MusicI am Jeff Russo, Emmy-nominated composer of “Fargo,” and, most recently, FX’s Legion. I am also a founding member of the Grammy-nominated band Tonic. AMA!
Jun 19th 2017 by JeffRusso • 30 Questions • 6232 Points
Hi Reddit, I’m excited to be hosting my first AMA live from E3 2017.
I’ve been working in video games for the last 31 years, and I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the most talented people in the industry. Not only are video games the fastest growing form of entertainment, they’re beloved by communities of players around the world and we believe that they can enrich peoples’ lives.
Beyond games I’m passionate about new technology, new methods of managing creative talent and new types of transportation… and chocolate!
Yesterday we held our annual E3 conference where we announced what I think is one of our strongest lineups of games in recent years. If you haven’t seen it yet, I won’t spoil it for you, watch it here >> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Q1s3lOzQ1A
Edit 1 - I'll start answering questions at 10:30am PT keep them coming!
Edit 2 - Thanks so much for your questions, I really enjoyed hearing from you all, unfortunately that is all the time I have for today. I hope we can do this again soon!
Were there episode ideas that were refused by Disney because of content matter or the company did not think it would be suitable for their general audience?
Is there a decision as a CEO that you regret or wish you could've done better?
Balancing the line between what was real and what was not real without tipping my hat to what was real and not real. The idea was to never give it away but to invite the audience to join the character in not knowing what was real and what wasn't real.
Actually Disney totally left us alone, we did what we wanted. We got one note from Michael Eisner that said "love the show, could use more history" (EG)
Thanks for the question. I would say we were very strongly investing in MMOs in the late 90's/early 2000s and we stopped that side of the business because it wasn't performing well enough and we should have continued on with that.
Do you know if the cast/crew love Mr. Wrench's drum sequence as much as us viewers?
How did you choose the kids that were on the show? I was always so jealous of those kids, man.
Apparently they do! :-)
That was a fun part of the gig, doing the casting. Back then most kid talent in Seattle did modeling or print ads and couldn't really walk and talk on camera. We scoured local school theater programs, talent agencies, friends, relatives, friends of friends....It wasn't past me to dress up my baby as yoda (use the forks Luke for the Structures show) ( http://imgur.com/us2fxSj ) when needed. (EG)
Bonjour… I am very much aware of the issue and it’s a personal priority for me. Whenever the servers go down, I know within about a minute. I am working with many different teams to solve those problems as I know that this is as important to your enjoyment of the game as the gameplay itself. We are already rolling out fixes like Operation Health that is all about improving the core infrastructure and we hope that this is a step in the right direction.
Any word on a splinter cell game in the works. What can we expect ?
I do actually go and karaoke but I refuse to karaoke my own songs.
We actually haven't yet seen it. I (EG) just saw the documentary Bill Nye: Science Guy and loved it. I laughed, I cried.
Hi! Splinter Cell is a brand we talk about a lot. It's also personally one of my favorite series. We don't have anything specific to share at the moment but teams are working on different things, so stay tuned for more.
Hey Jeff, what is your favorite rock band and who is your favorite composer?
We actually haven't yet seen it.
Then it's not too late for you then... I still remember the days back when I still had a faint light of innocence shining in my heart. Bill Nye Saves The World took that from me... he took it from all of us...
I wouldn't worry about that too much. It may have hurt Bill's reputation a bit, but the original series will stand for a long time as a standard for getting kids excited about science. You guys did an amazing job.
It would be a combination of mayonnaise, ketchup and relish.
I love your work! What's your love for marching band drums stem from?
You guys seemed to create the genre of E/I television shows at the time. I'm sure budgets were tight. Did you have difficulty getting funding for a series?
I think the love is of percussion and rhythm. Since my first instrument really was drums, I always tend to go back to that at some point. To me, percussion is really the thing that moves people. Rhythm is the thing that really moves people.
Thanks for the question! I would say the launch of the first Splinter Cell and the first Assassin's Creed were both amazing. They were the culmination of a lot of work and were both great successes. These were both fantastic moments for me as they represent turning points for Ubisoft and a great pay off for big risks that we took. And of course yesterday with Miyamoto was pretty special as well :)
Did you think that years after the show was cancelled, kids would still be screaming "BILL BILL BILL BILL" every opportunity they got? That song is like 90s kids national anthem.
My kids :-)
Wow, just stumbled upon this. First off, Lemon Parade was amazing, many thanks.
Second, If You Could Only See was my break-up anthem when my first serious gf dumped me, so sort-of-thanks for that as well.
Third, the Supreme Court recently announced that they would be taking up a case involving Gerrymandering in Wisconsin. Do you believe the Court should get involved in what may be a political and not constitutional issue?
What are some funny bloopers or accidents that occurred while filming the show with Bill Nye?
