Batman, on the other hand, was a different kettle of fish. Since he had an entire franchise to look back on, it was a different challenge entirely to any of the previous games, and it was intriguing to hear how much those past adaptations affected his thought on what the soundtrack would sound like.
“I remember for the Batman game we spent a whole lot of time going back and forth about all the different possibilities,” Jared began, “partly, I think, because it’s such a loaded franchise. There have been so many different versions of it, so many different sounds and, in a lot of ways, what Telltale was doing with it was kind of different from all of them. It wasn’t a Tim Burton-style thing, it wasn’t as dark and crazy as the Nolan stuff, and it wasn’t quite the animated series — it was different. So we listened to a lot of that stuff and then ended up drawing most of our inspiration from other sources that weren’t even other Batman things to figure out a new vibe. It took a while, though…a couple of months, I would say, of at least five or six day-long meetings just listening to a lot of stuff and talking. Part of that was the different personalities in the room — lots of opinionated people, but that’s good. That’s how you end up with a really good thing. The more you can talk about that stuff the more specific it gets to be when it is finally time to write something for a specific moment.”
Overall though, Jared is a fan of the variety that he gets to work with and the different challenges that they all present. “Honestly I like kind of going back and forth between them,” he said.
“With Guardians of the Galaxy, the soundtrack is a little more like the Batman one where it’s not that similar to the movie score. It’s a little more of its own thing, which I really like, but then there’s also something really fun about getting the Thrones game and spending the time listening through the whole awesome Ramin Djawadi score that he wrote for the TV show and really getting familiarized with it, or even going way back in time for Telltale’s Back to the Future and Jurassic Park games — just immersing myself in those scores enough to be able to write and make it sound believable in that language, that’s really fun too. The music geek in me really likes that because you have to sit down and listen to them and it’s like studying — studying the score and then emulating it, and that’s really fun too.”
We also discuss how the collaboration with Telltale has brought Jared recognition on the awards circuit, and how The Walking Dead brought him his first BAFTA nomination — an exciting time, but one he sadly could not enjoy in person for a few reasons. “I know, it was crazy, completely insane,” he started, “but I didn’t get to go. “The story behind that…” he paused for a second, remembering something painful, “it was horrible, one of my big regrets. That was in 2013, and I had gotten married not that long before it in 2012, and had a plan to go with my wife to Scotland for our honeymoon in the summer of 2013, but my passport had been expired because I hadn’t gone anywhere for a while, so I had applied for a new one and it was off amidst all the horrible bureaucracy — literally a week or two before the announcement came out about the BAFTAs. That was a regret, just horrible timing, and my stupid fault for not having a current passport. I will never let it lapse again.”
Despite that unfortunate circumstance, the strength of Jared’s work will mean he’s back there in no time, and probably with an up to date passport to boot.
After discussing Jared’s extensive work with Telltale, it was interesting to wonder whether he ever thought he was going to take his scoring talents to another medium, despite his previous trepidation, or whether he planned to do any music work outside of the soundtrack sphere.
“I would be curious about it,” Jared told us. “I think what I was saying earlier made me sound disdainful or something. I think it’s mostly just my surprise at how much I found myself at home writing game stuff. Not to disparage film stuff, but just having come at it from the perspective that I would move on from games to film, as though that were somehow graduating to a higher level and then kind of realizing that I really like games, I find myself more challenged with this in some ways musically than I thought I would be.
“That said,” he continued, “I still love film. I probably still watch more film than I do play games, honestly, so it’s still something I’m interested in, and never say never. Same with TV. Honestly, part of me is more interested in looking in to TV stuff these days because there’s that much awesome TV now, possibly more than there is good film. It’s easy to get down on the entertainment industry sometimes, if you focus on the small scale stuff, but if you look at all the good stuff that’s happening, there’s better stuff happening in games and TV than ever before, so that’s exciting. We’ll see, and you can’t ever say never as a professional musician. You have to always be open to work.”
It’s not only film and TV that Jared might be interested in, but also the world outside of that.
“I’m up for orchestral stuff as well, even though it’s funny because it’s so hard to imagine. I feel like I haven’t had a break in my schedule ever. The idea of having a chunk of time to write some original orchestral thing is seems really hard, but I know that if that opportunity came up and I had time for it, it would be awesome. It’s just a matter of having that opportunity and having that space in the schedule. But yeah, it’s always interesting.”
We haven’t mentioned Jared’s work outside of scoring in games, but he’s also excited about the prospect of more of that.
“Every year there’s always something that’s kind of a surprise. Like, last year, I spent a lot of the early part of the year doing all the sound design for Firewatch. I don’t talk much about my sound design stuff, and I actually hadn’t done a lot of it for a while before that, but it was really fun putting my sound designer hat back on and working on that — and what a great game that is. It was up for six BAFTAs this year. That game is totally unique and a singular experience for sure. That was really fun and, plus, Jake Rodkin, who was one of the founders of the company, is one of my oldest friends. We knew each other going back to high school before either of us were doing anything in games. It’s been really fun working with him, and he’d been at Telltale for many years too — just great to work with him and to wear those different hats. I really do love the variety that I get to do in this job. It’s 90% music, but just being able to do some voice stuff here and there and sound design stuff here and there, my days are never boring and there’s always a new thing to do which is good for me,” he exclaimed contentedly.
It seems, then, that writing music for video games is every bit as rewarding, at least for Jared, as composing for either film or TV. The existence of composers like Jared means that the industry is bustling with talented musicians who are ready to enhance the gaming experience with their work. Perhaps the day has already come where games are not seen as a stepping stone for film or TV, but a desired destination for budding musicians who hope to work with intricate, interesting narratives.
The first episode of Guardians of the Galaxy, entitled “Tangled Up In Blue” is out now. The fourth episode of season three of The Walking Dead, “Thicker Than Water,” releases April 25th.