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Post feature RSS NEOTOKYO° - Behind the Music

An interview with Ed Harrison, composer of the soundtrack for NEOTOKYO°

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Anyone that has expressed an iota of interest for NEOTOKYO° has probably listened to its soundtrack. Ever since its early days, the mod has had an emotive set of tracks that help set the tone and mood for the battlefields of a futuristic Japan. The music features prominently in any video footage, with many fans citing it as one of the most amazing things about it. Ed Harrison, the composer for NEOTOKYO°, recently released the OST on CD — featuring 27 tracks created for and inspired by the total conversion.

ModDB had the chance to talk with Ed about his work on NT°:

ModDB: Great to talk to you, Ed. Tell us a little bit about yourself before we start.

Harrison: I'm 23 years old, grew up in and around classical music and a firm believer in games as art. I was inspired to create music for games by the old Lucasarts point&click adventures. I'm a qualified audio engineer and enjoy sugarless black tea. I believe the universe is a manifestation of consciousness. I hope to eventually get into film-making and about due for a hair-cut.

ModDB: What equipment do you use to create your music?

Harrison: I have a pretty basic core setup consisting of a PC running Pro-Tools, Reason and an array of related music\audio software. I record parts in with an 88 key electric piano. I have a couple of high-end condenser microphones and soundproofed booth to record in. I love analog synths and equipment, but as of yet lack the money to really delve into that world. The only analog synth I have at the moment is a kinky vintage soviet synth called a Maestro (which features on 'Nimbus'). I have some digital synth units (such as a couple of JV-1080s), but software has taken over their role recently and none of them were used in the soundtrack.

ModDB: How did you end up working on NEOTOKYO°?

Harrison: I used to be very active on forums relating to Half-Life 2. I was a passionate fan of the original Half-Life and couldn't wait for the sequel. I had recently seen Akira for the first time and knew that anime was about to become a big part of my life. I was also finishing my courses and was on the lookout for something interesting to work on. The moment I saw a post by Grey/Justin scouting for people to work on NEOTOKYO° I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of. There was no mention of needing music but I responded and sent some pieces I had recently worked on. The reaction was positive and soon enough I was sketching out ideas for NEOTOKYO°'s music. I watched Ghost in the Shell and was an instant fan of both Oshii and Shirow. For a while I became a sort of anime vacuum cleaner; as my appreciation for anime deepened so did my passion for NEOTOKYO°. I feel really lucky to be a part of it.

ModDB: The developers behind NT° have cited inspirations from Shirow and Otomo. Where do the external influences for NT°'s OST come from?

Harrison: I loved the music in both Akira and Ghost in the Shell and wanted to bring a few hints and flavors of those to the soundtrack, but I didn't want to imitate. At the time I was just getting into a lot of electronic music, especially artists on Warp records such as Boards of Canada. I was obsessed with Radiohead albums (particularly Kid A and Amnesiac), as well as a lot of 20th century classical music and minimalist composers like Steve Reich. I was also listening to post-rock bands like Tortoise. All of that music helped define the possibility space I was working in. Ultimately, I wanted to come up with something new and distinctive that would be recognizably "NEOTOKYO°".

ModDB: Can you describe the process you go through in creating a track?

Harrison: I would usually spend a lot of time looking at concept art and early screenshots before starting work on a track. Pushbak's artwork has been a major source of inspiration as he's brought so much flavor and authenticity to the NEOTOKYO° world. I'd let my mind wander around the setting for a while until I found a feeling or concept that I wanted to express, then I'd open up Reason, sit at my keyboard (located directly to the left of my computer) and come up with something to record. The result would be a starting point which I'd loop and start adding layers to. Some would become core song elements and others would be ditched alltogether. By the time this first section had evolved into something listen-able, it would be apparent where the track wanted to go, and I'd flesh it out until I felt it had enough interest.

