Twenty-years ago, musician and composer Stewart Copeland dipped his creative toe into the world of videogame scoring with his compositions for the Spyro the Dragon franchise. It was the perfect marriage of melody to visuals with three hit installments utilizing his music. But they also were the only games Copeland scored in the video game industry, as The Police drummer/co-founder then went on to score films and create orchestral concertos.
But Activision and Toys for Bob were able to lure Copeland back for the upcoming anniversary repackaging of the Spyro games series, the Spyro Reignited Trilogy, which will be released on Nov. 13, 2018.
SYFY WIRE talked to Copeland about his pixilated stroll down Spyro memory lane and what they ended up doing with his original score in this new trilogy.
How did you find out they were revisiting the Spyro series?
Stewart Copeland: Well, I heard that they intended to do it. And then I got a call asking me to send them all the music tracks, which I still had because Spyro resonates very deeply with me personally, because I watched it with my kids as they were growing up. So the game actually has a lot of emotion for me, too, not just my own music but the game itself. I sent all the music. Then, some more months went by, and I got a call saying, "Well, why don't you come down and hear how we've reimagined the music."
Well, I made a less optimistic noise than that. I said, “What do you mean reimagined?” And they said, "Well come down, check it out." And I said, "Just send me this reimagined music." They said, "No, no, no you gotta come down here and check it out."
I went down there, and I was blown away. I was almost sobbing. I managed to contain myself, but like I said, I was very emotionally invested in the memories of my kids playing it and they're all 20 years older. They've got kids of their own now. And my 14-year-old back then is now 20, and he works at Insomniac developing games.
But visually, it's the same game. It's the same console. It's the same bridge. It's the same jump that you have to do to get across to the other castle. It's the same everything, but just somebody got me a new pair of glasses. It’s not just a green field. It's a green field with all kinds of bugs crawling around it. All kinds of resolution. I mean it's just really high resolution and full of power and luster and color and everything. And the music's so fitting.
Did they just remix the music?
Well, over there at Toys for Bob they had to listen to all that music and recreate every bassline, every melody. And not just the melody, but the sound that the melody was played on. He had to go find all these old samples, and in some cases, newer, richer versions of the sample. I was working in 8-bit technology. And I don't know what the bits are up to now, but it's a lot higher resolution. So, he had to listen to it all and rebuild it all. It is the same composition. But there's something that we talked about back in the day, which was that the music would interact with the gameplay. When Spyro goes into a dark place, the music gets darker. When he comes out into a sunny field, the music gets lighter, so the music actually interacts with the gameplay. That was our plan. But they ran out of memory and bandwidth in the old version of the game.
Well now, the reason they rebuilt it was so that they could do all that stuff. They got plenty of bandwidth now, and they can do all that, so the same music is playing but it interacts with the environment that the dragon is in, and I just love it. It’s beautiful. But here's the kicker, fans can be very possessive and they don't want it new and better. They want it the same. And that is available. You can also make a switch to the original stereo music that I made 20 years ago in this new version.
How do you feel about the soundtrack now, just as a musician who is able to listen to it with fresh ears?
It shows that the strange thing about creativity is that on this [series] I had to deliver a high volume. Each year, I had to deliver like 30 tracks of four, five minutes duration. Man, I just had to churn and burn. Now, you would think that music created under those conditions would be shallow, but the opposite is true. Something about having to work at that speed means that all you've got time for is instinct. And guess what? Instinct, when it comes to creating music, is better than intellect. The music gets deeper and better because you've got this momentum, and you really get on a roll.
So, the music I wrote for a seemingly shallow enterprise such as a video game for children actually is some of the deepest music that I ever wrote. Deeper than the music I wrote for Oliver Stone, for instance. I don't do film music anymore. I've retired from that, but I learned how to compose and orchestrate for an orchestra, and that's what I do now. I'm in opera. I write concertos for big, bad orchestras. They go out there and play with 60 guys, acoustic, rather than three guys with Joyo amplifiers, and I prefer the 60 guys. And because of that, I finally got around to writing my big Spyro concerto. I was just doing that, cramming all those themes, those basslines, those riffs, those pieces into this symphonic composition, when the call came in saying that they were rebooting the game and the music. And they asked if I could see my way towards creating one more piece of music? Because they've got one page that's new which is the opening page [menu] where you take a left or you go to your right with Spyro. And I said, "Well, it so happens that I've got this big, humongous orchestral piece. How 'bout that?" I played a few bars of it and done. That new piece is in the beginning [of the Trilogy].
With a certain demographic of fan, do you get more recognition for your Spyro work versus your work with The Police?
Yeah, there is a demographic for whom I am the guy who did Spyro. All those thirty-something year-olds, which is the age of my kids, they weren't around when The Police were around. My own kids have no idea that I used to be a rock-star. I'm just dad with a hole in my sock. So, for that age group my rock and roll years don't have nearly the same resonance as Spyro.
Has it made you think that perhaps you'd like to get back into doing big, grand orchestral music for gaming again, or are you okay with leaving your mark with this series?
Well, orchestras in games are dime a dozen these days. They routinely hire a 60-piece orchestra for a video game. So, I've got other fish to fry. Spryo is my one and only game. I’ll quit while I'm ahead.
Well, with your son developing at Insomnia, maybe you should never say never and score one of his games?
I hadn't thought of that actually. It was really fun work, and I probably would consider it.
The Spyro Reignited Trilogy, which will be released on Nov. 13, 2018.
Tom Kenny talks about his voice work in Spyro: