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Talking with video game composer Duane Decker

I've been a fan of Duane's music before I even knew who he was. I first encountered him through his amazing score for the Rise of Nations video game. Years later after reconnecting with the music for that game, I pinged him with some questions and he made a blog post. I've always liked his honesty and transparency as a composer so I figured he'd make a great interview. And I was right! Thanks, Duane.

Recorded on 2019-05-18

Speakers: Joseph Weidinger and Duane Decker

Dwayne Decker. It's Saturday, May eighteenth at four PM Central. You're joining me from Seattle, Washington, and I am at my home in Columbia, Missouri. I have had a lot of your tracks in my ears for about fifteen years now, and I just got to say I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to finally talk with the creator of all those awesome tracks. So doing thanks so much for joining me today. Oh, hey, no problem.

I certainly enjoy talking to people about music, and you're certainly one of the guys that ah, I have followed over the years with your work to, um covers that you've done this, the YouTube boasts. Ah, there are very few people who actually got the songs, right, So that that kind of stood out in my mind. Hey, this guy's pretty good. Hey, I appreciate that. Okay, so the format of the interview I just want to, like, start by kind of going over your whole life up until now and ah, and can fill in the gaps of my knowledge about you know, where you've been, what you've done.

And then we'LL talk a lot about just like music composition and how you approach it and ah, then we'LL have some just kind of vague abstract ending questions after we get done here. So starting off with your your life story up until now From what I understand, Dwayne, you were in bands. Ah, as a probably a teenager in early twenties, But you eventually branch out on your own on did your own solo act, and then you worked for Kurt's while and then somehow you wound up in a video game composition.

Are media composition, TV film, everything. Can you give me or can you give me a more detailed timeline than that? Oh, sure. Ah ah, My family moved a lot when I was young, and that kind of continued through my life. But there was always music in my house, and my godmother took us out to see a floor show when I was like, six years old, and I I had never been in a situation where I was hearing live music, and I was fascinated by the drummer.

Well, a couple years later, when you're in third grade, they send a little note home with you to your parents, saying, you know, do you want your son or daughter to play an instrument. And my mom looked at it and went, you know, Do you want to play an instrument? I go, Yeah, I want to play drums. And thankfully, she s She said, Yeah, yeah, let's let's do it. And I immediately joined the elementary school band is the snare drummer.

Um, got fascinated with that, uh, went to private lessons for years. Um, around Junior high is when I wanted to play a drum kit and, uh, my parents bought me a small starter drum kit, and I joined a band, and we started playing parties and dances and actually getting paid for it. Ah, that lasted ah in New York went to California and he did the same thing, Lived in San Diego for a time in high school and college.

I was playing, um, and it was Gosh, I don't remember whether it was high school or college, but the band I was playing with for some reason, we we didn't see eye to eye. And there was a project coming up at school to showcase, you know, one of my music classes, um, and I chose a week before the thing to bow out from doing it with the band and to doing it as a solo act. And that's how my solo act actually started, you know?

Yes, I was kind of on a lam going well, I could play drums solo and I played flute. So yeah, that's that's what I'LL do. So were you playing drums with those bands or keep a lesser flute? I was lying drums all the way up until that point, I took piano lessons. Uh, the elementary, just first semester piano class. Ah, and I never took any more piano classes. After that, I taught myself Aye, aye. In college, I became fascinated with Emerson, Lake and Palmer and sentences.

And of course, I couldn't afford a big MOGE. Ah, but I did have or come in contact with a guy who is an electrical engineer studying. He needed something for Hiss Project, and I needed a synthesizers. So I think it costs something like eight hundred dollars. I designed it. He put it together, Um, and at a fraction of the cost of, you know, in our twenty six hundred or whatever. Ah, I had my own synthesizer at that point and well, when you owe.

Keep going. Keep going. Well, basically, I'm going. Well, if I have a synthesizer, any two really, really know how to play keyboards? And that's when I really dove into, uh, keyboards. I rented a Ah, a fender rhodes. I would rehearse at the union hall. Ah, I'm a stein way. So it it kind of all jailed. And that actually led to a band seeing me once I was playing a party in Pacific Beach. They saw me. They were in town, a band from San Diego which, essentially, who was my competition.

At some points in my life they were living in Hollywood and, ah, about a month or two later, they gave me a call in said hair keyboard player is leaving. We'd like you to join the band. And that started my riel professional touring band experience. You were going to say something. I'm so that's great. Eso No, I was just curious on how you did you s Oh, well, what part of the design process did you have in that synthesizer?

Um, of course you had an engineer working with you, but, um, how did that work out? Well, At the time, there were no books about synthesizers. There was no reference. I actually went to Los Angeles to see an R twenty six hundred. I forget what the name of the store wass. But I certainly remember who owned it. It was above overtime, and he was the nicest guy he really was. He let me doodle with this stand for an hour or so, and he actually gave me are twenty six hundred manual, which I took home, and I studied over and over and over again because there was no other way to learn about synthesizers.

S O. That first synthesizer was actually based on the AARP twenty six hundred. And instead of sliders, we had rotator rotating knobs. But basically it wass like an r twenty six hundred. Well, um and so those bands, I see a lot of those set ups because occasionally you post photos of those ah, early band times and you have you have a huge number of synthesizers or keyboards. Maybe I don't know how is all patched together, but, uh at what point did you transition out of Of, like, playing live music, I guess regularly on Let's see here.

I guess we'LL go back to that first band. Ah, my first band, Madam Beast toured the U S like solid for about four years. Ah, that band eventually fizzled out. The next band I was in was, ah, horrible lounge band that I was just while this is this is bad. Ah, but that only lasted about six months. Uh, I got a call or actually met up with some folks. A band out of Denver cover Band called Bring Ah, who was touring the same circuit.

I had been touring with Madame Beast. Um, that one last about six months, and then the singer was going to quit. Uh, and it just so happened that I got a call from Lois Lane, and it was really more of what I wanted to to do because it was original music. Um, so I joined Lois Lane at that point. Ah, and that lasted about four and a half years. Um, there was when When you're in this business and you all almost make it, it's just really frustrating.

And the tension started to grow in the band. So I decided to leave, uh, move back to Chicago and start another solo act. And I did that for about four years. I did the college circuit and some of the clubs around Chicago so that I kind of was my last hurrah at playing live. It was a lot of fun, but a lot of stress, too, because when you're the only one up there Ah, and the digital instruments you're using are pretty flaky.

It's it can get scary. But it was fun at the same time. Um, then I decided, Well, hey, you know, assed long as I'm doing this stuff using dedicated computers, I learned more about computers, So I took some classes at the community college. Ah, which worked out great until it came time to take calculus on that just I I had no clue. Ah, and I had been doing a few Aah! Clinician things as a freelance One offs and one of the people I worked with, uh joined Kurzweil and gave me a call and said, Hey, do you wanna do you wanna work for curse while it's a It's a sales kick.

It first sure course. While you know you're talking about Ray Kurzweil and Bob Moge and gosh, I forget the other guy's name. Um, there was another guy at Kurzweil who literally wrote the book about synthesis, right? And, you know, just brilliant people. And he said, Yeah, yeah, I'm in. Um, so, based out of Chicago, I toured Ah, the middle part of the United States that eventually led to touring the entire United States as a product specialist clinician.

And, of course, nothing lasts forever. Curse while sold. Sold the company too. Yung chang of Piano Company. Um, I then had a very short gig with Roland. Um, I really didn't care much for the company or the product, so I I left after about six months. Ah. Then I was hired by any assist, and that was a real treat. They they were just on fire with Proteus stuff. And And the emulator, the four. Uh, well, eventually the e four, which I still have my e four k.

The keyboard. I just love it to death. I still have ah couple E four rack MT. Things. I don't use the right amount stuff anymore, but, uh, that's kind of where that all came about. And M u eventually sold their company to creative labs So here we go again. Another round. Um and that's when I figured. OK, what am I going to do? I have technical experience that I you know that the technology I love, it's intriguing to me.

I have all this musical experience. Well, I love that, too. What am I going to do? And I actually just saw an article and Keyboard magazine saying, You know, Game's air are coming up and they're they're starting to be more than just bells and whistles, and I started becoming fascinated. That's when I started searching for, ah, Game Geeks in Chicago. There were accompanied a couple of pinball companies, and fortunately I kind of fished my way into premier technology.

And I got a freelance gig with them the first time. Ah, after that was over like a month later. They called me and said, Well, our sound guys leaving Would you like a job? And that's essentially how I got into games. They started doing pinball games. I like how this recurring theme in your life Ah Dwayne is is such that you know something ends and then all of a sudden you get a call. It's it's ah, I From my point of view, that's always or ah, there's something exotic about that because I've never had that situation.

It's always, I guess it's more of the business I'm in. But you always have to toe, you know, vigorously pursue that gig in that just like it calls. But it is because you put in all that hard work and you have the reputation and, ah, and you know, ah, your vast mile experience. The phone just rings at some point, I guess, Um well, cool, Yeah, that essentially, if you talk to any musician, anyone who actually makes a living at that this nutty job, it's exactly that If you're in it to be a pop star and you know a lot of people are, Ah, hey, it's glamorous and there's not really that clamors.

But the images, it's glamorous, and I could do this and they have. You know, they may even have a hit single, but they're in it for the wrong reason that it's it's a marathon, not a sprint. Your your whole career is based on. I love what I do. I want to continue doing what I do. Ah, matter of fact, I just saw on interview with Peter Frampton awhile ago and he said, the exact same thing of you know I do this because I love it.

I got into it because I love music and you'LL find everyone who goes beyond that, that first spurt of being famous or thinking they're famous or wanting to be famous. And it's all about Okay, well, the music career is big, high mountains and really low valleys, and you just have to be totally persistent and never give up and have faith in yourself. No matter how many people are telling you, What are you, nuts?

There will be a beautiful. Was there a lot of that in your life you're from? Ah, you know concerning uncles Or maybe even your parents like Ah, Or were they very encouraging since day one, My mom was encouraging all the way through. Unfortunately, she passed when I was in my twenties. My dad kind of put up with it, but by that time I had ah been on the road and making my way. So he's He kind of went well, good for you.

You know, he he wasn't thrilled at first, though, and I do remember both my parents saying, you know, you should have a backup plan. I think you'd be a good plumber. Alright? And I was going Well, no. Okay, well, I have to put up with this, Not this. Ah, exploitative from you guys, that there's something like that. There's a joke in there, but right, so they were That's cool that you're your father got the sea, you see, a smear, the success they eventually had and to it must feel pretty satisfying to to finally be able to, you know, go like, Hey, look that I made it.

I'm making it, you know? I know what I'm doing here. He Yeah. I don't know if he I was super proud until I got hired by Microsoft. And to him, that was a big deal. And to me, it was like, Well, OK, they're making games, so I don't know, Not that I disliked Microsoft, but it wasn't, you know, I guess it's the name recognition, right? He didn't He didn't know who premier technology was. He didn't know what he need.

It wasa curse while or any of that stuff. But when you when you work for a company that has a wide name recognition. People go, Oh, wow, right? So yeah, I mean, it's it's just more validation and ah, yeah, I get both sides of it Kind of You've already been doing a lot of really cool stuff for years. But now all of a sudden, like, OK, now, since there's a big name in the house, it's Ah, it's official might.

My son is doing well, So let's talk a bit about your composition process because I've heard some of your music from the early days, although you know it's hard to find some of that stuff. I like that Lois Lane stuff. You said, um, or your I think I listen to a track from your computer music. So or what do you call it again? Hard disk drive? Is that the Yes, it was just Wayne Decker. The disc was a four song, seven inch vinyl record, and it was called Computer Rock or compute what was hardest.

Dr. Sorry, right? You need to like post that stuff on spotify or something, man Like a I want to hear the other three tracks. I think I only heard the one that you posted recently, but ah, I was kind of thinking about the thread between that music and ah, and in the music like you did for resignations with your most intimate with and then ah, and then more of your recent stuff that you do for, ah, that you've done for I GT or whatnot that you post on occasion.

So what elements or one major element? Let's just say one major element of your music has changed. And what's one major element that stayed the same since you started creating music doing well? The solo act Wass songwriter it was not composing was song writing. I went from a rock band to being a computer rock guy. I had to come up with lyrics, which I'm really not that good at. Ah, so that was still I have to have chops that Aiken not be intimidated when I'm looking at a huge crowd and play my heart out and sing.

Then when I started creating more of soundtrack stuff, especially in games, it was all instrumentals. It wass. I think that the biggest challenge for me was I came from a place to where no I I would mount Mariah's music that I would write and be able to play at in an instant when you're creating a school or that actually kind of hindered me because I would fall back on. I know that I could do this lich or these core progressions, and that's when I stopped playing live.

I go, you know, if this is actually hindrance and my creative process, I still play every day. Don't get me wrong, and I have played every day ever since. Ah, but not going out and memorizing music and playing in front of an audience, uh, actually has helped me. And I know that sounds silly because there are so many musicians that are great at both. But for me that that didn't work it. When I create stuff, especially like rising nations, I have to have a box to work within.

And when big, huge games suggested world music, I kind of went okay. Well, let's let's try it. And to me, riel, authentic world music is very foreign. Two most Western civilization. So I kind of went well. Well, what would what could I do? Because I love movie music. What would ah John Williams do if he was faced with a cross between his beautiful orchestra scores and world music. And that crossover is actually what keeps so much music alive.

I mean, you, you cross rock with country across jazz with blues That all makes music fresh. And I I think that's probably the coolest best challenge I could ever ask for is okay, I'm not John Williams, but I can create something that is a cross over and use those instruments. And uh huh, create something that hopefully will have Ah, long tail, so to speak. And with rise of nations that certainly did it.

I still get people, and I'm messaging me about how they loved the track. Ah, so I guess I did OK there? Definitely. And so on that note, you know, as you're saying this, it remind me of the recent thought I had about how, coming from a keyboard background, which I also have like it's it's distracting to compose at the piano. In a way, Sometimes I feel like at least because my fingers I want to do certain things, but ah, but I'm really tired of doing.

There's certain things in a way, and they're limited because I don't really play a lot. So I have to personally, like, get away from the keyboard in order to compose and, you know, and so that when once you said that, I immediately knew that you've already had these thoughts, too. But then I think about tracks on or the one track that I'm really familiar with from resignations, for instance, Battle which Creek?

Which is just solo piano, of course. And it just works perfectly, obviously, for the somehow it works perfectly, even though it's, you know, supposed be world Music, in a way, just works with the game. Great, but I was wondering if I could derive something from your your compositional process from that track and specifically what I was thinking. Ah, is how did you write that piece specifically on? Is it like the same process as you write other pieces, and just to go a bit further, the do you improvise?

Or do you improvise that the piano? Or do you improvise a little bit just to get ideas and then try to like, you know, separate yourself? Or what's your process there in the rise of nations soundtrack is is pretty different. I think most people wouldn't realize it. But that entire ninety minutes I think of music was written, performed produce done finished in three months, which it was very fast. Ah, considering Thie my expectations of what I wanted to make happen.

Ah. So essentially, when I would come in in the morning, I would say, Okay, where am I at in the world, I would literally look ah, at an atlas and and pick something Sri Lanka over, or okay, I'm in. I'm in a forest somewhere. And and whales or And that would be my direction to say Okay, at least I know where a man. Then I would start with the instruments that you might hear in a place like that and think about the tempo, the structure the court progressions thatyou might hear for battle in which creek That was a little different.

Because I went in that day and I had no clue as to what I was going to do or where the story wass that I was trying to write about and it actually was a jam. I just sat there and spilled it out. It was all piano stuff. Uh, and it did take heavy editing to say, Now this part doesn't work. This part should be there. Um, okay. And it was written, edited and mastered, I think in about four hours. So it it it was just one of those things.

I mean, I'm sure you've experienced that, too. Where, you know, some something from above helped me to just pour all this stuff out in a very short period of time and a lot of hit records. They're done that way to, you know, some of the best ones that are just there inspired, and nobody knows where it came from or how to duplicate that. But yeah, that was one of those acts that just kind of came out. And so what, you mean editing?

Um, do you mean like, Ah, you're shaving off like, whole minutes? Like, if it's a ten minute James, you're you literally condensing that down? Are you finding the best, like one, two, three minute or two to four minutes or you taking parts from, like, the first thirty seconds and then and then transitioning to the like, the last thirty seconds and then saying, Ok, well, this sounds like I added too much.

I'm just going to play my edited version over again as one cohesive piece. Or like I'm also I'm interested in that, but also how you make decisions while editing. Do you think about like, Oh, there's just too many notes here or this jumps to the wrong key or, um, that's it doesn't get big enough or like what guides that process. You know, you just hit all of the things across my mind. Ah, there are all kinds of things that during the editing process, if unless I've written it, here's thie quote unquote verse.

Here's the chorus. Here's the turn. Here is the bridge. Uh, that all comes into play, and you don't want to stop your creative flow by worrying too much about that. If you're if you're on a roll, just keep it going. If once you have you're always pressing record, obviously you always want to get it down so you don't lose it. Ah, sometimes I will literally go back and replay everything in the way. I think it should be structured, and sometimes I just take okay, bar one to seventeen going to be.

You know, I think that would make a better chorus type thing or a bridge, and I'll just, you know, copy paste. It's It's that quick. And I think any composer that has deadlines, we will probably Maybe they won't tell you, but they probably do the same thing. And that's another motivation for me is the deadline. You know, when do you need this? How much time do I have? And that forces me to go into that mode of okay, I got to get this done.

