Unseen Interview: Grant Kirkhope

Unseen Interview: Grant Kirkhope

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Unseen64 has recently been given the opportunity to interview the legendary audio designer Grant Kirkhope, most notable for his work with Rare (GoldenEye 007, Banjo-Kazooie, Grabbed by the Ghoulies, Viva Piñata and more), he is currently Audio Director for Big Huge Games. As we can read on Wikipedia, before joining Rare in October 1995, he played for two bands called Syar and Maineeaxe where he played guitar, and already knew Robin Beanland, another Rare composer. Continue to read below to know more about his memories on the development of the Banjo series and other Rare tales!

U64: Thanks for your time Grant! Would you like to introduce yourself to  our readers?

Grant: Hello, I’m the Audio Director at Big Huge Games in Baltimore, prior to this I worked at Rare in the UK and was lucky to work on many of Rare’s big titles over my 12 years there.

U64: In your time in the games industry what were some games you’ve worked on that were never released, or that changed drastically throughout there development?

Grant: Hmmmm…… Dream is the main one I suppose. It went from being an RPG type game with a boy main character to a platformer with a bear that had a bird in his backpack! The other one that did change a bit was Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts, it wasn’t originally going to be a vehicle based game when we started it. The idea was to have stronger ties to the first two games, in fact actually re-use pieces of the early games, I don’t think I can go into too much detail…heh!

U64: What usually happens to the music created for those projects?

Grant: With Dream I did get to use some of the music in later games. A lot of the time if something changes drastically you just shelve your work and that’s that I’m afraid. You can’t get too attached to anything that you do in games as designers too tend to constantly change their minds, it’s just one of those things.

U64: Do you remember anything from the early development of GoldenEye, back when it was an on-rails shooter? When the game changed before release into an FPS was the music changed in any way to respect its new genre?

Grant: I started at Rare in October 1995 and GoldenEye had been in developmentfor some time before I got there. I don’t remember it being an on-rails shooter but the music didn’t change from when Graeme Norgate and I first wrote pieces for it. He started the project and then I worked on it and then he came back to it to finish it off! We always knew we had the use of the Monty Norman theme so we used it everywhere, much as you would do if you were writing for a full blown Bond film.

U64: On your website you shared many interesting tales about development of some of our favorite videogames. Why do you think gaming companies are usually so secretive or don’t care enough to share stories about how their projects evolved from the early development to their publication or cancellation?

Grant: I really don’t know that. I love watching TV shows where they go into the making of famous records and show you how they came up with it all. I suppose games companies may want to re-use ideas from games that didn’t make it so they keep it secret, plus now that the games industry is getting more and more corporate and all the small studios are now owned by huge companies there’s lots of legal stuff that just ties everybody up so they can’t speak about it!

U64: What is your favorite videogame? Do you have a favorite cancelled game that you have worked on during your career?

Grant: My favourite video game is definitely Zelda: A Link to the past on the SNES. I remember playing that game and just thinking it was fantastic, great music too, the main theme is one of the all time greats! As Dream was the only game that I worked on that got canceled it has to be my favourite…heh!

U64: From your time spent with RARE you remember if they have an archive to preserve their unpublished titles, or are they erased to make space when they don’t need them anymore?

Grant: They do have some big fire proof safes at Rare, after a game was done all the documents and code would be stored on disks and locked away in them. There is a Dream demo somewhere that we all loved, it had a full intro sequence and a level or so of gameplay, I’d love to see it again but I suppose that’s unlikely now!

U64: You have worked in the gaming industry from many years: do you think that sooner or later there should be a proper “Gaming Museum” that could preserve released and unreleased games, so that we don’t lose these  important pieces of art?

Grant: That would be a good idea but who would pay for it? I’m sure you know how money conscious games companies are…… I think if it was to exist it would have to be a labour of love that a group of games fanatics got together on.

U64: As a game developer what do you think about Unseen64?

Grant: I think it’s marvelous of course!

U64: Well, that was the last question, thanks again for your time Grant! Do you have any parting words for our readers?

Grant: I always end up saying this but I really mean it……… for any artist of any nature to have people like what they do is just incredible. To have people, like yourselves, want to interview me never ceases to amaze me and to have people contact me through my website and ask me about the games I have worked on is such a humbling experience. I’ve been very lucky in my career to date…… let’s hope it carries on that way….heh!

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6 thoughts on “Unseen Interview: Grant Kirkhope

  1. Celine

    Great :-)
    Grant, is the Dream demo you are talking about for Snes or N64 ?
    Did Rare ever produce something concrete on Snes about Dream or was it all design documentation ( and music I suppose ) ?

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