Russell Shaw (composer)
Black & White
Biography and career
Shaw was exposed to music at age of 5, when he was given a guitar by his uncle. He trained himself in music playing in various bands through late 1970s to early 1980s. Though he had an interest in playing music, he wanted to be a record producer. After training at SAE London in the mid 1980s, he was hired by Gerry Anderson (of Thunderbirds fame) as his recording studio manager, recording sound for various TV shows. including Terrahawks, Dick Spanner and Space Precinct.
Around 1990 Shaw left Anderson and returned to music production, working for StreetSounds record label, providing releases for the London white label dance club scene. He also stated that he was "an avid gamer" at that time, owning an Atari ST, which he also used for processing and sequencing music.
In 1992 he learned that Peter Molyneux's Bullfrog Productions needed a sound specialist for audio in their games, and Shaw decided to try as he was experienced in both computer technology and sound area, successfully getting the job. At Bullfrog Shaw composed soundtracks for many of their games, but most memorable and successful were for strategy games Syndicate, Theme Park, Magic Carpet and Dungeon Keeper. In 1997 Bullfrog's founder Peter Molyneux quit the company and formed Lionhead Studios, and Shaw followed him in the new venture.
His first project was the soundtrack for Black & White. A fan of ambient techno, Shaw composed a meditative and relaxing soundtrack in manner of the genre. The music was positively received by sites such as IGN and Gamespot. Aside of audio part of the game, Shaw was also the one who proposed the idea of casting spells with gestures. Black & White was followed by 2004's Fable. Danny Elfman was brought in to compose the theme music, and Shaw was asked to do more traditional orchestral ingame score which would more fit Elfman's fairy-tale-styled theme music. Hollywood conductor Allan Wilson (who worked with Elfman on his music for 1999 film Sleepy Hollow) was brought in to conduct the Philharmonia Orchestra, and Shaw used The Pinewood Singers to further enhance the fairy-tale nature of the score.
Shaw not only composed the game score, but also implemented the sound into the game by himself. The soundtrack for Fable was successful, and as known as the game is, with IGN calling it "It really couldn't have been a better score", and Gamespot saying that audio "is quite possibly the best part of the game." After his success with Fable, Shaw went on to compose the soundtrack for its sequel, styled as its predecessor - this time using the Slovak Symphony Orchestra. Shaw went on to compose the soundtrack for Fable III and Fable: The Journey, both using the Slovak National Symphony Orchestra before leaving Lionhead to form his own company in 2012.
Shaw was most recently composing the orchestral score to the canceled Lionhead game, Fable Legends, with the Philharmonia Orchestra, which had been scheduled for release in 2016.
Shaw's comment about his work in audio area:
"I would not want to go back to the early days of game audio design. We can all remember the time when audio was very much the afterthought. Nowadays, I need to be in on the early conceptual stages of game design if the game is going to sound any good. The audio designer can bring as much to the early game design as anyone else can."
- Sound Byte: Meet the Composer - Fable III's Russell Shaw by Gamespot. January 10, 2011.
- Shaw's profile at VGM Rush.
- Sound & Fury, Part 1 (archived).
- Satellite Reign development diary, September 24, 2014.
- "Satellite Reign, the Spiritual Successor to Syndicate". Fundthisgame. 2013-07-17. Retrieved 2013-08-16.