Stay a While and Listen; An Interview with Diablo Composer Matthew Uelmen - Dread Central
Connect with us

News

Stay a While and Listen; An Interview with Diablo Composer Matthew Uelmen

Published

on

Source: Paula Wirth

This month 21 years ago, Blizzard Games launched what is now one of the most well-known video game series of all time: Diablo. A roguelike dungeon crawler RPG with strong horror elements, the game went on to become a multi-million copy seller and spawned two sequels as well as several expansion packs, allowing players to take on the role of warriors, sorcerers, rogues, necromancers, and more, all in an effort to face the greatest evil the land of Sanctuary.

While the game undoubtedly set the stage for many titles to come in the years that followed, one of the most appreciated and notable aspects that made the original stand out was its music, courtesy of composer Matt Uelmen, whose sole credit beforehand was the Sega/SNES Acclaim superhero fighter Justice League Task Force. The man behind the first and second game in the series, Uelmen’s music has been recognized as some of the most important and memorable in video game history.

Today, we are thrilled to bring you an exclusive interview with Uelmen where we discuss his musical past, his memories of working on Diablo and specifically the fan favorite track “Tristram”, his work on this year’s Hob, and more.

Read on for the interview and make sure to follow Matt on Twitter.

Dread Central: From what I’ve read, you’re a largely self-taught musician. What were the ways that you challenged yourself musically to become a composer?
Matt Uelmen: My lessons from age 6 or so to 12 with a local piano teacher, Lenée Bilski, were very formative, and I’m not sure if I would have ended up a composer without them. I consistently tried to expose myself to new genres and keep a little bit of grinding on aspects where my musicianship was relatively weak, usually involving musical literacy, through my teen years and since, and those are good habits for any composer.

DC: While recent gamers will know your music from the Torchlight series, older games will have spent countless hours hearing your melodies in the first two Diablo games. Can you tell me a bit about how you came aboard that project?
MU: I found the development crew for what became the Diablo team when they were known as Condor through Matt Householder, who I found by coldcalling numbers of developers on an old Nintendo document. We ended up working together later, when Dave Brevik and the Schaefers brought him on as a producer. I had a demo designed around the technical specs they were developing for, at the end of the SNES/Genesis cycle, and bugged them over a few months before getting the gig.

DC: Often listed as one of the greatest video game themes of all time, Diablo‘s “Tristram” has enchanted and bewitched listeners for over two decades. Did you ever expect that theme to have such an impact on not only the gamer community but also the music community as a whole?
MU: No, we had no idea that Diablo would take off in quite the way it did, in terms of the soundtrack or the game as a whole. In retrospect, I can see why it was successful in terms of our timing on the platforms we were on, and the state of gaming and the fantasy genre in general at the time, but as a group of kids still in their 20s, we didn’t, as a development crew, expect the reception to be quite as big as it was.

DC: I’d like to focus a little more on “Tristram” by asking if you can tell me a bit about the composition process for that piece? What went into making a theme that was such a wonderful blend of sinister beauty and ethereal hope?
MU: I think the main thing I was hoping to get was the “medieval” vibe that the best folk rock of the early 70s had, like on Led Zeppelin III and IV. That and some Latin American influences all had a role. It also helped that I had played the main roguelike that inspired Diablo along with Dave Brevik, so I had some natural sense of what the ideal vibe would be for a safety/shopping/quest zone.

DC: Last question about “Tristram”, I promise! When you think about the piece, 20 years later, what are the thoughts to come to your mind?
MU: I’m happy that I was so lucky to be in the right place at the right time, given that even a track with bad production values, which the original Tristram most definitely had, could get over and be really effective by virtue of originality and solid writing. Still, I don’t know quite who the 22 year old is who wrote it, he’s a familiar but still very distant person to whatever I am now.

DC: You’ve basically stated that you were composing music for Diablo III prior to your leaving Blizzard. What can you tell us about those pieces?
MU: The public has heard almost all of it, much of it went into World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade, while “Hydra” and “Lord” were released as promo tracks when Diablo 3 shipped.