Let's focus and focus is hard. Nothing else exists. I am totally doing this, and I am going to do it feverishly until I get it done. Because my deadline is Tuesday. Let's say, um, if I don't have a deadline, I tend to over over. Think it, Yeah, um, and that's that's not really good either. It's Ah, you, Khun. You can think about something to work on it for forever and ever. I have a track like that that I'm working on now, highly complex, but I don't know whether it's actually good.

I've produced the heck out of it. It Ah, I've heard it so much that I'm familiar with it, but I don't know whether people will Actually, I like it because it is very different from what I've done before and totally complex, Uh, so wouldn't really fit into the pop world. I think it's too complex for background track on TV or movies. So would have to be a main theme. And how often can you find that? And is this is something you've been working on on the side or is it for ah, contract our company?

Um, now, this is just totally me. I'm in my mind. I'm putting together a set of new music and trying to figure out how to shop this music with either TV or film. You know, music, play this men production library's something a side gig. I don't make a lot of money from from the TV production music. Ah, but it's, you know, it's always good to get a royalty check every once in a while. Island. You know it. Ah, it kind of broadens your scope.

Maybe someday it will lead to something else. Um, but I'm I'm pretty happy just doing what I'm doing now. Now that's awesome. S o. I also want to talk about Melody because I think melody is something that Ah, I recognize it in that early sent track from the eighties that you posted, Um, and from of course, the videogame music like Mike Warrior and resignations. And even in the stuff that you share from my GT or whatever, melody seems to be pretty very important to you.

Um, and I was wondering what you thought made a good melody. Oh, what a question. Aah! I'm stumped. What makes a good melody? Um, when I'm writing, if the melody speaks to me, that's a good melody. It makes me think, Oh, core progressions, Aiken, Aiken, do this with it. And I couldn't do that with it And make this underlying cor progression work with it. Ah, without a good melody, then you're I don't know.

It's boring. Good. Ah, early punk music, right? No, No Riel, No real melody. There it was. All of three chords and screaming. Ah, and unfortunately, rap music doesn't appeal to me, for the samarie isn't It's like, Okay, I get the beats and you know, hypnotic and rhymes and all that. Uh, but it doesn't really intrigued me. The way more complex Munich sick intrigues me, right? And so do you. Start with a melody in your own compositional process You mentioned that melodies, you know, inform harmonies and, you know, a given melody could have made different harmonization is But is that something that you always start with, Like I just need a good melody And then everything will also be fine.

Or do you come up with the cords first and then kind of write a melody over top of that? It happens both ways. I ah, I used to just sing stuff into my phone If I had a ah a a melody in my head I was just singing into my phone on DH That way I could go back to it later when I'm in my studio and try toe tryto work with it there. I have also just sat in the studio and doodled with chord progressions. And why does this work or, you know, this other composer did this Throw in, You know, two corps progressions from this toe that and see if that inspires and sometimes it does.

I don't really have one way of working. I have, I guess, a a pallet of things. Like if any time I get a chance, I'Ll sit out the piano and just start playing courts. And that's actually the start of ah music track. Uh, sometimes they sit on my hard drive for years and I delete hm. And sometimes they they intrigue me. And even if it's just one of one line melody, um, if it's good, then it's always worth going back to an exploring to see Well, what can I come up with?

He Maybe I wasn't in the right frame of mind when I wrote the melody to come up with the rest of this stuff. Ah, but to anyone who plays always press record because you never know what's going to come out and all right, so, you know, you also mentioned something in that that I thought was interesting when you said, Ah, you might have a melody in, Write it or, um, sing it into their your phone. It almost reminds me of, Ah, something John Tesh, I believe a set of the MBA theme in the nineties it was pretty much Michael Jordan's theme song, because they that's when the bulls were winning so much.

But it's that that that that that that that that or whatever but he showed how he composed, and he's literally he was overseas. But he called his phone in America and left a voice mail, and it was very it was basically exactly, you know what the final product in it becoming. But you also mentioned, or I was wondering about your work schedule, too, because I know that you work like Monday through Friday or when you go into my the Microsoft.

So he's back in the day even, you know, you have a separate studio that's not your own. And, you know, you go to work every day like the lots of other white collar jobs. And I was wondering how, um, do you have ideas outside of work, or do you think about the ideas outside of work? Or do you separate? Um, you know your work from your home life or your your work projects from your personal projects, or you kind of just constantly thinking of it all the time and, you know, wake up in a little night, even have an idea and and not be afraid to write that down or whatever.

Yeah, it's both the When I'm a double town, there is always something to do. Ah, but there are times when there isn't always something to do, whether it's ten minutes or an entire day. Ah, sometimes there are brakes. They're the same thing is true when I come home because my studio is essentially essentially the same. It's my studio at double down. Have I have the same software? Ah, no. So I can call up anything I want or need to in either place.

