Among the many elements that create a full video game experience, music plays an important role. It is said to contribute more than half of the player’s feeling of immersion, and that’s why the Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands (GRW) team sought the best artists to compose the game’s soundtrack. This lead GRW’s Music Supervisor, Manu Bachet, and Audio Director, Ghislain Soufflet, to reach out to Alain Johannes, an amazing artist and star of the Californian rock stage, known for his work with bands like Queen of the Stone Age, Mark Lanegan, and PJ Harvey. Alain Johannes invited three of his friends to take part in the recording sessions: bassist Nick Oliveri (Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss, and Mondo Generator, to name a few) and drummers Joey Castillo (Queens of the Stone Age, Mark Lanegan) and Norm Block (Sweethead, Plexi).
Watch the video below for an insider’s glimpse of the recording sessions that took place in Los Angeles, California. Learn more about Alain and the composing process for the Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands soundtrack by reading the interview below!
Alain, thanks a lot for joining us for this interview – we’re really happy to have you here. Before we go any further, can you tell us what your story with music is?
It’s a long story! (laughs) I started music very young, and I remember music before anything else. I’ve lived a long life so far and I was able to be creative and be blessed to be with amazing artists and find myself in situations where I’ve been a part of some pretty amazing bands. There’s also been some rollercoaster rides in my life in many ways, and music was always saving me.
Manu and Ghislain contacted you to compose for Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands. You have a lot of experience in many creative fields, but it was actually the first time you were asked to compose for a game. What was it like?
I had this romantic vision of being a composer in a movie where you get to be part of it from the beginning. Composing for a game is like a massive movie: this amazing relationship between sound and visuals, that are like interlocked... the open world and the vistas, the different emotional tonalities, the danger, the freedom of going wherever you want… it’s such a wild breath of musical expression that is possible, it’s really amazing, it pushes you to do the right thing.
The exciting part for me was to be able to react naturally and to improvise a lot on the game images, like Neil Young did for the movie Dead Man. With Manu and Ghislain, and also Nick, Joey, and Norm, we were blessed and lucky for everything to happen. It’s an open dialogue about an approach. The tone and the feel of it was always right. We recorded more than 10 hours of music and the reason that worked is that everyone was focused on how to make this great. You were able to feel a great chemistry between all of us.
For those who don’t know them, can you please introduce Joey Castillo, Nick Oliveri, and Norm Block, the other members of the band, to us?
In thinking about the chemistry, when I had to choose who I wanted to play with, I immediately though of Nick, Joey, and Norm. Joey was in Queens of the Stone Age with me and we’ve worked together on many different projects with this amazing chemistry. I met Nick when my band Eleven was opening up for Queens of the Stone Age in 1999. We became very friends. He’s an incredible bassist, guitar player, composer, and singer. Norm is an amazing drummer. He played with Sweethead, Mark Lanegan… I just had the feeling that it was unusual to have two drummers but I thought those two would complement each other.
With Manu and Ghislain, we were like this stone rocker family and we had this chemistry that would come with us: this ability to understand the situation and be able to react in the moment. There was this amazing natural thing that happened. We get started, watch some gameplay, we come up with a little piece of music to start, and then we’d immediately go in and then jamming to it and then record straight away and find our way. It was quite an amazing feeling to have three other people reacting together. We became this one big musician, a four-headed musician.
Alain, you are a multi-instrumentalist. How many instruments did you use for the soundtrack?
Most of the sound textures for the game are based on acoustic instruments: charango, cigarbox guitar, flamenco guitar, percussions of all different kinds… at some points some wood flutes, cello, upright bass, viola… and I’m sure I’m forgetting some! Ah, we also had that shaman drum that you play with a rabbit’s foot, some dried leaves… there are so many different things in my house! I think we picked the right palette for this game.
What’s your favorite track so far?
Oh, it’s really hard for me! I really enjoy the sunrise and the vista tracks. As these moments are very short in real life, we need to come in with a story in a minute. I also remember the chases, all the stuff with the vehicles. That’s why having two sets of a drums was very impactful.
Do you have any message to give the Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon fans?
I hope that you guys enjoy this amazing world and also that the music is part of the big inspiration and excitement of playing the game. Just enjoy and have a good time – it’s gonna be amazing!
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands will be available on March 7, 2017, for PlayStation®4 system, Xbox One, and PC.
The Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands original soundtrack is now available for pre-order on the