Exclusive: Thomas on X-Men: The Official Game!

This morning, Activision announced that X-Men: The Official Game will feature a dynamic musical score created by Chance Thomas, renowned composer of “King Kong,” “Lord of the Rings” and “Unreal” videogames.

For the first time ever, X-Men: The Official Game will allow players to command the superpowers of three popular characters from the “X-Men” movie universe and immerse themselves in the roles of Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and Iceman as they traverse unique environments that showcase each character’s superhero abilities in an epic struggle to preserve mutant-kind.

X-Men: The Official Game will be available this May for the PS2, Xbox, Xbox 360, GameCube, Nintendo DS, Game Boy Advance and PC.

Superhero Hype! got a chance to interview Thomas about working on the anticipated project:

Superhero Hype!: Can you tell us a little about how you got involved in the “X-Men: The Official Game” soundtrack?

Chance Thomas: I was just coming off of “King Kong” and I had an invitation to visit Z-Axis, the developer of “X-Men: The Official Game”. Two of the top guys at the studio, Craig Alexander and Rade Stojsavljevic, had worked with me before on “Earth and Beyond”. We wanted to work together again, but just needed to find the right opportunity. “X-Men: TheOfficial Game” ended up being that opportunity.

SHH!: We know you have an extensive background as a composer. Can you tell us a little about your previous works?

Thomas: It’s a crazy business, trying to get people to give you money so you can make up tunes. Before I solidified my career in games, people would ask me, “What kind of music do you write?” My answer was, “Whatever pays this week.”

I once wrote and recorded an original score for a gumball machine. No kidding. A ragtime band track perfectly timed to the descent of the gumball through a miniature roller coaster on its way down. It was actually pretty clever. I’ve written songs extolling the virtues of pastrami hamburgers, refrigerators, and my personal favorite – network marketing opportunities.

On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve also scored Oscar and Emmy winning film projects, popular songs, and hit games. It’s been a great ride.

SHH!: How much interaction did you have with the “X-Men: The Last Stand” crew?

Thomas: Zip, zero, zilch. I was hoping Patrick Stewart would come for dinner, but he never made it up to Yosemite to see me…

SHH!: “X-Men: The Official Game” features Wolverine, Iceman and Nightcrawler. Did you use different styles of music to capture the feel of each character?

Thomas: Wolverine was my guy. Brawny, aggressive, intelligent like a cat, and pretty much indestructible. Lots of heavy percussion, transient hits, orchestra and guitars, etc.

SHH!: Was the score for “X-Men: The Official Game” influenced by past “X-Men” games or films?

Thomas: Definitely influenced by the film. The orchestra trying to keep up with the pounding of runaway drums, with some synthesis and digital sampling thrown in for added texture.

SHH!: How much interaction did you have with the game developer, Z-Axis? We’re you able to see most of the game before doing the score or did it come in to you as it was finished?

Thomas: My main man for interfacing with the dev team was Audio Director Nick Peck. Nick is an accomplished composer in his own right. He has a Master’s degree in music and actually contributed some original tracks to the game himself. Nick was the guy in the trenches with me, giving me my assignments, offering feedback, and making sure I had playable builds of the game, etc. Creative Director Jens Anderson also spent some time with me, walking me through levels and offering some great input on the tracks.

SHH!: Did the publisher or studio sit you down and give you a direction to go in or do you have complete creative freedom to create the score?

Thomas: I was given a tremendous amount of creative freedom. I think Nick and Jens wanted to see what my creative take on the thing would be. But if I sent in a lame track, they were quick to call me on it. For one of the levels, a Wolverine fight with one female character’s (who shall remain nameless for now) level, they came back and asked for something that was more evocative of steel claws slashing at each other. Cool idea! D’oh! Why didn’t I think of that in the first place? Sometimes you can get so tightly wound up in a project you don’t see the forest for the trees. That’s why it’s great to have another set of ears offering feedback. So anyway, I redid the track using the hit of a Koto behind the bridge combined with a digital sample of pounding on metal pipes. It’s a great effect, and really works well in the game.

SHH!: How much of the score utilizes live musicians and how much was created via computer tools? Can you tell us about the musicians involved?

Thomas: There were lots of musicians involved behind the scenes in surprising ways. I drew heavily upon the RA music library for special recorded performances of Asian instruments such as the Shakuhachi, Dizzi, and Koto. I took those performances and chopped them up and recombined them in original and interesting ways in the score. I also used recordings of musicians playing tone clusters and great swells on trombones and French horns in the same fashion. Everything else was played in on my keyboard, and tracked with digital samples, synths, and percussion modules.

SHH!: Who would you say has been your biggest musical influence in terms of scoring video games or films?

Thomas: My musical influences are pretty eclectic. And extensive. Mozart, Kansas, John Williams, Earth Wind and Fire, Loreena McKennitt, Sam Cardon, Tchaikovsy, James Newton Howard, MisterMister, Danny Elfman, Johnny Cash, James Horner, Quincy Jones… the list could go on and on.

SHH!: How did working on “X-Men: The Official Game” differ from some of your other video game projects like “King Kong” or “Lord of the Rings”?

Thomas: Every project has its own personality. “King Kong” was brutal and dark on the surface, with a tender emotional underpinning. “Lord of the Rings” was epic and fanciful, with a flavor of timeless antiquity. “X-Men: The Official Game” is also epic, but with a tech edge. I love it all. It’s all good. You know, at the end of the day, people are paying me money to make up tunes. And for a guy like me, that’s as good as it gets.

Activision has also provided Superhero Hype! with a first look at new shots of Lady Deathstrike in X-Men: The Official Game which you can view here!

Source: Superhero Hype!