LA quartet HEALTH rely on contradictions. Equal parts grit and shine, chaos and control, destruction and fragility, the band’s blend of noise and dance music is a rare beast. After two excellent LPs, the group was tapped to soundtrack the third installment of Rockstar Games’ Max Payne series. Recently, Consequence of Sound had the chance to chat with bassist/noisemaker John Famiglietti about the surprise project, the challenge of writing for a narrative, and the band’s upcoming third album.
How did your work for Max Payne 3 come about? Did they contact you out of the blue? .
“Rockstar Games wants to take you to dinner.”
Were you guys gamers before this project? Were video games on your radar?
Currently, I’m still the only gamer in the band. I was before the project. But all the other guys are getting consoles to play this fucker now.
Did you see or play the game before coming up with your soundtrack?
Yes, everything we did was based off of video captures of the game being played. However, we didn’t get to play the game until much later in the project.
“TEARS” is a massive, evocative, fully-formed “song” that doesn’t seem too far off from stuff on your albums. Did your work on the game naturally come out as songs? Was there an effort to create incidental, or less “song-like” material?
Definitely less “song-like.” We really wanted to “score” the game appropriately and support the action as tastefully and effectively as we could. We also created a lot of non-musical audio cues in our style, synced up to events onscreen. With the exception of “TEARS” of course. They wanted us to write a single that would work with the game.
Have you played the game now that your music is in it?
Yes. Late in the process we went to the offices and I played through the whole game so we could give input on how we thought levels should be scripted in regards to music cues. We’ve spent so many months and working hours with the game intensely, the novelty of seeing our music in a game was long gone months ago. The game is fucking awesome though, I’ve been playing it a ton.
Did Rockstar have any suggestions for the way things should sound? Or did they just let you go?
They really hired us to do our thing. In the beginning, their only suggestions were references to our own catalog, so we just went for it based on what the level looked and felt like, and where it took place in the story. Then they would give us notes based on how it was working with the game/level.
How different was it composing music for a specific narrative as opposed to the way you typically write?
Completely different. With our own music, it’s completely to please the our fans and ourselves. Everything we did here we synced up to the game, and if it didn’t work, we chucked it. Gameplay was the primary concern. Also, Rockstar had to be pleased as well; with our music, there’s no boss.
The soundtrack is going to be released stand-alone. Is this something you’d consider a HEALTH record, or is it something else?
Its definitely not your typical HEALTH record. It’s HEALTH in soundtrack form (plus a track from Brazilian rapper EMICIDA). We tried to make as good of a listening experience as we could while being true to how the music appeared in-game.
Has there been any work towards a third LP?
Yes, we were half finished with our third record when contacted by Rockstar many months ago. Now that we’re finally done with Max, its the only thing we will be working on. I’m getting a testosterone implant to supercharge creativity.
Photography by Renata Raksha.