An Interview with Video Game Composer Antriksh Bali
Antriksh Bali is a producer of experimental/electronic music and a composer. He's been the creator of indie game and film soundtracks, as well as having released music for Materia Collective, Volterock and jwala. Via email, I asked him about how he started as a composer, his approach to music creation and his latest work on the soundtrack of TinkerQuarry—an indie horror game.
Karl Magi: What first drew you towards music?
Antriksh Bali: Growing up, I had a lot of pent-up energy that I felt that I needed to get rid of, being a textbook introvert didn’t really mitigate this. First, it was poetry and super-long journal entries about how I felt. Then it turned into recording and playing tapes of music that got broadcast on the radio. Eventually, it turned into the need to express myself by trying to create music on a toy keyboard. And naturally, things build up from there. Piano lessons, producing tracks on an 8-track recorder and then using music software became a staple as I got older.
KM: How did you become a composer?
AB: The need to become a composer largely stemmed from angsty teenager days, the piano lessons were starting to grow monotonous. School wasn’t exactly a smooth ride, either. Being taught piano largely in a classical music setting made me feel like I couldn’t break out of the rigidity of it. I had to stop taking classes and forget everything I knew for a couple of years. I think that is what still drives me today, the feeling of trying to tap into something visceral beyond method and organized learning. I went to the Valencia, Spain campus Berklee College of Music to study film scoring many years later and I think that’s what has primarily helped to cement my path as a composer so far.
KM: What is your view on the role of video game music in the broader world of contemporary music?
AB: I think that video games influence culture, and so does music. Even more so in today’s world, both of these things are starting to drive it. That’s why it is an exciting time to work on video games. We’re also starting to see massive concerts being organized by people in the video games community, as well as people in music, stuff like Video Games Live! Or festivals/conferences like MAGWest are slowly turning into testing grounds for some very exciting music acts and bands. Things will get only more exciting from here, and definitely all of this impacts contemporary music.
- TinkerQuarry (Original Game Soundtrack) by Antriksh Bali on Spotify
TinkerQuarry (Original Game Soundtrack), an album by Antriksh Bali on Spotify
KM: Who are composers/musicians from whom you draw inspiration and why?
AB: Industrial music has been quite the influence. Nine Inch Nails, The Haxan Cloak, and Skinny Puppy because of how they’ve used noise to develop their sound. Composers like Bernard Herrmann, John Cage because of their unique instrumentation choices as well as contemporary composers that make an effort to do something cool, especially people like Oliver Deriviere, Austin Wintory or Disasterpeace.
KM: In terms of the TinkerQuarry soundtrack, what was your overall approach to it? How did you go about composing it?
AB: TinkerQuarry first started off as a couple of unrelated tracks for a video game in 2016. One was very atmospheric and evoked the quirkiness of the 80’s at the same time being unsettling, while the other was full of experimental sounds that I developed using the Kinetic Toys library from Native Instruments. The game developer really liked the music so I was asked to make more music for the game.
Eventually the sounds of the world expanded to encapsulate both, noise and melody. I think a lot of my approach dealt with trying to make disparate musical elements come together. Attempting to contrast the sounds of a tin can, with a burst of violent arpeggios can be quite the task, At the start you’re free to explore things, but as you get further into the process, things get more defined and you start realizing what works and what doesn’t in terms of context. I think context is so very important in terms of games.
KM: What is your goal with TinkerQuarry as a soundtrack?
AB: The goal with TinkerQuarry was to paint a musical universe that would extend just beyond an outward feeling of uneasiness that one might experience at the start of the game. It was also to illustrate that a horror game soundtrack doesn’t always have to be absolutely dark, or terrifying to pull someone in
A lot of the music for the soundtrack was created by trying to channel my own inner anxiety that I had experienced in different parts of my life from many years ago. Especially the track R.G.P where I reused elements from another track from the soundtrack by distorting, re-pitching and passing it through several pitch-down and pitch-up effects designed to simulate tapes.
KM: How do you hope listeners/players will respond to the soundtrack?
AB: For listeners, I hope that it helps them imagine and take a sonic journey through the video game, and enjoy it. It is also largely the hope that people would sit up and take notice about how not all horror video game scores have to be the same or at least sound the same. I’m pretty sure that if someone were to listen to the soundtrack without playing the game, they would be hard-pressed to identify it as a horror game soundtrack, I think that was the goal - an unconventional horror game soundtrack.
For players of the game that already have played it, I hope it offers them an additional opportunity to dive once more into the game world and maybe find some new sonic places to discover that they might not have had the opportunity to do while they were playing the game.