At this point I'd bring each part into Pro-Tools as separate tracks, where I'd refine it further by editing, replacing some parts with live recordings, mixing and processing. I'd also make musical changes and come up with new parts during this process. Basically, I'd just keep messing around with the track until it felt complete and cohesive enough. Some tracks came together overnight. Others grew slowly with months of tinkering. The lack of hard deadlines gave me the freedom to rework tracks and experiment constantly — it's been an amazing chance to learn.

NEOTOKYO° trailer featuring 'Departure'

Which tracks are your personal favorites from the OST?

Harrison: That's a surprisingly hard question to answer. I know it all too intimately to judge it. I suppose I could say I'm pretty satisfied with Annul, and other early disc-1 tracks. I quite like Hiroden 651. Mostly, though, I hear the soundtrack as a list of lessons learned. I feel as though I've barely scratched the surface of the musical possibility open to me.

ModDB: I understand you did some sound work for the mod too?

Harrison: I have done bits and pieces, such as the ghost sounds (which were a lot of fun) and thermoptic camo sounds (which, I think, are one of the few surviving assets from Neotokyo UT2k4).

ModDB: So after working on NEOTOKYO°, do you have any interest in working on music for games professionally?

Harrison: Absolutely.. My initial attraction to modding came from a desire to work in the game industry. Years ago I spent much of my time creating music for amateur adventure games, RPGs, and various 2d games of my own creation (somewhere, I have a folder backed up with around 700 midi files of game music, many created when I should probably have been studying). I've been focused on game music for a long time, so I would love to be able to make a career of it. Film music is something I also hope to do a lot of, in time.

ModDB: Many people have come to love the mod for its soundtrack, are there any other albums you've produced?

Harrison: The response so far has been really encouraging. I'm incredibly grateful to everyone who bought the soundtrack. There are a lot of costs involved in putting a CD out yourself and to be honest, I doubted I'd make my money back. We thought releasing a soundtrack would just be a cool thing to do and it's been a huge bonus that people have taken an interest and responded so positively.

To date my only CD releases are the NEOTOKYO° soundtrack and my band's first EP (Lazyboat - Run Button). The band has evolved a lot recently so I expect the next release to be vastly different. I've also worked with a few different artists as a producer\engineer and co-writer, so hopefully some of those projects will see CD releases in the future.

ModDB: Any plans for what you're working on next?

Harrison: There are a lot of things on the horizon, such as a short film soundtrack, new band material, and some musical experiments of my own which will hopefully yield an album or two. I'm currently working on a website ( edharrison.net ) which will detail current and future projects as they come up. Outside of music, I've been (very slowly) writing some film scripts, which I hope to at least turn into a short film within the next couple of years. I would love to get into game design and writing too at some point, but for now music is my focus.

ModDB: Finally, are you any good at playing NEOTOKYO°?

Harrison: I haven't done a lot of playtesting, so I don't expect to have a big advantage over new players on release. NEOTOKYO° is very much my kind of game though, so I can't wait to really sink my teeth into it on public servers.

Thanks for your time, Ed!

NEOTOKYO° will release with just over half the songs included in the OST CD. If you like what you've heard, pick up the full soundtrack at cdbaby.com

Comments  (0 - 50 of 60)
kwijl - - 215 comments

dude one day your gonna be a famous game music composer! :D
Annul is my favorite as well :D

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draxt0rm - - 11 comments

I think he already is a famous game music composer :)

nice interview gj

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Nickel_Dare - - 393 comments

lets see if he will be that famus like Kelly Bailey ;)
I hope it for him ..

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cW#Ravenblood - - 6,703 comments


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mindsystem - - 1 comments

Awesome. Good luck with future works!

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Scroll20 - - 5 comments

I have to say that the music for this mod sounds really professional. Really knocked my socks off and I can't wait to hear more in game.

Only problem it might leave me vulnerable when I'm distracted by a particularly awesome track.

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monk024 - - 55 comments

this mod is going to be so awesome

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bhyssk123 - - 9 comments


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Dnst - - 366 comments

Nimbus is my very favourite song. It has a nice and above all "new" sounding basic beat (the instrument that sounds a bit like a trumpet) and it evolves everytime.

