With 'Alan Wake' released in May 2010, finnish developer Remedywere able not just to release one of the best thriller games of all times, but a very intense gaming experience that was, despite its flaws, acclaimed by critics worldwide. Essential for creating such an experience, and often underestimated by game designers, Sound Design is one of 'Alan Wakes' greatest features. Besides the beautiful score by Petri Alanko and some licensed songs by artists like David Bowie, one band really stood out. Both the title sond "War", but also two exclusive in-game songs were written and performed by the finnish band Poets of the Fall, who also played and wrote the title song for 'Max Payne 2'. We were able to meet up with them at a concert in Berlin in Summer 2010 and conduct this interview.
Marko: I'm Marko, I'm the singer for Poets of the Fall.
Captain: I'm Captain and I play the Keyboard.
Olli: I'm Olli and I play the Guitar.
AC: How would you characterize yourselves as a band and your music?
Marko: We're a rock group, pretty like non-genre like rock group, because for us music is just music, uhm, well, it's natural for artists to not go and categorize themselves and say: Oh, we do this, we're like on in this little slot up here in this shelf. But marketing wise it would be better if we could have like a really pinpointed area, but no, we really try to do all kinds of music and sometimes write music that't not at all for the band even. There are like songs in the drawer that are very nice songs even, but we don't play it as Poets of the Fall. We give it someone else or use it for some other thing or maybe later on we produce it as a Potf song.
Marko: Don't kick the talbe dude! That cute little tape recorder is gonna fall down and crash. It's so tiny, it's gonna die.
Marko: It's gonna crack its little skull.
Anyways, so yeah, we are musically eclectic and maybe you could put in alternative therm in front of the rock. We're on an indie label we're an indie band, but we've heard that our music is not indie music because those guys are cool and we are not.
Maybe that says it all.
We're DOY, so we do everything ourselves, like literally everything. We have Steffi to do the promotion for us here in Germany, other than that it's just whatever we do, we do ourselves.
AC: How important was the success of Max Payne 2 with "Late Goodbye" in it for your career?
Marko: For us it was a very good stepping stone at that time, and it's still a story and a lot of people ask, even now, seven years later, about that. So it's been a really good thing for us to have happened. We've been writing songs for about four years by that time, just Olli and myself and then we hooked up with Captain and formed Poets of the Fall. And not long afterwards, "Late Goodbye" came out in 'Max Payne2 ', and that was a huge exposure for us and a huge climb up the tax bracket. So that was a good thing to start with, also what happened with that is, because of such a huge success and exposure there, people thought that we got everything for free but we've had loads of bands before this. You know I was three years old when I started singing and performing as a singer. So there's been quite a number of years of really hard work even before the success that we got. So we were just really happy to finally make it at that point.
AC: And how did you get in contact with Remedy?
Marko: Uhm, actually through my childhood friends who formed Remedy and Sam Lake who wrote the game. We've known each other since we were kids and then dreamed about doing the stuff that we're doing now. Which is really cool.
AC: When you were writing and conducting "War", which is the Title song of Alan Wake, did you have the game in the back of your head or was it picked later on?
Marko: I think, the actual thing what happened was, that it was picked later on, but we knew at that point that it's possible that if we wrote a song that the guys at Remedy liked and that would fit the game then that would probably be picked for the game. And "War" was one of those songs that we thought might fit. And to start with, we had about five songs that we presented them. You know, we called Sam and asked him to come to the studio and have coffee with us because yay, we have songs! and it was one day he came over there and the sun was shining and there was a drizzle ...
Anyways. Fast forward. He came to the studio and we played the songs for him and he liked "War" and thought that was gonna be good for the game. Lyric wise and thematically and musically it was a good fit. So yeah, you could say, it was in the back of our minds, but what really happened is that we wrote a bunch of songs and they picked the one they liked.
AC: Two of your songs are exclusive to 'Alan Wake' and are performed by The Old Gods of Asgard, how did that happen?
Marko: Uhm, well Sam Lake had the idea when they were doing Alan Wake that they would have the "Old Gods of Asgard", this old rock group from the Seventies in the game. I guess I can tell that much now.
AC: You can spoil all you want.
