Released March 8 by Capcom, Devil May Cry 5 fully brings the series back to what it does best, stylishly hacking-and-slashing demons in a really fun way. Fans and critics have been quick to praise the epic battles and effects, but another element players are also noting is the game’s music. With tracks such as “Subhuman,” “Devil Trigger,” and “Crimson Cloud” garnering millions and millions of Youtube hits, we decided to speak with two of the musicians from the game, Jeff Rona and Rachel Fannan. Rona produced both “Crimson Cloud” and “Subhuman” as well as composed “Crimson Cloud,” while Fannan is the featured vocalist heard on “Crimson Cloud.” In the below exclusive interview, Rona and Fannan discuss the complete creative process behind “Crimson Cloud” and much more.
Devil May Cry 5 Composer Jeff Rona
-We read that Devil May Cry 5 made you step way out of your comfort zone as a composer. Why is that?
I’ve written a really wide range of music for films, TV, and games. Everything from epic orchestral music (God of War 3), to world music (my contributions to Far Cry 4 and others), ambient cinematic music (most of my film and TV scores – such as Traffic, Brotherhood, Homicide Life on the Street, and dozens more). And while I’ve scored battles and boss fights, tension and atmospheric music, Devil May Cry 5 is possibly the single most aggressive music I’ve ever made. “Crimson Cloud” is an audio assault from beginning to end. And it’s a song as well which changes every time you play the game. It’s also a genre mashup that blends industrial, electronic music and cinematic score. It was an opportunity to really let loose!
-Did you go back and play any of the previous Devil May Cry games to get more a sense of the characters/vibe? If not, what did you do to prepare for this game?
The Capcom team gave me a lot of freedom. Because the character of V had not had a musical identity before this, there wasn’t much in the previous games to latch on to. I’ve seen and played other DMC titles and had a pretty good sense of the world I was about to enter musically. But the creative team from Capcom wanted me to mainly think about this character in the context of DMC5. They didn’t want me to look backward. They wanted something that hadn’t been done in previous chapters.
It means I was responsible for putting together and overseeing the whole team to create other aspects of the score on top of writing and recording my own music. I tapped Cody Matthew Johnson to write Dante’s theme. I made the final choices for our singers, the other musicians, the recording studios, I worked on lyrics, oversaw the final mixes, and generally looked after the quality of all the work for several elements of the game score. I also arranged and recorded some of the end title music written by one of Capcom’s top composers. We recorded strings and piano at the legendary Village Recorders here in Los Angeles.
-Discussing ‘Crimson Cloud’ specifically, what was one of the first things you did when beginning work on the song? How long did it take to produce?
I really like to sketch things quickly and then refine and polish them, adding details and nuance. It took a long time just to create the sonic palette for the piece. There are over a hundred tracks here with analog and digital synthesizers, massive banks of drums and percussion, industrial and mechanical noises, and tons of distortion. So I spent days and days just creating the sounds for the song before launching into my first sketch. That part only took a couple of days before I sent it to Capcom for their thoughts. They pushed me further – darker, dirtier, more aggressive and dangerous. Then they had me organize the piece into dozens of sections, starting with some mysterious elements you don’t hear on the soundtrack version but are heard throughout the game. It became a jigsaw puzzle of sections, transitions, verses and choruses.
Once it started to feel right, I played my sketch for singer Rachel Fannan so she could start thinking about lyrics and vocal parts. She came in to start singing a few sections with incomplete lyrics so we could get a feel for the track with vocals. I chopped and digitally processed Rachel’s voice in all kinds of ways, so she is also a part of the instrumental bed, though you can’t often tell it’s her. There are some massive electric guitars, but they are buried into the texture of the track to add some size and mayhem without obviously being guitars. I really wanted to avoid making the track feel like rock.
Piece by piece the track started to really come together. We worked on the song over a period of weeks, but the initial demo came together fairly quickly.
-‘Crimson Cloud’ is V’s theme. Is there a specific message about V you were trying to get out with this song?
Rachel made the lyrics to the song very visceral. They don’t so much tell a story as paint a picture. I suggested the title after seeing a scene from the game with V fighting against a dark red sky. V battles various outside forces, but there is a battle within V as well which is even more demanding of V than you can first imagine. It was important to me that the song try to express this inner battle as well as the external one we see. While there is nothing in the lyrics that describes the action or story directly, we did hope to portray his complexity and conflicts. I tried to make some of that appear in the music video for ‘Crimson Cloud.’ I think the video came out really well.
In the end, I wanted ‘Crimson Cloud’ to convey the feeling V has throughout his challenges. I wanted to push the music as hard as I could without it overwhelming the action on screen.
Devil May Cry 5 Vocalist Rachel Fannan
Yes and honored to be so graciously ushered into the DMC world.
-Creatively, what surprised you most about your experience on Devil May Cry 5?
Definitely the style of the music and working with Jeff Rona. The track has a lot of power and energy. The instrumental has a ton of intensity, and it was an exciting challenge to match. I really enjoyed the process of developing the lyrics and my vocal track over the time we worked on it, which was several weeks. The world of Devil May Cry is so deep and detailed.
-What was the most challenging part of working on ‘Crimson Cloud’?
Probably performing in front of Capcom’s creative team in the studio. While it pushed me to do my best, it was definitely intimidating! But they were amazing and incredibly supportive. They had already been giving me feedback on the lyrics and my vocals as well by email, so by the time we met we already had a great rapport.
-Any behind the scenes secrets you can share with us about creating ‘Crimson Cloud’?
You know I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will advise players to listen carefully.
Thank you to Jeff Rona and Rachel Fannan for taking the time to answer these questions and talk about their work with Devil May Cry 5.