Monday, November 02, 2020
A PlayStation icon 25 years ago, WipEout came to be a defining title during an era when video gaming was moving increasingly towards becoming more mainstream, and Tim Wright, under the pseudonym of CoLD SToRAGE was among a cadre of artists lending entrancing electronic music to the game.
Now he's back, providing tracks for spiritual WipEout successor Pacer, an equally retina-searing futuristic anti-grav racer brimming with vertiginous loops and twists. For WipEout, CoLD SToRAGE served as in-house composer for Liverpool-based WipEout developer Psygnosis, and for Pacer, he's fulfilling a similar role.
We recently had a chat with Wright, aka CoLD SToRAGE, as Pacer brings a return to WipEout's psychedelic brand of racing (it's set to hit Xbox One soon). Find out why he thinks he's "one luck bastard", what his favourite games are, how his music has changed 25 years on for Pacer, and loads more. Read on!
What's it like being part of an iconic game like WipEout, with such a lasting legacy?
It's kinda nuts isn't it? I mean, on the face of it... but, y'know people are sustained by memories, friendships and love. Whether it's music, a game, a live concert or whatever... they sit firmly in the back of your mind and give you a nice warm fuzzy feeling. I think, aside from the fact that WipEout is great fun to play, time has passed, things have changed and that whole era is a strong anchor back to their childhood, twenty or thirty somethings or maybe their time at University or weekends with friends. It's all about memories. I'm one lucky bastard, because I have created music for many great games, and so my music is indelibly linked to so many people's fond memories, with a good selection of AMIGA and console games, from Shadow of the Beast, through Lemmings, Colony Wars, WipEout and now PACER. It's something I'm proud of and also so thankful to the universe for. I have so many people out there who hold me in high regard, and I never take it for granted.
What is about your music that you think makes it such a perfect fit for a game like Pacer?
Honestly, I'm sure there are lots of people who won't like my PACER music, hahahaha! And you know, that's fine... that's why there are so many other super talented musicians on this game with me, providing a really diverse selection to fly to. For those of you who DO love what I've done on PACER, thank you so much! I put in a lot of time and effort into developing some music that would put people in mind of WipEout, but also have it's own identity. I'm sure people will kinda know which are my tracks... the ones with melodies you can whistle or hum that will sit in your head after you've played the game, and maybe they have a blend of 1980s, 90s and smattering of 'now' too. If my music suits the game, it's because I sit playing the game or watching someone way better than me play, whilst composing and producing the final mix. I want it to sit nicely from my perspective and hopefully it will for everyone else.
Did you have any idea how much of a cultural impact WipEout would have at the time?
Hahaha! No... none whatsoever. Sure, it seemed like a great idea for a game, and the initial technical demos were great fun. It developed massively when the Designers Republic were brought on board to give it a tight and very current look and feel. That's not to take away from the talent of Psygnosis' artists - they added their own flavour too, it was just a really happy circumstance of so many young and talented people being in the same place at the right time, and out of that came this really fun and credible game. By the time I'd seen the TV adverts I thought, "Wow... they're really pushing the PlayStation as a cool thing... something that non-geeks should really be getting into after a night out", that's when I thought that WipEout could develop some kind of cult following.
Are you involved in the track selection process, or is that essentially down to the developer?
If you mean, do I provide a load of music for the developer and they cherry pick the music they want for the game? Sure, there's an element of that. One of the tracks wasn't quite right... and I had to agree, so I went back to the mixing desk with that one. Otherwise, the demos of the tracks I provided got the green light, so I mastered them and they were all included in PACER. I'm working on more tracks for a full album release too, but there's no time limit or rush on that.
What are the key elements a track has to have for something like WipEout or Pacer?
I honestly believe that it doesn't matter what style of music you're into, for it to work well with something like PACER, it has to be positive, up-beat, driving to a degree and probably keep the vocals to a minimum! Actually, that's one thing I steered clear of when I was composing for PACER. Most of my WipEout music had vocals... spoken and sung stuff, so with PACER I tried to keep the anti-grav vibe going, but avoid any vocals just to make it that little bit more different to WipEout.
In what way would you say your music has evolved in the 25 years since WipEout?
Evolved? Hmmmmm... I've written in many styles since the 90s and early 2000s. So I'm not sure I can say it's evolved in terms of musical style, but my production skills have improved, and I have access to way, way more synthesizers and software effects and mastering tools. I think I spend a lot more time producing my tracks these days, whereas in the past I'd get the music just about right, and rush the whole E.Q. compression and mastering aspect. But now I'll take sections of tracks and work on them in isolation. I'll also add sections that weren't in the original composition like reverse sections, or repeat parts with huge flange or phaser effects... I do seem to enjoy the production phase a lot more now.
How did providing music for Pacer differ from working on WipEout, if at all?
I think I've probably covered that in my previous answers... more or less. But I was very conscious that I wanted to tread a fine line between having my music sound very CoLD SToRAGE does WipEout but also have some "oh... hang on a bit, it's got something new about it really... it's kinda WipEout, but with more smokey bacon and chilli flavour" or something like that, hahaha!
What's your personal history with video games? Do you have any favourites?
I've played computer games since the 70s ( yeah... I'm that old ). Over the years I've had games I've invested more time in than others, such as Hired Guns (AMIGA), Doom I & II, World of Warcraft (Vanilla), World of Goo, The Room and a good selection of Indie Games too. As for games I've provided music for, I have a couple of favourites... Gravity Crash was fun and I had the time to really create a good selection of music that had great depth and really almost created it's own genre... a kind of futuristic electronic style with big slices of retro influence. I also loved writing the music for Sodium 2. Both of these games begat full albums.
Is there any specific game or favourite game genre you'd like to one day provide music for?
I'd love to write a score for an independent adventure game... one of those sprawling wandering games where you have to almost find out what you're meant to do by exploring a well crafted world.
What is it that you find appealing about futuristic racing games like Pacer?
It's great fun to challenge yourself to learn a track. I've always loved riding fast motorcycles, and games like PACER give me that one man and a machine feeling that bikes do. You have to lean into the corners like a race bike too, but it's so much faster.
What would you say is your favourite thing about Pacer?
The love and time that's been put into the world that's been created... the hardware means that we can not only have great anti-grav craft and amazing looking tracks, but also an expanse of scenery. And to be able to fly the same track at night... that's a really cool feature!
Pacer is out now for PlayStation 4 and PC, and is coming soon to Xbox One.