Rik Schaffer Interview
Mr. Schaffer is the music composer for both Bloodlines 1 and now 2. He partook in a live stream Q&A and thanks to Planet Vampire found a transcript. His answers are pretty curt and to the point. So don't expect a lot of in-depth answers, but it is still question illuminating musically speaking. Feel free to read and comment below.
Q: This has been probably asked a lot, but was the similarity between the VTM: Bloodlines Theme and Massive Attack's Angel intentional?
Rik Schaffer: Yep. When I started the project, that was the placeholder track they had in for like a year. They were married to it, but couldn't get the rights. They said make something similar. I hate copying artists, but made it kind of my own.
Q: Were you approached or working on CCP's World of Darkness game before it got cancelled?
Rik Schaffer: Never contacted me. I was working on ESO (Elder Scrolls Online) online but would have dropped everything to continue on a Bloodlines type MMO.
R: Be glad, Rik. CCP mismanaged the hell out of WoD MMO.
Rik Schaffer: MMO are dead.
R: Damn. Nice to know you're that passionate about the IP, though.
Q: Do you prefer composing music traditionally , while playing instruments, or do you do it digitally right now?
Rik Schaffer: I don't write music or read music. Self taught. Everything starts in my head, then the guitar and piano are enemies until I find it. With the atmosphere compositions, those were started on synths or non traditional instruments.
Q: What do you think of poems based on gameplay from games? What music should go with it? Say if it is based on Bloodlines?
Rik Schaffer: Poems of Bloodlines and Vampires? Dark, brooding, sexual, but not Count Chocula.
Q: If you could... Would you make new music to Vampire: the Masquerade Bloodlines? Like adding new musical scores to diverse [sic] the current amazing music already in the game? / Did you use any music samples when making the soundtrack?
Rik Schaffer: I couldn't. That music wasn't even a game score. It was an album. I'm not that guy, or in that place anymore. I was broke, living on a couch, out of rehab and jail and living in Hollywood. Basically a character of the game.
Q: There's an unused theme called "The LaCroix Dream." What was the concept behind that track? Did you get a description of that (possibly cut) part of the game that this track was written for?
Rik Schaffer: LaCroix was a track off my album that didn't seem to fit any game hub or place.
Q: What's your favorite musical instrument?
Rik Schaffer: Detuned guitar, played with open strings. And Ebow.
Q: Are you into gaming? Of [sic] so, what are you playing at the moment?
Rik Schaffer: I have Asteroids and entipede in my garage. I play Clash of Clans a bit, my son is consumed by Terraria and Minecraft.
Q: Were any other soundtracks [sic] concepts assigned to you by the developers, but were later cancelled by them before you got around to them?
Rik Schaffer: When I started Bloodlines, Troika was 4 years in on the project. I worked another 2 years on it. They had a ton of stuff in it, all placeholders. They wanted Ministry to score, but liked my stuff better.
Q: Have you picked up any new instruments since you made the soundtrack?
Rik Schaffer: I haven't picked up any instrument or software program since 2013 when I finished ESO. Totally consumed composing with words on some film and book projects right now.
Q: What's your favorite track from Bloodlines? I was listening to the Chinatown theme earlier.. so good!
Rik Schaffer: Hollywood Hub, wrote it a day after being released from jail. I was in the worst depression of my life, it captured it.
Q: Would you be willing to write one or two new soundtracks for the mods in development?
Rik Schaffer: I gave the mod guys everything I had left over from that period, like Come Around and Hollywood Hub part 2, Open Season, etc. There is one composition left in the vault... Game scores these days are generic crap mostly.
Q: At least ESO has one good thing about it then... your compositions lol.
Rik Schaffer: I scored half that game, two hours of music, some similar to Bloodlines. Internal composer with an agenda sidelined a lot of it. The soundtrack has my two best, but he put only two of mine on and 35 of his lol. Too scared of my "Soule" pun intended.
Q: A Have you listed to the Transistor soundtrack? That game had one of the most memorable soundtracks of recent years imo.
