The Tunes of DOOM – It Djents Interviews Mick Gordon, Composer and Sound Designer of DOOM 2016
Mick Gordon the modern day Mozart of video games, creating intense soundtracks that get your blood racing and your heart pumping! Taking influence from Meshuggah, Metallica, and Megadeth, Mick’s game soundtracks are full of double-bass-drum blasts and chugging riffs which benefit from a healthy dose of compression.
Mich contacted us after making the soundtrack for the 2016 release of DOOM to let us know how he used his Cali76-TX as a mastering compressor-limiter to balance the track and drive output transformer to add some edge to the tracks:
“It has become an integral part of my sound for the new Doom soundtrack”
“No joke, it has literally been the final piece of equipment the entire mix runs through. I balance the input to give me a little compression, then balance the output to give me limiting/clipping compression (pushing the output transformer -OE).
“Anyway, it sounds absolutely rad. I sometimes mix into it as well – I can drive sub frequencies a little more and make the top end ‘flutter’ at the same rate as the sub – you can hear a bit of that in the trailer.”
Here’s the trailer where you can hear how huge everything sounds:
Blood and gore warning!
So first thing’s first-you’re a sound designer for video games. You’ve worked on and are working on several prominent soundtracks. This is a dream job to literally half of the people that I’ve ever called “friend”. Briefly give us an idea of who you are and what you’ve done/past accomplishments, etc. Generic introductions and self congratulations n’such. Go nuts!
Ha! I make music for video games. My last three projects were DOOM, Killer Instinct & Wolfenstein: The New Order.
I’m sure a lot of our readers are dying to know how a career in music crosses over into one in video games. When/how did you bridge the two?
I just started making music and sending it out to different companies a few years ago. After a while, I started getting some callbacks to demo on projects and went from there. The game industry is a place to be a musician. It’s a job that combines unique musical opportunities with cutting-edge technology and you’re able to work with some of the best creative minds around.
That’s surprisingly straightforward. What exactly does a day at the office look like?
There’s no typical day – it really depends on how busy it is at the time. Generally, I try to start as early as I can and work two hour blocks with 30 minute breaks. Two hours is a good chunk of time to remained focused and the forced breaks allow you to maintain perspective and keep sight of the big picture. I also stand up to work – I build a standing-desk system that allows me to be on my feet all day. I’m in the studio at least 12-18 hours a day and it makes a huge difference to the poor body.
Shifting gears to the music specifically. As soon as we heard you drop some of the 9-string riffs, particularly on tracks like “BFG Division”, we immediately just went “holy shit, Meshuggah!”. The original DOOM soundtrack had obvious love-letters written to Metallica, Megadeth, etc. Were there any prominent artists in today’s extreme music scene that influenced your choices when composing for the new DOOM installment.
I had a wonderful time working with Fredrik from Meshuggah on Wolfenstein. He’s a creative genius, a musical powerhouse, and an incredible human being. The way he approaches music is amazing – it just pours out of him. Everything he does is so deliberate and calculated.
For our gearhead readers: Can you give us a rundown on the gear you use? What are your goto instruments, plugins, software, hardware during the creative process?
Yeah totally man – I could geek out on gear for days. Guitars were a MusicMan JP7 for the seven string stuff, a Mayones 8 string and a Schecter Damien Platinum 9 was bought in near the end for the 9 string stuff. I really love Mayones and everything they do – the Regius held up super well in the lower register. I have Bare Knuckle Aftermaths in it, and it’s a joy to play. Basses were a Ibanez 5 string or a Yamaha 4 string. Lots of synths – my modular, a Soviet Polivoks, Korg MS20 Mini and Richard Devine recorded a stack of synths for us. Plugins – all of Slate’s stuff, iZotope, UAD, FabFilter, SoundToys. The only softsynth was Serum – Steve Duda is amazing. Lots of different hardware pieces. Preamps were 1073 and Little Devils. Compressors were Blue Stripe 1176, Retro Doublewide, Cali76. I used the Cali76 as a mastering compressor – using compression on the input and driving the output transformer as a clipper/limiter. EQs were Maag, an old Pultec, etc. Lots of different pedals by Metasonix, Trogotronic, Dwarfcraft and other pieces like tape machines, reel to reels, weird circuits – whatever really!
I’m definitely taking all of that down! What initially drew you to the 9 string guitar and other extended range instruments?
Just to find a modern, bigger sound. DOOM is aggressive and excessive, and the ol’ 6 stringer just wasn’t getting there for us. I see guitars as a flavour rather than a genre. I wasn’t trying to make a genre statement or anything like that – lower register guitars just have an interesting sound that fit well with the DOOM universe.
What are some of the challenges you faced during the DOOM sessions?
It took a while to find the sound of DOOM. We started doing just electronic music, but some of the industrial areas in the game felt like they needed something more aggressive and tactile. Finding the best fit is always a challenge, but it’s rewarding when we find something that works.
You have any fun stories about one song in particular that stands out?
There’s a few hidden spectrogram messages that appeared in a few songs…
Is there a song that’s your favourite?
The last track I did in the final few hours was for the Spider Mastermind – the big creepy robot spider boss thing you fight at the end. I was super happy with how it came out and felt it was a good culmination of the sound we were trying to find for DOOM – aggressive, distorted, groovy, controlling, brutal, etc. Big riffs and stuff is fun too, but I enjoy trying out different things and trying to find new sounds.
You’ve worked on other soundtracks before, and are working on other soundtracks for upcoming titles-is there something in particular you can say makes DOOM’s soundtrack a unique experience for you?
I felt unleashed with DOOM. We were able to explore really aggressive sounds and didn’t shy away from riffs and songs. I’m a big fan of 90s video game music where the composers wrote songs that you could easily listen to and enjoy outside the game. I feel we’ve lost a lot of that with modern video game music and it’s something I try to bring back in my work.
Most importantly, Does it djent?
The answer is 42.