night City and the surrounding areas, characters, etc. We wanted the score to have real energy and attitude. But also, thinking of it as a place where you have to get electricity by tying into broken cables, I started envisioning the use of distortion as an essential sound. So creating sounds from scratch on modular synths (e.g. feeding my MatrixBrute through a vocoder into my Folktek Mescalline (a wonderfully wacky synth which the other 2 put me onto, which creates this “sound” I’m talking about between us). Taking Ilan Rubin’s drums and crunching them up. Distorting a bunch of double basses, detuning them and using pitch bend – it was about creating a unique sound to the cyberpunk world. We all definitely thought about the attitude of early 90’s music, but in fact there’s not that much percussion in the soundtrack (as would get drowned out by machine gun fire, etc). So it’s about wonderful atmospheric sounds, thumping bass lines (and yes, definitely some EDM-inspired stuff in there). But I think we all pictured it as being able to play in a stadium of 100,000 people at a gig – so much energy! We separated areas of Night City for each of us. One of the areas I had was ‘Arasaka’. So I wanted to come up with a Far Eastern sound, but without using traditional instruments. So you’ll hear some weird modal scales in there, then played on some detuned basses, which gradually morph into one bass – the idea being that it’s really unsettling sound, edgy, but you can’t put your finger on why you’re feeling that way. Then this bass motif gradually just pounds into your senses as you’re playing.

Tommy: Do you have a favorite track or two from your fellow composers on the soundtrack?

Paul: Totally but we can’t tell you all the names of the tracks just yet!

Tommy: What are the differences between composing for a game versus composing for a film or television series?

Paul: Two main differences. On a film, you have limited time to experiment with sounds – normally you have maybe 3 months in total from start to finish, if you’re lucky. With games, we had years experimenting and “playing” – developing and discovering that sound of the Cyberpunk world that I keep on trying to describe! It’s integral if you want to come up with something unique. The other main difference is the technique – with film, you’re scoring to an image, and the same thing will happen at the same place all the time. (e.g. you can write and scene and know that the character will get hit, for example, at so many minutes in.) In games, everybody plays at their own speed, and takes their own paths. So we create tension/pace, etc, by using layers and loops. When people open a door, for example, we might start playing a tension layer. Then as you’re getting close to something bad, we’ll start ramping up another layer, say of percussion or another synth. Then we’ll move onto another track, seamlessly with the same bpm and key, as you move to another room. The challenge for games is to keep the interest up in the score, and make it sound LIKE it’s all been scored to the picture/pace you’re playing at. And Night City is so massive, there are SO many combinations/ways you can play, so there are hours upon hours of music we scored.

Tommy: What would be your dream project to compose for?

Paul: I have a short attention span, so I like doing different things! Film scores to games to theatre to bands. I don’t really have a dream project, I just adore writing music and getting to work with such wonderful artists as I’m lucky enough to at the moment.

Tommy: Do you have any other projects besides Cyberpunk 2077 that fans should be on the lookout for?

Paul: It’s all a bit crazy at the moment (which is surreal, considering lockdown!) Just finished a new Michael Caine feature film, finished recording a new film on NASA last week, in the middle of scoring a new film for Academy-Award winner Errol Morris at the moment, producing a band in December, new theatre production next year – I’m just having such fun creatively!

P.T. Adamczyk

Tommy: From what I can tell, you’re fairly new to the world of composing (please correct me if I’m wrong). What was it like being put to work with Paul Leonard-Morgan and Marcin Przybyłowicz on the soundtrack for Cyberpunk 2077?

P.T.: Yeah, I’m a bit of a newbie. I have been working as an in-house composer at CDPR since June 2017 and before that I worked as a ghost writer and did some music for ads and trailers but never really a game. Well the experience was great. Marcin is a good director, who gives a lot of freedom and is open to discuss things and will change his mind if presented with an interesting idea. That’s actually his trait that I like and respect the most in him. PLM is a true professional, great composer easy to work with. We quickly got on the same wavelength and rarely asked Paul to redo stuff, most of the stuff he was sending us was spot on.

Tommy: What was your personal inspiration and approach to your tracks for Cyberpunk 2077?

P.T.: We all dived into the 90’s to draw inspiration from the music of that decade. It was really important for me to take musical elements of genres you wouldn’t normally associate with scoring such as Industrial, Techno, Rave, IDM and use those as the bed for a lot of the cues. It gives a certain edge and attitude to player actions when they are scored with music that originated on the dancefloors. That also works well with the Cyberpunk ethos — your actions need to be flamboyant and loud and if you flatline in the process, and least do down with style. Also the instruments we all used played a huge role in the development of the score. A lot of the material that later became the base for many cues, was recorded during long jams. I would take Folktek Mescalline for example, put that through Bastl THYME and would play with it for hours without a particular goal in mind — just exploring the sonic possibilities of this combination. And if something caught my attention, I would save it for later use. Then when it came to scoring a particular moment in the game, I would browse through those recordings and either use something or a sample would spark a new idea and I would grab let’s say the Leploop and run that with my Digitakt.