Rik Schaffer: Haven't listened to it yet.
Q: This game has funny physics.
Rik Schaffer: I like soccer physics.
Q: Rik, I think you'd like Deus Ex Human Revolution soundtrack. There were a few really good tracks that encapsulated the night and dark depressive atmosphere almost as good as you did.
Rik Schaffer: Yeah I've heard it was well composed. Problem is it's so corporate for triple AAA titles. And tiny developers making tablet and phone games have small budgets. But the fine art in scoring is being done on the mobile games.
Q: Have any movie scores stood out for you recently?
Rik Schaffer: Not recently. The last ones to floor me were Batman Begins and American Beauty.
Q: Rik, how was working on ESO's soundtrack? Did you and Derrick get to do your own thing or didyou try to emulate Jeremy Soule's style?
Rik Schaffer: Derrick was hand cuffed by everybody wanting Soule. I wanted to be me. He never really wanted me on the project. But the president, Firor, said sorry he's on. I scored Dark Age of Camelot with Firor at Mythic in '98. ESO was not pleasant.
Q: I had wondered how you got onto the ESO team. Looking at your IMDB, you'd been away from the video game scene for a long while.
Rik Schaffer: I can only be me. The mega companies want orchestral scores that sound the same. I'm WAY more into composing with words these days. I have a novel, two screenplays (one a comedy if you can believe it) and two children's books. I've been working on all of them since 2011. I'm shopping them this year and praying it works out.
Q: What was the inspiration for Santa Monica theme track? First part is kind the night itself, mood and mysterious, and second part makes you crap your pants because it's so scary and strange?
Rik Schaffer: SM theme - Started on a Fender electric Rhodes piano with that sample riff, watching the game I realized it needed to evolve from a simple sparse "jazz" to evil.
Q: Besides the opening theme, did you have any other influences on the soundtrack? Some years ago I could swear I heard something familiar, but I've of course forgotten what it was now.
Rik Schaffer: Influences: The Omen soundtrack, Fight Club score, Pink Floyd, substances.I've worked on 140 games in 20 years, either scoring, sfx design or voice over. Lots of VO. Bloodlines is in the top 3 ever.
Q: Listening to any cool bands at the moment?
Rik Schaffer: I like Autolux.
Q: Thank god for bugs-fix-only-patch
Rik Schaffer: The bugs were because of the Half Life new engine, and zero communication from the maker of it when Troika needed help.
Q: Love your music! (paraphrased)
Rik Schaffer: I'm grateful that this many years later people get it and still keep it in their playlists regularly. It's not music for everyone. And I doubt I will ever top it.
Q: I heard that Activision eventually refused to allow Troika to keep updating Source, hence why VTMB is buggy as hell without the patch.
Rik Schaffer: Yes, Source was a big issue. But ATVI was very generous with Troika in most respects. They gave them 6 years of production time. One more year and it would have been nearly flawless.
Q: Where can I get the Bloodlines soundtrack?
Rik Schaffer: Email me and I'll send you the MP3 or FTP the .waves. Just give me a few weeks.
Q: What gear did you use for recording the Bloodlines soundtrack? Any particular guitar? What is your software of choice?
Rik Schaffer: 7 stringed guitar d tuned, ebow, tons of self designed drones, Atmosphere program, Roland V synth. Pro Tools.
Q: Troika aren't alone. 2014 in particular was a year of unfinished releases. The backlash has been so large that many, many games have been pushed back significantly already this year.
Rik Schaffer: A sea change happened in the games business around 2010. They didn't see it coming. That mobile was here to take over.
Rik Schaffer: I'm gonna keep these texts as reference to how young folks are texting and speaking for my novel.
Q: I still love gaming but the execs really have screwed it up. Consumer confidence has never been lower. We're burned time and again but despite that pre-orders and DLC are being pushed harder than ever.
Rik Schaffer: They won't take chances. Activision had a chance to own Minecraft and thought it was lame.
