Heavy Metal Affliction - The making of the Forza Motorsport Score Pt. 2
Welcome to part two of our interview with Michael Nielsen and Kaveh Cohen, composers of the Forza Motorsport 6 score. In last week’s Part One we spoke with Turn 10’s Nick Wiswell about the creative ideas that lead the Forza Motorsport 6 soundtrack, and Cohen and Nielsen gave us some insight into the intricacies of composing.
This week we will dig deeper into what went into the work, and what makes these guys the perfect choice to work with Turn 10. After all, they are car lovers, so they get it.
Yes, that is a McLaren 12C Spider. Owned by Kaveh Cohen. It doesn’t just sit in a garage either, that’s his daily driver. Not bad; outstanding in fact. So any of you music majors out there that are considering a business degree to more easily find your way to financial success, take heed. Follow your dreams and your wishes will find you.
Now, on with the interview.
Heavy Metal Affliction: Tell me about the cars you have owned?
Kaveh Cohen: I’ve owned quite a few! Currently, I own a McLaren 12C Spider which I absolutely love! It’s one of my all-time favorite cars. I also own a Land Rover LR4 HSE Luxury and a BMW 4 series M Sport coupé. A few other notable cars I’ve owned over the last few years are two Ferrari F430 F1 Berlinettas, a Ferrari California, a Mercedes-Benz SL550 AMG, a BMW 750Li M Sport, a Range Rover HSE, and a Range Rover Sport.
HMA: For you, what is the main purpose of a car? Transportation? Self-expression? Something to race in? What?
KC: For me personally, cars are much more than just a conveyance. They are definitely a form of self-expression. Driving a car I love brings me a lot of personal joy. It’s more of an experience every time I’m behind the wheel rather than just transportation.
HMA: What about you, Michael? What is a car to you?
Michael Nielsen: Older houses used to have a den. Not really anymore, so my car is my little sanctuary or den. It’s on my short drive to work that I get inspired and motivated. Then coming home, it is where I come back down to earth and get ready for the onslaught of my two kids!
HMA: What influenced you to be a car enthusiast? What continues to drive your love of cars?
KC: My father and grandfather’s interest in cars was the early motivation. Cars and their designs and technology are always evolving. Manufacturers are constantly striving to improve and enhance all areas of the driving experience. Design languages change over time. There’s always something new to look at, some new driving technology that’s incredible to see and new experiences to be had behind the wheel. I think that’s probably the most important and magical thing about cars to me – the emotional and visceral connection between driver and machine. That’s what continues to drive me.
HMA: And you, Michael?
MN: All of my car enthusiasm comes through Kaveh. I get to benefit from his car passion. It’s not too bad getting driven to lunch in one of his cars!
HMA: On the Forza Motorsport 6 score, what inspired you?
KC: As a car lover, I found a lot of inspiration in the cars themselves. We wanted the score to feel modern and cutting edge, much like the cars you see in the game. There’s also a very modern, “engineered” feel to motorsport for me personally, so I was inspired by the culture of motorsport.
HMA: Cars are an emotional element to those who love them. Is there a portion of the Forza 6 score that speaks to cars particularly?
MN: The [Forza 6] score has a wide variety of styles, but the orchestra is what most closely speaks to cars. The Forza score has a huge string and brass section. It’s immensely powerful and complex.
HMA: What were you trying to express in the composition? Are there particular pieces that express different elements or emotions?
KC: Definitely. Each specific area of the game that required music has a very definitive feel. The opening menu area for example, or home space as we call it, needed to feel tranquil and serene. We wanted the player to feel almost suspended while navigating the various menu choices within [the] home space. This was also a great time to introduce our main theme and various sub themes that are reprised throughout the score. When you enter a race, the music is driving, propulsive, intense – much like the race itself. There were many opportunities to express different emotions throughout the game.
HMA: How does the emotion of speed translate into music?
MN: There’s more to capturing the feeling of speed than fast tempo music with blazing violins and pounding drums. We also wanted to capture that feeling when you’re going so fast that everything gets really calm around you. You know, like when all of your senses are on point.
HMA: How do you translate the emotion of racing into music?
KC: I think interpreting emotions with music is part and parcel of the scoring process. In this case, we’re dealing with racing and cars but, in the end, part of the composer’s task is to imbue the score with the appropriate emotions to elevate and support the visuals and enhance the player’s experience. Our score is our interpretation of our own emotions – hopefully it’ll resonate with others as well.
HMA: Is there a particular instrument or sound that captures what a car is?
KC: We spent a great deal of time creating custom sounds and put them to heavy use throughout the score. When I think of cars, especially modern cars, I think of engineering, of being cutting edge, of being artful and unique. I feel our palette of electronic and hybrid sounds speaks to these sentiments.
HMA: Was composing the FM6 score easy compared to other projects? More difficult?
MN: Every new project, for me, comes with a bit of the, “How on Earth is this going to get done!?” feeling. Ha! But, FM6 went very smoothly. [It] can be tricky since there’s so much music (2+ hours), and it’s our first time working with Turn 10, but we really saw eye to eye with Nick and Chase, our audio leads.
HMA: Did you feel similarly Kaveh?
KC: Every project is daunting at first! Forza is an iconic franchise so the expectations were high and we set the bar very high for ourselves. In that respect, we worked very hard to satisfy both ourselves and our team at Turn 10. Generally, though when working on a score, after you establish the aesthetic and musical language, it becomes a little easier as you progress.
We hope you enjoyed our interview with Michael Nielsen, Kaveh Cohen, and Nick Wiswell. If you are interested in picking up any of the tracks from the score, or the entire thing, you can find it here on Amazon.com, on iTunes, Spotify, and other major music retailers.