IamA Jerry Martin, Music Composer for The Sims and SimCity. AMA!
My short bio: Hi this is Jerry Martin, music composer and audio director for the video games - The Sims and SimCity. Ask me anything and check out my new website at boombamboom.com and get freebie downloads and current updates. My Proof: http://imgur.com/K5Y3lrK http://www.boombamboom.com
I love "Magic City" too. It's one of my all-time favorites too. It's actually a lot of "inside the piano" stuff where I scraped the strings or strummed them while holding down chords. Also the main rhythm was done by me banging a pencil on one of the bass strings. Then I had a great violin player, Darol Anger play some rhythmic stuff along with the melody and also Rock Hendricks played soprano sax. I use Digital Performer software. (boombamboom.com)
So YOU'RE the guy to blame for half of my enjoyment of Simcity 2000! Those little funky jazz midi tracks were an absolute joy, and create great memories. Thank you!
What was Maxis like back then, office culture wise? Small, fun, hungry?
Actually I wasn't the guy to blame for that. I came on right after SC2k when Maxis moved to Walnut Creek. It was still fun back then though. I think the guy to blame was a chick!! I forget her name but I'm pretty sure a woman wrote the SC2k stuff. (I might be wrong though and it wouldn't be the first time)
Did you have any idea, when you started, that the Sims was going to be as huge a hit as it was?
No one knew! EA was even thinking of not putting out because they had a sports focus and didn't get why it would be fun. Then when it hit a lot of people came over from the EA HQ and wanted to be involved.
Why did you have to scar me for life as a child with that horrifying jumpscare music for burglars and raccoons? ;-;
I had a funny response from one of the programmers when we were making the game. I did a super weird and scary sting for when the toilet overflows. He said he thought it sounded like Zombies were eating his brain and he didn't like it. (I won out though and it's in there)
Is there a process that you put audio through to turn it into simlish, or do you guys just garble into a mic and replace it?
No. No. No. Simlish is a very exacting art form. There are very few voice actors that can pull it off. It's basically improvising using non-words to express the meaning. We originally found some great improv actors that could do it. It's evolved over the years and now I think they have quite a lot of actors that are in the "simlish" stable. Drew Carey was a big Sims fan and he wanted to do it but he couldn't improvise very well at all so he ended up writing it all down like a script. (pretty ironic for a guy with an improv show!!)
Did you compose music for the Sims franchise for both Maxis and EA? How did the acquisition change your working experience?
Yes, when I started there it was just Maxis. When EA took over they had a weird meeting where the told everyone not to worry about loosing their jobs and that they weren't going to fire anyone. Two weeks later about 80% of the people were gone. EA definitely changed the vibe and it wasn't as fun after.
What is your inspiration for the music you create?
I just really love music. It helps to have a deadline too.
What was it like composing video game music in an era when there was such a huge variance in the fidelity of audio cards people had on their machines? Now everyone has pretty good stuff even with basic onboard, but back in the day things ranged from top of the line Creative cards to puny PC speakers, etc.
It was a pain in the ass!!! I remember when I first started I had been doing music for commercials and when I did SimCopter "midi" from sound cards had a very bad sound so we opted to use actual audio. The only thing was that it had to be super lo-fi (mono 8 bit 11k sample rate with a further insult of "XA" compression) I couldn't figure out why it sounded so bad so I spent hours mixing it to try to make it sound OK but to no avail. (oh well the music was still cool)
Hi Jerry, Two questions...How long is your average work day?, and Do you need an agent, or does your talent and website provide the future avenues you may choose?
My workday now consists of shoveling a lot of dirt. I moved to Mariposa (near Yosemite) and I'm going to get a house built so I'm trying to get the place ready for that. When I was working full time in the corporate environment I had fairly long work days. Being free-lance, I've always had to struggle to get jobs and made a lot of phone calls myself. It seems like my talent and website don't help me that much. (dam it!)
Do you have any plan to compose music or album that has same style with The Sims Build Mode piano music? Because if yes, I would be die in peace!
And... Did you just share someone's transcription of The Sims Build Mode piano music in boombamboom.com? (It was written "Transcribed by Pseudo" and it already accessible long time ago) Because it makes me wonder why you're not share your own transcription on your own music.
Yes, I mentioned that I'm planning to team up with John R. again and do a Sims Build Mode Vol II. Check out http://www.boombamboom.com for updates. I didn't know about "pseudos" transcriptions for a long time. I just thought I'd throw them in as a bonus. When I was doing the Sims and SimCity, I was always in a big rush so my "transcriptions" are super messy and just designed for my studio musicians. I do have some nice ones for my orchestral stuff on SImCity 4 Ruch Hour.
When people write the radio music (ie. Sta Moogie, Cat and Mouse etc.) Do those musicians get complete freedom when writing or do you have a hand in writing that as well?
No one seems to have total freedom but I was pretty lucky with the Sims and SImCity as far as creative license.
How much did you actually get paid for composing the Sims? Also, do you have plans to compose for more video games in the future?
I was just a low to mid level employee so I didn't get shit!! I'm trying to concentrate on my own music now days check out my new website where I'll have some available. http://www.boombamboom.com
Hi Jerry - been a fan of your work since The Sims 1 / Streets of SimCity era! I'm curious both about the challenge of writing in so many different styles, and of composing songs intended to be heard over and over during play sessions. Also, how do you keep things fresh for yourself over a career writing for the same universe of games?
Few questions in there, so I appreciate whichever you take the time to respond to!
I actually found that when you have a piece of music that has a lot of structures and different things happening, it gets boring more quickly on repeated listening. That's why in SimCity where you sit there for a long times, the minimalist style worked great. Also, if the music is just really good you can listen over and over. (http://www.boombamboom.com)
Do you produce music outside of video games?
