Dirt3-2

Codemasters, F1 & Sonic Fuel

How did you end at EA, where did you go after, straight to Codemasters?

Well, after EA – and I left EA by choice, which doesn’t happen that often; normally it’s redundancy or studios closing. But, I had the opportunity to go on tour with a band called Massive Attack. So, I left EA. This had been something that I’d been talking about with the musical director for about six months. They had a world tour coming up and I kind of jokingly said, “Do you fancy an electric violin?.” And he turned around and said, “Yeah, that sounds great!” So, I left EA to do this with Massive Attack, but I was completely and utterly unprepared. I hadn’t any experience of touring at that sort of level at all and after two weeks, they decided that I wouldn’t be good enough so they dropped me.

Then I had to scrabble around and find another job, but I didn’t want to go back to EA. So, I ended up in Scotland working for a developer called Visual Science, who were doing car games. I’d been working on the Formula 1 games and actually they had worked on some F1 conversions. So, if EA did the PlayStation version they did the whatever – the Xbox version or whatever there was. I built a bit of a relationship with this team up in Scotland and after Massive Attack went pop I ended up working for them. I think I did freelance on a game called Sudeki for Climax Studios, but I ended up in Scotland working on driving games for them. Unfortunately, one of them was a Carmageddon game and one of them was a Fast and Furious game, both of which got canceled, so they became shut-down. Then I went back to EA, but to a different office.

And that was when?

It was near Manchester and that was 2006. I went there only for six months, because after six months, they shut the studio down. We were working on Road Rash. I stayed up there for about 18 months and one of the guys that I worked with at Visual Science, a guy called Andy Grier – a lovely guy and an amazing sound designer – he got a job at Codemasters. He kind of spent 18 months convincing me to come down and work for Codemasters. But Codemasters didn’t offer me enough money and then they eventually did. So in 2007, I ended up at Codemasters.

I basically dropped everything I was working on, in terms of having an input into what the game sounded like, to go back to writing music

When sealing the deal with Codemasters, what titles did you work on before moving back to F1? Did you carry on with sound design?

Well, yeah that’s it [laughing]! We had a GRID game to finish off when I started, then DIRT 2 (and 3), and then we got the Formula 1 license. I can’t escape Formula 1!

Nevertheless, you managed to escape back to music composition eventually! What’s the story behind this transition?

Yeah, it was an interesting one. I started at Codemasters as a lead sound designer. So, I’d look after a game – DIRT or GRID game, etc. I then became a group lead, which effectively was audio director, and that was by choice. I wanted control over DIRT and F1, so I was a group lead and I took on too much. Also, it was much more of a management role, so my job was more scheduling and paper-pushing. I’m not a paper-pusher and I’m not a manager. I’m not really a very good people person. I was shit, I was crap at my job and I was unhappy.

From Left: Subaru Impreza during DIRT2 (2009) recording & Mark at some DIRT3 (2011) exhaust action

The people who worked for me, who worked on the team, they were unhappy with me and Codemasters went through a bit of a difficult financial period. We were spending a lot of money on the F1 music – Ian Livingstone, a fantastic composer, recording orchestras at Abbey Road Studios. I went to my boss and said, “Look, I want to change my job. I don’t want to do what I’m doing anymore and I think I can save us some money if I do the Formula 1 music in-house.” Ian had already decided that he didn’t want to work on Formula 1 anymore anyway, so my boss said, “Yep, okay, let’s go with it.” I basically dropped everything I was working on, in terms of having an input into what the game sounded like, to go back to writing music. Actually, I ended up doing most of it at home as well. I’m not very good with people – there’s a bit of an Asperger’s thing going on there.

Yeah, I can relate…

I only just started discovering this because my son’s been diagnosed as autistic. Learning about what he’s going through, I was learning more about myself and realizing that, you know, when I was at school, I actually wasn’t a naughty boy. I had some form of Asperger’s but back then, it didn’t exist, so I was a naughty boy. It was kind of like a dream for me to be writing music again. I’ve always loved it. I mean, I do have a passion for car games; I love car games and I love the technicality in it and I really enjoy trying to make something more real-world than interactive in a video game. And I love cars – well, you’ve seen I’ve got a Subaru parked outside. I love cars and I love the sound of cars. That’s why I’ve got Subaru and not an EVO because, whilst the EVO is a better car, the Subaru sounds better!

So yeah, I went back to writing music and ended up doing most of the work at home. I was well aware that this probably wasn’t gonna last forever, so I started buying more software. Basically, the deal with Codemasters was that I would buy my own software, because they couldn’t afford it. So, I started to buy my own software, I started buying new speakers, thinking that I probably wouldn’t be at Codemasters for that much longer. And indeed it all went sour a year ago. I can’t talk about it, unfortunately, because I had to sign legal documents saying that I wouldn’t talk about what happened, but I got a union involved to look after me and they looked after me and I resigned.

