The experience of playing Sword & Sworcery on my iPhone showed me how immersive games on my phone could be. I wasn't sure iPhone games could be more than the typical grind of a puzzle game or fruit ninja clone. As I played Sword and Sworcery for the first time it recommended I use stereo headphones and I was surprised at how fantastic the experience was. The game that unfolded was a visual and audio feast. I enjoyed the fresh take on how a video game provides you with an introduction and the music stood out front and center as incredible. I mentally noted to find out more about the music because as I played it really hooked me. Jim Guthrie's scores for Sword & Sworcery, Indie Game: The Movie and most recently a Sword & Sworcery remix album are some of his more recent awesome creations. I have wanted to talk to Jim for sometime and recently I sent him a note and he awesomely agreed to answer my questions.

Over the course of the Interview he let drop a few bits of fresh information. He is working with Sony to hopefully release the Corporeal score on iTunes and Bandcamp in the next few months. I asked him about his next project and he is currently working on a new solo album of material that will should be released by late spring or early summer!

jdodson: I was first exposed to your music playing Sword & Sworcery and that experience really stuck with me. I want to thank you for taking time to answer my questions.

jdodson: The track “Army of Assholes” from the Indie Game: The Movie score is interesting to me in that it seems thematically different. To me this track is a jab at simple ignorance and people that can be quite sublime in smugness. I just imagine an army of simple minded smiling folk as they walk down a long hallway. With all that, whatever all that was... I wonder how you approached creating this song and its inspiration?

Jim: There was really a master plan when scoring the film as I had very little time to do it (3-ish weeks I think?).   The music for Army Of Assholes was written for the section of film it shows up in and was fleshed-out and named after words.  I was trying to evoke a synthy / tech / electro circus vibe that also might shadow a "questionable sanity" of a developer at any given time during the creation of a game.  It wasn't until after I finished the song that it became clear to quote Phil Fish from the film when he uses the term to describe trolls on the web.

jdodson: What was it like working with Sony on Corporeal? Did Sony change much in the way of how you and the Superbrothers collaborate?

Jim: Sony wasn't really directly involved with what Craig and I did for our level in Sound Shapes.  It was a little bit more disjointed because Craig Adams (aka superbrothers) worked on the art assets with some guidance and direction from the guys at Queasy and I worked on my sounds separately with help from Shaw-han Liem at Queasy.  I got to see Craigs art at early stages and I did my best to try and create a pallet of sounds that worked but there was a lot of experimenting and hoping for the best as well.

jdodson: “The Red Bull” is a song from the Indie Game: The Movie score. The song has a primarily electronic drive and ends with an out of tune guitar strumming. I wonder what theme you were trying to hit here?

Jim: The songs sort of rises and distorts from the digital version over to a broken acoustic version of the song to try and expose the human element of game developing.  Simply speaking it's sort of a digital vs analog, mind vs body and the challenge to pull emotion / soul out of a few lines of code and some pixels or whatever.  It's one of my favourite songs on the album

jdodson: What are you working on right now?

Jim: I'm working on a solo album that's not related to video game stuff at all.  Before I did music for S&S I was more known for playing in bands and writing songs etc.  It's almost 10 years since I put out a "regular  album" and it should be out by late spring / early summer.

jdodson: Some of the music on Swords & Sworcery is so incredibly atmospheric. What came first? The art or the music? Were adjustments made on either side to fit the other?

Jim: Well the music came first I guess.  Craig heard some of my Playstation compositions years before the game was even conceived.  When Capy approached Craig to make a game we used a few of those tunes to get us started and then it was more 'back and forth' after that.  

jdodson: Any plans to release the Corporeal soundtrack?

Jim: Yes, I'm just trying to get all the paper work sorted out with Sony.  Hopefully there will be an ep of the music from the game for sale on Bandcamp and iTunes in the next few months.

jdodson: What are some of the things you have yet to accomplish as a musician and composer?

Jim: That's a tough question.  I've done music for many mediums (recorded and live) but at the same time I feel like I'm just getting started.  I just want to keep myself guessing and take on interesting and challenging projects.  It's hard to even know what that means but I've been lucky to work on the projects I have and I guess I just hope to keep getting more of the same work in the future.  

jdodson: The Sword & Sworcery score saw a limited Vinyl and Cassette release. My 90’s teen self is wondering if there are any plans for a Compact Disc release and my Dad is asking about 8-track? Seriously though, I still buy CD’s, rip them and put them on my shelf. Something about an actual album still seems totally awesome to me.

Jim: I probably should have made a CD version but it just felt right to keep it in these extreme ends of the format scale.  Digital download or extreme analog!  * - track would have been sort going overboard but its' tempting.  I still like CDs as well but cassette and vinyl is so much more nostalgic for me. 

jdodson: I love the Song “The Maelstrom.” It starts with what sounds like a looped guitar, drums and a piano. What did you do to the guitar to get that awesomely melodic grating sound?

Jim: I used a Boss looping station plugged into an amp and just experimented with different strumming patterns until I found something I liked.  I then added piano to break up the drone and give it structure.

jdodson: I know you have worked with the MTV Music Generator. Any thought to using Mario Paint in a future creation? The Cat and Dog sounds alone are worth the price of admission.

