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Daniel "Wolk" Strandberg Interview

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Daniel "Wolk" Strandberg is the musician behind the very promising Zak Mc Kracken II Project. This is a project where fans of the classic LucasArts title Zak Mc Kracken try to develop an unofficial sequel, which will be distributed as freeware. OK, so this may be a fan production, but the least to say is, it seems to be a very ambitious one! iMUSE Island had the chance to ask Daniel, the Zak 2 composer, a few questions.

Could you first introduce yourself to our readers? What do you do for a living? Anything with music? Something completely different?

My name is Daniel Strandberg, 20 years old, from Skane, Sweden. Skane that's the most southern part of Sweden. "Known" in the music/demo scene as Wolk for about 3-4 years. The Demo scene is my scene, something that some people have pointed out pretty clear for me, saying that I shouldn't be composing music for a game. "You sound to much demo-ish for doing music for a game" And those people are probably right, but I just couldn't stay away from the challenge. I have learned a lot during this Zak 2 period, e.g. how to make tunes less demo-ish. =)

I am working at a factory at the moment (yeah, not my dream job, but it pays the rent) I think I wish that I could live on my music... The music part is kinda like a real important hobby for me and if I was making a living on it, it wouldn't be a hobby anymore, would it?

How did you end up with the Zak Mc Kracken 2 Project?

3 years ago, I stumbled across a site about a Zak Mc Kracken 2 Project. The project organizer back then was Nemo Pohle and I simply mailed him and asked them if they needed a musician. By that time they had some midi music that some other guy had composed earlier but Nemo was more interested in .xm's (extended module) and I wrapped up a pretty poor remix of the Zak title theme. Nemo more or less loved it and I was "accepted" in the crew. I have been working on that very title theme since then, and I still think it's only a fair piece of music but I have got great feedback for it. My next step (when time is on my side) will be to redo the drums and perhaps the bass line...

In how far has the music of the original Zak McKracken game influenced your work for Zak2?

Not that much. There aren't that many tunes in Zak McKracken besides the title theme and the "use the kazoo" thingy. =)

I think that Zak fans would love if I had a more Michael Land style to the tunes but I am not M. Land, though I wish...

But lots of inspiration comes from other LA games and other adventure games as well. I think that the feel of the music is more important than how it actually sounds, even if then sound is a very important part as well.

What's your favorite style of music?

Hm... I enjoy listen to rock, hard rock, metal, and all that and synth ala Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk, Telex, Aprtygma Berzerk etc. etc. But when it comes to composing music, I hardly ever include the rock/metal parts. The ultimate mix and sound is a techno/synth tune with real heavy metal guitars (e.g. Pain)... that's music for my ears! =)

How much time do you spend working on Zak2?

Depends... for instance, I haven't done a thing for Zak in about a month now. But I love that time is on my side, this way I can compose when I actually have the right feeling instead of forcing a tune out of my head, which often doesn't sound too good anyway.

Have you already met other people from the Zak2 team in real life?

No. Sadly. Some of them I have known via the net for several years now and it really does feel like I actually have met them. I hope for a great party when we are 100% done with Zak can change this. =)

Do you "program" the songs note by note, or do you "play" the music in via keyboard?

Both. I mainly use Fasttracker 2 when I compose. First I write the tune with the help of my piano or synths and then I build it up with Fasttracker 2. If I then need to do more changes for the sound of the tune, I use Cubase VST.

Are you worried that Zak2 could possibly never be finished due to a lack of progress, time or enthusiasm?

Yeah, of course I am worried. The whole crew has been changed twice during my time in this project due to "real life situations" which I can understand to 100%. I feel that myself sometimes. But that's life, up and down, just grab a god hold of those "up periods" 'because it is then things really happen. Zak 2 will be finished, worst case scenario would be that the game is done way too late (e.g. all have already forgot everything about it) but finished it will be.

Are you worried that LucasArts could stop Zak McKracken 2, like they did with Legends of LeChuck and Fate of Monkey Island?

Yeah, but not that much. I don't know why, but I feel pretty confident that this project will survive until it is done...

According to the staff page of the Zak2-Project, the band "Mocca FX" from Germany will record the "live music for the CD distribution". Do you know that band? Will they play the music you have written? And if they don't, will we still be able to hear some music from you on the CD version?

I have talked briefly to a guy from Mocca FX and they are very talented and professional when it comes to their music. (They are a bit too jazzy for my personal taste but that's besides the point). I'm pretty sure that we will do some covers of each others tunes to our respective "platforms" (cd version and internet version), but my guess is that most of the tunes will be pretty much different. All this work with music and fx's has really not started yet, even though both Mocca FX and I have done some "blueprints". When all scenarios of the game are done this progress will be a lot faster. As it is now some tunes are composed "because they may fit in somewhere"...

A few sample tracks of the Zak2 music have already been published on the project's page... Have you got any feedback so far?

Oh yes. A lot. Aprox. 50% loves it and the rest hate it! =)

That's something I am in the middle of trying to change, my goal is not to make everyone love it but at least think it is OK. I don't like the feeling that half of the Zak fans hate it and that's motivation enough to redo and alter some of the tunes. Currently I am redoing the drums from scratch in the title tune and other tunes will be changed as well. Feedback from all the Zak 2 fans will (either I want it or not) tell me if I am working in the right direction or not. =P

Zak McKracken 2 is quite a nostalgic project (2D, mouse controls, verb lists at the bottom of the screen...). What are your thoughts about the new 3D-adventures such as the upcoming Escape from Monkey Island?

I have played the demo of EMI and I LOVE IT! Wooooo.... =)

That is going to be one mother of a blowout, a real great game. I love the 3D design most adventure games have nowadays, like Grim Fandango and the upcoming EMI, but I don't think that the good ol' fashion 2D design will be history, especially not in nostalgic projects like Zak. ;)

What is your favorite LucasArts adventure in terms of gameplay?

Monkey Island II

And in terms of music?

Monkey Island II

Thank you for this interview!

Learn more about The Zak Mc Kracken 2 Project and listen to a few music samples at http://zak2.adventuregamer.com !

Learn more about Daniel "Wolk" Strandberg and listen to other music from him at http://listen.to/wolk !

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