Marko: Yeah, the game is out now, so no longer any secrets there. So anyways, and he just figured out it would be cool to have songs for these guys and we sort of did a cameo role in the game as "Old Gods of Asgard" and we wrote the songs for them. For the "Elder" song I really did change my voice when I was doing all the screaming and screeching. But then the lead vocals you can still tell that it's me although we really tried to sort of "Ozzie Osbourne"-ize it.
Captain: Many people have actually said that you sound like Ozzie Osbourne in this.
AC: Did you think it was gonna be that important to the game since both songs kinda play in key moments, I mean, did you play it?
Captain: Actually I'm kind of right in the middle of the game, right before the part where the songs come up.
Marko: I'm at the same point so I haven't played the parts yet, because I didn't really have the time to.
Olli: But we've seen a little, but we don't know the whole story yet, so don't spoil!
Marko: We did know that there were going to be episodes in the game like a TV series and that these songs would play a critical part in the story and while writing the lyrics I discussed a lot of the story of the game in order to be able to write the lyrics so that they would actually fit the game and give out the clues that they were supposed to give out.
AC: So I guess asking how it felt to see your song in the context of the game would be a little pointless.
Olli: I haven't played it this far but, I'm in the middle of one of the first chapters, but anyways I've seen both of the songs in the game
Marko: We saw an early demo.
Captain: So we knew that when we made the song how it would be used in the game. We visited Remedy and they showed it to us. It was awesome. But we haven't played those parts yet.
Olli: It's definitely going to be different, when you play it. It's gonna be good and we're really looking forward to that.
Captain: To see how it fits into the whole storyline and such.
AC: How does it feel to see your names among big names like Roy Orbison and David Bowie on the Soundtrack?
Marko: It makes you laugh. Cause you look in the mirror and you don't really see yourself as a big rockstar or anything. It's just you in the mirror and they probably do the same themselves. But to have your name right next to Roy Orbison or David Bowie is really surreal, yeah.
AC: I have so many Alan Wake related questions, awful. So far, what did you like best about the game?
Marko: It's frightening. It grips you and it's scary, which I think that's great. It's also you know, my friend wrote it and then going through something that like "This is what he thought when he was talking about that." And "That guy, I thought I knew him but he has a really twisted mind." I think that's really interesting about it. Reading something that your friend writes and going like "Ah, this is good."
Olli: It's really capitvating. Once you start playing it really gets you.
Captain: We play a lot ourselves, we all play games and also appreciate the technical things like good graphics and stuff like that.
Marko: The graphics are awesome.
Captain: And of course we really like the soundtrack.
AC: Are you guys gamers yourselves?
Marko: Yeah we are. I didn't use to play games at all, because the graphics were so shitty back in the day you know. It was really important for me to get a real visual good looking game. But nowadays it's fun, you know. Because they all do look very good and next to photo- realistic and just like a movie, so there are a lot of amazing scenes in those games. So yeah, it's good fun nowadays, it's a real escape. But you know, back in the days of *blup, blup, blup* (imitating packman- sound) stuff like that. It's not like you really get away from it all looking at those pixel monsters.
AC: And what are your favorite games, is it something you play together or...?
Marko: We're really big fans of GTA series,
Olli: Yeah, I think one of the best games ever.
Captain. 'Heavy Rain' was one of the games I have really liked recently.
Marko: That's like what they put on the seesaw with 'Alan Wake'. Like 'Heavy Rain' and 'Alan Wake', which one's bigger and better.
Olli: I have a personal favorite that I was talking about with Captain today and it's Motor Mania from 1982, it’s a C64 game. It’s a real classic. (Motor Mania on YouTube)
Marko: And he’s still playing it.
Olli: I would be if I had the emulator. And there are still many really good older games like 'Elite' or some of those older games.
Marko: I like all sword and sorcery games. I mean actually playing like a First Person shooter with, you know "guns"… I’m still amazed that I’m actually playing 'Alan Wake' because that kind of gameplay just doesn’t hold any interest to me. You know, a gun in a game, surprise. But if it’s a spell or a sword, that just rocks! So I’m an RPG geek.
AC: I can relate to that. So much for the first part of the Interview. In the second part we're gonna talk more about music and their new album "Twilight Theater".
To the second part of the Interview