The Torchlight promotional interviews continue, and Shack News has posted a lengthy conversation with composer and sound guy Matt Uelmen. There are even some very nice photos. *cough* This one goes back to the very beginning, and Matt talks about growing up, his family and musical influences, how he got into the gaming industry, and every game he’s ever worked on, including extensive discussion of D1, D2, and WoW.
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Shack: What was the first thing you wrote for Diablo? How did you approach that project?
Matt Uelmen: The first stuff I wrote for Diablo in terms of dungeon music was a real disaster. It was kind of all over the place. It was like, trying to do a full fake orchestra really badly, because I had no idea how to do it, on the one hand. And then doing this really cheesy, amped-up heavy metal stuff, that sounded like this really kind of… direct input guitar. The first half-year of working on that, all my attempts at action music were just really bad.
I did have Tristram more or less in my mind, just from previous stuff I had done. That was relatively easy. That was mostly just based on noodling around on my 12-string. I pretty much knew where that was going from the very beginning. But I didn’t really get the formula right for the dungeon music until I got over the idea of trying to do a traditional fantasy thing, and more embraced the idea of just trying to have fun with big percussion and big guitar sounds.
Shack: But I did want to get back to Tristram for a second, because I think it really is so iconic. Do you have any thoughts on why more musicians don’t allow their music to—it’s not minimalist, but allowing that single instrument to be audible amongst the rest of the track? At least an instrument that is not a trumpet.
Matt Uelmen: Well, I think people give me way too much credit for creating something that was that amazing, when a lot of it was just being in the right place at the right time. But it is definitely a component of musicianship to just step back, and be the opposite of busy, and even the opposite of melodic.
And I think with Tristram, it really kind of works on a more psychological level, in that Diablo is just a vaguely narrative game. It really is more about trying to play with the addictive part of the brain that wants to play slot machine games and improve the character. And I think Tristram really fits in with that, in that it’s kind of a piece that never really goes anywhere. It’s funny—it’s a hard thing to do, because every musician wants to take people on a journey, and teach them something about themselves spiritually, et cetera. And a lot of times, I think music is more successful when you kind of get out of the way of everything, and just let things go where they want.