When you’re sat across from Simon Viklund - narrative director for the just-announced Den of Wolves and renowned composer - music is the elephant in the room. He is, in the eyes of many, the big daddy of EDM, and for good reason. The Payday series is notorious for a money bag of reasons, not least of which is the thumping soundtrack that accompanies the heists.
But Viklund has taken somewhat of a hiatus from the genre as of late. Following his departure from Starbreeze, Viklund focused more on freelance work before landing back with long-time colleague Ulf Anderson at 10 Chambers, where he’d help create the more haunting sounds of GTFO. With Den of Wolves revealed at The Game Awards, he’s dusting off the hard bass.
“It’s gonna be EDM because it’s sci-fi. And that’s my wheelhouse,” Viklund tells me at the Unity offices, some time prior to the game’s official reveal. “I feel I can do a good job in that space. I can make you feel cool - make you want to nod your head. Head bobbing friendly music. Something with attitude.”
Viklund is sure to note early on that he’s not aiming to create a whole new genre here, stating he’s “not too bothered” due to the chance it could distract from the core goals of the soundtrack. Instead, he’s working with a variety of other successful musicians in order to nail that cool factor. One of them is none other than Jamie Christopherson; Viklund knows him from 15 years ago when they collaborated on Bionic Commando, but you likely know him from his outstanding work on Metal Gear Rising’s soundtrack.
Already, this is exciting. The minds behind Razormid and Rules of Nature working together is an ode to your phone’s headphone volume warning. But there’s more! Given the setting of Midway Islands, 10 Chambers is also collaborating with percussionist Greg Ellis.
“We’re gonna be recording some Polynesian stuff. We’re also working with Greg Ellis who worked on Argo, Transformers, and Godzilla. He’s fantastic with that style of percussion. He’ll be bringing everything he has because it fits the Pacific Ocean setting of Den of Wolves. We’re gonna weave that in - it’s not gonna be like Polynisian traditional music - but I want the drum fills and other little things to add some flavour and texture.
While Viklund and co. are creating music more akin to his work on Payday than his recent work, he’s sure to note some key differences, describing it as such: “Slower and heavier than what I generally made for Payday. That’s because there’s this sense of determination and heaviness to slower music, and you can double the tempo or hit the 16th notes to get that stress element in there. Music that is around 100 BPM - I’m listening to a lot of that now. It’s very heavy and cool - electronic music with a relentless pace that has that (vocalises heavy bass and snare hits).”
If you want a taste of what sort of music Viklund is talking about, he showed me his personal Spotify playlist of hard EDM bangers. He didn’t want to share the full playlist publicly - keeping it his own source of inspiration for now - but he did share some artists that he believes would get the Den of Wolves vibe across.
- Skum - who remixed Viklund’s Steal from the Rich, Give to Myself.
- Lick - who did that heavy bass Valorant theme that everyone loves.
- Brandon Black
- Lemay - specifically their track Digital Disaster.
“It’s gonna have a lot of attitude. You want it to have a lot like - it’s a power fantasy! You want the music to be like ‘Yes! That’s f**king awesome” when what you’re doing is freaking cool.