How 65daysofstatic made the sci-fi sounds of No Man’s Sky

Do you think that there’s something about your sound that’s particularly sci-fi?

Wolinski: I think that because of Silent Running and because of No Man’s Sky we’ve developed a musical palette that has that about it, but I think if we were given a project with less of a sci-fi thrust, I don’t think we would find it hard to develop in that direction either. That said, I think sci-fi has been quite influential on us.

Shrewsbury: We’re certainly fans of sci-fi. But I hope we have more strings to our bow than that. I feel more closely tied with No Man’s Sky in soundtracking the scale of it, rather than the sci-finess of it. We’re good at making lots of noise, and that feels quite big. Sci-fi is great but it depends on the project.

Wolinski: I think No Man’s Sky is particularly interesting because they are trying to achieve something, technology-wise, that’s pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, as far as I understand it. While at the same time making a game that’s enjoyable and playable is the priority. I think that their relationship with us and what they’ve asked us to do reflects a sort of emerging relationship between bands, as opposed to composers, and the games industry. That’s why it had an extra element of excitement to it, because we were being asked to be 65days, not to be a set of composers for hire.

Shrewsbury: That’s such a huge distinction for us. It was so flattering.

Wolinski: And we’ve been so much more hands-on in the post-album process, of actually tearing the audio apart and putting the elements into the game.

Shrewsbury: We’re not coders or anything, and we’re looking at a lot of these systems that they’ve built for us from a different angle. The audio director of the game, Paul Weir, is a very, very clever man who has built this amazing system and the collaborating we’ve done with him has been really rewarding, definitely for us and hopefully for them, too.

What kind of direction were you given from Hello when you first started working on the soundtrack?

Shrewsbury: They asked us to write a 65days record and to push what we were doing forward and do the next thing that we would do. But of course we approached it more seriously than that. We didn’t just go away and do that, we wanted to be thinking about the game and how we wanted the game to sound. But the instructions we were given were very, very, very simple. I’m sure that was a purposeful move on Sean’s part, because we went off to the north of England and were in our bubble of writing music and we didn’t really have that much contact with Hello, we just wrote lots of music. A lot of trust was placed with us, I suppose.

When it comes to the procedural elements, did that change how you approached writing the music?

Shrewsbury: We’re actually working on that now with Paul. We’re taking the sessions from the record, which were mixed and mastered some time ago, and we’re diving back into those and pulling elements out, and then re-recording more variation, more complimentary sounds. We’re basically undertaking a long period of sound design, which is curated by both us and Paul Weir. I think if you look at the project as a whole, it’s almost an act of doublethink. You know that you have to make a record and that the record has to make sense and be accessible, and at the same time you know that all of that music is totally destroyable and it’s going to be atomized and rendered in a great number of variations. You have to just do both of those things at once and not worry too much.

Wolinski: To be clear, I don’t want to imply that we built the system. Paul Weir was definitely the brains behind actually building the in-game audio brain, we advised on some of the rules of logic so that it would work better with the music that we’d written, but I don’t want to take too much credit for that.

Shrewsbury: We’re actively chopping up our own music.

Wolinski: It was written in the first place with that in mind. Every time we decided on the main melody of a song, we’d be cataloging the variations, even if they didn’t make it onto the album, they still existed because we know that this is where we’d be heading.

What’s the experience been like hearing the music in this different form, sort of chopped up in different ways?

Shrewsbury: It’s great. We haven’t had a great deal of access to that, since we’re still working quite hard at the moment, but from what we have seen it’s really, really exciting. We’ve got quite a healthy attitude to tearing our songs to pieces that has developed over the years. We’re not too precious about musical elements. We stopped being a band like that six or seven years ago when we decided that it didn’t really matter who played what or how a sound was made, as long as it contributed to the emotional integrity of the music. We really take a lot of joy in totally destroying and ruining things, because often in that destruction you come up with much better ideas anyway. So in that sense the project really suited us.

Wolinski: What I would say as well is that this is as advanced as anything I’ve ever seen in terms of generative music, but at the same time it feels really exciting to be at the start of something that has so much untapped potential. It feels like Paul Weir has broken new ground while putting this together, and at the same time there are so many ideas that we would have for the next project. It’s an unusual feeling for us because the music industry does not give you that feeling generally, day in, day out. It feels like something that’s at the end of its good days.

Shrewsbury: It's run out of new forms, it’s run out of new ideas in which to present music, whereas this is completely new.

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