Yes, and I'm actually starting a little website to distribute some of it. Check it out at boombamboom.com
Already signed up!
Did you already have an idea of what the game was like before you started composing, or did you adapt songs / concepts you already had in mind?
Usually when you're working on a game it doesn't work very well- crashes a lot etc. This was true of the Sims. It hardly ever worked right until the very end so it was hard to get a feel for it. I just went on my gut feeling about what the music should be like. (http://www.boombamboom.com)
Thanks for doing this, lots of good memories of my sister and I fighting over Sim City 2000 time! Which is your favorite Sim-related game to play?
I mentioned in another post that I didn't write any of the music for SimCity 2000. Just the later stuff. Most of my Sim game playing came in the form of me listening to see how the music sounded and being pissed off that the game would always crash!
I'm a huge fan of your work! I was wondering how you compose and who you consider to be your greatest influences? Thank you so much for hours upon hours of enjoyment!
I'm glad you liked the music!! I was a music composition major in college and grad school so I had a lot of influences. I studied in grad school with Terry Riley (Indian Raga music) and Lou Harrison (Javanese Gamelan music) Other influences (Or at least people I really like) were Toru Takemitsu (super modern) Debussy, Satie, Stravinsky, Miles Davis, Weather Report, Fela Kuti, Sons of Champlin, King Sunny Ade, Talking Heads, Ravi Shankar, etc etc
Hello, Jerry! Huge fan of your work! Sometimes I randomly get the musical pieces stuck in my head!
My question is, did you work on the music from The Urbz: Sims in the City as well?
No I didn't personally work on that one but I think they might have re-cycled some of the sims stuff for it.
Did you get approached to work on The Sims 2 (and beyond) or did you get shifted over to SimCity fairly early on?
Thank you for doing this AMA, Jerry! You're work is phenomenal!
I did a lot of work on Sims 2 but I don't think much of it made it in the game. I produced the music for the radio stations too. I was also working on SimCity 4 Rush Hour at this time.
I absolutely love the SC3000/4 music and when playing any building games will still turn off their music when I inevitably get bored of theirs and stream those two! Huge fan!
Question: have you kept up with recent games' music, if so what have you enjoyed (did you like Cities: Skylines soundtrack)?
I haven't really kept up on the more recent stuff. I was supposed to write some stuff for SC5 because they knew everyone like the previous music but that never materialized. (oh well)
Hey Jerry do you have any tips to get the sims 3 main theme out of my head? Great song anyway, just been stuck in my head for the last 6 or so years.
I didn't write that one . (oh well) Whenever I get a tune stuck in my head and want to dislodge it. I listen to someone like Toru Takemitsu or Harry Partch.
For you who was the one that got away?
I don't know what you mean. Who got away? Or What got away? ???? (http://www.boombamboom.com)
Huge fan of your "build" music from Sims1. I'd like to hear more however your other compositions that I have listened to seem to deviate quite a bit from the serene piano arrangement of the "build" series. Do you have work similar to it that you would suggest that I may have missed?
I've signed up to your website. Looking forward to it.
I plan to revisit that style with John R. and plan to do another bunch of tunes like the Sims build mode. I think I mentioned my website too many times so I'll keep you posted.
Hey Jerry, really want to thank you very much for your hard work; I still play much of your music in the background as great study atmospheric music. I was always curious what the title for Buy Mode 4 (which is my favorite) from The Sims is called, since it was never given a name anywhere?
That tune was written by Marc Russo. He never titled it so it's always been #4. Someone at EA went back and re-titled a lot of my tunes (without asking) Probably the same person who couldn't spell soundtrack correctly for the Sims (sondtrack or something)
Did you write any of the Buy Music? I really like them all but I'm curious what was by you and what was by Marc.
Yes, I did 1 and 3, Marc did 2 and 4. The way it usually worked is that I would write a few tunes to set the bar and the creative direction and then I would get my associate composers to write along the same lines. (sometimes even better like with Marc or Traz Damji)
Who are some jazz musicians you're especially fond of? Do you like Raymond Scott at all?
I'm a huge Miles Davis fan. Also, most of the guys he's played with over the years. (I don't really try to keep up with things that much) I'm not familiar with Raymond Scott. I'll have to check him out. Thanks.
Did you.compose that piano piece on the sims 1 when you're in the house building mode?
Yes I composed and produced most of the music for The Sims. The "build-mode" piano music was played by John R Burr. I just gave him the basic composition and he went crazy on it making them into some great pieces. You can download them along with the music transcriptions at boombamboom.com
It's absolutely beautiful that piece.
I have had the build mode music around for many years and those tunes have helped me as I find them therapeutic. Finally get to tell you thanks! #5 is my fave.
Thanks! I've had a lot of good response for #5. It kind of surprises me since it's probably the most complex and darkest of the bunch.
It's the caterpillar eyebrows.
Also check out his official biography: http://www.jerrymartinmusic.com/bio.php
PS: Check out Wyatt Woodsman's eyebrows. Or better yet composer Edgar Varese
I don't understand this proof thing. Check out my new website where you can download Sims music. http://www.boombamboom.com Also http://www.jerrymartinmusic.com also my wikipedia page. (I don't know)
Hey Jerry, you're actually one of my three favorite video game music composers (along with Inon Zur and Andreas Waldetoft).
One of my most favorite pieces you've composed is Magic City from SimCity 3000. I actually had it as my phone ringtone for a while (couple of years back, actually when the first phones that could play MP3 for ringtones came out).
It's very hard and costly to get a live orchestra to perform most of these stuff, so I'm assuming you also use some sort of software to compose the final piece.
If so, what software do you use?
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