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medve - - 1,475 comments

srapio is the best track among the released tracks. really well done.

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windlab - - 56 comments

I love the usage of stereo sound in Scrap IO; especially notable toward the beginning.

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Stubby - - 207 comments

wut happen to releasing nt.

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exanity - - 20 comments

Great interview! I picked up the NT soundtrack and the Lazyboat EP. They are both awesome pieces of art. Can't wait to see more work from him in the future!

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0edit - - 4 comments

Oh man, I wrote too much. It didn't look like so many words when I sent it off.

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DjozeR - - 55 comments

I think I have to buy the soundtrack. Very awesome <3.

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badtrip712 - - 12 comments

Ya it's good music, bought it couple months ago.

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Emil_4444 - - 465 comments

Looks GREAT! and love the music! very very good no very very very awesome !

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Glasseater - - 47 comments


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OkeiDo - - 380 comments

TINSOLDIERS! Remember, you can only listen to the OST with no pants on.

As for the NT news coverage, NT has been in development for years in silence. With the release coming up they deserve publicity and it's actually interesting to get an insight in one of the most polished and professional looking HL2 mod there is around. If the ModDB staff feel they deserve the attention, let that be the case. They've done articles on other mods in the past but right now NeoTokyo is a good mod to cover.

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Armageddon104 - - 3,128 comments

Great interview!

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Krono - - 26 comments

Dear Ed. Please find enclose the two internets you have won. Thank you for your time.
This is amazing, really good stuff! I see you ripping a big hole in the music aspect of the game/film industry.
Fav tracks are Scrap I/O and Tin Soldiers. Annul is up there too ;).
Btw I'm buying the CD next weekend once I has got payed!

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Nemesis@zombotec - - 27 comments


Nice track.
but one little thing.....


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Mkilbride - - 2,784 comments

Even if meant as a joke, holy crap man.

Yeah, the music is epic though.

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Glasseater - - 47 comments

i've been waiting for 4 years, you nubs have nothing on me!

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Lithium-Powered - - 46 comments

i've only been waiting for a few months!

yay for avoiding excruciating waits!

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Martin44 - - 3 comments


I love how I expose MODDB for what it has become and my comments get deleted.

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Mkilbride - - 2,784 comments

For what it is? You mean a place for modders to share their work and get it recognized, at no cost to them?

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r8gato - - 9 comments

Are you a modder Martin? If you are, i don't understand why you are so angry at NT getting some light shined on it? The NT team hasn't looked for the spotlight in all the years we've been working on this game, to the point of being criticized and called a 'dead mod'. I don't believe any NT devs have ever raged over the news/media posts of other mods here. NT is very close to release, after that we will go back into the shadows and stop annoying you. So how about some respectful reciprocation as a fellow mod developer?

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Martin44 - - 3 comments


I have nothing against NT at all, in fact I think it is an amazing mod that deserves recognition. However, I feel that many other hard-working modders are being left in the dark. My comments in no way have been meant to dilute NT, I just feel obligated to point out Stenchy's biased treatment towards the mod. I wish you and the team best of luck.

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Mkilbride - - 2,784 comments

SO he likes the game, are you saying he's supposed to be unbiased?

No mod is getting left in the dark. They all get all the spotlight they want, if they deserve it. Does Zombie Panic's new 1.6 version deserve an article? No, but it gets one. Does every little piece of information about some mod that'll NEVER see the light of day matter? No, but it gets an article.

NT's just cashing in all it's credits for almost 0 hype before it was almost done. :P

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Martin44 - - 3 comments


There's no problem liking a mod and posting a few articles about it, but when literally every single MODDB feature is devoted to a single mod, then I think there's something wrong with that.

"They all get all the spotlight they want, if they deserve it." So you are saying out of the thousands of mods out there, only NT deserves to be talked about by the editors?