Q: People thought Microsfot paying as much as they did for Minecraft was stupid but they didn't buy just the game, they bought a whole audience.
Rik Schaffer: Minecraft is a cultural phenomena rivaling Mario. Microsoft will marginalize it, but make billions, merch, movies, other games..:\
Q: Something else you should know about this game is that it's based off a pen and paper roleplaying game with a good 15-20 years of work and lore. I highly recommend getting this game.
Rik Schaffer: Yep, I know. They gave me the books.
Q: Have you played the game? What's your favorite clan?
Rik Schaffer: I liked the class that were schizo and talk off. My wife voiced some of those in the game. Yes, Malks.
Rik Schaffer: NeverWinter Nights Mask of the Betrayer expansion was my project right after Bloodlines. There's a lot of similar music there.
Q: First time she did voice acting?
Rik Schaffer: 2007
Q: How is living in Hollywood for you? Did you capture your own thoughts on the district in Hollywood theme?
Rik Schaffer: I moved out of Hollywood in 2004 to a peaceful suburb in the Valley. My wife was pregnant and we didn't want to raise kids in Hollywood. Plus the temptations for me.
Rik Schaffer: I'd work with Brian Mitsoda again.
Q: Your wife's lucky. I'd love to get into voice acting and work on something like this.
Rik Schaffer: My wife was the casting director for Bloodlines and tons of other games. We do more VO gigs than anything else these days.
Rick Schaffer: If I had only made a documentary about Troika and Bloodlines development.
Q: Any composers you would like to work with?
Rik Schaffer: Not really. I collaborated a lot in bands and on some scores with a great guy named William West. BUT composing is really a solitary activity, until the game companies get their hands on it.
Q: Can I have a VO job?
Rik Schaffer: A lot of people think they can do VO. Listen to Dee Baker and Jim Cummings. If you're as diverse and as good as them, call me.
Q: Do you think you're done with video game music? Would it have to be something special to bring you back?
Rik Schaffer: I'm done composing because I can't beat Bloodlines. As an artist I found writing was fresh and I was edgy and prolific again. If my screenplay gets sold, I'll score it. Or if Bloodlines two or something similar came up, but even then I'm not a depressed down and out twenty five year old... I've been approached by a number of "Vampire" type projects over the years.
Q: What music is yours?
Rik Schaffer: Yes the menu is mine. Everything except for the bands with vocals.
Q: How do soundtrack scoring contracts work? Is it like one time pay?
Rik Schaffer: One time pay per minute, no residuals. But they pay you well so they don't need to pay again. They insist on owning everything. But they don't pay like they used to. I scored 140 minutes for ESO. So, good pay.
Q: Have you heard of Witcher?
Rik Schaffer: Yes, we were going to work on that. Took Gothic 3 instead. A half a billion for ESO and now it's free to play and sunk in the red.
Rik Schaffer: Thank you. So glad there are smart, like minded people out there. I feel like if I die this year or soon that I contributed something lasted.
Q: What's the best way to follow you?
Rik Schaffer: You guys ask easy questions. Throw me something intense or dark. I stay low key. I don't talk about myself that much. You can always contact me through the website that needs updating.
Q: In hindsight would you have done anything differently?
Rik Schaffer: Nothing on the soundtrack I would have done different. I think if I could have seen the sea change coming in the industry I would have gotten more proactive to find a few more great titles to score, and before I had peaked.
Q: What did you do to go to jail?
Rik Schaffer: The drug dealers are the real bloodsuckers.
Q: Do you agree that the best things come up the creative minds while being in a low? In the worst moments of life?
Rik Schaffer: I started using drugs as a young guitar player when I was touring. Thinking all my heroes did it and I needed it to get to that place. But I found being in a depression and having life throw curveballs at you makes creativity flow. I write on weed sometimes, but primarily I think THE MOST important thing is to be born with a surreal mind that generates creative ideas. Sometimes I want to stop my mind, but I am blessed it creates. Thanks again everyone. Take care and create!