All text copyright Stephen Coates 2006 - 2015


Quite a few people have been asking how I got involved with writing for L.A. Noire. It seems it's a massive success with advertisements everywhere and amazing reviews, including some substantial pieces in the the more highbrow newspapers.
I have never played computer games and I don't have a television so I had been quite unaware of all the fuss.  

This is how it happened: my US publishers Primary Wave got in touch just before last Christmas to ask if I would be interested in writing a song in a 1940s style.  Of course I was interested and we had a conference call on Christmas Eve with Ivan the music supervisor at Rockstar Games.  We hit it off musically  because I loved all his references - Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Ella Fitzgerald and so on.  The brief was to write a song sung in the nightclub scenes by the character Elsa, a heroin addicted possible arsonist.  Lyrically, many songs from that era follow the same pattern - they are either straight out love songs or love songs wrapped in some metaphor - food, gardening, dancing, moonlight or whatever.  For L. A Noire, obviously that metaphor would be be 'Crime'.  (Actually, there are many songs already like this  - 'Murder, she said', 'Pistol Packing Mama' etc.).

Anyway, I ended up writing four songs - three of which were actually used: "Guilty', '"Torched Song", "(I Always Kill) The Things I Love".  Writing songs is actually my favourite activity (apart from collecting taxidermy obviously) and these came quite quickly.  Actually, 'I Always Kill.." was already in progress. My own version of it is on "The Last Werewolf" soundtrack to be released in July.  I demoed the songs with my friend the Scottish singer Pinkie Maclure and we sent them back and forth with Rockstar until we got the musical and lyrical vibe that suited the character best.  Here is 'Torched Song':

Well I need something to soothe this pain
To cool the lava you pump through my veins
'Cause I'm burning
I'm burning up for you

And I need someone to quench this fire
Before it becomes a funeral pyre
Yeah I'm burning
With yearning so much for you

You struck the sparks
You fanned the flames in me
And now my heart's a blazing ruin
You say that you were only foolin'

Don't walk away, don't do me wrong
Don't leave me singing this torched song
When I'm burning
I'm burning up for you

You're love's a drug
I have to drop
It hurts me so much
But I can't stop
I can't stop burning
I'm yearning so much for you

You struck the sparks
You fire the flame in me
And now my heart's a blazing ruin
You say that you were only foolin'

Don't walk away, don't do me wrong
Don't leave me this way singing this torched song
Don't leave me burning
Burning up for you


You can hear it here.

I recorded the songs in London with a traditional jazz production - double bass, brush drums, upright piano, Gretch, sax, trombone or clarinet, no reverb.
Rockstar wanted the vocals sung by Claudia Brucken of Propaganda and Act. I had never met her before - but it was a real pleasure to work with her. In the end we used the takes recorded by Claudia's partner Paul Humphreys of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.  They have been working together for years and Paul knows Claudia's voice very well.  I sent stems (meaning the mix as seperated parts) to the Rockstar sound guys and they placed them in the game as they needed with a suitably vintage aged sound.

You can buy the songs on the official soundtrack from the usual places.  I was a bit surprised to find they just used my basic demos but still, they sound pretty good.

There is also an album on Verve with various remixes of some of the original 1940s songs used in the game. I wasn't involved in that although I have done remixes for Verve before. I have actually been backing off the electro-swing thing a little of late because so many people are doing it but it is always a pleasure to work with such amazing music.

Roll on 'L.A.Noire II' or 'London Noire' - even better.


Anonymous said...

Love the song, and congratulations on the subtle publicity :)

spillyjane said...

Thanks for posting this -- I always enjoy hearing about the process behind things like this. Your work is such a perfect fit for the feel of the game, too.

The songs themselves are wonderful -- I've been singing "Guilty" to my rose bushes.

paulo said...

Nice to read the background of this too!
Will you be writing anything (before or after) about the upcoming Age Of Orchestra gig? Am looking forward to it. Have recently got someone else interested in trtw, and so hopefully they'll enjoy their first experience of you chaps! (and all the extra chaps and chapesses playing with you)

paulo said...

The Age Of Not Believing Orchestra, even...

clerkenwell kid said...

The Orchestra is the invention of Ben Eshmade of Arctic Circle - promoter, curator, broadcaster. Ben is amazing - I wish there were more people like him. The Fairytales and Monster event is his brainchild. He commissioned various musicians including yours truly to write a song based on a a childhood memory and the orchestra will be playing them and various other pieces from classic childrens films - in a Jon Brion, Tom Waits way.

I wrote a song called 'Verdun' - a portmanteau song about bodies under the grass, allied war graves and fairy mounds.

I am looking forward to hearing what it sounds like myself|

spillyjane said...

OK, that just sounds amazing - I would love to hear that one!

paulo said...

Sounds great indeed! Will there be a trtw set of songs as well, or is it just the orchestra collective performing?

clerkenwell kid said...

Yes our set before the orchestra will lean towards music for fairies and monsters and we will be previewing both some new songs AND a new person amongst our ranks. Hurrah!

paulo said...

That was great, thanks again Stephen! & good to chat to you after, too.
Songkick informs me that was my 15th Weld experience, slowly crawling up to the nice number of 20. Was possibly one of my favourites also, it just worked so well. Plus it was good seeing my friend just beam pretty much constantly through her first TRTW gig! I really liked the new song with the long instrumental build-up to it and the whole quiet/loud bits. But the one that I absolutely loved the most was the second joint-Marcella song in your set - it was just so catchy and upbeat that I'd love to dance to it. Looking forward to that song especially!
The Age Of Not Believing Orchestra were amazing too (and the Forget Me Nots before you also). Lovely lovely sounds and voices and backing choir throughout it. I'm glad to see that there's an album of their music planned too.
& I started reading The Last Werewolf on the way home too. Waiting for the album soundtrack to be released as well seems too far away for me to manage!
So yes, a big message just saying - thanks / well done / was great!

clerkenwell kid said...

Hey Paul. Thanks. A great pleasure - I really enjoyed it too. The whole event was really beautifully done I thought.

The song with Marcella is called 'Me and Mr Wolf' - more of that soon - an amazing video is in the works

very best

Elena said...

Nice song
i like it
non voice projects

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