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The Music Behind Forza Motorsport 6 – An Interview With The Composers

Kaveh Cohen and Michael Nielsen share some insight on what it takes to create an ideal racing game soundtrack.

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Last September, Turn 10 Studios released the sixth installment in their popular racing game series. Forza Motorsport 6 proved to be a fantastic racer filled with a ton of content, beautiful graphics, and an awesome score built to match the intensity and excitement of the genre.

With Forza Motorsport 6: Apex currently scheduled to launch on Windows 10 PCs later this spring, I wanted to find a way to revisit the soundtrack I grew fond of. Luckily for me, I was able to sit down with the composers behind Forza Motorsport 6 and get their insight on what it’s like to create music for a racing game. Below is my interview with Kaveh Cohen and Michael Nielsen along with the complete soundtrack for you all to listen to.

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What movies or games would you list as great sources of inspiration while creating the soundtrack for Forza Motorsport 6?

Kaveh Cohen: We really wanted Forza’s score to have a lot of cinematic scope and depth, along with a great production aesthetic and we wanted to introduce themes to the franchise. In this sense, although I can’t put my finger on any movie or game in particular that was a source of direct inspiration, I think the score was inspired by some of our favorite modern film music composers.

Michael Nielsen: We’ve been playing the Forza franchise since the beginning. So that experience is one of the things that I drew from. Not necessarily the music of those games, because we wanted to take Forza 6 in a different direction, but the emotional experiences I had while playing those game.

How would you describe the process you both go by when creating original music for any project?

Kaveh Cohen: For me personally, part of the process is getting to grips with the story and it’s characters, their back stories and relationships and then filing these elements away in my head as I begin to approach the score and how it will support and hopefully enhance the story and subject matter. With Forza, we weren’t dealing with characters or a storyline so I found a lot of inspiration in the cars themselves. We wanted the score to feel modern and cutting edge, much like the cars you see in the game. There’s also a very modern, “engineered” feel to motorsport for me personally, so I was inspired by the culture of motorsport.

Michael Nielsen: When we started actually composing the music for Forza 6, Kaveh and I were in a very clear alignment on how the music should feel. So, in this case, the overall tone of Forza 6 came to us pretty quickly.

The dynamic duo behind the Forza Motorsport 6 soundtrack.
The dynamic duo behind the Forza Motorsport 6 soundtrack.

Given the popularity of the franchise, did you feel any pressure while creating the soundtrack for this game? How did this project compare to other projects you’ve been on in the past?

Kaveh Cohen: Forza is an iconic franchise so the expectations were high and we set the bar very high for ourselves. In that respect, we worked very hard to satisfy both our goals and the team at Turn 10. Stepping back and taking a look at the score as a whole, I would say Forza was a greater and more daunting score to produce overall as it required a breadth of styles, approaches and instrumentation. The greatest challenge throughout was maintaining a strong sense of cohesion while writing in different styles. None of the other game scores we’ve written have been this involved.

Are you both gamers and if so which systems do you own or plan on buying in the near future?

Kaveh Cohen: Yes! I’ve always enjoyed playing! I’ve owned a lot of systems over the years, but currently my main system is the Xbox One and I also have a Nintendo Wii U that my kids enjoy playing.

Michael Nielsen: I play a few mobile games, but Xbox One is where I do my “serious” gaming these days. We’ve been talking about going back through the decades and finding the old systems we had as kids. I have an old PS2 and a Genesis in my garage that I need to dust off.

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The cars were the main source of inspiration behind this soundtrack.

Do you have any existing dream projects or franchises that you would love to create the music for one day?

Kaveh Cohen: I think my dream project would be a great science fiction franchise like Star Trek. Growing up watching the various TV series and movies, I would love to score a Star Trek film or show. I also love writing Americana style music, so perhaps a WWII war movie would be great.

Michael Nielsen: One of the great space epics would be a load of fun. Star Wars, Star Trek, or Dune. Something like that… or all of them would be nice.

What advice would you give to any aspiring composers who may want to get into creating music for either the film or game industry down the road?

Kaveh Cohen: I think part of an artist’s journey lies in their ability to find his or her own musical aesthetic or voice. As a composer, you spend years laboring on various projects and each one helps to shape and mold what over time becomes a very identifiable signature for the composer. It’s important to be writing and perfecting your art all the time. Really make an effort to learn your craft and the tools of the trade, especially since so much of a scoring career nowadays requires technical knowledge.

Michael Nielsen: I agree with Kaveh, and I’ll add that it helps to know the entire process of film or game production. Not necessarily how to code, or which lens to use, but how scenes are edited together, or how music and sound is implemented into a game.

This concludes my interview with Kaveh Cohen and Michael Nielsen for their work on Forza Motorsport 6. If you’re interested in listening to the whole soundtrack, please feel free to check out the Spotify link embedded below.

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Richard Bailey Jr. Editor-In-Chief
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