Indie Minds With Musician Agent Whiskers
Introducing Our Second Indie Mind
Essam Alghamdi (Agent Whiskers) is a multi-instrumentalist musician specializing in orchestral and electronic arrangements. With 4 albums and numerous singles, Agent Whiskers has a body of work that is constantly shifting as new inspirations surface. Agent Whiskers has also composed music for video games including Atomic+ (iOS), Match a Number (iOS) and Gravity Error (Steam/PS4/Xbox One).
You can find Agent Whiskers work on Apple Music, Spotify, Anghami, and SoundCloud. You can donate to Agent Whiskers music work by purchasing songs through his Bandcamp page.
Explain your role and responsibilities as a composer/musician in games?
I’ve been a musician for well over 15 years and have played with several Saudi rock bands in shows around the world. I’ve always had a passion for video games and game development so I felt it was the next logical step to take my music career. Aside from composing music, I also help out with sound design and SFX. I try to build upon the foundation of the music by incorporating sounds that fit into that mold of the surrounding music.
- What is your process that you as an artist follow? And do you follow a process which is open to experimentation while creating music for games?
My process involves lots of improvisation. It ultimately depends on how the game makes you feel while playing it. And it’s my responsibility as the musician to package that feeling into an auditory experience that complements the game, rather than distract or take away from. It’s a very tricky balance because sometimes you can write something that sounds really cool but may detract from the atmosphere of the game so you have to dial it back a little bit. It’s a very iterative process.
How differently do you approach music writing when it comes to games?
When I write my own songs, it comes from internal inspiration. I’m often inspired by the sounds around me. It could be what’s on the radio or even an elevator jingle. My brain starts to musically converse with the melody and I build upon that inspiration. For video games, it’s entirely dependent on the contents of the game. The art style, the mechanics, the speed with which you move through levels, all of these inform the type of music to write for a game.
Would you say that playing games are important to make music specifically tailored for games? If so, how did that help you?
For me, I feel it’s very important to understand the rhythm and tempo of a game. It’s really a conversation between the music and other elements of the game. You can’t have a conversation without hearing what the others are talking about. So what I like to do is play a game without any audio and try to visualize how the music can best interact with its surroundings in order to create the most relevant experience that honors the creators’ intentions.
Any specific tools or software you use? And your best practices while using these tools?
I’m a Mac person. If you have a Mac (or even an iPad) and want to start messing around with music, GarageBand is a great place to start. It’s how I started back in 2009 when I transitioned to the Agent Whiskers phase of my career. I eventually graduated to GarageBand’s older, more technical sibling, Logic Pro. But I have to say this, it ultimately doesn’t really matter what tools you use. It’s about how creatively you leverage whatever is at your disposal.
How do you manage a team of musicians when working on a game? Also, how do you communicate with the rest of team like programmers, game designers, artists and so on? What tools do you prefer and your best practices in communication?
Music generally comes late in the development process, after all the heavy lifting has been done by the various other crafts in game development. That makes it much easier for the developer to communicate their musical needs as the game is in a late stage of development already. And it’s also easier for me as I can have a more accurate understanding of the game and what the end goal should be. With regards to communication, it’s as simple as opening a WhatsApp group to keep track of what everybody is up to.
Take your time and be patient. If you don’t feel the creative juices flowing, it’s important to take a step back and distract yourself with other activities to build up the inspiration. All walls eventually break down so don’t lose sight of the main objective and let your passion guide you.
Thank you, Agent Whiskers for the great answers! It's been a pleasure having you with us. Welcome back anytime.
As for all of you Alnins out there, you can comment below to ask Agent Whiskers anything regarding his music and experience. He will be available for few days after publishing this post to answer your questions. So, hurry!
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