Metal, Texas, Doom; Rise Of The Triad Musician Andrew Hulshult
So how did this kid get into scoring video games? First and foremost, because he’s a gamer. He admitted that in particular, he gets ‘a lot of shit’ for playing Minecraft. (I scoffed at that, but he insists it’s true, since he’s supposed to be hardcore. He did agree that the haters need to STFU.) In addition, “I’ve been a PC gamer forever” Hulshult told me, adding that builds his own rigs. He grew up playing the Doom, Rise of the Triad, and other shooters from when he was a kid. “My mom hated those games, HATED THEM,” he said, “but my dad would always go find me the shareware versions, and be like ‘here, just don’t let your mother see it’.”
That’s how he ended up working with Interceptor. “Whenever Fred was working on Duke Nukem 3D Reloaded, I was hanging around the forums, and I was really inspired, really excited that someone was doing this, so I redid Grabbag (hear the original here, and Andrew’s cover here,) and a couple others, about four different pieces of music. I tracked [Fred] down and handed them off and he asked, ‘Hey, would you mind helping me out on this project [DN3DRL]; there’s no money involved, but would you mind?’ And of course it was no problem, I said I’d love to.”
Of course, Duke Nukem 3D Reloaded was cancelled to make way for Duke Nukem Forever. But when Interceptor decided to bring back Rise of the Triad, Andrew was, so I was told, their first choice for the job of scoring it. That process has come with a tremendous learning curve, of course. The ROTT team is small and Andrew has been handling essentially every music-related job since the project began at the start of 2012. His work on Grabbag and other DN3DRL tracks was essentially his first time really handling so many studio duties. “The mixing techniques that I was using with Grabbag, I was still learning,” Andrew told me. “The stuff that’s online was literally the stuff that I showed him, it was not by any means the final product… When I was asked to do ROTT I was like ‘man, I gotta step up my game’. Now I had to look at everything from mixing, to mastering, to engineering, as well as the creative side. It’s completely different from anything I’d done before.”
What he’s doing on Rise of the Triad is the herculean task of reworking and rerecording the original game’s soundtrack in full, handling every part of the process (with feedback from the rest of the team,) trying to preserve the original pop of those old tracks while giving them a more modern polish. That is, shocker, a metric ton of work for a guy who still has a day job and also a band.
“Days off that are not working with the band or doing the job thing, all my time is going into [Rise of the Triad]. One thing for sure,” he said, “is that they take a looong time to do.” As Andrew describes it, doing something he loves again and again ends up becoming obsessive rather than tedious. “Whenever I get a good inspiration, the track normally takes, I spend maybe 10 hours behind a board. [I]t’s normally, ‘You’ve got two days to come up with something good.’ Pretty much what I’ll do is kind of find where the root note is, something that’s going to pull the listener in immediately.”
“So I’ll listen to the midi track over and over again, find out what are the parts that stick out to me the most. Because [original ROTT composer] Lee Jackson did a great job on the original. So I’ll take those and go, ‘Here, here, here and here are very memorable, especially when you’re playing through,’ and I’ll try to throw in something that – I don’t want to say ‘up to date,’ but certainly a little more modern, just modern playing and writing styles, pianos, drums, guitars, whatever it may be, anything that works in the mix, and I’ll ask, ‘How can I make this so it feels you can run around with this, but if you weren’t just playing a game, you could still listen to it?’”
The results speak for themselves. Interceptor was gracious enough to provide Game Front with an exclusive track from the Rise of the Triad Soundtrack in advance of the official streaming release. Here’s ‘Smoke and Mirrors’.
If everything goes according to plan, the success of Rise of the Triad will be due to huge effort by a very small team. During our interview, Interceptor’s Dave Oshry made it clear how integral to that effort Hulshult has been. “Andrew is really great at taking feedback as well as creating. He finishes a song and then asks what we think, and the cool thing is that we’ll let him know and he’ll come back with a new version incorporating that feedback. And bear in mind, every new track is my new favorite,” he said.
Hulshult, for his part, will hopefully be in the position not only to get his band greater exposure, but also to branch out into other musical projects. “I don’t know if it was like the whole film score thing that I was really into,” he said about what he liked about his work on ROTT, “but a gigantic piece of me likes the idea of scoring symphony, I’m still trying to wrap my head around that because it’s a crazy number, you can get more than 50 tracks at one time. I’m still trying to perfect it, I’ve gotten a lot of experience with this.”
Does this mean more gaming work in the future too? Hell yes. Not only does he want to continue working with the Interceptor team, he’s looking forward to whatever opportunities might pop up. “I want to do more of this,” he told me. “This is definitely something that I want to do as long as I possibly can. ”
The revived Rise of the Triad comes out early in 2013. The soundtrack will begin streaming the song included in this article beginning next week.