It wouldn’t be an Evil Genius game without the sinister sounds of James Hannigan pumping through the airwaves. Once word got out that the sonic mastermind himself had returned, our community had plenty of questions for him. We gathered up the most relevant ones and put them to the man himself! Many thanks to James for his time, and to Nick Brewer for facilitating this conversation.
When you were composing the original Evil Genius, what were your inspirations? You’ve composed several works with Russian influences over the years, what has inspired you in general when shaping your style?
I’ve been quite fortunate as the projects I’ve worked on over the years have been very varied in terms of genre and what they require musically, so I’ve become a bit of a musical chameleon! Despite this, I always hope there is something of ‘me’ running through the work as well, especially within the themes. I love writing those, as it’s often where you try to create a kind of musical blueprint for a project … but it can also be the hardest part!
I do indeed love Russian music of the 20th Century - by the likes of Shostakovich, Stravinsky and many others, and that has probably influenced me to some extent … especially when writing fairly popular tracks such as Soviet March for Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3. But I try to write whatever is stylistically appropriate for what I’m working on, and that’s part of the challenge - and fun - of doing the job. When you write music to picture, going with a story, or to be heard within a particular setting or era, you have to put aside some of your own personal tastes in order create something actually serving the project… especially if it refers to a recognisable genre in the way Evil Genius does, which has a degree of parody involved as well. Fortunately, I absolutely love the spy and sci-fi genres, especially from the 1950s to the 1970s, and there’s something magical for me about the fusion of an orchestra with a jazz flavour in particular.
What was the oddest instrument you’ve used in composing the music for either EG1 or EG2?
Being mostly orchestral, many of the instruments used in the EG1 and EG2 scores aren’t super exotic in themselves, but I do find that the vibraphone [vibes] can be particularly interesting, and pretty integral to a certain sound often heard within the spy genre. Nothing seems to say ‘intrigue’ quite like the low shimmering, mellow tones of the vibes. They have this unmistakable warmth and presence, great for atmospheric, rhythmic beds brimming with mystery and tension.
I’m also a huge fan of surf guitar, which is another musical stalwart of the spy genre. There’s something about its ability to cut through a mix and carry a tune that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The original James Bond theme is undoubtedly a testament to its twangy awesomeness.
Big bold brass and high trumpets, percussion like bongos and congas are also a lot of fun to work with on a project like Evil Genius 2, and help make the music a little bit more eccentric and suave than an orchestra alone could.
That’s it for today’s blog post! We’ll be taking a few weeks off posting to give our minions a little rest – but rest assured we’ll be coming back in January of next year with more deep dives, and part two of this interview! Until then, stay safe, stay sinister, and make sure you join the Evil Genius 2 Discord!
- Ben M-J, Blog Mastermind