As a kid born in the mid-80s, a lot of my childhood was spent watching cartoons, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was my favorite morning show. I loved everything about it: The action, the colorful characters, the over-the-top voice acting, and of course, the music! TMNT was just everywhere. It was a huge part of my youth, so I was over the moon when this opportunity came along.
The first theme I composed for TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge was Big Apple 3 PM, and it was born out of pure excitement when I was first invited to score the project. Cyrille Imbert of Dotemu sent me some footage of early gameplay without music, and as I watched it repeatedly, with the biggest smile on my face, I began hearing a song for it inside my head. I immediately got to work and after an hour or so, I had a draft to show the Dotemu and Tribute.
This first draft was a basic proposition for the soundtrack’s general aesthetic, which I thought was very in line with the game’s philosophy – the goal was to dive into the golden era of TMNT, gather up some of the most memorable elements from all of the different media available then, and bring them back in a creative and modernized package. It would contain lots of fun references for that sweet nostalgia, but also be its own thing and introduce fun new concepts to the series, all within that ’80s and ‘90s palette of genres and sounds. Fortunately, everyone was on board with the style, and thus began this musical journey!
I fleshed the song out a bit for early integration so we could test it in-game, and this is what that sounded like:
It immediately sounds fuller by introducing a bunch of new elements and a new section. At this point, I had already started some of the other songs on the soundtrack, and because those were a bit longer, I felt like I should extend this one a bit for the sake of consistency. I added a bit of a break around 1:09 that allows for the song to breathe for a moment before looping back into action. At this point, the guitars were still computer-generated, and the guitar solo was still non-existent.
Instrumentation was key for bridging classic and modern for this soundtrack. It sounds like a game straight out of the early 90’s, but in high fidelity, which was impossible then due to hardware limitations. Many of the sounds used in video game tunes those days were sampled from popular romplers, which were also a big staple of Pop music (editor’s note – A rompler is a synthesizer featuring stock sound presets based on audio samples). I figured that by employing those types of timbres I could emulate the sound aesthetic of that era in an authentic way, even beyond videogames.
I felt like the composition was solid, but the song still sounded a bit thin to me, so I called up Jonny Atma to lay down some guitars. I sent him a reference track, and asked if he could improvise a guitar solo at the emptier section around 1:19, and on the next day he hit me back with this:
When I showed the teams this version, everyone was raving about the energy and weight that Jonny’s guitar added to the song. Happy with their reaction, I went back to the lab and spent a few more hours polishing and fine-tuning as many details as I could, before exporting it for the final processing step. I worked closely with talented sound engineer and composer Andrew One, who had mixed and mastered my OST for Streets of Rage 4’s DLC one year prior. After a few days, this was the result of our combined efforts:
I hope the readers enjoyed this brief look into the process of creating this soundtrack. It was a privilege and a true pleasure to be involved in this project, and to work with so many talented and passionate artists around the world to craft this labor of love. Cowabunga! Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is available on PlayStation 4. You can listen to the full original soundtrack here.