Interviews

The men behind the music, Yooka-Laylee composers Grant Kirkhope and David Wise on soundtracks, musical inspirations

With the Yooka-Laylee duology now available on store shelves, it’s a well known fact that industry-renowned composers Grant Kirkhope and David Wise played a major role in creating the soundtrack for both games. We were lucky to ask some questions to the duo regarding creation of the soundtracks as well as some other video game-related musical choices.

Photo credit: https://twitter.com/grantkirkhope/status/887055181577412608

First off, thank you so much for agreeing to answer a few questions for us! With the wide releases of the two Yooka-Laylee soundtracks, more gamers can listen to the wonderful scores! What are your favorite tracks on these soundtracks?

Grant Kirkhope (GK): My favourite from the first Yooka game is definitely Glitter Glaze Glacier and from the second game it’s the canyon’s version of the overworld theme.

David Wise (DW): Thank you for asking the questions. As for favorite tracks. For Yooka Laylee; Probably Hivory Towers – classic Kirkhope. A goofy comedic melody with a lovely arrangement as a back drop for the game.

And for Impossible Lair: The track used for Scareship Scroll.

Each track on both soundtracks has a charm and unique feeling to them, especially with the 90s collectathon atmosphere the first game provides. How do you come up with ideas to compose songs for a series such as Yooka-Laylee?

GK: For Yooka Laylee it was definitely going to be a big heavy Banjo-Kazooie influence as that’s what the game was all about. For the second game it was almost opposite as it didn’t need to sound anything like Banjo-Kazooie! I get ideas from the descriptions that I get from the Playtonic guys and then just use my imagination to think how whatever it is they tell me might sound.

DW: This is more a question for Grant, having done such a marvelous job with the Banjo-Kazooie series – his style slots right into a game like Yooka Laylee. I, along with Steve Burke, provided around 10% of the soundtrack each – to add our own musical flavors from the Rare style of music compositions.

How was working with Playtonic Games when composing the soundtrack? Was it any different from working with a larger company?

GK: It was great because we’ve all known each other for years! It was just like being back at Rare with all the in jokes and making fun of each other!

DW: How was working with Playtonic games? Absolutely no different to working with a big company, as we all used to work for a big company (Nintendo/Microsoft). We used to work in self-contained smaller teams whilst at Rare, so it was a very similar feel when working with Playtonic. And it’s always good to be working with such talented friends.

You’ve been involved in many different projects together so I have to ask: What’s been your favorite one so far?

GK: That’s a tough one. I like different games for different reasons. I’d have to say Banjo-Kazooie as it was my first game where I did all the music and all the sound effects, Viva Pinata because it was the first time I got to use live orchestra and Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle because… wel … it’s MARIO!

DW: To be honest, I really enjoyed working on Starfox Adventures. Grant played the trumpet with Robin Beanland and Jamie Hughes for the intro fanfare. And then Grant simply nailed the guitar solo for Fox-Rocks track.

While Yooka-Laylee does owe a lot of musical inspiration with the older Rare platformers, the tracks in the duo of games are pretty different. Even the DK Rap gets an homage in the first game’s introduction sequence; were there any legal things you had to consider when making the score?

GK: Not really, the Yooka Rap is similar to the DK Rap because it uses the same drum loop, but that loop is commercially available so there’s no legal issues.

Speaking of the DK Rap, the song has received some extreme popularity and viral reach (as it’s one of the most used songs with channels like Siivagunner among others). What do you think of the song now nearly two decades later?

GK: Ha… considering everyone hated when I wrote it I’m amazed that anyone at all likes it, I’ve only had to wait 20 years!

To David, I heard that Jungle Japes was a result of mashing three ideas into one song. Are there any other songs that are a result of mixing ideas together?

DW: It’s a technique I still use to this day. I started working on a new score this morning and throughout today I’ve put down three really rough demo ideas for this new game. I don’t need to polish them to perfection at this stage, merely make them good enough to convey the idea and present to them later this week.

Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair’s eponymous lair is known for its difficulty, even with a host of upgrades you collect in the main game. Have you successfully braved through the lair?

GK: Alas I haven’t, I don’t seem to get the time these days!

DW: No! I love playing games, especially pick up and play games like Yooka Laylee – where the player isn’t forced to invest too much time. I’ll play through the level to get an idea for the feel of each area, but have to admit to having a real game-player finish levels when they present a real challenge.

Have you ever dressed up as a character in a game you helped make for Halloween or another event? (Maybe Mumbo Jumbo in Banjo Kazooie or Yooka-Laylee?)

GK: Ha… I haven’t… maybe I should do that this year!

DW: No! It’s a great idea – but those primate suits look as though they might be really hot and sweaty. The closest I’ve got to wearing a costume, is simply wearing the DK tie.

Speaking of which, which video game character do you think resembles you the most?

GK: I have to be Mumbo Jumbo of course!

DW: I’m sure someone else could make a much better judgement on this than me – but probably Diddy Kong.

If you were stuck on an island and for some reason had one instrument with you, what would it be and why?

GK: My trusty ukulele!

DW: Probably my piano if I were there totally isolated and alone. However, if I were stuck on an island with other musicians, I’d bring along my saxophone.

Finally, any last words or advice you’d like to give our readers, especially ones trying to compose music in the video game world?

GK: You need to get yourself to the place where there are people making games. Go to cons or game jams or anywhere where you can meet people that make games. Just putting your music up on YouTube and crossing your fingers that someone will hear it isn’t going to work. Get yourself out there!

DW: I think my wisest words of advice to any aspiring composer would have to be: choose a different career. It’s a tough gig out there and I’ve been incredibly lucky. Whilst I love composing music, I’m sure there are much easier ways to make money. But if you really feel compelled to write music for videogames – hang out with games designers and artists. Find developers who are at similar stage to you in their artistic career – and make your talents a useful commodity for everyone else you’re going to work with.

You can catch both Kirkhope and Wise on the Yooka-Laylee and Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair soundtracks, available now on most digital storefronts. Stay tuned for more news here on Gaming Trend.

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