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Esteu aquí: Inici Magazine Interview with Floex aka Tomáš Dvořák, composer of the indie game Samorost 3

Interview with Floex aka Tomáš Dvořák, composer of the indie game Samorost 3

Known as Tomáš Dvořák, Floex is a clarinetist, composer, producer and multimedia artist from the Czech Republic. Well-known and admired for his cooperation with indie game studio Amanita Design, he’s behind the soundtracks for the cult adventure games “Samorost 2” (2006), “Machinarium” (2009) and “Samorost 3” (2016). With a powerfully electroacoustic and atmospheric style, Floex has also explored a musical career in parallel with two full length albums "Pocustone" (2001) and "Zorya" (2011) and “Gone EP” (2014), and since 2002 he also designs interactive multimedia installations. His latest musical release is the electronic/orchestral album “A Portrait of John Doe”, a collaboration with musician Tom Hodge.

Animac Magazine: Thank you so much for being here with us! Our first question might be an obvious one, but we are really curious about your background as a musician.

Floex: I am kind of half self-taught and half educated, because I studied clarinet at the conservatory for six years, although I never studied at a musical high school because I ended up studying visual arts. But I think it all worked together. I’ve seen it in different countries, like in Austria where there is a very strong art scene. People who used to do electronic music they have often a visual background because they like to think more conceptually so they can maybe find some interesting bonds or different elements in music and picture. But still, I have my clarinet, which taught me all.

AM: Which is really present in your work.

Floex: Yeah. It’s part of my balance I found out.

AM: What are your influences? What shaped you in terms of style?

Floex: As for the clarinet, it’s very interesting and important to me that it’s a mono instrument, which has certain advantages and disadvantages. You think more in melodies because it’s mono – you can’t make harmonies. So it shaped the way I think about music, especially in the beginning. All of my work is very melodic, although now I’m more abstract – but I still think this influence is kind of there. My instrumental work is always changing: the older you are the more you’re looking for your own kind of sound. When I started composing it was the start of the electronic scene as well and it was new and exciting, a blank slate! Now it’s a totally different situation because now you’re trying not to use everything you have at hand, you have to keep looking for your own sound. Woodwind is important to me, but not only the clarinet. There are also flutes, pianos, or organs – well, a specific kind of organs. I hate the big church organ but I love the deep, emotional, intimate sound of smaller organs. All these kinds of sounds are very important to me.

AM: Any electronic artists that you fondly admire or that they’re part of your style?

Floex: Yes, definitely! In the beginning, there were people who started the new electronic scene like Future Sound of London, Aphex Twin, Orbital… Nowadays, John Hopkins or Max Cooper.

AM: We’d love to know more about your creative process. When hired for a video game soundtrack, at what point do you enter the project? Do they show you concept art of the characters and the first levels and then you add the music? Or the music comes first and it helps them to create?

Floex: It starts with concept art, but it’s kind of an interactive process. It’s not like I get the final product to start working and that’s it. Usually, first of all, I have a basic script for each game, and then the team starts developing and sharing artwork – some stills, animations… This helps to get into the mood to start working on it. But then if I have something they can start to implement it and see if it works. At the same time, I can work on their side and be more precise and see which emotion should be there and how dramaturgy should be placed in the game, which something really important in the last game we made – Samorost 3. It’s more of an organic process.

AM: Has any of your musical ideas inspired characters or other elements of the game? We’re thinking about the robot musicians from Machinarium, since they’re even part of a puzzle.

Floex: I think the inspiration for Jakub – who does the concepts – is the fact that I’m a musician.

AM: So he has you in mind while building characters and puzzles!

Floex: Yeah! He knows I like these things and I play the clarinet. And in Samorost 3 flutes play a really important role because he knows I would score the game and I could use them… At the same time, I was trying to have a few puzzles that are more musical, like the one in the desert planet.

AM: We’re big fans of Samorost trilogy and its expansive world. If you compare the scores of Samorost 2 and Samorost 3 in terms of musical scope, there’s been a huge step. What has changed since then? What was your experience in such a small game to then take on the soundtrack of the biggest game Amanita’s done so far?

Floex: It’s just evolution. Everyone in Amanita is trying to do better, bigger, and more perfect games! [laughs] Samorost 2 was the first game I did and, in that time, it came with technical challenges. I couldn’t make too much music, I had to play with loops no longer than a minute – so it was very easy. But Samorost 3 was very complex. I usually choose some topics for myself, since I want to be better with sound. So I spent a lot of time with sound – not only aesthetically, but also in terms of quality. I spent a lot of time mixing and trying to make it musically perfect and thinking “I hope people appreciate it!” [laughs] And the game’s dramaturgy was also a big step forward, because in the previous games it was all about creating a scene with a certain fitting music that plays in the background. Here, we had to think how the music interacts with the action and how it develops over time and in relation with other musical parts. And I wanted to stay away from loops! It was a big challenge but it was the most freeing experience.

AM: One of our favorite tracks is the opening theme of Samorost 3. Is this one of the most complex pieces you’ve done? It’s such an epic, orchestral introduction with so many instruments at play.

Floex: This piece wasn’t so complicated for me, surprisingly. It went quite smoothly! And its origins comes from the end of the game, where you can hear these monks play the cosmic flutes. I started like this: finding the theme, place it in the end of the game, and then I recycled it for this main theme which plays right at the start of the game. And I’ve placed this theme during the song to show it in different ways: you can hear it played by an intimate piano, then with clarinets, then it evolves again into something more spectacular. Just imagine our main character, this gnome that goes through different worlds and experiencing all kinds of adventures. So there’s some kind of story behind the theme. But it all went quite easily. For me the hardest thing in the game was the beginning and its very first tracks. You need to define the world and its tone.

AM: What’s the key to create your musical landscapes? You talked about how melody is really important for you but also your work is really atmospheric. What’s the balance?

Floex: I think emotion is the most important element. It’s a very detailed and sensitive scale. It’s all about finding the right emotion and the level of it, because you’re balancing the visuals, so it shouldn’t be too much of it. When I compose, I usually start sketching ideas for half an hour, just to find something, you know? I have some ideas in mind and I try to experiment with sound or harmony – but all very quick and intuitive. I do many of these sketches. Maybe for one important theme, I need to do ten of these. During this process, I finally find something that really works for me. And I start to imagine everything else, the layers, the sound universe: what kind of instruments, what kind of sounds… It’s a conceptual kind of thinking. It’s all a mix of intuition and these conceptual tools.

AM: You also mix a lot of real-life instruments that feel very organic but at the same time you explore a lot with synthetic sounds. Especially in Machinarium, where you were looking for a robotic feel. How do you blend these two worlds?

Floex: Machinarium was a different concept, it’s exactly what you’re describing. It was a rusty, vintage atmosphere, and I used more synth and effects. The blend was not easy, it was hard to find the balance. You need to find an harmonious mixture, and it works or not. Samorost 3 is more inspired by nature and music was designed acoustically. Although I started playing and developing the first sounds with computers, then I started experimenting with real sounds.

AM: By the way, one of our favorite moments in Machinarium is when you find the radio and you can tune different songs. We love these. It’s such an intimate moment happening during the climax of the game, it feels like a little break where you can play and find all these different tunes: “Oh, it’s the song from the little plaza! This one sounds like a robo-opera!”

Floex: Thanks! It was an opportunity for me to use some compositions I did and didn’t fit anywhere else, so at least I could put them in the radio. [laughs] Actually, for me it’s a recurrent issue – doing soundtracks outside the game and deciding how much I put into it for the final release.


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