Omikron: The Nomad Soul

In the latter months of 1998, David Bowie and Iman invited Reeves Gabrels to London to attend a meeting with the software company Quantic Dream.

The company was developing a computer game, Omikron: The Nomad Soul, to be published by Eidos Interactive. The game was released for Microsoft Windows in 1999, and the Sega Dreamcast the following year.

Omikron was conceived and written by Quantic Dream’s founder David Cage, who had drawn up a wishlist of composers he hoped to work with on the soundtrack. The list included Björk, Massive Attack, and Bowie.

Bowie responded immediately to Cage’s invitation, and also requested that he appear in the game as a virtual character. He eventually appeared in two guises: as Boz, the leader of ancient religious order The Awakened, and with Gabrels and Gail Ann Dorsey as a virtual band, the Dreamers. Iman also featured in the game.

I was asked by David to write a couple of songs with him for Omikrom. After we met with the Eidos team, I suggested that we should do all the music. It seemed only natural to me, as I had already done many television and film soundtracks. As it turned out, we wrote eight songs for the game, all on ‘hours…’, and then I wrote about two to three hours of instrumental themes for it.
Reeves Gabrels
Strange Fascination, David Buckley

Bowie and Gabrels were filmed in a Parisian motion capture studio. When game designer Philip Campbell asked him to perform some signature moves, Bowie declined, believing he had none, so instead his choreographer Edouard Locke performed some routines in character.

The main musical contribution to the game was ‘Survive’. Various other pieces were recorded, including more than three hours of instrumentals by Gabrels. The music for the game was written and recorded at the same time as ‘hours…’, with much crossover between the two projects. The song ‘New Angels Of Promise’ was originally titled ‘Omikron’, and appeared prominently in the game.

The music on ‘hours…’ was influenced by a couple of things. The fact that, firstly, we sat down and wrote songs with just guitar and keyboard before going into a studio. Secondly, the characters we appear as in the game performing the songs are street/protest singers and so needed a more singer/songwriter approach. And lastly, it was the opposite approach from the usual cheesy industrial metal music one would normally get.
Reeves Gabrels
Strange Fascination, David Buckley

Characters in Omikron were able to purchase a virtual album by the Dreamers. In all, the game featured eight songs written by Bowie and Gabrels – ‘Thursday’s Child’, ‘Something In The Air’, ‘Survive’, ‘Seven’, ‘The Pretty Things Are Going To Hell’, ‘New Angels Of Promise’, ‘The Dreamers’, and the b-side ‘We All Go Through’.

Some of the songs on Omikron were different from the ‘hours…’ versions. ‘New Angels Of Promise’, which featured in the game’s introduction, originally had the word “Omikron” in the chorus. This was changed to “Suspicious minds” for the album version.

I approached it as though I was doing a movie, so we wrote a soundtrack for it. There’s ambient music, fight scene music, music for the strip clubs and all that – and being a French-designed game, there are plenty of strip clubs. You have to get the game to get the music.
David Bowie
New Zealand Herald, 26 June 1999

There were also four instrumentals: ‘Awaken 2’, ‘Jangir’, ‘Qualisar’ and ‘Thrust’. ‘Awakened 2’ was an instrumental version of ‘No One Calls’, while ‘Thrust’ became ‘1917’; both songs were released as b-sides for singles from ‘hours…’.

Reeves and I have been writing music and songs for movies for years, but I think the idea of developing a soundtrack idea for a game is really quite unusual. The idea of writing songs specifically for a game is really a compelling factor, and it’s the one thing that we wanted to do. And also they didn’t give us a preconceived idea of what we should do; we were left to our own devices.

I moved right away from the stereotypical industrial game music sound… My priority in writing music for Omikron was to give it an emotional subtext. It feels to me as though Reeves and I have achieved that. We both worked really close with Quantic Dream to come up with eight new songs for the game.

David Bowie, 1999
E3 press conference