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DjBourgeoisie - - 120 comments

Martin, I suggest in the future if you have a problem with a moddb staff member you send them a private message instead of filling up our news comments with a completely offtopic discussion. You are suggesting "other mods" deserve just as much attention, why don't you recommend some to Stenchy via pm if you feel so strongly. Please refrain from using our news updades as your complaint/suggestion box in the future, thanks.

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PrivRyan - - 116 comments

its amazing ur staying so calm :) professional as always eh? heheheh ^_^'

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purplehaze412 - - 368 comments

It is truely good to get some insight into the man behind the music, I love Scrap I/O because of the transitions in which the speed can be done, I've never seen this before, I wish I could buy the soundtrack :/

Martin, I disagree with you on this, For one sole reason
Although I admit that I have not be a very long term follower of this mod (Less than 2 years)
They really have done some quality work, And if you must know, I have read every single article put before me, Why? Not because Im obsessed with NT (Im a fan) But because of the way they present their media, And also the quality work on all fronts, Not even regarding the amount and type of media put at the public's feet.

I'm not sure where you came to hate Moddb, But if you hate Stenchy or Moddb in the first place, I could never see why.

Basically, When you talk about "However, I feel that many other hard-working modders are being left in the dark." I do not see where you are about this, I have browsed the mods page through and true, and I have picked out (Pay attention here) The ones that best grabbed my attention/showed their mod.
While I admit that I have picked up some of my mods off the front page, The mods page is where most users find their mods. None is left in the dark, Unless it is truly not allowed to have a mod page, Which I would hope never happens

I hate to extend this ongoing arguement, but I felt that my personal prescriptive seemed to fit in place.

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ansob - - 49 comments

The one thing I've found striking about the OST is how much it sounds like something which might have come from a new series of Stand Alone Complex. I don't regret buying it, which is high praise coming from me. :P

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Darth.Hunter - - 172 comments

Great work! Granted, it's not my personal favourite direction, but it is a very unique musical style that fits a rather unique game and its atmosphere. Very well done!

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yoplait - - 80 comments

ed you rock!! and good luck to you in the future!

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astrogfx - - 7 comments

omg this mod is going to amazing

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Esoj - - 48 comments

soundtrack is very nice been listening to it for a few days now on loop while I game. everyone should definitely get it. now we wait for the release of nt.

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Joel8160 - - 136 comments

This mod is going to be so much full of win when it is released!! ^^

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rellik_pt - - 97 comments

the mod is a win already

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Bobes - - 238 comments

I hate Ed Harrison!Because of his great soundtrack I have to go work so I have money to buy it :D Love it! great job :D

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Herterich - - 38 comments

Ed you made some beautiful music!

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Kaneda13 - - 87 comments

Why do people complain about 'how long it's taking for mods to come out'?

I read these comments all the time, not only in this forum but in others aswell. For those that do complain, how about showing some appreciation. The people who create mods like Neo Tokyo and the like do this in their free time. They earn little to no money from it. And the mod ends up being free, you don't pay one dime for it. It's something that is created for you, the gamer, out of a labour of love.

And if a mod hasn't come out yet, tough ****! But don't vent your simple minded comments out against the creators. Show some respect and be patient.

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Jesternz08 - - 410 comments

Incredible music in this mod, that early scene with the shotgun to the back, the music really has an incredible effect. Never get sick of watching that trailer.

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ppernik - - 2 comments

Awesome job dude, can't wait to hear some of your work in game!

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zzzonked - - 1 comments

Buying Ed's album is the best you'll do for a long time!

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voxeleater - - 30 comments

Another Reason user, yay :) I'm sorry to say that's all I really took away from this lol.

But I am pretty excited to try out NT :)

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MrMattWebb - - 1,803 comments

This guy has a nice soundtrack to throw on his resume thanks to the major success of this mod.

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abacadabbra - - 22 comments

Please release this game already! Theres been like 20 interviews/previews and nothing about a release date! ARGGG!@#!#!#@

/lunatic rant!

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