Martin O’Donnell is known predominantly for his musical work on the Halo series. Today, he is working with Jaime Griesemer at Highwire Games (a studio the two co-founded) on a PlayStation VR title called Golem. Between those two projects, however, he worked on the music for Destiny and in the creation of that game’s music, he was able to work with Paul McCartney. While chatting with O’Donnel for a preview of Golem (which you can find in issue 297) we spoke briefly about working with the former Beatle, and his strained departure from Bungie.
Game Informer: You worked with Paul McCartney. Does he play video games?
O’Donnell: [Laughs] Yeah, he did actually, while we were working together. He played Halo. He played Halo with his kids and his grandkids. He said he wasn’t very good. He said he got killed all the time, and I said, “Yeah, join the club.” I doubt he’s hardcore, like play everything that comes out, but he was definitely interested in the medium and what it can do and what’s going on.
I would love to explain more about it. Here’s this theme that’s in the game, and there’s this theme that’s in the game, and this was Paul’s, and Paul came up with this, and we recorded at this studio – but that ship has sailed a bit.
He worked in his own studio and then we worked together at the Capital Records studio in Hollywood. We worked at the former power station, it’s called, in New York City. I went to Abbey Road twice and worked with him. For me it was a dream come true. It was amazing and if stuff hadn’t happened, there would probably be more stories about it, but there you go.
O’Donnell and McCartney worked predominantly on Music of the Spheres, an album that was meant to be a prequel album that would release ahead of Destiny.
While we were developing Destiny, we got inquiries from Paul McCartney that he wanted to work on music for a game and he wanted to work with us and the game, let’s say, just wasn’t coming along as fast as we were hoping. So one of the ideas was, “Why don’t we do a musical album that would be the music prequel to Destiny, and then it would be released before Destiny was released and people could hear music that would eventually be in the game sort of as a marketing thing as well as a fun standalone musical work?”
I worked for a couple years on a thing called Music of the Spheres, which was the music prequel to Destiny, and then, let’s see, how shall I say this… a bunch of stuff happened. It turned out because of all the stuff, the music of the spheres album, although the music was in Destiny the game, the actual album itself was never released, much to my disappointment.
O’Donnell’s idea of a prequel album did finally reach fruition with Golem. “After I was gone from Bungie and Jaimie and I got together and started talking about working on a new thing, one of the first things Jaimie said to me was, ‘Hey! Why don’t you do a musical prequel to Golem? And this time you can release it!’ O’Donnell says. The result is Echoes of the First Dreamer, a prequel album for Golem that functions as a standalone record, but includes music that will also appear in the game. You can hear the album now by checking out the embedded Spotify album below, and it may surprise you if you’re familiar with O’Donnell’s previous work. “I actually made a conscious choice to use almost no big percussion,” O’Donnell says. “Just strings, woodwinds, piano, and harp, so it’s a chamber-orchestra approach. The music itself feels a little more magical. A little more, the wonder of childhood kind of thing.”
Golem is coming to PlayStation VR in Spring. You can read more about the game here.