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Student Stories

Daniel James

Level 3 in Music

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Photo Credit: Ryan Connolly

Daniel James is an award-winning video game and film soundtrack composer.

Based in Los-Angeles, he is best known for his work on Metal Gear V: The Phantom Pain, as well as Call of Duty Black Ops 3 and 4, Killer Instinct and Mass Effect 3.

He has composed music for movies such as Terminator Genisys, Ride Along 2, Truth Or Dare, Proximity and Ballistic.

He won “Best Score and Soundtrack” at The Game Awards in Los Angeles in 2015 for his work on Metal Gear V and was BAFTA-nominated for “Audio Achievement”.

He studied a BTEC National Diploma in Music at West Kent College from 2005-2006.

Today, Daniel James lives and works in the fast-paced world entertainment hub of Los Angeles. But before heading to the bright lights of Hollywood, his formative years were spent at West Kent College: “At the time, it was the nearest college to me that I had heard had a quality music department, so I decided to give it a shot.”

“My favourite aspect of the course was the performances. Most of the time on the course was spent preparing for the big shows, so when they finally came around, it was both a fun and rewarding experience. A fond memory was being asked to provide a performance for a function in London. It was exciting to perform in a more professional manner with my fellow band members.”

Since his first introduction to the Metal Gear Solid game franchise at 14, Daniel had held an ambition to work in video game composition, specifically on this franchise, and he set about making these ambitions reality:  

“After leaving college, I took the skills I learned and decided to pursue a career in Hollywood, scoring movies and video games. I started off using the practical computer music skills I learned to create a unique voice for my work, which was quickly recognised by notable composers in L.A. who asked me to help them out in their projects and provide the unique musical voice I was developing to their productions. That led to me writing additional music for a few Call Of Duty video games as well as Terminator Genysis.”

“After a few years building a name for myself as a competent composer, I was asked to compose music for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, which was a career goal of mine from the beginning. I also currently own a successful cinematic sound design company called HybridTwo, which provides tools for composers to use in their work.”

Asked if he thinks the College course was an important factor in establishing himself in his current career, he says:

“Absolutely. The course gave me a solid foundation and understanding of the fundamentals of music, and even though I now compose for music for movies and video games, which wasn’t covered on the course, what I did learn there provided me the perfect opportunity to build my musical career in any direction I chose.”

And his career highlight?

“Most certainly working on Metal Gear Solid V. That was the franchise that inspired my decision to pursue music for media. As mentioned above, I was also fortunate to help out on some other franchises that I was previously a fan of: Mass Effect, Call of Duty and The Terminator, to name a few of my favourites.”

Having carved out a successful career that would be the envy of many budding soundtrack composers, Daniel offers some thoughts to those looking to follow a similar path:  

“As music technology improves, it becomes easier to get started in composition, but at the same time, access to widely available tools runs you the risk of sounding the same as everyone else. Focus in on what it is you personally love about music and try to create your own unique voice. In our industry, the unique will stand out.”

“Also make sure to learn something new every day. Composition is a lifelong pursuit and it takes time to develop your skills, as there is much to learn. So don’t feel daunted or insecure that you are ‘not as good as composer x or y’, because all you need to do is be a little better tomorrow than you were today - and gradually overtime those baby steps add up to miles.”

www.DanielJames.LA   

The course gave me a solid foundation and understanding of the fundamentals of music.