Tommy: Do you have a favorite track or two from your fellow composers on the soundtrack?

P.T.: Marcin’s “V” still gives me goosebumps. And PLM’s “Mining Minds” and “The Sacred And The Profane” are not only great cues, but they also underscore some of my favourite moments in the game.

Tommy: Most composers seem to have some signature flair in their music. What do you think your signature is?

P.T.: I don’t think it’s up to me to say what my flair is. I just love what I do and try to write the best music I can. In CP2077 it was really important for me to be true to the source material and let Mike Pondsmith’s creation guide my creative decisions. We all wanted to create a unique score, something that would be a singular to this game.

Tommy: What would be your dream project to compose for?

P.T.: Well, I already scored it — CP2077 was a dream project. Now I have to look for a new challenge :)!

Tommy: Do you have any other projects besides Cyberpunk 2077 that fans should be on the lookout for?

P.T.: Many things to come, but nothing I can disclose right now. If you’re interested in what I do, follow me on Twitter or Instagram.

Marcin Przybyłowicz

Tommy: What’s it like composing a soundtrack like the one for Cyberpunk 2077 with two other composers as opposed to composing a soundtrack by yourself?

Marcin: I really like collaborating with other composers. Frankly, I can’t imagine working on CP2077 just by myself – not only because of its gigantic scale, but because of how complex the world and the storyline actually are. I also like how well our own musical tastes merged together. Of course, it all needs to start first with setting up some ground rules – even though we haven’t collaborated on specific tracks (instead, each of us covered different parts of the narrative arc and Night City in general), we all shared one artistic vision, or music direction if you will. Our music differs, but it comes from the same sonic reality. We used the same instruments (Mescaline, among others), shared themes between each other, and had the same idea about how CP2077 should sound.

Tommy: What was your personal inspiration and approach to your tracks for Cyberpunk 2077?

Marcin: When I started to work on this project, it was just me. PT and Paul came on board after I’d begun working on the score. I remember having long and frequent conversations with Adam Badowski (Cyberpunk 2077’s Game Director) about the general idea for the music in the game. It took us several months actually to find that “CP2077 tone” and figure out what it is exactly. We knew we were onto something potentially significant both commercially and culturally, plus, we were aware people would compare our creative choices to other music/media based on the cyberpunk genre. Take the 80s synth sound for example – it’s so prominent within the genre of cyberpunk, in movies, synthwave/outrun/retrowave music and so on. That didn’t work for us – after all, it’s all about finding that unique idea that would do justice to the project. CP2077 is not just any cyberpunk game, it’s THE cyberpunk game, based on the pen and paper Cyberpunk 2020 tabletop game and universe created by Mike Pondsmith. He created a very well established world, very lore heavy, very well described, even in the tiniest details. Another thing is Night City itself. It’s a busy and dangerous metropolis, where anything can happen. It was clear to us we needed to find the right sound, the right vibe. The revelation came quickly, once we realized that – apart from these more intimate human-to-human moments – our music needs to have punch, have this rebellious attitude. And since I wasn’t able to find that suitable punch and attitude in the 80s… the 90s started to ring my idea bell. I grew up in the nineties, I’ve listened to basically everything I could get my hands on, and I discovered that it doesn’t matter if you talk about grunge, industrial, rock, rave, or anything, they all share the same energy. That’s what caught my attention, and once we settled on taking 90s genres as a starting point for our own creative process, it all clicked super fast.

Tommy: Do you have a favorite track or two from your fellow composers on the soundtrack?

Marcin: Absolutely. It’s Paul’s “The Sacred and the Profane”, and PT’s own take on Samurai’s “Never Fade Away”. Truly heartbreaking pieces. Play the game, then listen to those tracks, you’ll know what I mean 🙂

Tommy: This is not your first game soundtrack with CD PROJEKT RED. How did you start working with them? What has it been like working with them over the years?

Marcin: Yeah, I started to work with CDPR almost 10 years ago, first as a Sound Designer, then I transitioned to Composer, and later Music Director. It’s been a long journey we shared together. One of those journeys where you really need to trust your partner. I think it’s the level of mutual trust, and shared respect to art that makes us work great together. We did cross some lines with the music in CP2077, just like we did with The Witcher 3. I guess the “we are rebels” manifesto really does mean something here.

Tommy: What would be your dream project to compose for?

Marcin: My dream was to work with the creators of the original The Witcher game. Several years later I made the music for The Wild Hunt. Now I’m working on Cyberpunk 2077, based on the music I played in high school. Right now, mentally I’m twelve and I’m having a blast.

Tommy: Do you have any other projects besides Cyberpunk 2077 that fans should be on the lookout for?

Marcin: There are some interesting ones coming, but it’s too early to talk about them.



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