DC: Hob, which comes from Runic Games, is your latest soundtrack. It wonderfully blends digital and analog instruments into something quite sublime. What was your approach heading into scoring this game?
MU: Thanks! My main goal was to try to create a hybrid lead instrument out of three different instruments that had common properties and all were a little outside the usual mid 2010’s soundtrack pallet: Moog guitar, fretless bass and pedal steel. I ended up working pretty hard just to feel like I had decent chops on all three, and was fairly satisfied when those elements came together in the soundtrack. I felt like that composite voice basically did what I hoped it would, gave a signature sound that matched the loneliness and exotic aspect of the game’s player character.

DC: As the years have passed, the technological capabilities of video game music have evolved quite dramatically. How has your own composition style changed over the years with these new advancements?
MU: I would hope it has evolved! I love being able to spend time with a project to make a “custom fit” atmosphere, so I’ll always bend in the direction of whatever a given project needs. My twin goals are keeping my less-used skills, like traditional orchestration, from rotting while trying to keep an intellectually curious aspect alive in my music. I know that my fantasy-ish stuff has a trademark sound, which is absolutely key to my career, but I don’t want to fall into a trap of too much self-reference. It is always a balance.

DC: In an interesting turn of events, video games went from trying to push graphical and technological barriers to easing back and embracing a certain amount of “retro” nostalgia. How has this trend affected your work?
MU: Well, I definitely enjoyed the fact that “Stranger Things” made the big, wet sawtooth synth sound cool again, but, honestly, I try to be truly Catholic in the non-religious sense with all kinds of instrumental textures. I never fell out of love with the sound of wah-wah guitar or the Geffen-label country rock textures from my childhood, and feel that way about all the Linn and Roland drum sounds of the 80s, as well as the big brass sounds of the German Romantic tradition. I try to love the flavor of the textures themselves outside of the particular fashion-related baggage the sounds carry.

DC: You’re known for taking some time in between projects as Hob is the first new video game soundtrack we’ve gotten from you in several years. What’s next on your plate and how can people continue to support you?
MU: Thanks! My next project is already very much in motion, and should hopefully be public next calendar year. I look forward to helping hype it, and am greatly enjoying working on it now. The team is a great mix of vets and exciting younger talent.

Comments

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Comments

Dread Central Presents

Dread Central Presents The Lodgers – Vegas Screening and Wider Release

Published

on

Last weekend fans got their first taste of the next Dread Central Presents film, The Lodgers (review); and we’re not done yet! There’s another Dread Central Presents screening TOMORROW, February 22nd, at 7:00 PM at the Eclipse Theaters in Las Vegas, Nevada (tickets here); and then the flick will be opening wider the very next day!

To see if the film will be playing near you, click here for a list of cities The Lodgers will be haunting!

Directed by Brian O’Malley and starring Charlotte Vega and Bill Milner, the film made its worldwide premiere at 2017’s Toronto International Film Festival and has since won many awards across multiple festivals.

Make sure to follow and “like” Dread Central Presents on Facebook to stay in the know regarding this and upcoming titles!

Synopsis:
In this Gothic horror tale, a family curse confines orphaned twins Rachel (Charlotte Vega) and Edward (Bill Milner) to their home as punishment for their ancestors’ sins. Bound to the rules of a haunting childhood lullaby, the twins must never let any outsiders inside the house, must be in their rooms by the chime of midnight, and must never be separated from one another. Breaking any of these three rules will incur the wrath of a sinister presence that inhabits the house after midnight.

While Edward is committed to this ill-fated life, he’s becoming more unhinged due to the fact that Rachel is not. Smitten by a local soldier (Eugene Simon), Rachel grows skeptical and begins to rebel, desperate to escape the oppression and misery of their captivity.

Comments

Continue Reading

News

Exclusive Clip: Primal Rage – Bigfoot Causes Chaos!

Published

on

Ever been driving in the woods and see or hear something that you cannot explain? Something so shocking that it makes your skin crawl off of your spine? Yeah, those moments, that usually chalked up to something completely innocuous, can be mucho unsettling. Such is the case with our bloody exclusive clip from the latest sliver of Sasquatchploitation, Primal Rage, which illustrates what can happen when you play with your food.

