Eighteen years after the original Devil May Cry was released by Capcom, the title has become more than just an action-adventure hack and slash video game. It has become an institution in the video game world sparking novels, comic books, costume lines, concerts of the music, action figures and animated shows. Eleven years after the last installment was released, it’s an understatement to say gamers are excited about the release of Devil May Cry 5, out March 8th. Adding to the anticipation is the announcement of the five-disc, 136 track original soundtrack being released March 20th. With the music being such an integral part of the game, we decided to speak to one of the composers of the project, Jeff Rona, about everything from his track “Crimson Cloud” to what sort of research he did when beginning work on the title. Read the exclusive interview below.
Can you tell us how you initially became involved with Devil May Cry 5?
I produced the score to another very ambitious game at Capcom called Marvel vs Capcom Infinite. It’s a Streetfighter game. I was asked to take more than thirty musical themes from Capcom games going back to the ‘80s and make them ultra-modern and epic. I put together a team to do this with me. Some tracks were orchestral, some rock and some EDM. It came out really well. So, Capcom asked if I’d like to work on Devil May Cry 5. I was thrilled to do it, not just as a producer, but as a composer as well.
What kind of research did you do before starting work on the game?
It was all emails from the DMC5 team. They sent me images, short clips, YouTube music videos they really liked. And they wanted me to create ideas from that, and not from previous DMC5 scores.
You scored Devil May Cry 5 alongside Cody Matthew Johnson & Casey Edwards. How did you all decide who was going to score what?
All of that was up to the Capcom creative team. Casey had already done “Devil Trigger” before I got involved. I know Casey, and he’s a fantastic musician, but unfortunately, we didn’t have the chance to work together on this.
Cody Matthew Johnson is a part of my team and has worked with me on a lot of projects. And he did some of the Marvel vs Capcom Infinite score. When we got started on Dante, I said to Cody “you’re doing this, right?” And of course, he said yes.
And by the way, we also produced some live piano and string recording sessions for other instrumental parts of the DMC5 score here in LA. I worked on some arrangements and ran the sessions.
One of the big songs in the game is “Crimson Cloud” which you produced, with vocals by Rachel Fannan. Can you talk about the process of creating this song?
Capcom had only a general direction they wanted – not rock and not EDM, but with ferocious drive and energy. Based on some of their thoughts I suggested the idea of a track based on aggressive electronics, a smattering of electric guitars, and highly distorted drums and percussion. It felt right. I wrote a couple of sketches and came up with something they really liked, but it was just the track without lyrics or vocals. We considered a lot of possible singers. They specifically wanted the vocal to be female. After listening to so many female artists I suggested Rachel Fannan. She wasn’t as well-known as some of the other singers we thought about, but I knew she was right. I asked Rachel to work on a wordless demo over my track, just to show Capcom what she could do. She’s incredibly versatile and willing to experiment. After that, Capcom came around, very enthusiastically, to Rachel being our vocalist.
She came up with some lyrics based on notes from the DMC5 team. I helped as well and together we crafted the vocals for the song. It went through a few revisions, and they had strong opinions about lyrics, but it all went smoothly and they fell in love with her voice. And the vocals in the game are her original demo vocals!
What sort of direction were you given for “Crimson Cloud?
The Capcom team wanted the music to be loud, but not fast. They went so far as to tell me the tempo they wanted exactly! They had some concepts for the lyrics, but none of the lyrics themselves. There are small clues about the character in the lyrics. Not overt, but there. I think Rachel came up with a perfect way to describe the inner and outer battle that goes in with this character.
Did you feel any extra pressure when working on Devil May Cry 5 because of the already existing fan base?
Yes and no. It’s always a consideration when making a big change to a beloved franchise. The Capcom team really wanted to break from their previous formulas and be a bit experimental, and we were totally on board with that. When demos and trailers for the game came out with the music there were definitely a group of fans who were vocal and didn’t want anything to change. But Capcom loved everything we did and expressed that every game tries new ideas. The negative response is also only a tiny fraction of the massive global audience that love the games.
Devil May Cry 5 releases on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC worldwide on March 8th, 2019.
Many thanks to Jeff Rona for taking the time for this interview.