Lorne Balfe Profile

Also Known As:
N/A
Date of Birth:
February 23, 1976 (Inverness)
Residence:
Los Angeles
Game Works:
Skylanders, Modern Warfare 2, Assassin’s Creed III
Official Site:
Nintendo

History

Organisation Type Tenure Role
Remote Control Productions Music Production 2000 – Composer

 

Biography

Lorne Balfe is a film, television, and video game composer well-known for his scores for the best-selling Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, and Skylanders franchises. Born on February 23, 1976 in Inverness, Scotland, Balfe was encouraged to pursue music from an early age. He spent much time at the with his father David Balfe, a succesful keyboardist and record producer, at a recording studio attached to his old home. He also loved to hammer away on the piano and create his own tunes. While he was given piano lessons as a child and late sung in a choir at Fettes College, he decided not to pursue further classical training and pursue his own approaches instead; after all, he found scores hard to understand due to his dyslexia and has always appreciated music in a more synaesthetic manner, hearing music as shapes and colours rather than notes. As he grew older, he developed eclectic tastes through his listening experiences, spanning contemporary musicians such as Peter Gabriel and Depeche Mode, to classical composers such as Vaughan Williams and Benjamin Britten, to the folk music of his homeland. Always interested in new approaches, he continues to embrace new artists and styles every day through digital music providers and services like Spotify.

Balfe spent several summers during his teenage years working at recording studios and assisting musicians that he met through his father. At the age of 17, he started getting paid gigs writing jingles for idents and commercials by radio stations such as Radio Forth. While working on such productions, he would be working on a dance track one minute, then something classical the next. As a result, he learned how to be flexible while writing music and always carefully considered what the client wanted. Wanting to break into film and television, he eventually persuaded the management of Remote Control Productions to give him an internship at the company. Moving to Los Angeles around 2000, he learned the ropes working under Henning Lohner on diverse projects, including Fear, 666: In Bed with the Devil, What a Girl Wants, Mimic: Sentinel, Incident at Loch Ness, and Hellraiser VII: Deader. He carefully considered what music would support the visuals and mood of each project, even if that meant sometimes suppressing his own voice. He also gained familiarity with Hans Zimmer’s music as an assistant arranger on the symphonic concert The Wings of a Film, but did not yet meet his future protegé. Between such roles, he wrote prominent pieces of additional music for British television series, including The Last Detective, River City, Animal Park, and William and Mary.

Having proved a versatile asset on these productions, Balfe gradually climbed up the ladder at Remote Control Productions to work on bigger projects in more substantial roles. He assisted Rupert Gregson-Williams on box office hits such as Hotel Rwanda, What a Girl Wants, and King Arthur, serving as an additional music composer and synthesizer operator. Under Gregson-Williams, he also ended up working by chance on a video game, as an additional music composer for 2005’s Battlefield 2: Modern Warfare; Balfe hadn’t played a video game since the days of the ZX Spectrum, but he still found the project fascinating and was amazed that video games were now reaching filmic quality. After receiving stellar recommendations from Gregson-Williams and Lohner, Balfe’s services were subsequently requested by Hans Zimmer on several blockbusters. From his epic action cue “Backup” for Batman Begins, to the choral spectacle “Opus Dei” for The Da Vinci Code, to his striking main theme arrangements on The Simpsons Movie, Balfe demonstrated he was able to deliver the goods. The Iron Man, Transformers, Madagascar, and Pirates of the Caribbean franchises also went on to feature his compositions. The ever-efficient artist brought in further revenue by continuing to write commercials for clients such as Coca-Cola, Lloyds TSB, and NBC, as well as stock music for libraries by KPM and Black Mamba Music.

