Oddworld's Inhabitants: Michael Bross, Composer / Sound Designer [Hosted by Oddworld.com] Date: July - August 2002 Interviewer: Oddworld.com Interviewee: Michael Bross
Oddworld’s Inhabitants are as diverse as the world they’ve worked together to create. Here’s where you’ll find interviews and other informative articles spotlighting the many creative folk that work at Oddworld Inhabitants. Be they headline players or behind-the-scenes heroes, the Inhabitants profiled here all share Oddworld’s ceaseless dedication to bringing you the best worlds and games that you’ve ever experienced.
Michael Bross, Composer / Sound Designer
Q: What’s your background?
Michael Bross: I started playing music at the age of 7 and studied music intensely in college. It took me 3 years after graduation to make a living as a composer/sound designer. I started working for a company called Paragon then went to Microprose. From there I freelanced and worked on a number of games. I’ve also worked on commercials and film. Oh yeah, I played in a number of bands, too.
Q: Who are your biggest influences? Why?
Michael Bross: Musically … Stravinsky, Sibelius, Chopin, Miles Davis, Brian Eno, Jon Hassell. These musicians were/are unique and innovative along with creating inspiring, masterful work. Some non-musical influences… writers Denis Johnson and Charles Bukowski; artist Jackson Pollock, Hieronymus Bosch and Salvador Dali; and filmmakers Ethan and Joel Coen.
Q: Why did you decide to go into the video game industry? Why Oddworld?
Michael Bross: It wasn’t something that I initially set out to do. Back in 1991, I was interested in being a songwriter and also a composer for film. Composing for games had never entered my mind. Then one weekend, by chance, I picked up a Sunday newspaper and saw an ad from a company looking for a composer to write music for games. I sent in a resume and tape. They picked me out of 150 applicants. The rest is history. Why Oddworld? Well, Oddworld is a perfect fit for me. The values and goals of the company are in line with mine. They give me a fair amount of independence. I like that. They trust me. I trust them. It works out well.
Q: What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
Michael Bross: Spending time with my wife. Reading. Working on my own music in my home studio. Hiking. I write short stories (mainly fiction) but only do that on and off. Drinking good wine, eating good food. Sleeping (I love power naps).
Q: What CD are you currently listening too? What book are you reading?
Michael Bross: I just picked up the soundtrack for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” I’ve been reading a twisted novel by Peter Carey called “The Tax Collector”.
Q: What kind of a place is Oddworld?
Michael Bross: A lot of excellent talent is here. Everyone has been great to work with. Other companies I had worked for or with always had at least one person who was really crazy or impossible to deal with. I haven’t encountered that here. It makes it much easier to concentrate on the important aspects of my work as opposed to maneuvering through treacherous political landmines.
Q: What is a typical day like for you?
Michael Bross: There’s no typical day, really. It’s always something different. Today I’ll be working on music for an area of the game. Maybe recording some djembe and a guitar for a track. Tomorrow I’ll be working on sound design for another area. At the same time, Lorne might walk in at any minute and want to record some dialogue.
Q: What do you like best about coming to work?
Michael Bross: I live close enough to walk to work and at some point during that walk every morning I think about how fortunate I am to be actually making a living doing what I love to do.
Q: If you could change jobs with one of the other Inhabitants who would it be and why?
Michael Bross: This is a trick question, right? You can’t fool me! I obviously have the coolest job here so why would I want to trade with anyone?
Q: What at Oddworld are you most proud of?
Michael Bross: The work I’m doing right now.
Q: Many fans are upset with Oddworld’s decision to develop for the Xbox exclusively. Any comments?
Michael Bross: We want to make great games so that people can have great gaming experiences. I’ve seen some good games on the PS2 but because the Xbox has more power, it allows us to create better, more inspiring games that you the fan would like to play. We’re doing it for you.
Q: What advice would you give someone trying to break into games? What type of education does someone need to do your job?
Michael Bross: Wanting to be a great composer or sound designer is like being a zen monk. You have to devote your life to it. It takes years of hard work, sacrifice and discipline. Success almost never comes overnight. You have to really love it. Educational background? Well, a music degree always looks good on a resume. I’d suggest studying music composition and theory. Listen to tons of music. All styles. It pays to be a diverse composer.
Q: Who is your favorite Oddworld character? Why?
Michael Bross: Munch. I suspect he’d be nice enough to let me borrow his head implant so that I could go out and zap a few things.
Q: Can you tell us anything about the new game or what you are working on right now?
Michael Bross: Yeah. I’m taking the music in this game to a whole new level. It’ll be totally different from the last. More epic, immersive and emotional.