You’ve still got to create emotion for certain areas of the game, but keeping it within the context of the style of music – and the style of music is me

Cool, I can cross out one of the questions now [laughing].

Which was what? Why did I leave [laughing]?

Yeah, exactly! Nonetheless, your music writing career at Codemasters was a fruitful one as you composed three complete Formula 1 soundtracks. And again, these pieces are wonderful examples of your signature style and your ability to put full attention into your music. They are packed with lot of dreamy, pumping and melodic electronica, which shares one important component with their elder siblings: their standalone ability. To me, it seems like you wrote music not necessarily for the sake of a game, but more as an individual masterpiece that was attached to a game, but that could easily work without it. My question for you is: did you perhaps approach the writing from an angle where the music was to outlive the game?

I think in the first two F1 games. I mean, for 2015 there was no brief whatsoever and, as I’ve said already, I’ve got a love for Jean-Michel Jarre.

Cabling up a Force India F1 car in 2008

Yeah, I’d say that, absolutely, that theme made me immediately think of JMJ [laughing]!

It’s me, it’s me [laughing]! But, of course, what you’ve still got to do with an F1 game for certain parts of it – when you win a championship or you’ve done a good qualifying – you’ve still got to evoke emotion. So, I’d say 2015 is very much my style. In fact – and here’s a little one – if you listen to the credits music on F1 2015, in the middle of it, there is pretty much a little bit of Knight Rider.

[laughing] Well, that’s funny, because when I listened to that part before, I could not, for some reason, figure out this familiarity, even though I know this theme very well!

Well, I’ll tell you why. When I was writing that track, I already had something in the middle and my partner came in. I know Knight Rider and The Hoff are massive in Germany and I grew up with Knight Rider. I love Knight Rider. Whilst I was writing the track, Glen A. Larson, who created Knight Rider basically, he died. So you’ve got to pay tribute, because Knight Rider was my life when I was like nine years old. I had to have that in there. But yeah, it’s very much me. You’ve still got to create emotion for certain areas of the game, but keeping it within the context of the style of music – and the style of music is me. F1 2016 kind of continued that. We had a little bit less time and I still wanted to reuse things, but I wanted to make it better. Toward the end of 2016, I bought these [Mark points at the large monitor speakers behind him], which suddenly then helped me with the mix.

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Dirt3-2

Mark Knight: Chapter IV

How did you end at EA, where did you go after, straight to Codemasters?

Well, after EA – and I left EA by choice, which doesn’t happen that often; normally it’s redundancy or studios closing. But, I had the opportunity to go on tour with a band called Massive Attack. So, I left EA. This had been something that I’d been talking about with the musical director for about six months. They had a world tour coming up and I kind of jokingly said, “Do you fancy an electric violin?.” And he turned around and said, “Yeah, that sounds great!” So, I left EA to do this with Massive Attack, but I was completely and utterly unprepared. I hadn’t any experience of touring at that sort of level at all and after two weeks, they decided that I wouldn’t be good enough so they dropped me.

Then I had to scrabble around and find another job, but I didn’t want to go back to EA. So, I ended up in Scotland working for a developer called Visual Science, who were doing car games. I’d been working on the Formula 1 games and actually they had worked on some F1 conversions. So, if EA did the PlayStation version they did the whatever – the Xbox version or whatever there was. I built a bit of a relationship with this team up in Scotland and after Massive Attack went pop I ended up working for them. I think I did freelance on a game called Sudeki for Climax Studios, but I ended up in Scotland working on driving games for them. Unfortunately, one of them was a Carmageddon game and one of them was a Fast and Furious game, both of which got canceled, so they became shut-down. Then I went back to EA, but to a different office.

And that was when?

It was near Manchester and that was 2006. I went there only for six months, because after six months, they shut the studio down. We were working on Road Rash. I stayed up there for about 18 months and one of the guys that I worked with at Visual Science, a guy called Andy Grier – a lovely guy and an amazing sound designer – he got a job at Codemasters. He kind of spent 18 months convincing me to come down and work for Codemasters. But Codemasters didn’t offer me enough money and then they eventually did. So in 2007, I ended up at Codemasters.

I basically dropped everything I was working on, in terms of having an input into what the game sounded like, to go back to writing music

When sealing the deal with Codemasters, what titles did you work on before moving back to F1? Did you carry on with sound design?

Well, yeah that’s it [laughing]! We had a GRID game to finish off when I started, then DIRT 2 (and 3), and then we got the Formula 1 license. I can’t escape Formula 1!

Nevertheless, you managed to escape back to music composition eventually! What’s the story behind this transition?

Yeah, it was an interesting one. I started at Codemasters as a lead sound designer. So, I’d look after a game – DIRT or GRID game, etc. I then became a group lead, which effectively was audio director, and that was by choice. I wanted control over DIRT and F1, so I was a group lead and I took on too much. Also, it was much more of a management role, so my job was more scheduling and paper-pushing. I’m not a paper-pusher and I’m not a manager. I’m not really a very good people person. I was shit, I was crap at my job and I was unhappy.

