An Interview with Bjorn Lynne
1. In your younger days, you played clarinet in the school's orchestra but what sparked your initial interest in music?
There wasn't a particular "moment" or event that sparked my interest in music, I guess it was just from listening to a lot of music through my childhood. My dad was a big fan of music and he bought lots of records, everything from opera to rockabilly to David Bowie and general pop/rock. The first band that I got really into was ELO (Electric Light Orchestra); I would wear out my dad's vinyls of their albums such as "Eldorado" and "On the Third Day". As I got slightly older, maybe around 12, I started to notice that I would subconsciously "dissect" music as I was listening to it.
I started listening to what each individual instrument was doing and what it's role was in the whole piece. This wasn't something I decided to do; it just kind of happened.
2. After this you began making music on the Spectrum and eventually the Amiga, getting involved in the Amiga Demo Scene - how exactly did you make the transition from Demos to Computer Games?
That was easy back in the late 80's because there was a very thin line between the demo-scene and many of the game companies. Most game companies back then was started by people who had been, or still were, active in the demo-scene. It was a different world back then -- a game studio was usually made up of 1-3 people, and more often than not, they were in some way either connected to, or at least familiar with, the demo-scene. So back in the late 80's and early 90's a lot of the people in game companies knew about me and my demo-group Crusaders, from the Amiga scene. And that's how they came to ask me to do music for their games.
3. 1991 saw the release of your "Demo-Tape" and in 1992 you released your first CD of music. Since then you have released over 16 albums. Where does your inspiration come from?
Just from "everything" around me, I think. I obviously try to listen to a wide range of different music when I have the time, and will usually pick up some inspiration from music that I hear. But also other things in life. I can't pin it down with any kind of accuracy, I'm afraid.
4. Following your albums and your work on various Computer Game soundtracks, Team17 approached you in 1995. Since then you've been responsible for the audio for every single game since Alien Breed 3D. What was it about Team17 that convinced you to pack your bags and move from Norway all the way to England?
For a dedicated Amiga follower from Scandiavia back in the early 1990's,Team17 was *the* most famous and respected game creators. If you had asked me 3 years before I got the job, what was the *one* company in the world that I would most like to work for, I would have said "Team17", and this was way before I had any inkling that they were interested in me or my music. When I got the offer from Team17 it seemed almost unreal to me. It was an easy decision to sell everything, quit everything, pack my bags and move over from Norway to England. I would probably have done it even if they hadn't paid me anything. Seriously. Of course, 10 years have passed and the game development world is an entirely different world now, but I never once had any regrets about what I did.
5. According to various sources your album "Witchwood" was originally to be the soundtrack for a game Team17 were producing until they dropped it in favour of The Speris Legacy. Can you provide any more information regarding this title? If this is true, what prompted you to release the Witchwood soundtrack regardless?
To the best of my knowledge, there was no connection between The Speric Legacy and Witchwood, and the fact that one was dropped had nothing to do with the release or otherwise of the other. "Witchwood", like so many other games through the years by game companies everywhere, just turned out to be too ambitious for the manpower we had available. The planning of projects was never done as carefully as it is today, and the game was simply so big that it never really looked like it was ever going to be finished. A lot of work was put into it, but it finally got to a point where it was decided that no more time or money should be spent on it because we might never be able to finish it. This of course is a fate that has been shared with probably tens of thousands of game projects through the years.
Anyway, I spent the best part of 8 months writing and producing the music, so when the game was canned, I was naturally pretty gutted. I had this music that I felt deserved something better than just die without having been heard, so I decided to make a music album of out it -- with Team17's permission of course. And so I did.
6. Tell us a little more about "Divinorum", your Techno/Trance sideproject.
Back in 1997-1998 I started to play around with techno/trance music -- I think the catalyst for this was when I heard the amazing trance compilation CD "Heavy Mental Music" at a party. This great compilation gave me a lot of great ideas and inspiration and I started to create some electronic/dance music as well.
I had already released several albums as "Bjorn Lynne" and these albums were dominated by melodic fantasy music, nothing like techno/trance at all, and I was a little worried that I was going to confuse people if I started to publish techno/dance music under the same name as my melodic fantasy music.
I could just picture some of my faithful CD customers buying the new Bjorn Lynne album only to find it contained trance music and then go "what the h.?!??" when they heard it. So I decided I needed a separate name under which to publish this music. The name "Divinorum" was actually suggested to me by the owner of the dutch record label BooM! Records, who published the first Divinorum single, "Antigravity" on a compilation disc in 1998.
7. Many people in the Worms Community consider the soundtrack for "Worms 2" to be the best Videogame soundtrack you have put together, and it is a radical departure from the ambient music featured in the original Worms. Why did you to move away from the previous atmospheric style, and what prompted you to return to this style for Worms Armageddon onwards?
The style of music in the Worms games isn't determined by me alone, I'm afraid. There are "people upstairs" who decide what kind/sound of music we should go for in a game, and to some extent I give them what they ask for -- although I do have some input as well. When "Worms 2" came up I felt like I wanted to do something more upbeat, more melodic. I suggested this to the people at Team17 and they agreed. So we gave it a shot, and I liked it. But I think the general consensus around the place was that they preferred the more ambient music, so it was decided that we should return to this ambient style again for future Worms games.
8. Your DirectMusic, a brilliant method of having the music "react" to the actions of the player, made its debut in puzzle spin-off "Worms Blast". Have you considered/planned using it in future Team17 games, and have other developers expressed an interest in implementing it in their titles? Have you considered releasing "interactive" albums or single tracks on the Internet using this method?
The DirectMusic system is an ingenious and interesting system for making game music, but unfortunately it never really got much support from the development community and it never "took off". Now Microsoft have stopped supporting it and stopped developing it, so I guess you could say it's pretty much dead as a format for the future. But I've done a couple of other little things in DirectMusic and I still like it a lot. I think the reason it never really caught on is that it has a steep learning curve. It's full of a lot of very different terms and ways of thinking as a musician. When I first looked at the composing suite, I just thought "what the heck is going on here??" but after about a week I got into it. I think a lot of musicians never got past that first week, and that may be the reason why it never really took off.
I've never considered releasing an interactive "album" of any kind with this system, no.
9. Which album are you most proud of, and which game soundtrack are you most proud of?
My most proud of CD album is "The Gods Awaken", and the most proud of game soundtrack I guess probably is the very first, original 1995 Worms soundtrack because it was such a huge thing for me to be involved with.
10. Finally, what's your favourite Team17 title? :p
Again, the original 1995 "Worms", for the same reasons. But also Worms Armageddon.
You can check out Bjorn Lynne's latest album and soundtrack projects at www.lynnemusic.com.