Kristofer Maddigan is nominated for Best Score/Music for The Game Awards for his work on 2017's Cuphead, the new game that is the talk of the town because of the fact that it is fun and because of its nod to classic cartoons.
Maddigan though considers himself more of a performer than a full-time composer, but he did say that he does hope for another worthwhile gaming project. He can be heard soon playing percussion for the National Ballet of Canada’s upcoming performances of The Nutcracker.
He is originally from Saskatchewan, Canada and started playing the piano and later on the drums. He found his vocation. In 2009, Maddigan earned his Toronto Artist’s Diploma in percussion from the prestigious Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory of Music.
Kristofer Maddigan spoke with Michelle Tompkins for TheCelebrityCafe.com about his beginnings in music, how he got the job doing the music for Cuphead, where he performs regularly, what he likes to do for fun, something cool that only people in-the-know will appreciate about him, what he will do to celebrate if he wins the Game Award for Best Score/Music and more.
Michelle Tompkins: Now, where are you from?
Kristofer Maddigan: I'm from Toronto.
MT: And is that where you live now?
KM: That's where I live now. I'm from Saskatchewan originally, but I've been in Toronto for about 10 years now.
MT: Yikes. Isn't it very cold in Saskatchewan?
KM: Saskatchewan is very cold yes, although it has become noticeably milder in recent years, likely due to climate change. I was there for the first twenty-some years of my life before moving to Toronto.
MT: Were you always interested in music?
KM: Yes. I started taking drums when I was about 10. I played a bit of piano before that. So I've been playing for well over 25 years now.
MT: Long time to play. Do you still love it?
KM: Yes, I am very fortunate to make my living doing what I love.
MT: Do you still perform with the National Ballet of Canada?
KM: Oh, yeah. Yeah. We started Nutcracker rehearsals yesterday. So we're doing that until the end of the month basically.
MT: Oh, wonderful. Well, what is one project that you'd like to do that you haven't done yet?
KM: I don't know, I think doing music for an RPG would be fun because there would be more freedom to experiment than we had in Cuphead. But it would still have to be the right project with the right studio. I enjoyed working with Studio MDHR on Cuphead, so I would love to work with them again if they did anything interesting.
MT: So how can people find your other compositions?
KM: I have a SoundCloud page, which you can link to through my website, but there's very little there as Cuphead is the bulk of what I have written. I am not really a composer but more of a performer, that's what my career has been up to now, so composition came fairly recently.
MT: Now, for Cuphead how did you get the job?
KM: I got the job because I have known Chad and Jared, the brains behind Studio MDHR, since around grade 5. We grew up a couple of blocks apart, and when they started this tiny video game project they asked me if I wanted to write the music for it, so here we are.
MT: And how does the process of this work? Do they send you images and give you ideas?
KM: A bit of both. I mean they knew early on that they wanted the bulk of the bosses to be '30s big band style music. So there was a certain amount I was writing on my own kind of blind, and we were lining it up with bosses after the fact. And there were also a number of bosses or other areas of the game where they already had a clear conception of what the visuals were going to be like. So there was a bit of both. A bit of I was just doing my thing, and then a bit of trying to write something that matched things that they had already developed.
MT: Well, Cuphead's been getting a lot of positive vibes. I'm guessing a lot of it has to do with your music.
KM: I hope so. I think that people have reacted very well to the music. I think the first thing that people notice is obviously the visuals, and then after that they start to notice the music more.
MT: Please tell me a surprising story about working on Cuphead?
KM: Truthfully the process of working on Cuphead was pretty straightforward and nothing that I can think of (other than the game actually coming out!) that was very surprising. Sorry to be boring!
MT: Do you play video games?
KM: I play very little these days because I don't really have time. I beat Cuphead, but aside from that all I've really played recently has bees Ori, Limbo, and The Witness. I have been checking out some games that have popular soundtracks because I feel I should be in tune with what's happening in the industry, but I don't really get to play much anymore because there is just not enough time in the day to do everything I'm trying to do, it's tough to balance everything.
MT: Now how did you feel when you found out that you'd been nominated for the Best Score for the Game Awards?
KM: Oh, it's fantastic! It's been quite a year for video game soundtracks, so to be in the same category as Zelda and Mario and Nier is total honor. I've checked out some of Nier and Persona 5's music, incredible stuff. Considering the quality of some of the games that didn't get nominated, it's really amazing to be nominated beside them.
MT: And what did you do to celebrate once you heard that you were nominated?
