Frank Klepacki is a musical renaissance man. From his award-winning video game compositions, television gigs, and work as a producer and recording artist, Klepacki has seemingly done it all.
But with such a jam-packed resume, there’s bound to be some tidbits you’ve never heard about the man. Fret not, Klepacki fans, below is a list of five little-known facts about this popular audio professional.
- His Video Game Career Began As a Tester
We all know Klepacki has made an impact on the video game industry as a composer for games like Command & Conquer and Star Wars: Empire at War. Lesser known, however, is how he got started in the business. His first foray into the world of video games was actually as a game tester, tasked with finding bugs in games before they were released.
During an Ask Me Anything session, Klepacki described his experience as a game tester and how it led to greater things:
“We play them over and over again, and in as many different ways possible. This helps us provide bugs, which is a way to write up what’s wrong. You would write up what you found, how you made it happen, essentially do a full report. That was my first exposure to a video game company. As I walked around I was very inspired by how these games were being put together… by a team of people. It was very similar to being in a band, which is how I related to it. Everybody has something they do specifically, but they make one thing together. That was kind of the idea that I picked out from being in a game studio. So that got me interested in wanting to do something creative. I pursued the audio aspect, starting primarily with music composition. Then I moved into sound design and voice acting, later, as the needs arose, and as I was able to prove that I could do it.”
- He Saw the Value in Composing for Video Games When Traditional Composers Didn’t
Anyone who has played vintage Atari and Nintendo video games is familiar with the music. Traditionally crude bleeps and bloops, video game music was new territory for composers and some weren’t up for the challenge. Klepacki detailed the evolution of video game music and the contempt traditional composers had for the medium:
“Traditional composers may have dismissed the idea of game music, thinking you couldn’t do all that much with it, or that it wasn’t serious. But as composers who ARE gamers, we understood that it, in fact, forced you to think harder about how you were going to utilize the technology in front of you, and make the most of it. Think about it in terms of having a snare drum, a bass, a flute, and a clarinet – and then being told to compose utilizing only those 4 players/instruments for an entire soundtrack. We accepted the challenge.”
- He Spent an Entire Year Listening to Nothing But EDM
Love it or hate it, Electronic Dance Music (EDM) has crossed over into the mainstream in a big way the past few years. Klepacki found himself wondering why this phenomenon was happening. As a music producer it’s important to understand all types of music, so he took it upon himself to listen to nothing but EDM for a full year. What he discovered was a newfound respect for the genre and its artists:
“I decided to spend an entire year listening to nothing but EDM music – to embrace it and learn as much about what makes it special or sets it apart from any other electronic music. What I found was quite intriguing. First of all, I really enjoyed the sounds of the synths being used in this music, which gave it a sense of its own style and production. The merging of electronic styles such as house, trance and dubstep had been exercised with pop sensibility, and, much to my liking, a good number of songs being produced were actually well written at the foundation. For example, a lot of the melodies and hooks could strongly stand alone if only accompanied by an acoustic guitar or piano.”
- He Had to Break His Fear of Singing
Klepacki knew early on that he had a knack for composing and producing music. There was only one problem: his fear of singing was holding him back in the studio. He knew he had to break this fear in order to grow as a producer. Finding his voice started off with one small step:
“A close friend of mine would play comedic songs at parties time to time that would make everyone laugh. It got me thinking that if I teamed up with him, perhaps I could break my fear of singing if I was singing ‘with’ him – to harmonize, blend in, and ‘eventually’ work into singing some leads, with the idea that if I’m singing songs that make people laugh, the comedy element outweighs how accurate my performance is – and we get to have fun at the same time. Such was my rationale anyway. This was a good breaking-in period for me and helped me start to find my range.”
- He Became a Professional Drummer As a Child
Frank Klepacki seemingly does it all, composing, producing, audio engineering… but did you know he’s a professional drummer as well? He started drumming at the age of eight and by 11 he was playing professional gigs. This experience makes him an expert on drum recording. We were lucky enough to have him detail his recording preferences:
“My general methodology is to work smarter not harder. Capture as close to the ideal sound you want straight from the mics into the pres and interface without doing anything else. This can be a challenge. However, if you have the right mics, a good drum kit, and good drummer, then you don’t have to worry about sculpting EQ to death or about sample replacement. There is a quality in an authentically well-recorded drum sound that cannot be faked. There is unique character to be had in every kit, drummer, and drum tone when captured successfully. Before you set up all your mics, use your ears as best you can and listen to the source.”
Interested in learning more about Frank Klepacki? Dig into his Audio-Technica guest blogs for recording tips and industry insights!