Creating an out-of-this-world soundtrack that’s orchestral, electronic, yet unexpected.
The soundtrack to Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is so special to me and none of it would have happened without the involvement of Scott Hanau, Music Producer from SIE, so we’ve asked him to co-write this blog.
Early on in our search for the perfect composer for Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, we had been discussing the music pillars and landed on:
Epic – to be able to create soaring compositions that elevate the action of the game.
Levity – To not be too serious as this is a franchise doesn’t take itself too seriously, but also to not be overtly ‘whacky’ as humor in music can turn cartoonish fairly easily.
Unexpected – because the universe of Ratchet & Clank is all about the mash-up/Duality nature of combining ideas into unexpected results, we wanted someone comfortable with the unusual and the surprising.
Themes – Ratchet & Clank has never really had a theme, a musical motif that players could hum and say, “I’ve got the Ratchet theme stuck in my head!”
Strength in numbers (left to right): Ocean Way Nashville’s Jasper LeMaster & Nick Spezia, PlayStation Studios Music’s Anthony Caruso & Ernest Johnson, Mark Mothersbaugh, Scott Hanau, Marcus Smith, Keith Leary (Score Producer, PlayStation Studios Music), Insomniac’s Dwight Okahara, Chuck Doud (Sr. Director, PlayStation Studios Music), Wataru Hokoyama, and Tim Davies (Conductor)
Scott suggested the work of Mark Mothersbaugh (DEVO, The Lego Movie, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Thor: Ragnarok) as these pillars are common elements of his work. It was a perfect fit. So we started looking for people who could hit similar tones. After comparing dozens of prospective composers against our Pillars, however, Scott suggested, “instead of finding someone like Mark Mothersbaugh, why don’t we just ask Mark?”. I didn’t think it was a possibility, but in a week or so we were pitching the game to Mark (along with Wataru Hokoyama from Mutato Muzika) and exchanging, “is this really happening?” glances while hopelessly trying to act like professionals.
Inside the hallowed hall of Ocean Way Studios as the string sections complete the final orchestral recording session for Rift Apart.
Scott Hanau: With Mark and his team onboard we quickly went to work from both creative and technical angles. Armed with Marcus’s latest story treatment, Mark began producing an initial batch of themes. Having worked on games before, he was already familiar with creating compositions that are both evocative and memorable as well as providing the depth and versatility needed to adapt to an open-ended gameplay experience. Several weeks later, we received a first batch of music which included not only our main theme “Rift Apart” but also the theme for Dr Nefarious and the foundations for Clank puzzles and pocket dimensions. A huge success to put it mildly.
Mark continued to churn out tons of killer tracks based on inspiration and concept art alone, at one point concerning us that he might get too far ahead of the rest of production. Having to ask such a prolific artist to “slow down” is definitely a tough career moment.
While Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart’s score is mainly rooted in orchestral and electronic elements, unexpected instrumentation such as concertina, pirate chanting, choir, guitar, conch shells, theremin and more frequently provide unique sonic backdrops to each locale. Mark even used some of his trademark synths, such as a mini-moog and Oberheim TVS-1, that have been featured on classic DEVO albums.
It’s a wrap. The final day of the final orchestral recording session of Rift Apart. The brass section wraps it up with emphasis.
Marcus: Back in February, 2020, just before lockdown started here in the US, we did our first strings and brass orchestra recording session in Nashville, TN at Ocean Way Studios. However, a month later and we were all separated, working from home. We recorded two more sessions at Ocean Way, but everyone (aside from the musicians, who followed strict safety measures) tuned-in remotely. It was incredible to have the technology to be able to listen in to a recording session happening a few thousand miles away and hear it in high fidelity in real time.
Scott: Post-recording, the PlayStation Studios Music team edits the countless individual takes to final mixes and stems, which are then edited into thousands of assets and integrated into a seamless musical experience. Most of this occurred under the unpredictability of COVID. Not only did the majority of the mixing, editing, integration and testing happen during work from home, we were all reinventing how to do our jobs at the same time. It’s challenging circumstances to navigate but a worthwhile pursuit along the way.
We sincerely hope you enjoy the game and the brilliant musical score created by Mark and Wataru. The official soundtrack is available now on all major digital music services, and keep an eye out for an epic vinyl edition to be sliding through the Rift from Milan Records.
Here are a few of our favorite selections from the score (listen to the album on Spotify and Linkfire):
The complete game soundtrack is also included with the Digital Deluxe Edition of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. Pre-Order Now on PlayStation Store. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart arrives exclusively for PlayStation 5 consoles this Friday, June 11.