Interview with Wasteland Remastered's Composer, Edwin Montgomery

When the original Wasteland was released in 1988, it was the dawn of a new era of roleplaying games. Taking reference from the table-top RPG's of the late-70s and 80s, Wasteland was one of the first games set in a persistent world, where decisions could have long-lasting and permanent effect. It was heralded as novel for its time, and although the game is over thirty years old, its DNA can still be felt in computer role-playing games today.

In 2014, Wasteland 1 – The Original Classic was released, which was a DOSBox update to help the 1988 game run on more modern systems. It was later patched to add a soundtrack from Edwin Montgomery, who had made and released it as a fan-made mod for the title. On February 25, 2020, the original Wasteland made its return, rebuilt from the ground-up with a new engine, new visuals, audio, and interface. Accompanying the overhauled visuals and updated sound effects, was the haunting soundtrack from Edwin Montgomery, now remastered and expanded upon. Recently, inXile had the chance to reach out to Wasteland Remastered’s composer to chat with him about his work on the soundtrack.

inXile: Thanks for taking the time, Edwin. Tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be part of the project.

Edwin: Thanks for having me! Well, I guess the short version is that I'm only here at all because I'm a massive fan of Wasteland. Some years back, long before Wasteland 2 was announced on Kickstarter, I wrote some music inspired by the original Wasteland, which as many of you will know, apart from the sound of PC speaker beeps didn’t have a soundtrack. Anyway, I posted the score I wrote on a few gaming forums, and when the "original classic" version was released a while later, inXile contacted me about including my music in that version. inXile: What is it about Wasteland that originally inspired you? Can you talk about some of your process about how you composed these pieces?

Edwin: I think I first discovered Wasteland just after I finished Fallout 2, and I was obsessed with searching for more post-apocalyptic RPGs to keep me going. After learning that Wasteland was the original inspiration for Fallout, I just had to play it. I was blown away by the depth of the game - despite its primitive graphics - and how absorbed I was in the game world (I was once on tour with a band, and a few times while the rest of the band went out partying after the show, I'd be back in the hotel room playing Wasteland. Sad but true). inXile: Wasteland Remastered features some additional elements that weren’t previously present in Wasteland: The Original Classic. Were these hold overs from your original work on the game, or were these original tracks that were newly created?

Edwin: When I had the chance to revisit the music for this version of the game, there were a few additions/improvements I wanted to make to some of the tracks in the "original classic" version. One of the new changes is a switch in music for the combat in the game, which we felt could use something with a little more motion and rhythm than I had done previously. And unlike Fallout, the future of Wasteland isn't imagined from a 1950’s perspective, but more of a 1980’s vision of the future — so another element I wanted to bring which was missing from the “original classic” version is more use of pulsing minimal 80’s synths, familiar from dystopian sci-fi films of the 80’s and 90’s from John Carpenter and the like.

inXile: Your style and work are fairly broad in their genres, do you find adapting to different styles is important when it comes to scoring video games?

Edwin: I think the most effective soundtracks, whether you notice them or not, are the ones that really tap into the atmosphere of the game, whether the music might be orchestral, chiptune, abstract ambience, or anything else. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is good (for example I’m definitely not the composer to go to for a classic chiptune soundtrack), but with film/TV/game scores, it does help to be a little bit of a chameleon in that way. inXile: Do you have any favorite composers in film and in gaming?

Edwin: It was probably Hans Zimmer that first made me want to write music for films, and many years later I think he still does the occasional score that really knocks it out of the park. Ennio Morricone, Vangelis, Popol Vuh, and Eduard Artemyev are a few of my other favorites from film. In games, it was Mark Morgan’s original soundtrack to Fallout that inspired me to think of creating music for games in the first place. The Mass Effect series (Jack Wall, Sam Hulick and others), Max Payne 3 (Health) and STALKER (MoozE) are some of my 21st century favorites.

inXile: What’s your favorite post-apocalyptic movie?

Edwin: It’s maybe a bit of a stretch to call it post-apocalyptic, but I adore Tarkovsky’s Stalker - it has such a unique and mesmerizing atmosphere, creating a very surreal experience with basically no special effects. More recently, Fury Road was probably one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had at the cinema. inXile: If a nuclear Armageddon overtakes us, do you think hearing your soundtrack blasted across the Wasteland will help ease the pain of existence?

Edwin: Imagining nuclear Armageddon, or the eventual inevitable destruction of all humanity in some form, is pretty much what inspires me to create any kind of art in the first place. So, I sure hope so! inXile: Thanks again, Edwin! Your work on these tracks really brings Wasteland to life in a wonderfully dark way. It’s safe to say that your soundtrack elevates this RPG classic to new heights.

Wasteland Remastered's OST is now available to stream and purchase on all major digital music platforms. Wasteland Remastered is available now for Xbox One and Windows with Xbox Game Pass, and on Steam and GOG.