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Interview: Silas Hite Talks Composing Music For Sims 2, Skate 3, X-Play

While playing video games we often find ourselves singing or humming the music. Whether it be from a license song in a Tony Hawk game, or Level 1-1 of Super Mario Bros. we all do it way more than we realize it. Even years later it will pop into our heads out of pure nostalgia. We recently got to sit down with Silas Hite. Silas is a music composer for video games such as Skate 3, The Simpsons, Boom Blox, and The Sims 2. Silas has also done music for tv shows such as Blue Mountain State, Pawn Stars, Burn Notice, and X-Play. With a resume like this, it was fascinating to get to know some details about what goes on behind the scenes creating music for a video game.
 GC: What kinds of instruments do you play?
SH: Drum set, guitar, bass, piano, mandolin, accordion, ukulele, organ, lots of different percussion instruments from hand drums to marimba.  I’ll pick up any instrument and see what kinds of sounds I can get out of it.  If I enjoy the instrument, I’ll often take lessons and study it for awhile.
GC: How did you feel when you found out you had been nominated for an Emmy?
SH: I felt surprised because it seemed like a fairly simple rock n’ roll score.  But it fit the show and it was a great cartoon, so I’m sure that had a lot to do with it. Shaggy & Scooby Doo Get a Clue! was only on for two seasons but it was pretty funny.  More recently I scored a Public Service Announcement about homelessness that did win an Emmy.  That felt good.
GC: I found it really interesting that you did some music for the film Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. What kind of music did you do and did you work alongside Mark Mothersbaugh?
SH: Yes, that was Mark’s film.  I was working as a composer at his studio at the time.  For that film I only wrote a handful of little cues and Mark did most of the heavy lifting.   I wrote a few orchestral pieces and some electronic tracks.  Some of my music was recorded by the London Philharmonic at Abbey Road for that film.  Even though I wasn’t there for the recording session, it was a great honor!
GC: You did an original song for the popular gaming tv show X-Play on G4. What song did you do for them and how did it come about?
SH: I was in a band called Thunderdikk with one of the X-Play producers and he suggested they try our music.  “Bra Off Party On” was probably the song, but I bet there was more than one song used.  The music we wrote together has ended up in many, many TV shows.  It was catchy, tongue-in-cheek party rock.
GC: Since you did some original scores for Blue Mountain State I have to ask; Are you doing any music for the upcoming Blue Mountain State movie?
 SH: I co-scored the first season or maybe two when I was at my uncle’s studio and they kept scoring it after I left.  I am guessing they will be scoring the film.   Or at least I hope they are, they would do a great job!
GC: The first video game you did music for was Sims 2. How did that come about?
SH: Mark was approached to score it and he brought myself and a few other composers on as a team to work on it.  I think EA liked the quirky sounds coming out of our studio at the time.
GC: While working on Sims 2, did you ever get to meet Will Wright and if so what is he like?
SH: We never met but I would like to meet him, he sounds like an interesting person.  Usually when scoring a video game, composers are mostly only in contact with the Audio Director of the game company.
GC: How different is it doing music for a video game compared to a film or tv show?
SH: The biggest difference is with a game you are not as worried about the music getting in the way of the dialog like in a film or tv show.  The trick with game music though, is that the music has to be interesting enough so that people like it, but not too interesting because you don’t want to annoy the gamer if they are stuck on a level and they have to hear the same piece of music over and over.
GC: At what point in development do you usually start to come up with music?
SH: With games, the music begins fairly early in the process. At least compared to film and tv where it is often one of the last things that is addressed.
GC: How do you get your inspirations when you do video games (Concept Art, shown level designs, etc.)?
SH: The concept art plays a huge role.  I take visual cues from the artwork to know what the tone of the music should me. For example if the characters are goofy looking, perhaps the music can be a little more lighthearted.  Of course, that is a simple generalization. Sometimes the music might be very serious to accentuate the goofiness!   Often the the Audio Director will also give you reference music and tell you what they like about it and how it might relate to their game. For instance they might tell you to listen to a particular movie score because they like the combination of instruments used in that score.
Playing a Beta version of the game really helps as well because you gain a better understanding of the the pace of the game, which in turn informs the pace of the score.
GC: How big of a deal was it for you to get to compose music for The Simpsons video game?
SH: As a lifelong, die-hard Simpsons fan I was very honored!  Also, there were many other talented composers working on that game so I knew it would be an interesting score in the end.
GC: When you composed music for Skate 3, did you ever go hang out with any Pro Skaters or at Skate Parks for inspiration?
SH: I wish! That would have been a blast!  No, but I did work on a Nike skate film called Nothing But The Truth and we did hang out with some skaters for that, which was a lot of fun.  They came into the studio and had input on the music for their scenes.  Cool guys.
GC: Do you ever get to play any of the games that you have composed for?
SH: Of course!  My favorites were probably The Simpsons, Skate 3 and the Boom Blox games.
GC: What kind of advice would you give to an aspiring musician who wants to write their own music?
SH: Do it a lot and then do it some more! Just like playing an instrument, practice makes perfect. If you want to get better, take classes, read articles on mixing, watch videos on production, etc.  I also offer a workshop for aspiring composers.  It is geared toward scoring commercials, because they are a short format, but we talk a lot about scoring games, tv, and films as well.  I am currently offering it in a one-on-one capacity via Skype because I have been too busy to host the larger group workshop version.  The one-on-one version is nice because it’s easy to work it into both mine and the participant’s schedule and we can focus on the things that really interests them.  You can learn more about it here:
GC: Are there any current projects you are working on that you are allowed to tell us about?
SH: I usually can’t talk about my projects until they are done, but I always post cool links to the music and videos when it’s over. Come find me on Twitter or Facebook to keep up and say hello!

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