KM: Nothing, I don't think. I probably went to work [laughter]. I'll celebrate more if we win, but I'm not holding my breath for that. I think the competition is extremely strong and there's been a lot of great OSTs released this year. It's fantastic to be nominated, but I'm not one to get too excited about something.
— String Player Gamer (@StringPlayerGmr) December 4, 2017
MT: Do you perform Monday through Friday? Do you have a set time where you're working with your band and everything else like that?
KM: Typically in my regular gig with the National Ballet we do Tuesday to Sunday, eight shows per week, for four months of the year. The rest of the time I do as much freelancing as possible, often with morning rehearsals and evening shows.
MT: Makes sense.
KM: At the moment, I'm starting to write a few more things, just doing some experiments. And that's sort of how it was during the Cuphead process. I would get up in the morning and if I didn't have to go to rehearsal, I'd spend four or five hours writing. And if I did have to go to rehearsal, I would try to squeeze a little bit in some time in the day just to get some work on it, but it's a balancing act for sure.
MT: It sounds like it. Now at the ballet, you play percussion, is that correct?
MT: I also read that you also do some stuff with jazz bands and stuff like that, is that correct too?
KM: I do as much playing as I can, but the jazz and classical scenes occupy two different worlds. I still practice jazz a lot, it's an art form I've loved for most of my life. I'd love to do more but it's still a question of time.
MT: When you're not working, what do you like to do for fun?
KM: I like reading, and I've been doing kung fu a lot this year. I've also been meditating lots and getting into macrobiotic cooking. I also still practice 2 to 4 hours a day typically. I enjoy practicing, so I don't really consider it work.
MT: What are some of your favorite films?
KM: Oh, wow. For domestics—I mean, yeah, for domestic films, the original Blade Runner is probably my favorite. Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, a couple of classics. Wild Strawberries I loved. Bergman. I like a lot of foreign films. I try to watch as many of those as I can. Tarkovsky is incredible as well. I'm trying to think what else. Ghost World I love. I think it's fantastic and quite dark, but still very funny. I'll remember lots more as soon as I hang up.
MT: Is there anything you'd like to say about your family?
KM: I mean my family's been great for all this. They've been super supportive. My partner, she's fantastic. She's put up with me sitting at the keyboard many nights doing my own thing when I was trying to finish the writing process. So yeah, they've been nothing but supportive and they're probably visibly more excited than I've been at the success of Cuphead [laughter].
MT: That's the mark of your modesty and their pride in you.
KM: Oh, yes. My mom, in particular, is extremely proud of me [laughter]. I don't know. Yeah, they'll be more proud probably. But I think if we win that definitely, that will be a cause for celebration. At that point, I'll crack a bottle of champagne maybe.
MT: Sounds like a good way to celebrate.
MT: Now, is there any charity work you want to mention?
KM: Ah, how so?
MT: Just are there charities that you work with or just done work for free or places that you always like to give a shout out to?
KM: Typically what my family has started doing for holidays or birthdays is to donate to charitable organizations. Lately we've been donating to Ecojustice, Doctors Without Borders, and Oxfam. MAGFest is doing a charity auction next month and someone donated a Cuphead vinyl set to that which I just signed, which is great.
MT: Sounds nice. Now, what are your social media handles?
KM: My Twitter one is just @KrisMaddigan.
KM: It's super easy to find though if you just Google Cuphead composer those will—they only major social media one I have is Twitter though. I don't have Instagram or anything else.
MT: Okay, well, that's the one that we'll send people to or would you rather people go to your website?
KM: Either or is fine. I mean the website links to Twitter so they could go to either one and find the other. The website probably needs a bit of updating.
MT: What's something you want people to know about you?
KM: Oh, that's a good one. You can write that I did a half hey Peter at the mall of the dead and I'm very proud of that.
MT: I'm sorry. I don't know what that is.
KM: Some people will and they'll be impressed.
KM: It's not dirty. Don't worry.
MT: I don't think it is. I just was curious. Now is there anything else you'd like to add?
KM: My usual shoutouts would be thanks to Studio MDHR for bringing me onto the project and trusting me with it. Thanks to all of the fans. Fans of the game and fans of the soundtrack. The feedback has been extremely positive and very nice to receive. There was a lot of time and a lot of heart that went into every aspect of the game and I think that that is really resonating with people. So yeah, thanks to all the fans!
Kristofer Maddigan, TheCelebrity Café.com wishes you luck at the Game Awards and a good run with the Nutcracker.