The one of the advantages to having a studio at home that's compatible is if I need to. I can work from home, and I have done that from time to time and and everything these days is email Skype slack servers that you don't need to worry about, You know, I mean, half the time at work. My door is closed because I make noise and people send me slack and you know all these things and I mirrored and see them.

They're in the same building, right? Right, And so it's it's There is a lot of Yes, I do stuff at work. Yes, I do stuff at home for both sides. I have in a pinch if I need. If there's a short deadline which there was just recently, uh, with the megabucks room, um, track. And you know, the thirty second track. Oh, by the way, we have to have it by Tuesday. And this was Friday afternoon, so I said, Okay, no problem.

Uh, you never want to be that guy to stop production. So right, that that's always the first key. So I worked all weekend on that track, and I finished it Monday afternoon and they were happy with it. No, no. But so I am. It's not just I don't have a work life and a personal life. I have both and sometimes they intermingle cool. You mentioned another thing that is making me think of another question I wanted to ask you, Dwayne, which was, um you said that they were happy with it.

Well, that's cool when that happens, but I know that doesn't always happen. And honestly, one of the reasons why I it wasn't a big fan of trying to, you know, work harder. Becoming a media composer at this point in my life, at least for now, is because I do not take criticism very well. You know, if I like, if I create something, and I like it, you know? And someone else says it doesn't fit like it's hard for me not to take that as like a punch in the stomach.

And I know a lot of the people you know in this business in your business of film media, video game composition. They have a thick stomach, if you will, and they can take the punches. But how do you deal with, um, with stuff like that? Or criticisms or whatever critiques, if you will, assuming that you've had critiques, your fair share of critiques like any other composer in that business. Oh yeah, everybody has Thekla Teague's Everybody is a musician, everybody Khun, right Ah, everybody's Certainly if they don't think the other things have opinions.

And yes, I have gotten many, many times where I'm faced with G. We don't like this. Well, tell me what you don't like about it. I don't know. You know, it's it's too blue, right? And that's that's what drives you nuts. It's like, Well, how do I fix it? I'm you're hiring me to come up with music that will touch your customers, regards to what it is. A video game a pinball game. Whatever a TV show. And you've hired me to do this, you know that I can do it.

And I have giving you something that I believe is going to be the best thing for your situation. For your product, for your customers. Ah, and yeah, when someone says, you know, we just don't Now we have us something like this, and you go ahead and go, OK? No problem. I've learned that that attitude is more likely to make them like what you did to begin with. Then what they're suggesting that I do. Does that make sense?

Um, so, basically, are you saying that like if if you take that attitude, they will like your original idea or they will be much more inclined to like the second idea that you come with or whatever, they're more inclined to go back to the first. Oh, interesting. You as I guess the phrase work for hire always is, is on my mind. I am not Paul McCartney. I don't do this for my Ah, thinking that I'm going to make a million dollars from original song.

Uh, I've tried that it didn't work for me, so Essentially, I am doing music, composition and sound design as a work for hire the people who pay me r always the people that I need to please. Uh, I'd like to please myself as well, and most of the time I do, but it's it's more of a thing to wear. Okay, They're they have a specific idea. What is that idea? How do I accomplished that without ah really messing with my own sense of quality.

And so when I say okay, let's try it. That means that, you know, my ego isn't so big that I think I know everything. Maybe they're right. Ah, but maybe they're wrong too. And I I don't press it upon them at this point in my career. I did it at certain points when I was younger, when I when I was starting up Ah, and I found that that really just makes him not like you. Right? So that's that's not a good thing either, right?

I see what you're saying, Um, more or less you'll you'll have more success with them liking your idea and much healthier perspective from your approach. If you just play the whole situation as the nice guy. Um, yeah, I've had better luck with that. Then, you know, I could I could be an egotistical jerk, and sometimes that works. I certainly know of composers who are Ah, but for me, it's now, you know, I'm not infallible.

I don't know everything. They may have insights that I totally missed for their customers. So yeah, I just chill. So you mentioned that you still get people like riding into you to say this or that was was greater. They is their favorite track or whatever. What is it about your art, Duane? That audiences ah, resonate with most and abi audience? I mean, the people who are actually consuming the music. I know that you mentioned that.

