IGM Interviews – Chase Bethea (I Can’t Escape: Darkness)
I Can’t Escape had an incredible soundtrack bolstering its atmosphere, and this music is a huge part of what made the game feel so oppressive and dark. That music was all thanks to Chase Bethea, a man who’s been composing countless powerful musical scores for games. With a wide range of capabilities, Chase has provided soundtracks to games in many different genres, showing a lot of skill in creating subtlety as well as power in his music.
Having enjoyed many of his soundtracks, IGM tracked Chase down and asked him some of his thoughts about his musical career, and how his music comes together.
Indie Game Magazine: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Chase Bethea: I am a video game Composer/Sound Designer/Audio Engineer and Audio Consultant. I’ve been working professionally in the game industry for three years, writing music for 14 years, and doing Sound Design for six years. I was born and raised in Chicago. My first video game system was a GameBoy, which I received when I was 6 years old, and I have been in love video games ever since. It is my dream and passion to be involved in anything that deals with video games.
IGM: What are some of the projects people might know you from?
IGM: What initially drew you to music? What made you turn it into a career?
Chase: I grew up on Jazz music and when I was younger I played Alto Saxophone until I was 12. Then, I transitioned into Hip-Hop and focused my energy into that for several years. While I tried to produce hip hop music as a producer, a lot of my music was overlooked because people thought it sounded like video game music. This was not my intention to make it sound that way, but I did play a lot of games. I tried to embrace the label of my music sounding like video games and make it into a niche sound by incorporating video game samples. Nevertheless, it received no recognition, and I lost passion for Hip Hop overall. The caliber of talent in Hip Hop went downhill and I became uninspired. Finally, the light bulb went off and I realized that I should just try to write for video games, since that is what people were telling me anyway.
After deep thought, I looked back on my younger years. I have always been an avid and passionate gamer and I love making sounds and music. The epiphany was tremendous and I took the appropriate steps to get the ball rolling in the new direction. Ever since I made the decision, everything has felt right and has been falling slowly in.
IGM: What are you currently composing for?
IGM: What do you try to accomplish with the music you create for games?
Chase: I try to accomplish adding as much as I can to the collaborative process of the project. My belief is that at the end of the project I have created intrinsic music for the player’s experience, and accomplished a psychological experience when playing the game.
IGM: You have a flair for epic, sweeping songs. Do you have a favorite tone you like to set with your music?
Chase: The tone I like to set must first fit the project as much as possible. If the developer is looking for a specific sound, I do my best to mimic it and through that, my own sound comes into play. I like to think of setting the tone as creating ear candy. If I can get the listener in 10 seconds, then I’m on the right track to sonic sweetness.
IGM: How important do you feel music is for setting a game’s tone and mood?
Chase: Setting the music for the game is paramount. You want to keep the player engaged in the entire art-form in which is the game. If at any time the music becomes boring or irritating and the player has to turn the music down or off, then I didn’t do my best. The gameplay, story, music, and art need to stick like hot glue and should at best, compliment one another to add to the full experience.
By setting the tone, you let the player know right off the bat what kind of game it is going to be. It can be anywhere from upbeat to downtempo. Sometimes the music throws a curve ball and the style changes. This works if it still fits the art and gameplay. If I’m working on a project and the theme is underwater and the concept art depicts a beautiful submerged world, I probably will not be writing Heavy Metal music in the style of Pantera (unless suggested by the developer). I will most likely write sweeping pad chords with additional sub-tonic layers with deep textures that can sonically illustrate what I think the underwater world should be like. This approach should attach a relation of the underwater theme of the game with the player and, if it does, I have accomplished setting the game’s tone and mood with the sounds I have created.
IGM: Do you have a preferred genre to work with? Musical style?
Chase: Not really. I do know my strengths are Ambient, Chip-tune, Electronic, Hip Hop, Jazz, Rhythm and Blues an very soon, Orchestral.
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