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SDA006: Garry Schyman – Aliens, Bioshock, and Mordor!

sound design academy podcast session 6 Garry Schyman

Today’s guest is Garry Schyman. Garry has composed for many mediums, but as of late has had an epic streak of video games. To name a few: Destroy All Humans! , Bioshock, Resistance: Retribution, Dante’s Inferno, Bioshock 2, Bioshock Infinite, The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea, and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor.

Garry has also received a staggering amount of awards for his work, but I’m only gonna toss out a few:

  • The Bafta Awards 2014 Winner for Best original Music
  • The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences – DICE Awards 2014 Winner for Outstanding Achievement in original music composition with Bioshock Infinite
  • Musican and Sound Awards 2014 winner for Best Original Composition: Gaming
  • New York Video Game Critics Circle Awards 2014 winner for Best Music in a game: Bioshock Infinite
  • Spike TV Video Games Awards 2007 Winner for Best Original Score – with Bioshock
  • 2008 GANG Awards for Music of the Year: Bioshock
  • 2007 G4 Television Award for Soundtrack of the Year: Bioshock
  • so, so, so many more

Show Highlights


  • Garry was born in Chicago, but grew up in California
  • Studied Music Composition at USC
  • Started working for Mike Post and Pete Carpenter
  • Worked as a ghost on Magnum P.I., Greatest American Hero, and others.
  • Scored movies in the 90’s
  • In 2004 Garry’s agent sent his resume to THQ and it was sitting on a fax machine. An executive saw it, recognized his name, and booked him for Destroy All Humans!
  • Fun Fact: John Williams scored Gilligan’s Island — who knew!?
  • Once upon a time Garry scored infomercials
  • Just finished an awesome project called iO Moon
  • Garry first learned to play the piano
  • Big fan of Mahler
  • Garry teaches at USC in the Scoring for Motion Picture and Television Program
  • Every composer should know how to operate both in-the-box and in a recording session
  • Garry has always been a contracted composer, not an in-house composer
  • Garry writes music in Digital Performer
  • Scoring the original Bioshock was a massive pull right away as was Dante’s Inferno
  • Nathan Grigg cowrote a lot of the music for Shadow of Mordor
  • It helps to remember when composing that “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
  • Applying limitations to your workflow can generate some amazing creative results.
  • The originally score of Bioshock was never sold. It was given away.
  • Go above and beyond with your composition. It often pays to compose extra pieces that may fit in elsewhere.
  • Deadlines can be a very strong source of inspiration.
  • You can’t wait for inspiration. “Inspiration is for amateurs… professionals just get up and crank.
  • When faced with writer’s block, Garry will often take a walk, or lie down, close his eyes, and really think about the music without the excess stimuli.
  • As a composer it’s best to have a combination of technique and emotion. Get to the point where the technique is second nature and then you’re really cookin’. 
  • In-the-box Garry is a fan of Omnisphere — we all like for a reason, right?
  • Garry is also a fan of Zebra.
  • ADIO also makes a series of synth sounds for Kontakt that are fantastic.
  • When Garry decided to be a composer, he didn’t leave himself a backup plan. He committed from day 1. “If you have stuff you can fall back on, you probably will.
  • Garry’s favorite instrument is the piano.
  • Garry has a passion for history, and often reads related books. He just recently read a massive bio on Gustaf Mahler. 
  • The Martian is also a recommended read.
  • A piece of advice: You should be well read.
  • Reading and being curious is critical success and a successful life.
  • Garry’s best advice: “Never give up, never give up, never, never, never give up.” – Winston Churchill
  • You need to check out iO Moon by Headtrip Games!!!

To learn more about Garry visit his website at: http://garryschyman.com/


Huge thanks to Garry, and to everyone for checking out the podcast. You help make it happen! If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to the podcast. If you’re feeling extra feisty, share the conversation and help spread the news. Everyone I interview is taking time out of their day to talk with us — which is completely rad — and it’s even more fun getting these conversations out to others. Thanks again everybody!

Keep on learning.

– Michael Heuer