Jim: I never really got into Mario Paint but I love the limitations it imposes.  I feel I do my best work when confronted by a limited options.

jdodson: The primary medium that people use to consume music now is digital and allows totally awesome stuff in that I have access to all 44.3 days of my music at once. That said, one negative change is that I don’t listen to a single album as much as I now have so many. I wonder, as how people listen to music changes does that alter how one creates music?

Jim: Maybe.  I don't really think about how the whole album until I get all the individual songs done.  It isn't until then that I sit back figure out how to best sequence it in a way keeps people listening for the whole thing.  I can't expect to have people listen to the whole thing in one sitting because like you said there's just so much music out there and it's fun making your own playlists or putting it on shuffle.  In a way I almost like the idea of someone unexpectedly hearing a song of mine in shuffle mode more than anything else.  It definitely doesn't change the way I make music but it may change the way I sequence an album knowing people have shorter attentions spans.  There will always be musicians who care about the album as a whole and there will always be people care to listen to a whole album and the rest will just work itself out. 
jdodson: You release your music on Bandcamp with the pay as much as you like model. I wonder how well this is working for you and if you have any plans to modify how your music is released in the future?

Jim: It's tough to know how to price your own stuff and certain pricing models work better than others depending on the project and how it's marketed etc.   I don't really have any answers on how to best approach this kind of thing but it seems like the more you give away the better chance you have of people giving back.  The Humble Indie Bundle is a perfect example of this.  The trick is to have an audience to begin with.  If you have that luxury then you just have to experiment with how to price stuff and make people happy.
jdodson: I picked up The Scythian Steppes: Songs Localized for Japan and really enjoy the remixes of your music. 

Jim: I think this is the first time having people remix my stuff.  I let the people at 8-4 in Japan do their thing in rounding up remix artists and then pretty much let them do whatever they felt like.  

jdodson: Chiptunes and retro video game scores seem to have garnered more attention lately. Your style seems to borrow from these elements already but I am wondering if you have any thoughts to incorporating more elements from 8 and 16 bit music?

Jim: Well this is the thing.  I don't really consider myself a "chiptune musician".  The term gets thrown around a lot and what I do is a mish-mash of a bunch of sounds and technologies.  For example, I'll use a real acoustic guitar and strum it and then sample it and and mix other synth sounds in there and maybe even some 8-bit emulators but I'm never just using hardware from the 80s or even just emulators to create an entire piece of music.   I just call it "computer music".  

jdodson: Are there any video game scores that stand out to you above the rest?

Jim: Ah, jeez.  There are so many good ones that it's hard say.  I feel like if I name one then I fall down a rabbit hole of ramblings about video game soundtracks.

jdodson: Have you considered creating music with a 5.1 or 7.1 mix?

Jim: I haven't really considered it but I'd love to try and mix something in 5.1.  

jdodson: What games have you been playing lately?

Jim: Well, I just got a Wii U so I've been playing a lot of Zombie U which I quite like and Nintendo Land.  Overall I like the Wii U but it's just such a mix of good and bad decisions on Nintendo's part that's it's hard to give a definitive answer about the console as a whole.  I'm looking forward to seeing what games come out for it because right now there isn't a ton of them to choose from.  Otherwise I play a lot of Chip Chain and Drop 7 on iOS.  I really like number puzzle games. 

jdodson: You have a wider audience because of your involvement in video games. Did you always want to approach scoring video games or was happenstance?

Jim: I never really considered it an option to be honest but I love video games and the potential they have to produce truly inspiring and engaging works of art.  It was just happenstance that Craig asked me to do the music for S&S and I'm forever thankful to him and everyone at Capy for having me along.  It's been an unbelievable couple of years.

jdodson: The score to Sword & Sworcery uses a wide array of musical instruments. The track “The Cloud” features woodwinds. How do you accomplish recording these different instruments and what different players do you collaborate with?

Jim: I come from a rich local music scene here in Toronto.  Most of the people I know and play with are amazing musicians so it's just a matter of trying to direct them while letting them contribute in ways I couldn't have on my own.  For The Cloud I didn't really have a song structure in mind.  I just had people come in a play very loosely in a certain key and then I edited all the rises and falls afterwards.  There was a lot of uncertainty and experimentation in that song and I'm happy with the results.

jdodson: Thanks for talking with me Jim, its been awesome!

Jim: Happy new year

AdamPFarnsworth wrote on 01/04/2013 at 06:52pm

That was a super cool interview. As a music lover, I totally enjoyed reading about how he experimented and created! Now I have to check out the games that he's scored!

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 01/04/2013 at 06:57pm

Sword & Sworcery is available on Android now and its fantastic.

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 01/04/2013 at 06:57pm

Here is "The Cloud" from S&S:

AdamPFarnsworth wrote on 01/04/2013 at 09:18pm

I thought about looking up some of the songs, but I decided to wait and experience the songs for the first time in the experience of the game :)

But thanks!

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 01/04/2013 at 11:58pm

That's a better plan :D

AdamPFarnsworth wrote on 01/07/2013 at 06:38pm

Started playing Sword & Sworcery last night. Very interesting. Took me a few mins to get used to it visually, but the sound is excellent!

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 01/07/2013 at 07:14pm

It really is, on both counts. A call back to the point and click adventures of old with a really unique visual style.

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