You know, I work for hire. I work. I try to please the person who is paying me, but at the same time, the the audience that consumes the music, Um, and the feedback that you get from them. What is it about your music that resonates with them the most? Well, I think that part is is sort of a two part question. Um, music, Yeah, can be very impactful on you, but if you only hear a piece of music once, you may not care enough about it to seek it out.

I've been fortunate enough to be involved in video games. To where, Okay, the players are actually playing this for literally hundreds of hours. They get to hear these tracks over and over again, and it's always my goal to make these tracks sound appealing. Let's say, even after the two hundredth time, it's heard, Um, if you think back to radio well oh, you know, the first time you hear a song on radio and in the eighties, let's say and you think the first time you hear it is I got is a stupid song and you hear it over and over and over again, and then you start liking it.

Ah, so a lot of the musical appeal is being able to hear the music enough toe where it it kind of. It's ingrained in you at some point, and I think a lot of people who respond to me regarding rise of nations that's the case. They grew up on this stuff, and they liked it to begin with, but it became part of their lives At some point because they just heard it so many times they could they could sing in their sleep.

Which to me is is thie ultimate compliment of G. You know, something I did made an impact on these people fifteen, twenty years. I don't know how long it's been, but but a long time later, they're still impacted by it and taking time out of their own lives to say, Hey, thanks. You know, you you made an impression on me and I really appreciate it. And I I'm just flattered to death. Now the way that you meant you were talking about it almost reminded me of, Ah, what, ah, someone who's been married forever or whatever, uh, must think of their spouse as someone they kind of their round enough and fall in love with.

But also this sort of love that, you know, after knowing that person and being around them constantly for five, ten, twenty, thirty, fifty years or whatever that it's they love it because they love them because they're part of their life, that sort of thing, it's Yeah, it's those sorts of tracks and video games. Yeah, probably lends itself more to that sort of relationship with music than any other genre.

Just because you probably even if you like the Jaws soundtrack, you probably Most people probably haven't seen it for literally hundreds of hours in their life. You know that Maybe they've seen a couple of times, but with video games you hear in those tracks over and over and over. And so the but that. But that says lots of the composition and the the sort of quality of those tracks to be able to withstand that sort of, um, you know, listening.

Ah, because you know, music can get old after a while, and so it has to be a good enough quality to withstand that. And then eventually, you know, dig into the person's brain and so that they're, you know, dreaming about it more or less. So, yeah, that's that's really cool. So on that vague abstract Ah ah, little thing I just said, Let's talk for another eight minutes or so, doing, if that's OK, and I will ask you some vague and abstract questions just about life in general and get your take on these, Um, so what's the best thing for human being doing?

Companionship. Cool What's your earliest memory? Ah, jumping on the couch when I didn't remember anything else ever when I was really little. And I thought, Hey, I'm jumping on the couch and I remember it. How old do you think you were? Ah, I don't know. Maybe two or three. Well, that's pretty. Really. What In what state was that? Ah, New York. No. How many states have you lived in? Just out of curiosity. Oh, gosh.

Um New York, California, Colorado, youto Illinois. Ah, I think that's that's all that I've lived in. It doesn't seem like enough, but well, in Washington. And so what Washington, uh, forgot. And why do you live in Washington as opposed is that we're double down Our GT was is Ah. Well, that's governing. Interesting story on DH. Fasten Interactive was based in Chicago. Ah, Fast Interactive was acquired by Microsoft.

Microsoft moved the creative team out to Seattle. Redmond, actually, um, and myself and my family lived here for twelve years. Um, then I had an opportunity to do slot machines. Ah, but I had to move to Reno, so my wife and I moved to Reno. My son actually transferred to University of Nevada Reno Ah, on DH finished office degree there, and Rino's very small. Um, I love the job. Don't get me wrong. It was for GT, and ah loved the job, but my wife and I don't gamble, so it's kind of strange to be in a city based around gaming gambling.

Ah, and there was an opportunity I had purchased double down interactive. Ah, the person at double down the audio person to sight it to leave. And I heard about it and I go, Well, I don't even have to, you know, it's just a transfer at that point, and we can move back to the Seattle area, So that's how that came about. I'm still in the gaming industry, but it's we living in Seattle is awesome. Yeah, no, I think I think that's a good call that you made a good color.

Um, if you were walking down the street today and met yourself as a twelve year old, what would you say to your twelve year old self? The cash keep going. There's no matter what you think, especially at that age, there's so much opportunity that's going to come your way, and it is never easy two. Think about Okay. Well, I can I can do this in my life. Well, yeah, you can think about it. But how you're going to get there?