So 1) thank you. 2) Sorry about your girl, but thank you. 3) I think the court should get involved in potentially anything constitutional. Gerrymandering sounds like a word that connotes tampering so if that is the case, it should be looked at by a court that does handle constitutional issues. Everybody has a fair and equal representation.
There were a few moments of pure terror that I remember. For the rivers show, we watched as Bill paddled right into some hole in the current and disappeared. He was gone for about 18 seconds and I remember the panic. The safety boat was already below him! Suddenly he popped up and just continued on as if nothing happened.
Another time, for the Forest show, we got lost in the middle of a monster forest fire. Well, we had to shoot something, so Bill jumped out of the van and we started rolling. A huge fir tree exploded into flames right over our heads and started raining a shower of fire. I turned to Jen, our PA and asked her to back the van up and I still can see the pure terror in her eyes. We lived...(JM)
Bill was invited to fly with the Blue Angels. They warned us that the guest usually passes out from the g forces. We decided that Bill should focus on trying to say simple words like "Flight!" and "Science!" They knocked him out three times, once for about 22 seconds. Each time he woke up, he'd yell "Science!"and then pass out again. Here's a picture of him getting strapped in! http://imgur.com/NXrb64r (EG)
I love it! It's the first time that we have seen that level of engagement and passion around a game we've created.
A lot of characters in Fargo and Legion have very distinctive themes (David, Yuri, Mr. Wrench, etc.), was there one that you found particularly fun to make music for?
Do you have a favourite episode or project of Bill's that you worked on?
In Legion, writing music for David was particularly interesting to me because there were so many different aspects to his personality. With that said, it's all fun.
We did 100 episodes in four years. It was crazy and I really have to say there were so many different moments and episodes.... Wetlands stands out to me, personally. I love swamps. Also, the Watercycle show. The kid in the music video still brings a tear to my eye. We also spent two weeks in Japan in one of the most incredible science adventures one could imagine. Here's a picture of me in Japan on this adventure... they made me stay in the outfit the entire time. http://imgur.com/7nwK8E8 (JM)
One of my fave episodes is The Eyeball - great sketch - props - music video, I think it was one of the few times we got a scathing letter about how someone's daughter went running from the room because she saw a glass eye in one of the profiles (EG)
To become a CEO I would say pick a fast growing industry you are interested in, surround yourself with the best and work hard!
Any cool typewriter-like uses of instruments in this season of Fargo? Anything along those lines in Legion?
What do you think it was that set BNSG apart from other shows such as Beakman's World?
What is your most beloved franchise within Ubisoft? (Not just now, all over the past 30 years)
In Fargo, I decided to introduce sounds from various automobiles because our main character is the parking lot king of Minnesota. Also I used a lot of sounds from decks of cards shuffling and cards being dealt because out other main characters were connected to bridge playing.
It's tough to choose by I would say Assassin's Creed because it gives me an opportunity to explore history. But I love all our games so it's very tough to pick.
what old game would you want to be remastered with today's graphics ?
Neither one is any more fun for me, I think I really enjoy doing both. Working in a period is fun because I get to experient with stuff that was done in another time period. Jumping between periods is fun and really it's all just fun.
Thanks - we were never approached though always happy to help out (eg)
I would say Far Cry 3 on the Xbox One X would be amazing :)
Comment comptez-vous lutter contre Bolloré dans le futur ?
How do you intend to deal with Bolloré/Vivendi (a French industrial group which planned to takeover Ubisoft) ?
A lot of times, promos are made up of library music and score mixed together, sometimes edited together crazy and I've never heard before. I don't always see and hear promos so sometimes they take music out of context and use something that isn't mine.
were any of the actors/characters in Legion easier to score for than others? did any of their performances give you inspiration for a score or make it easier to come up with themes that fit their storylines???
What did you think of Beakman's World?
How do you deal with the negative comments from so many players about your games?
The theme for Sid and David came particularly easy for me, I think based mostly on Rachel's performance which seemed to help inspire the piece of music for them.
First, thank you. It's different for every project. With Fargo and Legion, we sort of set out on a clear path with the sound of the show from an overall perspecitive, and then we worked on an episode-basis to how to make the score work. It's trial and error mostly. I get a copy of the episode and I look at it and we look at what the music should be for that episode. I write then we review and may make changes.
On camera, Bill played the Science Guy. Off camera, Bill was Bill Nye, human- one that loves, laughs and is passionate about what he does. To be on camera, you have to push that personality.
You'll have to ask the team here >> https://www.reddit.com/r/Rainbow6/ ;)
After Berlin, do you have actual plans to open further studios globally in the nearest future?
That was a management thing. We had the same manager.