In 2009, Balfe achieved his popular breakthrough as the music producer of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Balfe wrote the majority of the music for the title and also arranged Hans Zimmer’s main theme extensively. Balfe ensured it matched the quality of Hollywood films through channelling a modern blockbuster sound and hybridising custom instrumental samples and instrumental solo performances, using Cubase as his workstation throughout. The game was a smash hit — selling over 20 million copies and grossing over one billion dollars — and its soundtrack was also well-received, going on to be performed by the London Philharmonic at a live concert. In his first solo role, Balfe wrote the subdued but poignant music for the award-winning independent film Crying with Laughter, before writing a colourful soundtrack to Jessica Biel’s directorial debut Sodales. In further high-profile collaborations with Zimmer, Balfe wrote the majority of the frivolous orchestral score to the animation Megamind and also served as the score producer for the soundtracks for The Dark Knight, Sherlock Holmes, and Inception, in each case fully embracing their unique hybridised styles. He additionally wrote music for high-profile trailers for Inception, Star Trek, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and Knowing, among others.

Now a leading composer in the games industry, Balfe worked on four video games in 2011 alone. After producing the E3 trailer music for Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, Balfe was asked to also compose late into development of the title. Among his responsibilities were the intricate cinematic cues, the entire multiplayer soundtrack, and the breathtaking series’ main theme. He did not communicate with co-composer Jesper Kyd during the production and also intentionally avoided listening to earlier soundtracks in the series, so that he could express his own voice. Balfe simultaneously wrote the soundtrack for the smash hit Skyllanders: Spyro’s Adventure; he reflected the game’s colourful worlds and childish characters with timbrally sumptuous, melodically rich approaches blending quotes of Zimmer’s main theme with his own pop-tinged melodies. He additionally worked on Crysis 2, offering several arrangements of Zimmer’s main theme, and Rango, expanding on the film score with some mariachi band performances. The following year, Balfe scored Skylanders; Giants, expanding on the original with exuberant stylings, bold shifts, and a Celtic undercurrent. He also returned in a solo role for Assassin’s Creed III, offering the series’ most thematic, cinematic, and action-packed score to date. The artist supplemented the huge volume of music for the original game with numerous new pieces for the downloadable content, and also orchestrated and conducted the game’s main theme at the Spike Video Game Awards.

Despite increasingly focusing on video game productions, Balfe continues to make strides in Hollywood. Having made extensive connections throughout the film industry, he is now regularly asked to produce the entire soundtracks for major films. He wrote the full orchestral soundtrack for 2011’s Ironclad in just two weeks, capturing the dark setting and action-packed scenes of the 13th century epic. In further solo roles, he produced a magical accompaniment to Jessica Biel’s directorial debut Sodales, helped to reboot The Sweeney with a modern, gritty score, and worked on the documentary Salinger over a three year period. He also continues to assist on several of Remote Control Productions’ biggest projects, most recently Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Kung Fu Panda 2, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, and The Dark Knight Rises. In the realm of television, Balfe reflected the dramatic arch of the British drama The Restless and created the majority of the soundtrack for the hit series The Bible. With his efficient yet meticulous scoring approaches and well-optimised production studio, Balfe continues to jungle numerous projects at once. He recently completed three films that were released in June 2013, The Frozen Ground, Not Another Happy Ending, and Side by Side. He has also recently wrapped up production on Skylanders: Swap Force and the interactive drama Beyond: Two Souls.

References:

– Various Game & Album Credits
VGMdb Discography
Official Site (English)
Interview with Astur Score (English, January 2012)
Interview with Review Graveyard (English, January 2012)
Interview with Game Informer (English, October 2012)
Interview with EGM Now (English, December 2012)
Interview with Game Music Online (English, December 2012)

© Biography by Chris Greening (May 2013). Last updated on May 11, 2013. Do not republish without formal permission.

Posted on May 11, 2013 by Chris Greening. Last modified on March 21, 2014.

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About the Author

Chris Greening

I've contributed to websites related to game audio since 2002. In this time, I've reviewed over a thousand albums and interviewed hundreds of musicians across the world. As the founder and webmaster of VGMO -Video Game Music Online-, I hope to create a cutting-edge, journalistic resource for all those soundtrack enthusiasts out there. In the process, I would love to further cultivate my passion for music, writing, and generally building things. Please enjoy the site and don't hesitate to say hello!



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