Gone Gaming: Justin Lassen

Justin Lassen was a studio kid, composing music from his bedroom in his parents’ house in Phoenix, Arizona. He’d gotten props from folks like The Dust Brothers and bands like Opiate for the Masses for his remixing work and his dark chamber symphony And now we see through a glass but darkly. But Lassen’s big break came when he was tapped by Intel to do the score for RoboBlitz — a video game that is currently distributed with all Pentium D processors worldwide.

RoboBlitz is sort of a stylistically different remake of the classic NES game Smash TV with a hit more of adrenaline to its physics and robotics. “So the score definitely needed to have the energy of an arcade game, the pulse of industrial electronic music, and the soul of classic beats and guitar,” explains Lassen.

Shredding for Multithreading
Lassen composed 11 tracks totaling just over 20 minutes of music for RoboBlitz. “Each of the tracks had to loop perfectly, since players would basically be in the levels for different amounts of time — and we didn’t want the music to get in the way, but just to ride with the player,” he says.

No stranger to the video game culture, Lassen explains, “I’ve always been working on video games, even since I was a kid making games in QB, VB, or C++, both in playing and in modifying and demoing. So this was just another wonderful opportunity to get involved with yet another cool game project, but on a much higher level.”

And it was a pretty revolutionary and bleeding-edge project for Lassen to work on. “We were using next-gen technology like advanced physics driven game play, dual-core multi-threading and the mind-blowing Unreal Engine 3,” he explains. “So I wanted the music to be electronic and orchestral, but mostly just gritty, raw, and on the edge — to match the amplitude of the game itself.”

Lassen composed all original material for this project, working on half of it in Paris and the other half of it back in the U.S. — all done on a super-tight, three-week schedule.

Scoring with Sonar, Cakewalk, and NI
For the score, Lassen relied on a multitude of PC-based audio apps, plug-ins, and software instruments. “I used some wonderful sampling and soft synths by NI and East West, Garritan Personal Orchestra, and tracked and sequenced in Sonar 4 Producer Edition and all its delicious plug-ins and mixing stuff,” he says. “But my baby was a Schecter S1+ with custom EMG active pickups, running through a giant configuration of BOSS and other stomp boxes, pre amps, etc.”

Lassen trashed it up a bit with some bit-destruction plug-ins, including Analog X’s Bit decimator. “I also sang my own choir/pad parts with a dozen overlays and used Cakewalk’s reverb plug-in to process that,” he adds. “Of course, I did a bazillion drum edits and programming — stutters and all — by hand.” Lassen also used a Roland XP-30 synth and mixed the tracks through Behringer hardware.

Working on RoboBlitz gave Lassen the opportunity to get his hands on the next-gen UE3 technology, and street cred for his talents as he took the helm as audio supervisor for the E3 version of RoboBlitz and producer/composer for all versions of the video game.

Fast Forward
As if that wasn’t enough polish for one year in Lassen’s successful rise to recognition as a talented composer, remixer, and sound designer, Cakewalk commissioned him to write a flagship demo for its Sonar 5 64-bit DAW software. “My demo track is sort of a smooth/cinematic electronic/orchestral/trip-hop pleasure-trip, that takes advantage of their various new soft synths,” he explains.

Next, Lassen will be doing the original score for another game, Hexen: Edge of Chaos and working on the original soundtrack for Linda Bergkvist’s dark fairy tale world, Furiae. He also plans to continue his remixing exploits and finish a second symphony in 2006.

Not bad for a studio kid.