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Interview with Filip Oleyka, musician at 'Rise of Mordor' for 'Total War: Attila'.

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Welcome to the eigth interview of the TMC Modder's Interviews. Coming back to the big three, today with one of the newer games of the Total War series. Enjoy now the interview with

Filip Oleyka

Rise of Mordor - OST cover

Hello, Filip Oleyka. You are one of the few musicians which can be found in modding teams, the less there are the more interesting they are. However, lets start it slowly, with an introduction of yourself for those who don't know you.
Answer: Hello, I am Filip Olejka, I am 19 years old and I am from Slovakia. I compose music for films, games and web/TV series. I started doing it when I was 12 years old and basically, I have been composing music ever since.

Let's start with the tradional first question: What do you prefer, the books or the films?
Answer: l've read the LOTR books, The Hobbit, The Children of Hurin and I almost finished Silmarillion, but personally, I prefer the films, because I grew up watching them and that's how I was introduced to the world of Middle Earth.

When and how did you come into touch with modding?
Answer: If I remember correctly, it was more than three years ago when I found out about the 'Rise of Mordor' mod and I was immediately interested in it. I thought that they already had their composers, but I really wanted to try it and contact the development team, so I did and I got hired. I saw a huge potential behind Rise of Mordor and I really wanted to be a part of it.

Why did you decide to join the modding project Total War: Rise of Mordor? Did you scroll around for LotR-mods, saw it and fell in love?
Answer: I don't remember whether it was me or my brother who found out about the new mod for Attila called 'Total War: Rise of Mordor', but I immediately fell in love with it. I used to play Third Age Total War a lot and I enjoyed every moment playing it, so I was really excited about something new and fresh.

Cubase programme in use

There are rumours that you declined to join the modding team of the project Kingdoms of Arda since you wouldn't be the only musician there. Is this true? And if so, why do you prefer to work alone?
Answer: Oh, really? First time I've heard of it. I am not familiar with this mod either, I worked on two LOTR mods after Total War: RoM, but I have never declined anything, because of the fact that I would have to work with somebody else. I love working with other musicians and composers. There were 3 or 4 more composers when I started working on RoM and we also recorded one melody with a musician who played a violin. You can hear it in the Main Theme track. I hire musicians whenever I can. The best examples are the films like Spider-Man Vengeance or Herobrine Origins: The Movie.

Here can be seen that rumours are not always true. I have read that Total War: Attila is one of the games of the Total War series which seems to be hard to mod. Regarding the music this doesn't seem so, does it?
Answer: The developers had a hard time of coming up with a solution to put the original score directly to RoM and as far as I know, there is no way of doing it… but you can download a music player which plays the whole score randomly while you play the game
Comment by Mr.Jox : Despite limitations in Attila, the music is pretty much moddable. It was proved by several teams, starting from Ancient Empires and followed by RoM and MK1212.

How was it like to work at this project as a musician? When artists and modellers were showing off their work, did you then feel sometimes a bit pressure that you now need to show off some of your work too?
Answer: It was really great! I spent almost two years working on the score and watching the developers making this mod possible was an amazing experience. The details they put in the models were unreal, everybody was so talented and I didn't want to ruin everything with my music, so yeah, there was some pressure as well. But it was all worth it.

Solely the music of the films is already outstanding, to play a game or mod without it seems to be unimaginable for the majority of gamer community. What is in your opinion the fascinating aspect of Howard Shore's work? Is there a piece which you favour yourself personally?
Answer: This was the hardest thing – making the score, that people will immediately recognize and say “yea this is what I hear when you say “Middle-Earth””, so captioning the spirit of what Howard did was pretty hard and I really hope that the fans were not disappointed with what I brought to the table. My most favorite track is “The Darkest Hour”. I was inspired with this track alone a lot while working on the RoM soundtrack.

cubase programme

As I wrote, it seems to be unimaginable for the majority to play mods and games without the film music. So why even bothering with creating new music?
Answer: This was more of a passion project for me. I really wanted to take what Howard did and extend it in a new way and the developers of RoM were kind enough to give me a chance. They could easily put the score from films there and release it, but they didn't do it and they hired me, so that's why I am really grateful for it. I guess they wanted something new and fresh, so that's why the decision was made to compose an original music for this mod.

