Drummer Josh Freese has played with just about everyone, from Nine Inch Nails, Devo and The Vandals to Avril Lavigne, Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus. He even picks up the sticks on Michael Buble’s Christmas album, but his latest work is something a little different – the soundtrack to Battlefield Hardline.
Hardline is not the first time Freese has appeared on a gaming soundtrack – a tune from The Vandals is played in the background of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, while his run with Queens of the Stone Age is included in Need for Speed Underground 2 – but it is believed to be the first time he’s actually contributed to a specific composition.
The Visceral shooter is also the first video game soundtrack outing for film composer Paul Leonard-Morgan, best known for his work on Limitless and Dredd. Leonard-Morgan laughingly explains that he brought Freese in on the job because “I thought [he] could make me sound good!”
There’s only so much you can do with programming. So Josh was the first one I reached out to, and it just brought a completely fresh approach to it. Like I would say, “I think this kind of vibe would be good for this cue,” and he was say, “Oh, I see what you’re getting at,” and then go off and do that but in his style.
Various musicians – including Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor – have explained they keep gaming consoles in their recording studios, playing a few rounds when they get stuck putting notes on paper. Leonard-Morgan tells Paul Semel that he’s very different in this regard – he’s learned through working on Hardline that if he has a PS4 lying around, he’ll “just play the thing all the time”.
What was interesting for me was that I got this director, Pete Cornwell [The Haunting In Connecticut], who’s a huge gamer, to come in and bring his Xbox, and I just sat and watched him play. And what was really cool was when he said, at one point, “This is where I would normally switch off the music and put my own on,” to which I said, “What? Why would you do that?” Which was part of the learning process for me, and why, when I started to work on the game, I didn’t want to do something that people would switch off, something people would get bored of straight away, not the same theme over and over on a loop.