Richmond native composed music for new ‘Star Wars: Battlefront’ game

The London Symphony performed Haab's music at Abbey Road Studio.

The London Symphony performed Haab’s music at Abbey Road Studio.

RICHMOND, Va. – Ahead of the seventh installation in the science fiction movie series Star Wars, a new video game released Tuesday, whose music was composed by Richmonder Gordy Haab.

Composer Gordy Haab.

Composer Gordy Haab.

The game “Star Wars: Battlefront” takes place during the same time period as the original Star Wars trilogy and spans the gap into “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

The iconic landscapes are familiar, and as multiple reviews concur, it looks and sounds “marvelously authentic.”

The award-winning composer Haab is a Lee Davis High School graduate who maintains a close connection to Richmond despite relocating to Los Angeles.

Haab, age 39, has scored a “Walking Dead” video game, numerous television and short films, and several other Lucasfilm productions, which includes compositions for “Indiana Jones” and “Star Wars” games.

In this new release, familiar musical cues from the original scores will have anchor points in the game, but Haab has also written entirely new music that was performed by the London Symphony Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios.

Haab answered some Richmond-centric questions and detailed the process that went into the songs. His answers below.

You’re from Richmond. Share some with us some of your favorite spots in the city – to visit, eat, to go for inspiration.

Richmond has a very special place in my heart. I often find myself bragging about what a great city it is for music, food, and just general vibe. One of my favorite restaurants in Richmond is The Roosevelt. My brother-in-law, Lee Gregory, is the owner and executive chef, and man, he gets it.

The music community in Richmond always welcomes me back with open arms. I not only consider them family, but also consider them a world-class force in music, and I draw my inspiration from them.

A visit wouldn’t be complete for me without at least one night out hearing my friends in No BS Brass Band play. We all go way back. Stefan, the tuba player in that band, is one of my closest friends in the world. In fact, I’ve had him come out here to L.A. on many occasions to play on my recordings.

Do you ever envision some Richmond locations when composing?

The Fan is and will always be dear to me. And I can’t help but imagine its charm and influence has found its way into my palette of creative inspiration.

How often do you come back to visit?

My wife and I usually make it back a couple times every year. Around the holidays for sure, and we both like to pop into town to catch the leaves changing in fall if we can.

Did you see “Star Wars” in a theater in Richmond?

I was too young to see the first film in theaters, but I did see “Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of The Jedi” in theaters. Pretty sure it was at Regency Mall [Ridge Theater, FTW!]

Do you think Richmond has changed a lot over the years?

Absolutely. Just a quick visit to VCU is a reminder of how much the city has progressed. But one thing hasn’t changed – the warmth, creativity and love of the people.

Whether someone has seen Star Wars or not, almost everyone recognizes the Imperial March. Will there be familiar musical cues in the video game?

Yes, the iconic themes from the original scores will definitely make appearances in the game. And because Battlefront uses music from the original scores as well, I was given the task of creating new music that transitions to and from the original recordings before jumping into something brand new. Sort of the best of both worlds in that the player gets to hear completely original music and new themes associated specifically with Battlefront – but they’ll also hear occasional anchor points of familiarity.

Did the music of John Williams influence you in some way? Either as a kid, or as a composer, or both? Have you ever met John Williams?

Most definitely! I can recall seeing E.T. as a kid, and although I probably couldn’t have told you the names of the main characters, I could’ve sang the musical themes for you.

So his music is probably one of my earliest influences. When I was probably no more than 5 or 6 years old I used to play The Empire Strikes Back soundtrack record while acting out all the scenes from the movie, so that music became a part of me at an early age.

I can recall exactly how I felt the first time I saw Darth Vader and heard the big gong crash, before I even knew what a gong was. But I knew that there was a “sound” that I associated with Darth Vader that was scarier than his physical presence. So I’d go further than saying Williams is an influence – I’d say his music shaped who I am as a composer and a person…long before I even began to compose.

And yes, I have met him! I met John just briefly, years ago while buying toilet paper at Costco. Turns out he was there to do a CD signing with Yo Yo Ma so I introduced myself.

What can we expect from the “Star Wars: Battlefront” compositions? Are they all original?

All of the music I composed is completely original. Since the game also features some music from the original recordings, I felt it would be redundant to quote John’s music in any way. So I composed and orchestrated all new themes for each of the planets, factions and characters in Battlefront.

So you can expect to hear brand new themes, and quite a bit of high energy action/battle music, brilliantly performed by the London Symphony Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios.

Talk some about the process of working on the songs. How many are there? How many musicians did you work with on this project?

There is about two hours of new music in Battlefront, give or take. My process was tricky because any given piece of music had to function in many different ways.

I’d start by composing a 10 to 12-minute “suite” of music associated with a specific planet, made up of 5 parts. Typically, an intro, two battle cues, one background cue, and one in-between, “exploratory” cue.

Each full suite needed to start with a short, 30-second piece from John Williams’ original soundtrack recording and then transition to two minutes of something completely new – and then alternate back and forth like this seamlessly throughout the suite. But the music I was composing also had to function as standalone, 2-minute pieces of music, serving their specific purposes – each crafted to loop back on itself in order to extend as needed to fit the scene.

And even further, these pieces also had to work together as a shorter eight-minute suite when played back to back without the John Williams bits.

All while remaining musical and sounding purposeful. Once I’d write a complete suite, I’d demonstrate all of its various versions with a synthesized “mockup” to be approved by DICE, EA and Lucasfilm. Once it was approved, I’d orchestrate it to be recorded by the 100-member London Symphony.

Talk about the game. Where does it fall on the Star Wars timeline?

“Star Wars : Battlefront” takes place during the same time period as the original trilogy and spans the gap into “The Force Awakens.” The game has many different ways of playing, so everyone will have something they can enjoy. But first and foremost, it focuses on being a multi-player, first person game.

Can you share some of the compositions so we can have a sneak peek?

Sure! Here are a couple excerpts from my score:

“Hoth Alliance, Into Battle” is a small taste of the music I wrote for the ice planet, Hoth. Here, I got to add my voice to the classic sound John Williams created in Empire Strikes Back.”

“Sullust’s Harsh Terrain.” This music is jagged, angular, sinister, and at times, machine-like, to accompany the industrial lava planet, Sullust. Since Sullust is not featured in the original films, this was a great opportunity for me to create something unique.”

Are you excited to see The Force Awakens? Are you privy to any spoilers?

Very excited. I already have my tickets for the premiere night at one of the best theaters in Hollywood. In my business, I get to be privy to many things that I must take to my grave.

Final question: Jedi or Sith?

Jedi all day!