Health to provide Max Payne 3 soundtrack

A look at the evolution of music in videogames, inspired by Health's Max Payne 3 soundtrack

The LA noise rockers follow the game-soundtracking example of Opeth, Trivium and others

Ever since the very earliest days of home gaming and the release of the Atari 2600 (1977), videogame music has become a part of cultural life. The lack of processing power meant it was necessarily tinny, bleepy and repetitive. Despite this, 8- and 16-bit machines threw up some memorable tunes (directly influencing a generation of musicians from Rustie to Hadouken!), but it was the launch of the PlayStation in 1994 that saw the biggest sea change. More info could be crammed onto the discs leading to better, bigger, bolder scores.

In Guitar Hero and Rock Band the music became a core component of the gaming experience. Several acts (such as Smashing Pumpkins and Def Leppard) released singles exclusively as downloads for these series. Taking things a step further Megadeth provided the title tracks for both Gears of War and NeverDead while God of War III Ultimate Edition boasted a metal meets mythology mini-album featuring exclusive tracks from Trivium, Opeth and Dream Theater.

As games have become more epic it’s no surprise that film composers became involved. Hans Zimmer, who won an Oscar for his work on The Lion King and a Grammy for his Dark Knight score, was involved with Crysis 2 while Daniel Licht, who currently provides music for Golden Globe-winning drama Dexter, scored Silent Hill: Downpour.

Now Rockstar Games have secured the services of LA noise rock band Health for the soundtrack of violent shooter Max Payne 3. ‘We’re really excited to be working with Health on this project,’ says Ivan Pavlovich, soundtrack supervisor for Rockstar. ‘They’ve brought a distinct energy and atmosphere to the game that perfectly fits Max’s dark story.’

However, scoring a videogame offers its own unique problems and complexities. What could take one player five minutes could take another 20, they offer a far more elastic experience – dependent on the user’s strategy and ability – than a film or an album. As Health’s John Famiglietti explained to Pitchfork in a recent interview: ‘We would create a lot of music and then have the stems broken up – different types of music for different types of shootouts and levels of action – and they would have to be able to stack on top of each other so it could loop and play indefinitely. And it has to stay in the correct mood. Plus, there’s super-loud gunfire happening over the music at all times, so it has to work with that. And you have to keep in mind that, in real life, someone’s gonna be playing these levels for a fucking hour-and-a-half at a time. It was pretty challenging.’

Max Payne 3 (Rockstar) is available from Fri 18 May; Daniel Licht’s Silent Hill: Downpour soundtrack (Milan Records) is available now.

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