A King’s Tale is a genre mash-up and so is its soundtrack. I caught Bill Kiley, the video game music composer, via email to talk about his experience crafting the beat-’em-up tunes to this Final Fantasy game. For those unfamiliar, Kiley is responsible for the viral, what-if scenario of Downton Abbey being ported as an SNES game that featured a chiptune-y version of the show’s main theme.
How did you get the job to score King’s Tale?
What kind of direction did they give you in terms of sound, if any?
They were amazing to work with! They obviously wanted it to be in the realm of an older Final Fantasy soundtrack, but I had tons of freedom to try things and add instruments from outside the 16-bit era because our game does the same with visuals and mechanics.
How did you put your own vision or spin within that direction? Can you give an example of a certain track that best showcases your own vision?
I’m a giant nerd for 8-bit and 16-bit music, so it was a blast to write stuff that combined those two worlds. This is the first time I’ve ever worked on a project that allowed for weird stuff like mashing a large orchestral section of a song smack right into a chiptune. The piece I wrote for the final credit roll of this game probably demonstrates this weirdness pretty well.
Walk me through the process of writing one of the tracks. Tell me about how it worked from inception to completion.
First, I would bother the artists on the project for peeks at what they were working on. I find it much easier to write for a given area in a game if you get a glimpse of how it looks visually. Once I see the art I have a sense of what types of instruments might be appropriate, so I build a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) loaded up with instruments that might fit. From there I usually work on the main hooky melody or the beat first... or the underlying chord structure...or... You know what, every song is a bit different. Thankfully there is no “right” answer when it comes to making music, so you can test and tinker with things until you are happy with it.
What musical riffs, sounds, or inspiration outside of FF did you sneak in to the OST to spice it up?
I absolutely love Yoko Shimomura, and I was lucky enough to get the soundtrack for Final Fantasy XV early, so I listened to that quite a bit, though I am hardcore obsessed with the stuff she wrote for Legend of Mana, so that might have actually been seared into my brain a bit more. Obviously Nobuo Uematsu’s music is some of the most important game music ever written, and I was lucky to be a kid during the era of his amazing NES and SNES soundtracks. I would tape that stuff with a handheld recorder, and listen those tapes straight into the ground during recess at school. As far as non-video game influences go, it feels painfully obvious to me that the bit at 1:20 from that Final Credits Theme is a straight up rip-off of anything from Weezer’s Pinkerton album, which is a prefect record. I also try to listen to a well balanced mix of DEVO, Waylon Jennings, Hella, Bonnie Raitt, Death Grips, and Doc Watson.
You can contact the author of this article at marshall.scott.naylor[at]gmail.com