Audio Visuals: Juno Reactor's Voice and the "Vertical Story"
"I said that once and someone asked 'What? So everyone dies at the end of it?" He laughs again. "I thought, well, maybe that's not the best thing to say, really.
I think when I hear someone or some musician and I ask: How can I bring this into light. How can I bring it into this sphere, this Juno world. Like now, I feel a need to bring a lyrical aspect in and not just in a dead language. How do I do that? That's what's giving me troubles at the moment."
Mona Lisa Overdrive
"The Matrix: Reloaded" was the beginning of a new sound for Watkins. He worked with Don Davis to craft a soundtrack as memorable as the special effects in the film. How did he blend an orchestra and choir with the electronic aesthetic, while maintaining the integrity of both? What was the strategy?
"I didn't have a strategy. I set myself up with a place in L.A., I wrote a lot of stuff for the [Wachowski] brothers, came back to L.A., played it to them and pretty much after the first meeting I was left with a baseline. You know, to me, I make films in my music. They took the film out of my music because the film's already there. So all those spacy sound effects and the grungy, dirty sound effects had to go.
So I was left with this rather sad looking bit of music and I thought, crikey, how am I going to do this? At least you have a meeting with them every two days or three days, so they introduced me to Don [Davis] and I played Don what I had. I went through loads of classical music... and then I played it for Don." After some shuffling, the two worked out music and took it to the brothers. Then the meetings with the brothers would come every few days.
"It was incredible. It was like being C.A.T. Scanned every few days. Every little bit of your being and the music were looked at by the brothers. It was unbelievable. I felt like I was in college."
So how was the experience overall?
"Totally positive. There were no assholes; no egos. It was just full on positive. I thrive off that type of environment as I think they all do. I think Don's a fantastic musician and very generous as well; a very generous guy. We crashed before we started doing any music. Culturally, we had our crash at the beginning. Everything else was sort of a rewind in time until it was whole. He comes from a very sincere musical approach, the orchestral, and I come from a sincere world music, electronic approach. After we got off the initial stumbling blocks it was killer."
Game Levels, Orchestral Badges, Unknown Taboos and Coming Attractions
How does one get into video game music? "Sometimes they just say: 'Can we license this track or that?' and other times, like with the "Mark of Kri," I think they try torturing me." The explanation of the layout is as complex as the code for a game, but the point was taken. Composing for a video game sounded like the toughest job Watkins has done, cramming three hours of sound into a half of a megabyte on six different levels. To put that into a context, on a track now, Watkins may use three or four gigabytes. One gigabyte is one thousand megabytes. "They destroyed me... and I thought they thought: 'Electronic bastard, I'll get you with that one," he says with a laugh.
Watkins wasn't deterred. "I like to try anything." So what is off limits? What will he not do? "There is something, but if I told you, I might get into trouble about it." So it's the unknown taboo.? "Yeah, I like that, the unknown taboo."
How is Juno Reactor received in other cultures? "Japan is massive, you know... it's been a breeding ground for Juno Rector from the beginning. I did this film called Brave Stories for Japan this year and it's all orchestral. I said 'Why do you want me to do an orchestral soundtrack,' because I'm not known as an orchestral composer and they said 'We want to hear Juno Reactor with an orchestra.' So they gave me the budget to go to the Slovakian Symphonic Orchestra in Bratislava and I had an eighty piece orchestra for four days."
Juno Reactor: Per Contra Interviews