BEHIND THE MUSIC OF THE FIRST COMMAND & CONQUER

July 27, 2009 at 12:36am
So many fans of mine all over the globe have written me and always said how they still love the original Command & Conquer soundtrack after all these years. It seems to have become a timeless collection of music in the game industry. And for the majority of these people that cherish it, it's timeless music in ANY industry.

For anyone who has ever wondered what really went into this soundtrack to make it so special, here is the story behind it.
Let's start from the beginning...

Dune 2 had truly marked a turning point in the game industry. Real time strategy had now been established. Westwood decided to make their own brand of game with this platform. This game was Command and Conquer!

It was an exciting time to score a game back then, because I had just finished scoring Kyrandia 3: Malcolm's Revenge, and it was the first game Westwood did with streaming music in 22k mono, and it was a huge step to take considering everything we did prior was always midi format. Music was now being heard the way it was MEANT to sound, so now with that, I was using an ASR-10 sampler, a Roland S760 sampler, and a Roland JD-990 synth module to create all the music. And of course a REAL guitar...

When I was first approached to do the music, we had a meeting in my office that consisted of listening to music. ALL kinds of music. And elements of dozens of songs were singled out for reference. Everything from Peter Gabriel, to Pink Floyd, to Nine Inch Nails, to various soundtracks. I took these influences and combined them all together along with my own touch, and the C&C style was created.

The first batch of C&C songs included voice samples. (No Mercy, Just Do it Up, Act on instinct, In Trouble, We will Stop Them, To be Feared) These same songs had these samples taken out later, after it was discovered that they conflict with the voice sound effects in the game. This is the answer to why the stand alone CD soundtrack has voice samples in the songs while the game does not. These are in fact the ORIGINAL versions as they were first written. While many speculate the voice samples are from movies, they were in fact recorded in-house and not sampled from any other source.

The next batch of songs written focused on more instrumental value (Rain in the Night, Prepare for Battle, Industrial 1) and became even more diverse, touching on hip hop (C&C Thang), metal (Deception), and house (Radio).

Some others did not make the cut though. A thrashy number called "Die" complete with distorted screaming was way over the top, and even the instrumental version was cut. A retro 80's club style song called "C&C 80's mix" was also cut. A couple other weird numbers were left out as well, like "Reaching out" which played out more like a commercial jingle with asian samples, and also a very chilling art piece called "Hold On" which was in the style of Laurie Anderson. All these clearly did not fit the game, although it was a fun experiment for me.

Finally, the last batch (On the Prowl, Target-aka Mechanical Man), achieved more focus and rounded out the existing styles with some different pieces that complemented the game. "In the Line of Fire," was my first crack at an all orchestral arrangement, and at the time I was listening to a lot of Danny Elfman. I also recreated the theme "Flight of the Valkries" which was not used in the game but acted as place holder music for a while. One of my favorites that's not on the soundtrack but was in the game, was a tune called "Heavy G" (aka Demolition) I was just getting into Rage Against the Machine at the time, so that was my nod to them (no pun intended).

For the ending of C&C on the GDI side, I wrote "Airstrike" which was my way of ending the game with a heroic sigh of relief, but what I hadn't realized is that I wrote the hook theme for GDI with that piece - the last song I wrote! The melody of this theme would reoccur several times in the sequel "Tiberian Sun" as well as "Renegade" for those paying close attention.

While Kane's main theme was always "No Mercy" from the start, I was in a metal band back then that was just releasing a cd. They were called "I AM." Westwood wanted to use our song "Times" for the Nod ending because it reflected the war aspect and bad-ass vibe of their side. It worked really well, and got some exposure to the band even though we broke up later that year.

After C&C came out we wasted no time kicking out Covert Ops. I wrote some more ambient style themes they asked me for, and then I began tinkering with this heavy metal song that I was trying to gear towards Nod for the next big C&C game. Brett Sperry came in my office and said "You got anything I can hear for the new C&C?" I played it for him. He said "What's the name of this one?" I said "Hell March." He said "That's the signature song for our next game."


- Frank Klepacki