RocketBaby: What was your first musical experience?
Tim Larkin: The first experience that I can remember was sitting down at a relative's house when I was a few years old, and playing with their piano for quite a while. My parents then decided I was a perfect candidate for piano lessons, and I remember starting those about age four. As far as professional experience, I fell in love with big band music and started playing trumpet with the "Youth Of America" big band at age 11.
RB: How did you get in to the game business?
Tim Larkin: I got into the business by calling the right company at the right time. Broderbund was hiring at the time I called. Guess I was lucky caller #11...
RB: What do you enjoy about creating game music? What do you hate about creating game music?
Tim Larkin: I enjoy creating the final mix of a piece, or recording live musicians on them. That is always toward the end of the process, and you know you're close to being done. The worst part is when you're dry of ideas, and you're sitting there listening over and over trying to figure out where to go with it.
RB: What do you think about the state of today’s game music?
Tim Larkin: I think it's getting better every time I hear a game for the most part. Composers and developers are understanding the different ways to utilize music in games and taking advantage of it.
RB: When creating your music how much freedom do the developers give you? How do you interact with the designer/producer/director?
Tim Larkin: With the URU soundtrack I had total freedom. Rand Miller was the producer of the game, and we had several discussions in the beginning stages to talk about an aesthetic and what direction we wanted the music to go. After that, he pretty much let me do my thing, and I'm very grateful for that.
RB: Could you describe what a sound designer does?
Tim Larkin: A sound designer creates the ambiance and sound effects for the game. Synching up the sounds to the animations and even recording your own foley and ambiance is pretty common.
RB: What inspires your melodies?
Tim Larkin: I wish I knew. I think that walking around in the game and getting the feel for various environments and story elements definitely helps, but the actual melody comes from just weaving through the various textures that have been set up, or maybe from a previous line that's connected somehow.
RB: How does your earlier musical experience help you create game music?
Tim Larkin: I'm influenced by everything I hear in some way or another, even though it might be on a subconscious level, so I think that somehow we tend to draw on those sounds and feelings that lie in the back of our minds.
RB: What is your process for creating music? What kind on environment do you work in?
Tim Larkin: My process usually begins after I see an area that needs music. I'll start playing around with textures sometimes, or maybe just a palette of certain instruments that I feel work with that area. I'll start working from that point on.
RB: What are your strengths and weaknesses as a composer?
Tim Larkin: That's a tough question. I'm always trying to learn and listen in order to continue to grow as a composer and musician. I think that my strengths and weaknesses are in a constant state of flux.
RB: Who would you most like to make music with?
Tim Larkin: Gino Vanelli, Russ Landau, Hans Zimmer, any of the Newmans or Miles if he were still alive.
Please share your thoughts on the following:
Middle Earth - Going to be huge.
Lord Of The Rings - The best Trilogy in film to date.
Robota - Getting started on the next trailer in a few weeks. Interesting concept, and great art.
Prince Of Persia - Would love to work on the next one!
Ella Fitzgerald - When I first heard her sing, I couldn't believe it was coming from her. She sounded so smooth, it was unreal.
James Brown - No one grooves harder than his band, no one.
Mel Torme - Another smooth singer, great arrangements.
Sheila E - She hits hard, real hard.
Huey Lewis - Good golfer.
RB: How did you approach the music Uru? What elements attracted you most to the project? How does the music differ and or complement your previous projects?
Tim Larkin: The music was very different in the elements that I used and the structure of the music. Previous and other projects generally have strickter guidlines. Sometimes I have to write a jazz tune, or a world beat, or a hip hop tune. Those types of requirements place a definite structure around what you're doing. What attracted me to this project was the aesthetic and the opportunity to underscore some great environments. URU is a great looking game, and the sound and music in my opinion make it look even better. The opposite is also true however. The graphics definitely don't hurt the sound any.
RB: What do you do to relax when not creating music?
Tim Larkin: I like to travel, explore places around here (Pacific Northwest), hang out with my family.
RB: What advice would you give those who want to create music in general, but also for games?
Tim Larkin: Draw on your past experiences, learn music in an academic environment as well as practical application. It can be frustrating working with people that can't read music and having to dictate note for note what you want. Same for those that can't write music. The majority of great composers out there know what they are doing with regards to theory and orchestration. Learn it, and you have a much greater chance of being among them.
RB: Any other thoughts about your career?
Tim Larkin: I've been very fortunate to be where I am today. Much of it is hard work and persistence, but it's also quite a bit of luck and fate. The industry has come quite a long ways since I began, and I'm proud to be a part of it.
A big thank you to Tim Larkin for taking the time to chat. Thanks to Greg @ Top Dollar.