Tag Archives: music

American Interview: Chris Vrenna

Continuing with a series of interviews geared towards support of our ongoing OZombie Kickstarter campaign, I’ve asked musician Chris Vrenna a couple of questions. Chris and I met back in the day, while I was at id Software and he was banging drums for Nine Inch Nails. He was instrumental (pun intended) in establishing the tone for the first “Alice” game and I’ve been a fan of his work (Tweaker and other projects) for years. To the interview!

AJM: Let’s start off by getting out of the way some of the basics… Who you are and what you’ve been up to since you made the soundtrack for the first “Alice” game over 10 years ago?

CV: I am Chris Vrenna. I scored your first “American McGee’s Alice” game over 10 years ago. I can’t believe how long it’s been! I have had a pretty amazing post-Alice decade. I released three records by my side project, tweaker. tweaker is primarily a studio collaborative project where I have been fortunate enough to work with many of my personal idols. Robert Smith, David Sylvian, Will Oldham, and Johnny Marr to name a few. I also spent an amazing year or so drumming for Gnarls Barkley. Their single “Crazy” was a massive #1 hit in almost every country in the world. I was honored to play with, and become friends with CeeLo and Dangermouse. And I spent 7 years working with Marilyn Manson. I co-produced and co-wrote the last two records and toured the world as either drummer or keyboard player numerous times. In my “free time” I take on remixing, programming, and/or mixing projects.

AJM: You’re attached to the OZombie Kickstarter campaign as a “Stretch Goal.” Have you ever been a goal of any sort or particularly stretchy? How does it feel to be a Stretch Goal on a KS campaign?

CV: I have never been a goal, “stretch” or otherwise, on a KS campaign. And I am SO excited to once again team up with you (American) to score OZombie. I am the opposite of having any “stretchy” abilities, except maybe time-stretching samples! (Insert rimshot sound effect here.)

AJM: It’s a little early for final thoughts on many things related to the project, but have you had any early thoughts on directions you might take with the music for OZombie? We promise not to hold you too severely to any ideas you might express here.

CV: Wow! It is definitely a little early to talk specifics. But, I am SO inspired by all the early concept art I’ve seen. Like with all your games, the design is so vivid it instantly gets my brain spinning with ideas for both sound palettes and melodies.

AJM: You had a chance to visit Spicy Horse Games in Shanghai back in 2009 (is that right?). Can you share some of the impressions you took away about Shanghai?

CV: I believe it was 2009. It was my first, and still to this day, my only visit to China. I found Shanghai so fascinating and was surprised by how varied the city is culturally and architecturally. The ancient city, the European riverfront, and the incredibly futuristic business district just show the long history of Shanghai.

AJM: What do you do when you’re not creating music? Any hobbies or past-times you’d like to share? Any links between those hobbies and the inspiration you find to make music?

CV: My passion is art. I buy and collect as much art as I can. There is such a connection when a piece of art (whether painting, sculpture, photography, etc) grabs you and draws you to it. It becomes so personal and that’s when you know you just have to buy it so you can feel that connection forever.

AJM: Lastly, do you have a favorite character from the Oz books or films? If so, why?

CV: I have a few favorites. First has to be the flying monkeys. They were the most terrifying creatures as a child. And, at 46 years old, I STILL find them scary. And I have always had a soft spot for the Cowardly Lion. Can’t really put it into words, but I always empathized with him. maybe because I was picked on in school.

Teargas and Plateglass

Teargas and Plateglass Logo

Teargas and Plateglass

While working on the Alice sequel during pre-production I’ve been listening to a wide range of music. NiN and Manson can still evoke a proper degree of harshness and anger. While Vrenna’s original “Alice” soundtrack serves to remind me of the important movements and discoveries in the first game. When writing I try to avoid lyrical music – mainly turning on classical composers like Tcaikovsky and Saint Saens (both of who were debuting new works during the time Alice Liddel was alive).

But one group that has an especially “Alice” tone about them (at least in relation to what I’m thinking about for the new game) is “Teargas and Plateglass”. Aside from the fact that they’re rep’ed by Waxploitation, the same label Chris was on when he created music for Alice, it seems not much is known about this group. From Waxploitation, this bit of “info”:

In many
ways, what’s not known about the band says more about them than what is known. We don’t know who they are or where they come from or where they reside. But we know they are fond of the works of Godfrey Reggio and Sebastaio Salgado, David Sylvian, Jennifer Charles, and David Hykes. We know the last interview the band did was five years ago. What others have said about the band, from time to time, has helped fill in some of the details. The American Film Institute, which exhibited their music videos, called them “a bold experimental vision”. URB says the band “pave the way so the dark side can take its rightful place at the forefront of the genre”. XLR8R described their sound as “darkness mixed thick like a pool of blood” and advised listeners to “take with a stiff glass of Absinthe”. Danger Mouse likened their music to “the end of the world” and King Britt noted that “their music restores my faith that deep, dark music still moves the masses”.

You don’t have to take my (or their) word for it though… because you can download their latest album completely free from Waxploitation’s website. Check it out here: “Black Triage”

And be sure to head over to the official Teargas and Plateglass website. There you can access more of their music and see some really beautiful music videos they’ve created.

Exciting Times

All kinds of new things are happening at the virtual Spicy Horse. Some of you already noticed that the new site has options to eventually purchase Grimm – and you wouldn’t know that if you hadn’t clicked through every. single. page. And that is awesome.

As a neat little reward, I’d like to show you a fabulous little gem that our very own Jason Tai has produced for us. This music sample from the game is pretty well indicative of what you can expect in the future.  I’ve heard more of it – it’s hard to say “it gets even better” when so much of it is so awesome.

Also, if you’re on the forum, you already know this, but if you don’t, we’re having a Wallpaper Contest.  The winner gets some really awesome Grimm paraphernalia and is featured on the wallpaper pages for both the Spicy Horse and Grimm sites.  Two runners up will be rotated in one of the remaining spots on that page.  Knowing how creative our fans are, we’re probably going to run contests like this regularly, so even if you miss the May 31st deadline, patient will be a virtue.

By the way, I’m Lilith70, and I’ll be covering the blog periodically when American is massively swamped with things like making games.  Pleased ta meetcha.