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Interview with Howard Drossin (BGII - ToB)

conducted by Garrett 2001 06 05

Our second day of the Throne of Bhaal interviews covers Howard Drossin, who already did some of the tracks for the great original Baldur's Gate II score:

RPGDot: Please introduce yourself and tell us about your musical career. How did you get into the computer gaming business? Do you do other non-computer-game related music as well?

Howard Drossin: In 1989, after receiving my Bachelor's Degree in Music Composition from the Southern California Conservatory Of Music, I spent three years touring and recording with a band called "Flies On Fire" for Atlantic Records. In 1993, after two albums and many tours with the Flies, I began composing soundtracks for Walt Disney Software. That same year, I became the Music Director for Sega Technical Institute where I remained for four years. While at Sega, I worked on numerous games including several of the "Sonic The Hedgehog" titles. I also began moonlighting in the film industry writing additional music for such films as "Menace II Society", "Jimmy Hollywood", and "Monkey Trouble". In 1997, I left Sega and formed my own company to pursue other opportunities in film, theme parks, and multimedia. I recently formed another company called Yo Eleven Productions which focuses mainly on production for the gaming industry.

RPGDot: What did you work on in the past?

Howard Drossin: A few highlights to mention would be "The Item", a film I scored in late 1998 which premiered at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival and currently plays on the Sundance Channel from time to time, a whole lot of music for Universal Studios Islands Of Adventure, and as I mentioned above, several "Sonic The Hedgehog" titles as well as other games including "Comix Zone", "Vigilante 8", "Dynamite Cop", "Diehard Arcade", "Wu-Tang Shaolin Style", "Alien Front", and "Baldur's Gate 2".

RPGDot: What exactly did you do for the TOB Soundtrack?

Howard Drossin: I composed the music for the TOB Villains Battle, Yaga Shura's Enclave, Sendia's Enclave, Abazigal's Enclave, Talking Heads, and Amkethran tracks, plus one of the dream tracks. I also worked on the intro and ending movies.

RPGDot: What were your feelings on composing the soundtrack of TOB? Any track you especially like or any memorable scene while composing them?

Howard Drossin: I enjoyed composing music for this soundtrack. The most memorable track for me was Yaga Shura's Enclave - I had some fun with that one. It was also great having the opportunity to work with my friend and fellow composer Inon Zur.

RPGDot: Michael Hoenig did the music on BG 1 & 2 - did his work inspire you or was it more of a burden? Did you use some of the original BG tunes in the TOB themes?

Howard Drossin: Michael's music mainly served as a stylistic guide to follow. However, I did use some of the themes from BG 2 in the movie sequences.

RPGDot: I am always wondering how the making of movie or game music takes place in terms of fitting into the scene. Do you see the scene in advance and compose the track acc to it or is it vice versa and you shorten or lenghten the track afterwards?

Howard Drossin: This varies from project to project. We almost always begin with some discussion followed by documention specifying the mood, pace, and length of the music needed. This is usually enough information for me to proceed; however, sometimes I may get a video tape of the game, some screen shots, or go to the developer's office to view a version of the game in progress.
With regard to the movie sequences, I do see them in advance and compose directly to picture.

RPGDot: How long does it take to write the music, from the very scratch until the songs are finished and mixed down? 

Howard Drossin: The music came rather quickly for this project. For some pieces it can be a matter of hours from the beginning to the end. For others, it can be as long as a few days. In general, the recording and mixing process does not take very long. It is the composition of the music itself that is difficult to establish a time frame for and it is different for every composer at any given time.

RPGDot: Your musical influences, favourite artists and composers, your favourite records and movies?

Howard Drossin: There is probably not enough room here to mention all of them. Composers who immediately come to mind are Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Bartok, Barber, and Copland. Recently I have also been listening to a lot of film music by Waxman, Rozsa, Williams, and Morricone.
As far as records go, two favorites would be The Rolling Stones "Exile On Main Street" and The Beatles "Rubber Soul" and of course the best rock single of all time in my opinion, "Jumping Jack Flash".

RPGDot: Thank you for the interview

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