Inon Zur Interview
by John McCarroll, with some questions by Josh Gregory
RPGFan: So how are you doing today, Mr. Zur?
Inon Zur: I'm doing good, thank you. I'm basically wrapping up the prerecorded music for the game Lionheart. We need to go ahead and record it with a live orchestra in January, here in LA. We're going to start a new project then.
RPGFan: So, tell [us] a little about yourself.
IZ: We arrived here 12 years ago from Israel; we came to Hollywood to do some music. First, I had 3 years of studying, the first year at the Grove school of music and the other two years were studying under private tutor Jack Smalley. He is a TV composer, he did Charlie's Angels and other TV shows, and did lots of [orchestral work] for film composers. That was around 92 or 93; from then I just started working. I started work on Yellow Lotus, one of the pictures in the Sundance film festival. After that, I started working in the TV industry with Fox Family for 6 years. I did over 360 episodes of Power Rangers, Digimon, State of Grace, and Escaflowne, lots of shows. I'm currently working on Digimon, but now for Disney, as Disney bought Fox Family. That's my TV and film career.
RPGFan: So how long did it take you to compose the Icewind Dale II soundtrack?
IZ: It took me around 5 weeks to compose it and around 3 weeks to record with the live orchestra and mixing. It's the average time for one of these projects.
RPGFan: Were you pleased with the final outcome of Icewind Dale II's Soundtrack?
IZ: Yeah, I was quite pleased with it. I thought that we definitely met some high standards; we compared our products to big budget films scores. It turned out pretty good and we put a lot of effort into it. In the end we were quite happy.
RPGFan: How do you think it compares to some of your previous work, such as your work on Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal?
IZ: I didn't think that Icewind Dale II's music stands out that much more than the other scores. I think that Icewind Dale II has some uniqueness to it, that basically it developed throughout the game [with] the [inclusion] of more instruments, taking flutes and percussion and combining them with the standard orchestra and it created some ambiance that is quite unique. I also combined ancient instruments with the traditional orchestra. Beyond that, we're talking straight composing.
RPGFan: Did you feel any pressure to make this an exceptional soundtrack for Icewind Dale II, compared to Jeremy Soule's soundtrack for Icewind Dale 1?
IZ: Obviously, I was aware that the first Icewind Dale was quite successful, and of course, everybody wanted to create at least as good of product. But we took a bit different, [but] not completely different, direction as shown with music. So basically I felt quite comfortable creating my own realm and working with it, other than trying to be like Icewind Dale 1.
RPGFan: Aside from Lionheart, do you have any other game soundtracks in the works?
IZ: Yeah, but I cannot talk about it at this time. But Lionheart is almost done with the prerecorded music. I personally have great expectations for this game. I think it'll definitely be worthwhile. I mean, we are very, very happy so far. So definitely for our [listeners], there is some very, very good stuff on the way.
RPGFan: How far into a game's development do you begin composing the music?
IZ: Usually quite close to the end, it's like movies; it's near postproduction, during the process of the work. However, when I'm getting into the game, it's not all together and finished, yet. It's not like TV, where we get a locked copy, and it won't change anymore. Video games, I'm getting into the process of it earlier, and basically creating my own, shall we say, corner of creation for the game, that the games are still in development, and it's a more flexible process, when compared to TV and movies.
RPGFan: Who are your greatest musical influences?
IZ: Good question. There's some basic composers over all these periods, [which] are connecting better, for example, Sergey Prokofiev, Igor Stravinsky, Henry Mancini, and earlier composers like Beethoven. Classical music [influences me as well], as I like to work with an orchestra. With movies, I like John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith. I'm also a fan of early jazz, with artists like George Gershwing and Henry McFeeny, artists in that kind of area are an influence on me.
RPGFan: What is the most satisfying thing about composing music?
IZ: Well, it's always about trying to connect with people. It's a language basically, and you have to convey all these ideas in your head. When you see the reaction of the listeners and they like it. You've succeeded to convey the message because it worked on their emotions. That is the most satisfactory moment because you've exceeded their expectations.
RPGFan: Do you play the games that you compose for?
IZ: I have to, even before I compose, I am sent a prototype of the game, to understand a little more of how the music affects the game, it's crucial.
RPGFan: Well, it looks like I've come to the end of my questions. Thank you very much, and we'll have the interview up for your perusal, soon.
IZ: Great, wonderful, I hope to read it.
Everyone here at RPGFan would like to thank Mr. Zur for his time and this interview. Also, if you're interested in reading more about Mr. Zur, check out his official site, which offers information about his TV, Movie, and Video Game compositions.