The Adventure Continues: Talking with Composer Peter McConnell about Psychonauts 2 (2021)

Psychonauts was a cult favorite of mine, so I had high hopes for the sequel. It never disappoints in its ability to amaze players with animation and creativity like no other game on this list. We talked about everything from designing soundscapes for levels like those found in Psychonauts 2’s Camp Kidney to how much he loves working with new artists each time around when creating music for his games.

The “peter mcconnell psychonauts 2” is a sequel to the 2006 game Psychonauts. The game has been in development since 2012, and it was released on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC in 2018. Peter McConnell is the composer for the game.

The Adventure Continues: Talking with Composer Peter McConnell about Psychonauts 2 (2021)

I spoke with composer Peter McConnell early this year about his work on the computer game Psychonauts 2, which was published earlier this year. The player takes control of Raz, a recently minted Psychonaut with tremendous psychic skills, as he explores other people’s minds. The sequel to Psychonauts is set in a hypothetical, parallel universe where psychic abilities are possible because to the imaginary element Psitanium, which was transported to the planet by many meteorites. The Psychonauts are a worldwide espionage organization dedicated to psychic peacekeeping, human mind scientific study, and the creation of psychic-based technology.

Broken Age, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, the Sly Cooper series, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Psychonauts, Brutal Legend, and Grim Fandango are among the video games for which Peter McConnell has created award-winning music.

Peter received a high honors degree in music from Harvard University, where he studied with electronic composer Ivan Tcherepnin. He’s been nominated for and won four Game Audio Network Guild Awards, including Best Interactive Score and Best Soundtrack.


I hope you’ve enjoyed our discussion about Psychonauts 2!

What was your path to becoming a composer?

The simple answer is that I moved to California from Boston a couple years after graduating from college with the intention of forming a band with my pals Michael Land and Clint Bajakian. The band had broken up by the time I arrived, but Michael had acquired a position at LucasArts as the head of the audio department, and he needed assistance. But there was a backstory behind it. I’d loved music since I was a child, had taken violin lessons as a child, taught myself to play banjo and guitar, and had an epiphany in electronics class in college, which led to my abandoning my physics studies, leaving for a year and a half, and returning to get a degree in music. As a result, it was less about “getting started” as a composer and more about continuing on a lengthy path.

Were you thrilled to return for Psychonauts 2 after scoring the first game so many years ago? 16 years between episodes is a long time; was it tough to get back into the plot after such a lengthy break?

Absolutely. And, to be honest, it wasn’t really a question of “returning” to the score, since I’d never really left it in the first place. Those ideas were constantly circling in my thoughts. Before I began, I probably spent around 15 minutes listening to the original Psychonauts music. The music had already begun to play. That is normally true of me, but it was particularly true of Psychonauts, given it was my first job as a freelance composer after my departure from LucasArts in 2000.

Were you brought in early or late in the creative process to do the music? Was there a lot of collaboration/discussion with the game’s directors on where they wanted the sound/music of this game to go when you were brought in?

I was brought in at a reasonable hour. I worked on the project for about four years, and I believe they had completed approximately nine months of work when I arrived.

How much of the music in Psychonauts 2 is based on the original Psychonauts score? Or was it decided to take this sequel in a completely new direction?

I’d say the music for Psychonauts 2 is both a continuation and an extension, much like the game itself. As a composer, I place a premium on melody, thus the score’s motifs are crucial. As a result, the characters from Psychonauts 1 retained their original themes, but there were so many new ones! Each one has a different subject. A new “bridge” portion was added to the Main Title tune, based on an important new character in the game. In addition, the range of musical genres has been greatly broadened. In the first Psychnonauts, we could only afford a few live musicians, however in Psychonauts 2, we had The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, a live big band, a Nashville rhythm section, and, of course, the rock and roll band including the incredible Jack Black’s vocals. 

What was the main procedure for developing the game’s sounds and music for each level?

Each level focuses on a different character, and each character has a distinct theme. We went through a period early on when we only focused on topics in their most basic form: simple piano sketches that could be arranged into entire works if accepted.

In response to the previous question, what influenced the overall soundscape of Psychonauts 2? What instrument groupings did you choose to work with?

The instrumentation was influenced by the characters. Hollis, for example, has a gambling problem, and her level is all about it. As a result, the iconic big band sound of Sinatra’s records with Nelson Riddle’s ensemble had to be included into the equation. Similarly, the Psy King’s level was dedicated to 1960s psychedelic music. It was the same for all of the characters, and they all seemed to be calling out to me with their voices.

How long did it take you to score Psychonauts 2?

The soundtrack took four years to complete, but with a job of this scope, you don’t usually work straight through from beginning to finish. It’s reasonable to guess that the whole score took a couple of thousand hours to complete.

Were there any levels in the game that were more tough to complete than others? Did you ever get to a stage in the game when you were perplexed as to where it was heading musically? If that’s the case, how did you get around it?

I have a lot of run-ins with different components, but nothing really stands out. There were no true moments of writer’s block or being stuck, as far as I can tell. If I do come into an issue, I’ve found that listening intently is the best course of action. Occasionally, again and over. Usually, the following step is obvious.

Do you have a favorite game musical theme or musical moment?

The Lady Luctopus Boss and the Psy King music are probably my two favorites. The Lady Luctopus gave me the opportunity to mix the Melbourne Symphony, Nashville drums and bass, and my buddy Andrew Burton’s incredible Hammond organ playing into one piece. And the Psy King music enabled me to reunite with Michael Land and Clint Bajakian for a band reunion—returning to all of our roots—as well as collaborate with Tim Schafer on a piece for Jack Black to perform.

Is there any particular musical aspect you’d want gamers to notice as they go through the game?

That is an excellent question. I’m hoping that people will notice a lot of little nuances. For example, some of the clarinet melody in the Questionable Area and the Aquato Family Caravan soundtrack both stem from a very little melodic fragment in Raz’s dream about his family in the original Psychonauts.

I hope you liked our discussion about Psychonauts 2, and I’d want to express my gratitude to Peter McConnell for taking the time to talk to me.

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Interviews with Composers

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The “psychonauts” is a game that was released in 2005. It has been praised for its unique and creative story, characters, and gameplay. The sequel to the game, “Psychonauts 2”, will be releasing in 2021.

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