It's a long, hard road with any career choice. You don't start at the top. You start at the bottom and pay your dues and just never give up. You know, stay true to your passions and you'LL get there Beautiful, Beautiful. He said please tell me something good you've never had But you never want something good I've never had but never want That's sounds like a brain twister. See something, uh, to live in Reno again?

Problems maybe. Yeah, I'm stumped me. And that's a good question. Well, I'll let you think about it after the interview then. Ah, and you can email me back in a week. What gives you the most optimism? Um, outside of my family, it's knowing that I'm entertaining people around the world. Um and I don't care that I'm not famous and I didn't get into it to become famous, but I know ah, that some of the stuff I do like now is entertaining people.

Millions of people around the world they don't know they don't care who did it. All that they care about is Oh, hey, it makes me feel good. And that, to me, is just ultimately cool, right? It's kind of almost reminds me of, ah, of, ah, it in a different way that, Ah, this is going to sound weird. But, you know, the Nirvana nevermind, um, the album cover features that make it baby in the water. But they interviewed I just read this and every other day of that guy and he's like, It's so weird knowing that, you know, millions of people are billions of people have seen me, you know, when I was a kid, but they have no idea.

Obviously, if I'm talking to anybody, you know, they they don't know. That's me. But I know that they've seen that. I know that they know me in a way, but that's a weird analogy, but it just popped my head. I have to say it. So, yeah, that's kind of cool. Okay, two more. What questions remain unresolved for you? Um, I don't know if my career is going to take a major shift. Like I did live music and it's rock music.

I did product specialist, that pinball video games now mobile games. Um, I don't know if there is another giant shift and I I don't know if it would actually matter how So you mean matter that you know it or not? If if there is another major shift, I I don't know whether it would scare me or write me now Want to do it? Um changes just part of life. And, ah, I have done so many different things that I I know that change is hard at times, but it also challenges you and it inspires you to do things that you've never done before.

So I don't know if there's anything that I wood like jump onto my seat to go for But I still don't know because I've changed so much. I don't know if there's something else out there. There will be cause a big shift. Gotcha. Yeah, it's like the future is is simultaneously exciting and and terrifying. But in a way, you, you, you, Khun, trust yourself because you've dealt with those changes so many times in your life already.

But there's always still that even though that you know you, Khun, take on whatever comes next. You There's always that little bit of Ah, fear of the unknown, I guess, Yeah, yeah, it's cautious is good And how ah, between gigs, I've had people say, Well, you think that's gonna work and I kind of have no idea. Is it a good thing? I don't know. Only time will tell if if it's good or not. You know, maybe I'm horribly mistaken.

Or maybe it's the greatest thing in my life. You know, it's opportunities or what you make of them, and you just got to go for it. Sometimes it's not your fault if they don't work out. Yeah, that's all are I guess I've heard that story before, And that's that's what comes with the territory of being an artist, I guess is just Ah, you. You put your thing out there into the world and ah, and it may resonate with people who may not.

But you just keep on as the composer is the creator, more space or more abstract. Lee Ah, you know your duties just to keep on making stuff, and you know, that's what you've basically done your whole life. So and the last question If you ruler of the world, what would you do on your first day home? Give all the creative people more power? Who? And I'm not just saying music, art and music go hand in hand and have been so influential in cultures.

And unfortunately, there are folks who I don't understand that and we'Ll dismiss it. Um, so I I always hope, you know, don't make it so hard before musicians and orders to make a living because they impact so many people in such positive ways. Ah, it would be nice if when I was starting out that it would have been a little easier because it was very, very hard for me. Ah, now I know that's the case with artists who I I work with artists every day, and they have the same kind of experiences like she's, you know, we're making close to minimum wage sometimes like yeah, and it's horrible because they're very talented, and they they really impact people's lives.

I agree with that, Duane, and you know, through the year, works that you've created have definitely impacted my life and and I know millions of others through games or just here in tracks on double down or arise, nations or wherever. And I just want closes out by thanking you for, um, being an inspiration to, you know, not just composers and musicians, but people just doing their thing regardless. And that, that sort of strength tio to keep on producing stuff just because you love doing it and making making it happen.

So thank you. Doing so much for joining me today. It was hard to catch up. What they I think celebrity in my life. At least that's what have you do as. And I really appreciate the time that you've take him today to talk to me, so Oh, Joseph, Thank you. I I love talking to people who are on the same page. You certainly are. And I enjoy my work endlessly and love talking about it. I appreciate you're you're offered.

I I hope a lot of people listen to this. Awesome. Thanks to weigh in so much. Thank you. See you fight. OK. Bye. Bye.