It might be April Fool’s Day, but we’re not fooling around here: we just dropped a 🔥🔥 mixtape on SoundCloud, and it’s called the Filament Games Mixtape (Vol. 1)! Composed and arranged by Josh Bartels, the Filament Mixtape is packed with some of the hottest tracks in learning game history. Featuring timeless classics like the “Filament Overture,” “The Museum” from Filament’s own Fossil Forensics and “Immigration Bay” from iCivics.org’s Immigration Nation, each song on the Filament Games mixtape is an original composition, composed for either our internal games or the games of our esteemed clients. The best part? You can stream it for free right here!
Josh was also good enough to take a break from his busy rockstar touring schedule to sit down with us and chat about how the mixtape came together. Check out what he had to say! ⤵
Hey Josh! Give us a brief rundown of your role as Sound and Video Engineer at Filament Games.
I’m in charge of everything that comes out of your speakers, including directing and recording voice actors, capturing and mixing sound effects, and writing and producing the music. I also work closely with the marketing team where I produce trailers and other miscellaneous video content.
How did the idea of a Filament “Greatest Hits” mixtape come about? Was this something you’ve wanted to do for a long time, or an all-new idea?
Every once in a while, people in the studio will pull a track out of the archives and re-listen to some of the older stuff, and send it my way for some nostalgia. I’m realizing now the mountain of music that exists from the last 8 years and thought it would be fun to breathe new life into some of them and release a mixtape of some of my favorites.
Tell us a bit about the process of curating this mixtape. Were you attempting to maintain a balance between various projects/genres/styles? Or did you find yourself gravitating towards your all-time favorite compositions?
There are definitely tracks that stand out as being iconic for us internally. Cell Command, Reach for the Sun, and Crazy Plant Shop are examples of games where the music plays a larger role, thus getting a little more love and attention during composition. These are all tracks that offer a little bit more than just “background music,” and carry a little more weight and complexity, often reflecting story elements in the narrative of the game it was attached to. I also used the mixtape as an opportunity to remaster some of the tracks by updating some of the sampled instruments, and mixing in some never-before-heard concept pieces that hit the cutting room floor into the arrangements.
What are some of the main inspirations behind your work? Any favorite composers/artists?
There are so many people involved in contributing brain power and creativity in the studio before I even play the first note. Whether it’s sitting down with an artist and looking at amazing concept art, talking with a game designer about the story and emotional hook, or plotting out the role things will play programmatically with a developer, the things I come to the table with are only heightened by the people and work I’m surrounded by.
Talk to us a little bit about your music production setup. Any go-to pieces of hardware or software that you can’t live without? Do you ever find yourself experimenting with out-of-the-box instruments or samples?
95% of the music I create uses sampled/electronic instruments. It is an amazing thing to be able to sit down at my piano and play everything from a single snare hit, to an entire viola section. The amount of time people have put into creating these sample libraries is amazing. I usually start composing with a piano, and one of my favorite sampled pianos is an una corda (one string). Having a deep sampled library with instruments from all over the world has really opened the door to experiment with combinations of traditional orchestral instruments, unique one-of-a-kind instruments, and electronic instruments.
Do any of the songs featured on the mixtape stand out to you as particularly memorable to create? Perhaps there was a project that offered you a lot of creative freedom? Or a particularly challenging set of constraints?
One of the highlights for me on the mixtape is Reach for the Sun. I went into this one knowing that the art and music was going to be uniquely highlighted, and wanted the player to feel like they were the one’s driving everything, so the music is completely dynamic in the game. Each and every choice you make with the lifecycle of your plant will influence the music, and as your plant flourishes, so will the music.
What advice do you have for aspiring sound designers?
Keep tuning. Keep tuning your ears to listen for details you may have missed on the first listen. Tune your understanding of every genre of music, not just the things you enjoy listening to. Tune your vocabulary to be able to communicate with artists, designers, directors, producers, and programmers. Tune your portfolios, always finding the best that you have to offer and presenting it in a way that will grab someone’s attention.
Ready to give the Filament Games Mixtape (Vol. 1) a spin? Stream it for free here!
More from Filament’s Sound and Video Engineer Josh Bartels:
Speed Sketch: Styles for All Ages
Introducing The Filament Games Podcast!
Get to Know a Sound Designer: An Interview with Josh Bartels