Many LotR-mod developers, who cannot relay on the talent of a musician, are using the film music in their work. Their argumentation is most times that they are not earning any money with it, so it is fine, sometimes referring to the fair use argument. What do you think about this argumentation?
Answer: Hard to say, maybe they are afraid of getting a bad feedback from fans and using Howard's work is safer. Getting the chance to play with the melodies that Howard wrote was enough for me. I, Jesse Davis and William Cook who played the violin were working for free on this and I think you will find many other composers out there, that would do this for free as well.

Once upon a time, a LotR-mod has received a C&D order and had to stop developement. Do you think your work comes into conflict with intellectual property rights?
Answer: It's really sad, we were limited by many factors and we couldn't do anything about it. For example, Moritz Herrmann was doing his best to get the score on Spotify and iTunes. Unfortunately, because of the themes I used, it was just not possible. These difficulties just made it harder for us.

It seems like you have partially decided for staying near to the film music while bringing in some own touches. How are you making up your mind for how the factions should sound like?
Answer: That was really tricky. Ignoring Howard's melodies would be like a sin. I didn't compose one singular melody that would represent the whole mod, like I always do. I put together the themes that were already established in the films and re-arranged them in a new way. I really wanted to bring the major motives back and make them shine. I think that fans wouldn't enjoy hearing a new and completely different melody while playing for Gondor, so I used these themes to connect the player with the world and so the player would say: “I am in the Middle-Earth”.

What about the factions not being present in the films?
Answer: I just asked myself, “What would Howard do, if he was here?” and after a while, it started coming to my head. Trying to write a memorable piece of music, like Howard did, was really challenging. I had to think about the new melodies a lot. They just can't sound, like they are from a completely different universe… it's like you want to finish painting a fence that somebody else started painting. You just have to use the same colors and palette, otherwise it will look horrible.

Tracklist of 'Rise of Mordor'

Which instruments are you able to play yourself? Did you already start as a child or are you rather a latecomer here?
Answer: I play the piano. I come from musical family, my mother played the guitar, flute and accordion and my father was a drummer. I started very early on, when I was 6 or 7, but personally, I love timpani. You can hear them a lot in my soundtracks.

It looks your carrer has started with ‘Save us – FL Studio 10 Soundtrack' around seven years ago. How much time passed until you thought that you have reached now a professional level?
Answer: Oh, that was a long time ago. It's been seven years since I released it, but I am still not sure that I'm on that level yet. There is a ton of things I still need to learn, believe me.

The work at your youtube channel shows off your wide interests in different universes. Do you look into each a bit or do you have also some in which you are not interested?
Answers: Personally, I am not interested in making music for horror films or games. For me, it's all the same – scary high strings there, jump scare here and I feel that it limits me and thighs my hands. The sci-fi genre on the other hand is my favorite. I am not limited there and It has bits of everything – sad moments, inspirational ones, action, epic/powerful moments and so on. And that goes for fantasy as well.

From my interview with Arktos I know that the hardware requirements can be quite needy. How does your setting look like there? And which are you using for your work?
Answer: My Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) crashes all the time. I work in Cubase, you can buy a Pro version or Elements, which is cheaper. To run my sample libraries, I use Kontakt player from Native Instruments, I also use EWQL Hollywood Brass and Zebra made by Hans Zimmer. SSD disks are essential and I have several hard drives to store my music and projects.

Of which libraries are you making use of? To my knowledge ‘Hollywood Orchestra' and ‘Berlin Orchestra' seem to be quit popular. Still you have for example this legato at 04:16 in the full soundtrack which doesn't seem to be out of them. Did you create your own secret library?
Answer: I use a piano library called Malmsjo GVI regularly. I also have Hollywood Brass and it sounds really great. That is a sample library called “Shevannai” made by Big Fish Audio. I always search for new and unknown sounds and libraries to make my music sound unique.

What is the typical working process for you while creating music?
Answer: Talking with the director comes first. After several discussions, I get the image of what they want and I start writing the first sketches of melodies. When those get approved, I start composing to the picture.

Which problems occured to you while working? How did you solve them?
Answer: Making something new and interesting is the hardest thing. Nowadays, it's not easy to surprise anybody, so it takes a lot of time to come up with something unique, especially while working on RoM. The “Main Menu Theme” was the hardest one. I did a lot of versions that got rejected. There are many tracks that didn't make it to the final release, some of them are on the album, but most of them stayed hidden on my hard drive.

