A couple of days ago I found the two composers that worked on the Battle Realms Soundtrack back in the day, and had a pleasure to chat with both of them.
Kevin Manthei was the original composer for the project and had created the well known Better Days (Combat), Freedom and Swans Pool melodies.
At the time, although, he had "creative differences" (c) with Ed and decided to part his ways with him early on, leaving the project.
That's when Matt Holle comes in, and you're about to find out how it was back in time.
Komi: I would just like to take a moment and thank you for the fantastic work you've done on the soundtrack.
Komi: Kevin Manthei was the original composer for the soundtrack but he "had creative differences" with Ed back in time and decided to leave the project. How did it turn out for you? How did you become the composer for the BR soundtrack?
Matt: Like most musicians I was not a full time employee but had a work for hire arrangement. I was high school friends with one of the artists.
Matt: New developers don't need to make announcements. They get flooded with more demo CDs than they can listen. My friend, Feng , helped set up a meeting with Ed.
Komi: Feng Zhu!? (the person that drew all the concept art for BR).
Matt: Yep, his style was perfect for Battle Realms.
Matt: I think originally I was only supposed to fill in some gaps that Kevin Manthei wouldn't have time to do. I could be wrong, but I felt like the quality of The Dragon Returns is why Liquid turned to me instead of an established composer once Manthei departed. That being said, Liquid did have to be patient with me in the early stages. That's definitely not something most companies would have willingly done.
Komi: While it was easy to find and contact Kevin, it was complicated to find you. I thought that you got into the big business as well. And it turns out that you kind of parted your ways with the music industry?
Matt: Actually I never met Kevin. He's turned into a giant composer. Maybe I'll use this as an excuse to introduce myself.
Matt: I am a terrible business man. Entertainment artists also have to be amazing at business. I did have some other passions that I pursued but music was by far the most fulfilling...
Matt: I'd love to work with Ed again. Got kind of close with the card game.
Komi: Do you mean you were going to work on the Battle Realms Legends soundtrack?
Matt: Ed asked if I was available before the kickstarter and I was very excited.
Komi: This title is cursed, isn't it?
Matt: I think Battle Realms got lost in the massive wave of RTS games even though it was better than a lot of them. I remember it came out right when Star Wars and empire earth came out.
Komi: Kevin mentioned the creative differences he had with Ed back in time. What do you think those differences were? Have you ever had any similar cases with Ed?
Matt: I would only be guessing about their creative differences. But I could ramble a long time about how awesome Ed was to me. I think originally I was going to do a few tracks. Then suddenly I became the main music guy. The first piece I submitted was the combat version of The Dragon Returns and it was received fairly well by Liquid.
Matt: But then after that I remember submitting a bunch of awful stuff. It was my first big commercial job and Ed talked me through a lot of big mistakes I was making. Ed even tried to help my career by pointing me towards other game developers. Gave me a long list of names and numbers.
Komi: And that didn't work out?
Matt: I got a few interviews that didn't pan out. Had I been a better business man I would have continued networking and branching out. I did end up writing a bunch of music for a game called Warrior Epic and that job had everything to do with working with Liquid in the past.
Komi: So after those interviews that didn't work out, did you decide to stop searching for the job of a composer? Were you dissapointed about it and just continued to pursue your other passions? And if so, do you regret not pursuing the game composer career to the end?
Matt: I'm extremely proud of what I've worked on. If I'm ever depressed I go on youtube and read the comments of the Battle Realms soundtrack. I would love to have done more but I was more or less unwillingly to do the necessary non-music work.
Komi: Starting from the Dragon Returns combat theme, going through the educational process with Ed, working on your mistakes and improving, to the polished and complete BR soundtrack, how long did it take?
Matt: Oh gee, I'm not sure. Several months?
Komi: Dividing by clans, which do you think had the best soundtrack? Which clan was it more complicated to compose for?
Matt: My personal favorites are the combat versions of Dragon Returns and Dragon Warrior (which I thought was called Expectation for some reason).
Matt: I remember there being a lot of misses before figuring out what Lotus should sound like. I worked with Ed's second in command, Mike (Mike Grayford), and another programmer, Rob (Rob Sandberg) on developing the Lotus sound.
Komi: Alright, huge thanks for the reply, it was a pleasure to talk to you, I hope that one day you will compose for BR again as I believe you're the only one who should do it due to your original work and a perfect grasp of every clan in the game. Good luck!
Matt: God Bless!
And that's how it ends. Perhaps we will see Matt's work again in the future. :)