Composing for a New Era: Interview with Dead Space Composer Trevor Gureckis

With The Dead Space remake upon us, I reflected on how the original release was special. Not only in terms of the way it presented itself but its history, legacy, and the stunning environmental storytelling that littered the halls of the Ishimura. I was then allowed to talk to the composer for the Remake, Trevor Gureckis, known for his works in Old and Servant, about what it was like to work on this project, knowing that the original was such a beloved title. 

Justin: So, you have a lot of experience composing for TV and film. Was there a big difference in composing for a video game?

Trevor Gureckis: The difference was I don’t have experience composing for games, and I don’t know all the different situations you might come across. In this particular case, we had a lot of time to take our time. So I started in 2021 and was doing sketches on big ideas of the game’s lore. So in that way, taking your time, it doesn’t really happen in film and TV, where you’re just like, hey, whoa, you want to do a themed thing? Sure, we’ll do that for like a week. But this was, more like, planned out in terms of, they had, like, the first vertical slice that they needed to make. And then I needed to make some music for that. So let’s think about some of the big ideas of the game and what you write music for Unitology.  Now let’s plan out how we can find places for more experiences or areas of contact with Nicole and Isaac, and the idea of corruption and how that might change over time while you’re playing the game. Isaac becomes more like losing it further and further you go. So, that would be a great opportunity for music to play a role in that. So, I was given a lot of time to explore. 

Dead Space Low Gravity

Justin: It’s fascinating. So how did you come across this project?

Trevor Gureckis: Some people who worked on it were aware of my TV show Servant. So, that got them interested in talking to me. Then I had an interview, and I was like, “ I’ve played this game,” so they’re excited about it. I’m aware of what Dead Space was, and being a gamer, I was pretty excited.

Justin: Well, that’s exciting because actually, the next question I was going to ask was, are you aware of the cultural phenomenon that is Dead Space

Trevor Gureckis: I was super excited when I heard her the score. Because it started so original for a video game or any sort of media, it sounded, so it’s so aggressive and so thrilling. It has the performance techniques and stuff of Penderecki and LIGETY and these kinds of Polish composer Penderecki, like 20th century late 20th-century composer and that style of like orchestral writing, which was like super cool and made a lot of sense. And, you know, Stanley Kubrick used his music in The Shining and 2001. So it was thrilling to see an alien game executed in such a brilliant way.

Justin: That’s interesting because usually there is some, like, a degree of separation, So it’s always a breath of fresh air to hear you played and enjoy the original.

Trevor Gureckis: Yeah, well, it was also important, too, because I knew at some point that the original score was going to be kept in. However, I didn’t do any of the implementations of the music in the game itself. So I didn’t do any music editing. But the fact that the two scores would be my score and the Jason Graves score would be there. So it was really important to me and for everyone that there wouldn’t be this huge lump where you feel like, oh, my gosh, suddenly, there’s this new guy, Trevor, who is this guy? So, you know, I wanted there to be a lineage of  sounds like a sonic world that felt like it was Dead Space?

Dead Space Issac

Justin: So I do have to ask, then. When you were kind of creating this music for this remake? Did you dive into the original to re-familiarise yourself with it? Or did you already know what type of composing you wanted to do?

Trevor Gureckis: Yeah, I knew what the sound and the sonic world were. And I knew what I kind of brought to my own thing. And then just kind of adapted them in a way. But it was important to find places where I think that I don’t know how they exactly, like, coexist at all times. But I did also get a refresher on the original score.

Justin: interesting. Yes. Okay. Have you had a chance to dip into the remake after it’s released? 

Trevor Gureckis: Yeah, I did get a copy of it on Friday, and then I got to play it. That was my release party after my son went to bed. So I got to play for a few hours. And it was super fun. It was crazy. Just as a gamer and a composer. So part of you is like, oh, that’s crazy. But then, I’m just playing the game and taking every experience for what it is. And analysis heavy in my head, every occurrence that happens and trying to think like, Oh, I wonder how they put that together. But yeah, looking forward to seeing, like, the Hunter and Leviathan, the big boss scenes, because those are big things that I got to redo in the remake, which were fun to write.

Dead Space Monster

Justin: So, can you speak a little about the composing process? And even how you titled the score? Maybe even a favorite? 

Trevor Gureckis: All of the titles in the soundtrack, you know, except for the obvious ones that are like references to the specific chapters like Hive Mind or whatever, but the rest are references to, like, cult readings. Make us Whole was originally called Unitology. I didn’t want to get too specific about it at the time. Hunger for the Stars was Corruption. I like the sound, the textures, and the light, like the intensity of Hive Mind, because it’s a finale theme. It’s like pretty wild, though. When it’s hit play, it’s like a super ball on a timpani and then some brass screaming. That’s like the opening ceremony. And that’s like the opening of a cutscene, and then it runs off, and then hive minds surrounding you that sound like a whirling tone. So yeah, the core stuff is cool because I have this choir thing mixed in, but then I also have a friend of mine who is singing, and he’s kind of like, vocal fry, and she’s singing this just random stuff. Not anything Dead Space word related.

Justin: Is there any chance you would want to do another score for the sequel remake if EA decides to remake it? Or is there any other horror game or just game in general that you would love to compose for?

Trevor Gureckis: Well, I would. I loved working on this. It was an amazing experience. And the whole team and everyone at EA and Motive are amazing. And I love the game and in this, Lauren, and everything about that space. So I would love to come back if it is something that they do. But also Mass Effect. That’s like one of my big close-to-my-heart games. I love Mass Effect.

Dead Space Map

Justin: It’s okay. I’m a huge Mass Effect fan.

Trevor Gureckis: You know, I’ve always, like, yeah, that’s the score. Mass Effect. It’s so amazing.

I want to thank Trevor for taking the time to sit down and chat with me. He was a genuine pleasure to talk to, and his passion for the craft really shone through. If he scores Mass Effect, he better prepare because I will be knocking on his door to hear those pieces.

For more interviews, reviews, and features, stay locked to DreadXP and check out the Dead Space Remake.