‘Everything. Everywhere. What.’ | Interview with Alec Shea

Alec Shea teams up with Emi Evans for the opening  theme of the psychological thriller visual novel Corpse Factory. With hypnotising vocals and a truly cinematic melodic line, it deserves to be experienced in a dark, very dark place.

Describe your sound in 3 words

This is seriously hard. While I do feel my music has a particular “sound”, my style and way of interpreting my sound changes very drastically depending on the project.
So, depending on the two different ways I could interpret the question, I offer you two answers.

  • Secretly, Subtly Complex
  • Everything. Everywhere. What.

Corpse factory. Tell us a few things about it and your involvement in this project.

Corpse Factory is a psychological thriller visual novel made by the incredible River Crow Studios team. The lead developer is a great friend of mine and we’ve been working together for a long time. This project is definitely the most involvement I’ve had in one of their projects, not only getting to write the soundtrack and work with amazing musicians like Emi Evans, Rob Kovacs, Mason Lieberman and Masahiro Aoki, but I also assisted with the casting, did all of the voice editing and even voiced a minor character in the game. I think being so involved really helped me get a strong grasp of the story and atmosphere of the game and I did everything I could to bring this out in the music.

How different is it to compose music for video games?

Composing for games vs. composing for myself isn’t as different as you might think. When I compose I like to give the music purpose, find a story or a theme that the music can be built around or connected by. I feel this is very obvious in my LoFi album, Plane Prepared Vinyl Past, where the album reflex my experiences living in Tokyo the past 4 years. This is also essential when composing for games, but the main difference is that the story and/or theme is given to me, rather than coming up with it myself, and I’m directed to connect certain tracks with other tracks for story or character reasons. Though I do often still get creative freedom musically, and sometimes also get to offer my own input on how tracks should be connected. Being presented with the story can be both easier and harder than coming up with my own, as sometimes I have to rework musical themes or connect tracks in a way that’s difficult to make work, but other times it gives way to creative ideas I never would have come up with otherwise.

Should a game soundtrack never distract the user from the game’s objectives? This feels very challenging indeed, from a composer perspective. What are your thoughts?

I think that entirely depends on the game, and the soundtrack. In a rhythm game, the music is the focus, whereas in a cinematic AAA game, it is often used only to complement and rarely to draw focus (though there’s also MANY exceptions to that). My goal for this soundtrack was to constantly be walking the line between being musically interesting enough to catch your ear and have you notice it, but not so much that it detracts from your ability to focus on the game’s story. But I think most importantly, being a visual novel, the tracks needed to be enjoyable to listen to on repeat for rather long periods of time. Strange Flower is a little bit of an exception to this though, as it is the opening track to the game and works similar to the way that an anime opening does. Its goal is to set the tone and atmosphere of the story, and basically say “Welcome to Corpse Factory!”, but is not heard regularly throughout the game like the rest of the soundtrack.

What is your favourite video game score ever?

I think my favourite video game score would have to be Nier: Automata, the soundtrack is so unique and blends so many different styles of harmony together with perfectly matched voices singing over the top. And every track does such an incredible job of reflecting both the area/battle it’s written for, but also the Nier world itself simultaneously. This makes creating Strange Flower all the more special to me. Emi Evans is such a huge part of what makes Keiichi Okabe’s score for Nier: Automata such a phenomenal collection of music. And if there were 3 words I would use to describe what sound she brought to that soundtrack, they would be “haunting, beautiful, dark”, which as it turns out is exactly what we needed for Corpse Factory. When River Crow and I decided we wanted to work with her for the opening track, you could very much say I wrote the track for her voice, choosing instrumentation and writing a melody that I felt would best highlight her incredible talent. I felt there would be no better way to set the tone for Corpse Factory than writing what is probably best described as a “death waltz” and letting her do what she does best.

Also do you play video games yourself? If so, give us your top 5 games ever.

Of course! I live and breath video games and have ever since I first started playing pokemon at the age of 5. And video games have basically been the driving force in my career ever since I started worked at EB Games at the age of 17.
Top 5 games is hard because I feel like they’re often changing, but here’s what I will go with:

  • Souls Series/Elden Ring (Favourite Combat)
  • Steins;Gate (Favourite Story)
  • Persona 5 (Favourite Mix of Everything)
  • Pokemon Series (Been playing it since I was 5, so it’s special to me)
  • Nier: Automata (Best Soundtrack, Best World/Atmosphere)

How do you spend your time when not writing music?

Aside from playing games, I love to travel. I’m often travelling to attend game conventions and things, but whether it’s for work or not, I LOVE to visit different cities, try different food, different coffee. I also love coffee and chatting over coffee with friends, so when I’m not travelling for work, I’m usually travelling just to meet up with friends I haven’t seen for a while and drink coffee. But when I’m not travelling, writing music or playing games, I’m generally just consuming some other kind of media, be it movies, anime, TV series, books, podcasts, YouTube, Twitch, the list is endless. If the content is good, I’ll consume it haha.

Which Superpower Would You Choose? The ability to fly or to be invisible?

Flying, hands down. What I would give to be able to just… fly somewhere whenever I want. I travel so much as it is, the savings on plane tickets alone would be great, but the best part would be the convenience of being able to stop wherever I want for a while on my way to other places, rather than being stuck in a plane the entire time… Damn, I really wish I could fly!

Thank you!

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