An Interview with Alex Otterlei Feature - The Next Level

An Interview with Alex Otterlei

Hear from the man behind Xyanide's haunting soundtrack.

Article by Aaron Drewniak (Email)
November 24th 2005, 04:10AM


John Barry's King Kong soundtrack is a separate story. As an eight-year old I was really deeply struck by this movie, and must have seen it about 20 times, dragging each and every available family-member along...Some time later, I was visiting family in Norway (my father's a Norwegian), and one of my nephews had...the Soundtrack! I simply had to have it, bargained and pleaded, ended up giving him all my pocket money, and went home with the album. When I first played it, I saw all the images coming back, all the scenes, and all the emotions. It is a very emotional movie, you know. Poor Kong looking one last time with his deep set, almost human eyes at his Lady, while helicopters start shooting him to pieces...It came back just as strongly, even without the movie. Yes, the tears, yes, the anger of the injustice inflicted upon the poor beast.

Ok, I'm a sucker for big apes.

I guess that's one of my strongest early impacts: how music can create images in your mind, how it can move you, make you laugh, make you cry, make you feel like you can take on the world by storm or feeling very small and blue hunched in a corner of your room (Radiohead does that to me, especially with "Fake Plastic Trees", and "Creep.").

And all that thanks to Kong.

King Kong has inspired so many people for so many things, though I never heard of it influence music before...but what was that about music for roleplaying games?

Alex: But I'm drifting off. We were at a roleplaying session, and it was during one of these sessions that I figured why not create my own music for roleplaying games? To make a long story short: I approached a publisher who was very active in the RPG-scene at that time, and he liked the idea. Together we created "Music For Games" and created two albums Battlethemes and Where Evil Lurks, which along with Arthur got sold worldwide, especially in Holland, Germany, England, and the States.

Around 1995, I met a renowned composer by coincidence, and he was surprised by the fact that I had created three orchestral albums without any theoretical knowledge of music (I played everything by "ear"). So he became my "master Yoda," and under his guidance, my composing and orchestration skills took a serious leap forward. The result of his mental investment in me can be heard in Horror on the Orient Express, which has been released this year, but was actually finished in 2000. The album was meant as the fourth RPG-album for my previous publisher, but by then his company (consisting of 5 RPG-shops) had gone down...

So there I was, without a publisher, and an unpublished album in my hands that had been received very enthusiastically during previews on game fairs, and that many people wanted to buy...So I decided to take matter in my own hands, start my own record label and publish my works myself. That however, took a long time to accomplish, more so because the rights of the albums were still owned by the publisher.

Now AO Music is emblazoned on the Xyanide Official Soundtrack I hold in my hands. So how did making music to accompany roleplaying games turn into composing music for videogames?

Alex: Well, around the same time I decided to join a competition for the first time in my life. Just for the challenge. But when I received a phone call from a very solemn speaking jury-member, telling me I had been selected unanimously as the winner of the competition, well...that was quite a nice day. So I attended the World Soundtrack Awards, and received the "Best Young Film composer" prize, shook hands with Jeff Rona and other famous people and witnessed my score being performed by the Belgian National Orchestra, conducted by Dirk Brossé.

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