Did you gather feedback for your work at the music for Rise of Mordor? If so, how does a constructive feedback look like for you?
Anwer: So far, I heard only positive reactions from fans. That means that we didn't disappoint the fandom and I am so glad for it. Huge thanks also go to my brother who should be credited as “music producer”. Some of the ideas came from him and he listened to every single soundtrack before I sent it for review. For me, every single feedback is great, even if you say “your music sucks”. I respect it and I will try my better next time.

At which moments do you decide then that a specific piece of music is finished? Do you always finish first one melody before starting to work on the next or is it sometimes better for you to change the theme for clearing up your mind?
Answer: Before I start writing the cue, I watch the scene and the music starts playing in my head. I mostly know what instruments I want to use before I start writing. It's like a puzzle, putting everything down together, until you use all pieces you need to. I hope that makes sense. I also love working on more projects at the same time. It's a fun to compose music to pirate film in the morning and few hours later you work on a WW2 video game.

I saw that you have also written some piece of music for the mod The Third Age of Middle-earth. Are you approaching interesting modding projects by yourself or are they contacting you and asking if you would like to give them a helping hand?
Answer: Most of the time, I get contacted by the developers, like in the case of "Third Age of Middle Earth", but sometimes, if I find a project, that looks really interesting to me, I try to get in touch with the developers and ask if they need any help.

Do you think your stay at the modding community influenced you in any way? Maybe, your professional career or your studies?
Answer: Probably. People who work on these mods are extremely passionate and talented and it's great to feel that excitement about the project you work on like these modders do.

Who designed the cover for your soundtrack by the way? Or was it selfmade?
Answer: All of them were made by the developers.

Did you already play yourself the current version of the mod? Or do you rather want to wait until they have it completed?
Answer: Not yet, but I intend to once it's completed.

Bad voices would now say that's never going to happen. Do you think they are going to make it?
Answer: I certainly hope so! There are thousands of people that would play the mod and I really wish a lot of luck the developers. They will need it.

What is your favourite LotR mod? Why do you like it? Also, is there any project that caught your attention lately?
Answer: Third Age - Total War will always be my favorite. I had a lot of fun playing it, when I was 9 years old. I have been working on several projects, for example the films like “The Last Pirate” and “The Wilderness Night”. Recently a short film I scored called “Evacuation” got released, also I have been working on an animated web series called 3000:Reanimated, some weeks ago I started working on a WW1 mini-series called “Before the Fall” and few months ago, a short films called “Alternate” and “The Fast and Vertical” were released, so I have been pretty busy, which is blessing for a composer nowadays.

What is your overall impression of the LotR modding community in general?
Answer: As I said, the passion and talent that the modders have is insane. They put their time and effort to make the mod and without getting paid.

Working in the studio

Finally: Would you like to say anything to creative people who are reading this interview at the moment and might think about bringing LotR into a game?
Answer: If you are passionate about it, do it! I would love to play a game like Skyrim, but in Middle-earth, so I really hope somebody out there will do something similar. If so, I will be happy to make a music for it!

Thank you for the interview!

You can find the full soundtrack for 'Rise of Mordor' here
A download is also provided here
You might want to skip a bit around his other work too ^^

Feel free to join the Tolkien Modding Community discord!


Very nice to read!

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Brilliant Music!

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Eärendil_Ardamírë Author

I hope you also skipped around his other work too ^^

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Cool interview! I personally am tired of people copying the movies in mods, whether it's music or graphics. And it's the same with A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones. Be original, guys! The books are packed full with inspiration, so is the real world. And quite frankly, the LOTR movies were not that good (and don't get me started on AGOT). It is not difficult to surpass them.

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Eärendil_Ardamírë Author

I think for beginners at modding it is the easiest to start from. With more experience you can then tackle more of the other settings in Middle-Earth like the First and Second Age mods for example are doing.

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I really enjoyed reading this one. Very interesting.

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Correction: Despite limitations in Attila, the music is pretty much moddable. It was proved by several teams, starting from Ancient Empires and followed by RoM and MK1212.

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Eärendil_Ardamírë Author

I have added it as a comment. Maybe it was not so moddable yet at the time at which Filip was creating the music for RoM.

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