From Left: Subaru Impreza during DIRT2 (2009) recording & Mark at some DIRT3 (2011) exhaust action

The people who worked for me, who worked on the team, they were unhappy with me and Codemasters went through a bit of a difficult financial period. We were spending a lot of money on the F1 music – Ian Livingstone, a fantastic composer, recording orchestras at Abbey Road Studios. I went to my boss and said, “Look, I want to change my job. I don’t want to do what I’m doing anymore and I think I can save us some money if I do the Formula 1 music in-house.” Ian had already decided that he didn’t want to work on Formula 1 anymore anyway, so my boss said, “Yep, okay, let’s go with it.” I basically dropped everything I was working on, in terms of having an input into what the game sounded like, to go back to writing music. Actually, I ended up doing most of it at home as well. I’m not very good with people – there’s a bit of an Asperger’s thing going on there.

Yeah, I can relate…

I only just started discovering this because my son’s been diagnosed as autistic. Learning about what he’s going through, I was learning more about myself and realizing that, you know, when I was at school, I actually wasn’t a naughty boy. I had some form of Asperger’s but back then, it didn’t exist, so I was a naughty boy. It was kind of like a dream for me to be writing music again. I’ve always loved it. I mean, I do have a passion for car games; I love car games and I love the technicality in it and I really enjoy trying to make something more real-world than interactive in a video game. And I love cars – well, you’ve seen I’ve got a Subaru parked outside. I love cars and I love the sound of cars. That’s why I’ve got Subaru and not an EVO because, whilst the EVO is a better car, the Subaru sounds better!

So yeah, I went back to writing music and ended up doing most of the work at home. I was well aware that this probably wasn’t gonna last forever, so I started buying more software. Basically, the deal with Codemasters was that I would buy my own software, because they couldn’t afford it. So, I started to buy my own software, I started buying new speakers, thinking that I probably wouldn’t be at Codemasters for that much longer. And indeed it all went sour a year ago. I can’t talk about it, unfortunately, because I had to sign legal documents saying that I wouldn’t talk about what happened, but I got a union involved to look after me and they looked after me and I resigned.

You’ve still got to create emotion for certain areas of the game, but keeping it within the context of the style of music – and the style of music is me

Cool, I can cross out one of the questions now [laughing].

Which was what? Why did I leave [laughing]?

Yeah, exactly! Nonetheless, your music writing career at Codemasters was a fruitful one as you composed three complete Formula 1 soundtracks. And again, these pieces are wonderful examples of your signature style and your ability to put full attention into your music. They are packed with lot of dreamy, pumping and melodic electronica, which shares one important component with their elder siblings: their standalone ability. To me, it seems like you wrote music not necessarily for the sake of a game, but more as an individual masterpiece that was attached to a game, but that could easily work without it. My question for you is: did you perhaps approach the writing from an angle where the music was to outlive the game?

I think in the first two F1 games. I mean, for 2015 there was no brief whatsoever and, as I’ve said already, I’ve got a love for Jean-Michel Jarre.

Cabling up a Force India F1 car in 2008

Yeah, I’d say that, absolutely, that theme made me immediately think of JMJ [laughing]!

It’s me, it’s me [laughing]! But, of course, what you’ve still got to do with an F1 game for certain parts of it – when you win a championship or you’ve done a good qualifying – you’ve still got to evoke emotion. So, I’d say 2015 is very much my style. In fact – and here’s a little one – if you listen to the credits music on F1 2015, in the middle of it, there is pretty much a little bit of Knight Rider.

[laughing] Well, that’s funny, because when I listened to that part before, I could not, for some reason, figure out this familiarity, even though I know this theme very well!

Well, I’ll tell you why. When I was writing that track, I already had something in the middle and my partner came in. I know Knight Rider and The Hoff are massive in Germany and I grew up with Knight Rider. I love Knight Rider. Whilst I was writing the track, Glen A. Larson, who created Knight Rider basically, he died. So you’ve got to pay tribute, because Knight Rider was my life when I was like nine years old. I had to have that in there. But yeah, it’s very much me. You’ve still got to create emotion for certain areas of the game, but keeping it within the context of the style of music – and the style of music is me. F1 2016 kind of continued that. We had a little bit less time and I still wanted to reuse things, but I wanted to make it better. Toward the end of 2016, I bought these [Mark points at the large monitor speakers behind him], which suddenly then helped me with the mix.

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Mark ‘TDK’ Knight

Born: 8.1.1973
Nationality: British
Role: Composer & Sound designer
Studio: Sonic Fuel
Previously:Mindscape, Bullfrog, EA & Codemasters
Known For: Captive II, Warhammer: Shadow of the Horned Rat & Dark Omen, Dungeon Keeper II, F1 2015-2017

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