I met Composer Jason Graves


Being a composer for video games and such is a lonely job. Especially in my setup, the most common one, with me working from a studio in my home more or less alone. For clients and with partners, alright, but actually quite in isolation. While I am a loner by nature, I find it inspiring to actually meet others who do the same.

Which I did at the Develop Conference in Brighton last week. Develop has an audio track – one day of audio talks. Most impact on me had Jason Graves, my new hero 😉

I think Jason can be seen to belong to the A league of video game composing, certainly after Dead Space 1 and 2. For me he was the best speaker, no slides, just showing some actual work on his laptop. A very sure speaker, totally unpretentious, funny. Unlike his somber sounding name he is a young and … dandy fellow if I may use that word. And for some reason what he is and says inspired me. Here is why:

  • He makes everything sound so simple. He is among the dozen top dogs, but he doesn’t really make it seem hard. Yes, he had 3 years of Hollywood internship, but hated it, and later got asked by an Australian company to compose music for a game. He loved it, bamm.
  • The way he talks about his job, you get a basic, primal feeling that you can trust him, that you should hire him. He projects not musical wisdom, but basic virtues like love for his job, punctuality, passion and tight, reliable organisational skills.
  • He has shown how he loops, and layers. There is nothing new and magic about it, and he says so itself. He just does a good job, delivering 20 tracks of stems to his client, so the client has much to choose.
  • Again, the strengths he talked about were very simple and effective: He is punctual, on time. He listens really hard to what the client wants, and takes much care to make the client happy, as every rework cuts a big chunk of his money “per hour of work”.  He emphasizes that he works 9 to 5, that he works quick and efficient. He has a family with 2 kids.
  • This is no high science. This is a guy blessed with some talent and a lot of charisma, who in 2001 started to do good, reliable, efficient work on game soundtracks, who is good with transmitting this mindset to potential clients, to earn the trust, get jobs (100 so far) and rise to the higher levels of our career.
  • He said that he had no horror experience before EA gave him the Dead Space job. He says that people nowadays give him new jobs in other genres he is unfamiliar with because they liked how he helped Dead Space. He also commented on how he hates this mass bidding shit where 12 composers pitch stuff for free for a big game, 11 of them getting heavily exploited. Nod nod nod!

I don’t know. I agree with everything he says. And somehow I got a new perspective. Or it just makes me think. I had a big problem with working all the time recently, I try to adjust to a different system of mind, of work/life balance.

To work on charakter, reputation and mindset, to work on a tight organisation and a regular routine, and to let all that shine through – maybe as important or even more important than the music skills.  I don’t know, all I can say is that at this point I really needed to meet a Yoda to reflect on myself. Thanks Jason, hope to stay in touch.