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.


Here is a clip "Elsa sings' from the very stylish Rockstar Games Blockbuster 'L.A. Noire' with "Torched Song' - one of three songs I wrote and recorded for the game sung by Claudia Brucken of Propaganda.  The others are 'Guilty' and 'I Always Kill the Things I Love'.  I am not a gamer myself but I am a fan of Elmore Leonard and of course the period itself so they were a pleasure to write.  All the reviews of the game I have read say it is amazing  so I am contemplating getting in a take away burrito and hunching down with a console myself to solve some murder mysteries soon.