Space, Guns, and Music Pt. 2: DJ Skee on Remixing ‘Halo 4′

Yesterday we brought you details of the October 22nd release of the 2-disc Halo 4 Original Soundtrack Special Edition which will include 14 remixes of composer Neil Davidge’s score for the return of the Master Chief and Cortana’s battles at the farthest reaches of the galaxy. We also spoke with Neil Davidge about creating a new sound for the Halo universe as Halo 4 hits retail this November.

Among the musicians tapped to spin out variations of Davidge’s score is L.A.-based producer DJ Skee (AKA Scott Keeney), who provided a mix for the track “Revival.” While not mixing tracks for the Chief, Skee also heads his own video production company, Skee.TV.

We spoke to him by phone recently about putting his own spin on the sounds of Halo 4 and what it’s like for a longtime fan of the series to be a first-time producer on one of its soundtracks, and I hope it provides some insight into what goes into building our own remix.

MTV Multiplayer: First things first, how did you get involved in the project?

DJ Skee: Oh, man. Some of the people at Xbox asked if I was interested in doing anything around some of the remixes they were gonna do. They told me they were gonna do the first-ever remix experience for the stuff for Halo 4, so instantly I was like, “Absolutely.” Halo’s the game I bought when I waited in line overnight to buy an Xbox when I was a kid [and] the first one came out on my birthday.

So to be involved in Halo 4 and that brand was a no-brainer for me, not to mention how big of a cultural phenomenon it has become. So I was definitely in.

Multiplayer: So it sounds like you’re part of that generation of gamers where Halo was kind of the introductory game for them, or at least the defining one.

DJ Skee: Absolutely. I literally waited in line on my birthday in 2001 when the first Xbox came out and Halo was basically the killer game for it—that’s why you were buying the Xbox. Halo: Combat Evolved, then 2, and 3, and now with the fourth generation of it—it’s just amazing.

It almost feels like the Star Trek or the Star Wars of our generation, too. You know the storylines and the way it almost mimics real life with good versus evil and the religious undertones. There’s just so many things that you can almost relate to in today’s world.

And now a decade strong, it’s incredible what Halo’s done.

Multiplayer: Did you have a particular favorite game in the series?

DJ Skee: Honestly, I would say the first one because even though each game in the series got better, the first one at the time, because I’d read so much about it and reading all of the video game magazines and seeing how cool and epic it was supposed to be it helped me to get out and play [it]. And especially being my first experience with Xbox, it was just the feeling of playing that before the public really got their hands on it. So just being a part of that.

I would say being part of the original—you didn’t know what to expect.

Multiplayer: You mention something like Star Wars where that has a sound that we associate with it—in the same way you can’t think of those movies without John Williams’ scores, Marty O’Donnell are what you think of when it comes to the Master Chief.

How does it feel being able to come in and bring a new sound to the game?

DJ Skee: It’s great. As soon as I heard I would be getting to work with Neil, when they showed me all the music being composed so I could choose which song to remix, I was blown away.

I was already a fan of Halo’s music, it sounded so epic with all of the big sounds. And the way that Neil mixed it with all of the live instruments and huge sounds, like electronic drum patterns and different cool things, it was just incredible.

And when I got my hands on it, I was so excited about having the most core instruments [like] classical strings and things and adding electronics. My remix has a little bit of everything from dubstep to electronic to kraftclub to hip-hop all in one. It came out great.

The music in [Halo] has always been great and I’m proud to be a part of that legacy.

Multiplayer: Now for some of our readers who might not be as familiar with your work, can you kind of fill them in the types of influences you’re bringing to the album and what informs your work?

DJ Skee: Absolutely. It’s such a big game and I was over in Europe and you could see posters for it everywhere. It’s such a well-known phenomenon.

[So] I kind of approached it—I wanted to make something that everybody could relate to. My partner THX and I really composed something that has a little bit of everything. It has the electronic music in it, it has the dubstep in it, it has the hip-hop in it, it has the classical strings in it. I wanted to make something epic and worldwide and would really fit Halo in the game.

You make music for your audience usually when you do a remix or produce a record, you know specifically what it is. But Halo is so big for so many people and has sold millions and millions of copies and doing the song we had to do something that everyone could relate to.

So in my background, I’ve got everything from touring with Chris Cornell, to putting out alt mixes for artists to try to get them to #1 in the iTunes charts, to my history working in hip-hop with artists like Snoop Dog and Jay-Z to you name it.

I’m really a big fan of all genres, not just one thing. If you look at my career it’s [taken] experience from everything and I was trying to draw from all of that to make this remix for Halo.

Multiplayer: You touched on this a little bit with your last answer, but when you get one track and once chance to make an impression with the fans, what’s the first thing that’s running through your mind that you want to do to make that happen?

DJ Skee: I spent a lot more time than I usually do on a track—even just mixing, I took an extra day to mix and add sounds and get everything right. Especially with Neil being involved—his legacy mixed with Halo’s legacy too.

As soon as I sent the track over, there’s always this nervous feeling, but luckily everybody loved it. Hopefully that’s the reaction of the public and I hope they’re going to enjoy it because the pressure was definitely on to make something epic and timeless.

Multiplayer: Have you had a chance to mess around with the game at all?

DJ Skee: I haven’t! I’m trying to get my hands on the game now. I’m fiendin’ for it. I’ve done my part, now I want to get the chance to play it. [Laughs]

Halo 4 will be available on November 6th. The game’s soundtrack will be available on October 22nd.

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