Homeworld composer talks influences, changing soundscapes
Homeworld's soundtrack was an expression of space's serenity and chaos with its retro synth swells and Indian flair, the sort of songs hibernating astronauts would probably listen to. Composer Paul Ruskay's haunting tracks helped solidify Homeworld as one of strategy gaming's greats, and in an interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun, he touched upon the influences and experiences he used in shaping a spacey soundscape.
"My big influence was, obviously, the Blade Runner score," Ruskay explained. "And I was also a huge fan of Brian Eno. There was just something about that form of composition, like that moment in Blade Runner where [Harrison Ford] is walking up the stairwell and there’s that Arabic singing in it.
"The art director, Rob Cunningham, had spent some time growing up in India and he turned me onto DJ Cheb i Sabbah—that was the biggest influence, DJ Cheb," he continued. "He was just doing this kind of DJ’ing but with traditional Indian instruments. You mix DJ Cheb with Vangelis and Eno and those are the main forces."
Ruskay recently wrapped up a return to space after contributing compositions to Strike Suit Zero, Born Ready's Kickstarted love letter to the colorful deadliness of space sim combat. Ruskay noted how music's cultural growth and synthesis—especially in the context of science-fiction—changed dramatically via improved technology and an ever-changing paradigm.
"I was listening back to the Homeworld soundtrack recently and what struck me is it’s almost archival now," he said. "People don’t even use that equipment that it was created on anymore. I did some of that Homeworld stuff in a MIDI-only version of a really old sequencer. When I listen to it now, so much of it was created based on the restrictions of the technology of the time. It’s like listening to recordings from the 1920s. So much of the quality of that music is wrapped up in how it was captured.
"It’s almost a brain chemistry thing where so much of music is an emotional response. There’s such a mystery to science-fiction in presenting a vision, and there’s also that sort of globalization thing with the world moving towards cultural fusion with that through-line of synthetic sounds."
The rest of Rock, Paper, Shotgun's interview covers Ruskay's journey from Radical to Relic and beyond.