Directed by Patrick Magee, who co-wrote the film with Jay Lee, Primal Rage stars Andrew Joseph Montgomery, Casey Gagliardi, Eloy Casados, Justin Rain and Marshal Hilton. You can also catch this one of the big screen as on February 27th, Fathom (tickets here) will be hosting a one-night theater event for Primal Rage.

Enough talk! Get your Squatch on!

Synopsis:
Lost deep in the forest of the Pacific Northwest, Ashley and Max Carr are stalked by a terrifying creature that might be Bigfoot. Soon they find themselves embroiled in a strange land of Native American myth and legend turned real. Hopelessly trying to survive, with a handful of unsavory locals, they must fight back against this monster in a desperate battle of life or death.

Comments

Continue Reading

News

The Strangers: Prey at Night Set Visit Part 2: Screams and Flames

Published

on

[SPOILERS] As mentioned in our earlier set visit story, The Strangers: Prey at Night maintains the same feeling of isolation as the original. Even though a full-fledged production was going on in Gatlin Lake Getaway, it is hard to shake that feeling of being totally alone once wandering away from the set lighting. The dark surround woods start to close in and threaten to swallow any who stray too close to the tree line. Then the silence is broken as a beat-up 1972 Ford Ranger’s engine revs and a scream slices through the night.

Back on the lit street, the familiar looking truck has collided head-on with the side Wagner County Sheriff’s SUV. At the driver’s seat of the Ford is a man sporting a white cloth bag as a mask. The Bagman has returned. His appearance has not changed. The empty sockets of the mask still glare ominously and the painted smile poorly hides the stranger’s murderous intent.

An air of frustration surrounds the Bagman as he attempts to free the truck from the SUV. In vain, the Ford revs and struggles to no avail. Bad news for him, but good news for whomever the Bagman was pursuing. The law enforcement vehicle, with its lights flashing, had been driven by a young woman decked out in a black Ramones t-shirt and blood-splattered jeans. Her hair is jet black. The woman’s skin is streaked with dark blood and open slash wounds. The dark punk eye makeup is running, but the wearer is not.

It is obvious that this woman has been through a lot as she limps from the wreck. The context of her current state is not clear, but the shrieking that emanates from her as she produces a lighter and throws it to the ground under the collided vehicles speaks volumes. It can only be assumed that she has been chased, slashed, and emotionally beaten for hours. The scream is packed with emotions from fear to outright spite and rage. It is so powerful, in fact, that the crew members uttered stunned laudations.

As the gasoline ignites, the flames climb and spread of the mangled metal of the two collided vehicles. The Ford’s engine still violently revs as the Bagman emotionlessly tries to break free. The young woman is slowly backing away, unaware of the chain reaction occurring. The darkness of 1 AM is broken by two giant fireballs that erupt, engulfing the metal mayhem in the middle of the street. The surroundings fall silent, cut is called and the crew erupts in exclamations at the awesome spectacle.

This powerful moment was brought to us by Bailee Madison (Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark).

The Strangers: Prey at Night was now on its twenty-second day of shooting and only eight more days remained. The cast and crew are well accustomed to their routines and the late night shoots have become second nature. When asked if the constant schedule of night shoots had been difficult, Madison elicited some of the virtues that the darkness has to offer, “There’s something very vulnerable about night shoots. You are emotionally in a different place when you’re awake and rested in the daytime. I think for something traumatic like this, you need to be able to access different emotions; at night you’re a lot more capable.”

At this point in production, Bailee’s character has seen a lot of action. A heavy amount of blood adorns the actor’s arms and a thick clotting mass of the red stuff covers most of her forehead. Keeping track of that damage for continuity from day to day looks like a grueling task, and makeup department head Jodi Byrne dropped some details about the process, “We have continuity photos and we take pictures of Bailee constantly throughout the day … We have to determine which takes are actually going to be used in the film and we move from that point.”

Synopsis:
A family’s road trip takes a dangerous turn when they arrive at a secluded mobile home park to stay with some relatives and find it mysteriously deserted. Under the cover of darkness, three masked psychopaths pay them a visit to test the family’s every limit as they struggle to survive..

Comments

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Go Ad Free!

Support Dread Central on Patreon!
Advertisement

Recent Comments

Advertisement

Join the Box of Dread Mailing List

* indicates required

Trending

Copyright © 2017 Dread Central Media LLC