Funding. We got up to 85 episodes in the can and Disney said no more. Our Exec Elizabeth Brock brilliantly went to PBS and said Disney wants to fund 15 more to get us to 100 episodes. Then she went back to Disney and said PBS wants to fund 15 more episodes...so they both kicked in and we made it to 100 episodes and then money dried up. (eg)
We have to go where we can find the best talent! We're always looking for very talented engineers, so I would be happy to open a studio anywhere we can find great people :)
What are some of the key things you look for when being presented with a new game idea?
Yeah, it's a lot to live up to for a show trying to figure out what is going to be the thing that occurs every episode. But I try to think of it more like writing a piece of music which represents the show in its entirety.
We were as surprised to hear about this as anyone. We actually found out about it through Reddit comments. We have no idea who did the edit. (jm)
Thanks for your question. I look for a few important things. I want to know what I’m going to learn about myself and the world by playing this game, is the game rich enough that am I going to want to play for a long time and that it’s engaging enough that I’ll want to progress. I also want to know if I can play with my friends and in a way that each person can bring something unique to the experience. Lastly I look for an innovation brought by the game that has the potential to disrupt the industry.
Hi Jeff!! I was just wondering how you go about making an anthology show's score (like Fargo) where each season has to have the same vibe and has the same actors but a different feel to it. Is it difficult to come up with something new that also has nods to the older seasons and how do you go about creating that?
How did you pick Nye?
Were there other candidates with more academic credentials passed over in favor of Nye's stage presence?
Obviously a long shot, but would it be possible to meet you at E3?
So excited to see all of Ubisoft's projects at E3!
It is complicated. Keeping everything in the same tone does make it a little easier but having to come up with new themes makes it more complex without sounding like I'm copying myself. It's a very fine line but it does make the idea of a new season more interesting.
Google has this thing called Google 20% which is set up to allow to spend 20% of employees time to work on their own projects and ideas instead of what they're hired to do. This encourages innovation. Does Ubisoft have anything in place for encouraging innovation?
P.S Not just for employees, do you allow other people to pitch you ideas and how have you made it easy for them to do it. Do you try and do anything to make their ideas or projects a reality? what's the best way to approach you with an idea?
I definitely think utilising a drum core is probably the most different for me, I don't know if it's all that crazy.
Thanks for the question! At Ubisoft what we try to do, when we can, is take ideas that people have and then try to make that 100% of their job. For instance Star Link which we announced yesterday came out of a Game Jam we had in Toronto and we were able to make that into a full project, For Honor was also a passion project that we were able to turn into a reality. And it has happened for many games we've published over the years!
Hey there! To answer your question, he was born into it. (eg)
Hi there, for Skull and Bones it really needed a full team dedicated to that specific type of gameplay to create the best pirate game possible.
What are the requirements if I wanted to be a game designer for ubisoft?
I'm doing a concert for the Televsion Academy at the end of the month and we are currently planning some sort of concert of music from various projects I mine to happen at some point soon.
Like a proud momma! That is one of my favorite quotes as well as is "keeping shaking science guy the sapphires fall to the bottom" (eg)
For us the world, systems and the gameplay mechanics are key to building a great game!
I think you can't rank one as more important than the other, obviously it's not a show without the actors but music is normally the heart of the show. In that way, I think music plays a very important role in terms of guiding the emotional core of the material.
Which chocolate do you prefer?
- Whatever's melting on my tongue
- White, because I don't know what I'm talking about ;)
There a re a number of tricks in order to be able to write faster and one of them is to make sure you have a set idea as to what your sound palette is for a particular project. You're not constantly searching for a sound or instrument or articulation. I think that is I don't know if that's a shortcut, but it's a trick of the trade.
Can you tell those of us who couldn't be at E3 today what's comin' down the pipe from Ubisoft? Please and thank you!
First of all, yes I've composed the music for all three seasons. The idea of instruments for a character wasn't new to this season. It wasn't solely based on the 'Peter and the Wolf' parable although using the actual music in episode 4 was a decision that we thought about from the very beginning for that particular episode. In terms of the themes and motifs for the characters, that was something design from the show's inception.
The original Disney Presents Bill Nye the Science Guy series had very little negative comments from the scientific community. At the time, we tried to do the best research our budget allowed. We had a team of qualified young science researchers and a broad based science advisory board. We did our best with the information available at the time. Now, of course, there is this thing called the internet... (JM)
We have plenty coming, if you haven't seen it yet I hope you can watch our E3 conference from yesterday >> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Q1s3lOzQ1A
Have you gotten a chance to collaborate with any of your musical heroes? Was it while touring or composing? Tell us a story!
What were your first reactions when you met Bill in person?
That's a difficult question to answer. I don't think I've had a chance to collaborate with some of my musical heroes but I've had a chance to meet them along with way, I've had a chance to see them do their thing up close and personal.
Have you ever written any christmas music? What is the key to this kind of music?
What do you think of the politicization of science in our culture?
I find it despicable and dangerous.
No, so I don't know the key to writing Christmas music.