December 4, 2020 — Mikolai Stroinski, composer for quite a few games, TV shows, and films, was kind enough to join us for an interview, where we talked about his work, his favorite media, and more. Our goal was to really get inside the head of the man whose music is more impactful than the visuals they are usually paired with.
In fact, If you have played The Witcher 3, The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine, or Gwent, you may be surprised to know Stroinski composed for all of them. He also lent his musical talents for IPs like League of Legends, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, Age of Empires 4, and even Bee Simulator. Outside of gaming, Stroinski has produced tracks that have appeared in The Bachelorette, and even Pawn Stars.
We started off with a round of quick questions to get some nimble answers.
With so many gaming platforms available, what is your favorite platform to game on, and your favorite games?
PlayStation 4. Bloodborne, Spider-Man, and Far Cry: Primal spring to mind!
Since you have worked on quite a few television shows yourself, what are your favorite TV series?
Lucifer, Trailer Park Boys, Fargo
It is difficult to imagine that you produce your work without inspiration from others. Who are some of your favorite fellow composers to listen to?
Michael Giacchino (Mission: Impossible, Rogue One, Spider-Man: Far From Home), Austin Wintory (Journey, Abzû, The Pathless), John Williams (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, E.T.)
It is easy to see, or in this case hear, the breadth of instruments used in what you create. What are some of your favorite instruments in general?
Alto flute, piano, and synthesizers.
One could imagine the sheer number of musical genres that have affected you up to this point, what are some of your favorites?
Jazz, classical, and rock.
Out of everything that you have ever produced across all of the different mediums available to you, what is your favorite piece that you have composed?
“Exodus” (music for the game Bee Simulator)
Personal computers have been essential to a lot of creators of different kinds. In audio, Macs seem to be more popular than PCs. So it has to be asked, do you prefer to create on Mac or PC?
Neither. Each has its strengths and weaknesses.
What software do you use to compose music?
Currently, I am using Cubase (I used Logic before that.)
Do you remember the game, or games that really sucked you in for the first time and completely immersed you?
That has to be Spy Hunter and Archon (both on Spectrum ZX).
Would you say you are partial to PC or console gaming?
Consoles are made for games so it makes more sense to me to use them, and not have to worry about compatibility, etc.
When in life did music first sink its teeth into you, and make you want to start writing music?
When I was 10 years old.
Okay! With those out of the way, let us get a little deeper into your views and career.
With the rise in popularity of indie-developed video games and virtual social media content like TikTok, do you think there will be a rise in music licensing over tracks used in these?
I do not know much about TikTok other than it is used to spy on its users so I stay away from it. It is hard for me to have an opinion regarding it.
Who is the vocalist for The Witcher Tales: Thronebreaker? She provides incredible performance! What was the drive to choose her?
I think it is Katarzyna Bromirska — she sang on The Witcher 3 so it made sense to continue with her voice, even if it is very altered and tuned.
When you are composing for a historical video game — such as Age of Empires 4 — do you research the period and try to match specific sounds and tones? Are you working directly with the developer’s audio team? Do you get beta versions so you can play the game while composing?
I did a fair amount of research before jumping on Age of Empires. I always research whenever I am about to delve into a new musical idiom. There was an audio team, but stylistically they went with my choices and suggestions.
No, I did not play Age of Empires during the process.
Do you have a favorite medium or genre you prefer composing for?
It would probably be an RPG, strategy, or horror title as far as video games go — hopefully with a strong narrative. When it comes to movies — animation suits me well.
One of Stroinski’s latest projects is the first-person puzzle platformer Metamorphosis, released last August. For the project, he worked alongside Garry Schyman, composer for games including Bioshock and Destroy All Humans! As well as classic TV series like The A-Team and Magnum P.I.
What can you tell us about your project with Garry Schyman: Metamorphosis?
I can say a lot. It was tons of fun and that is why I invited Garry, because I knew he would enjoy it as much as I would. We are very happy with the outcome and the immense talent of Joanna Freszel who sings in Sprechstimme technique. I feel we did something original that had not been done before.
What challenges, if any, did you face tackling Metamorphosis and a soundtrack inspired by expressionism?
None really aside from finding the singing tone that really fit was a bit of work. [We needed] one that would be a bit crazy but not too out there. Like I said, it was a pure joy to compose and produce the soundtrack together with Garry. It is worth adding that expressionism is not the only musical influence in the soundtrack. Another inspiration is the sound of Bernard Herrmann (The Devil and Daniel Webster, Pyscho, North by Northwest).
Do you have any advice for up-and-coming composers and musicians who want to work on games and linear entertainment such as movies and series?
It is hard to give advice in these challenging times. I really would not know how or where to start.
The “situation” aside though, it is a matter of believing in yourself, having decent feedback from the environment that your music is good and that you have real talent, and also being persistent. It is also super-important to work on your people skills.
Thank you to Mikolai Stroinski for giving us your time! Check out his website to see all of his projects.