From Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain to Wanted: Dead, Stefanie Joosten has had a storied career in the video game world. However, recently the actress has expanded her creative projects to the music realm, releasing her first album Singing to the Sky last year. This month Joosten’s sophomore album Intermission was released, continuing her exploration of sound and lyricism.
Many players will recognize Joosten from her role of Quiet in The Phantom Pain, one of the most critically-acclaimed Metal Gear Solid titles, or her role as Vivienne in Wanted: Dead. Despite the dark tones of these characters, her albums take on a much lighter hue, drawing inspiration from disco music and classic 1980s sounds. Intermission also marks Joosten’s second time collaborating with Giorgio Moroder, an Italian composer often called the “Father of Disco.”
Screen Rant sat down with Stefanie Joosten to discuss her new album, her creative growth as an artist, and her time working with Hideo Kojima.
Stefanie Joosten Talks Intermission
Screen Rant: First, I would just love to talk about your evolution from your past album to this one. I know Singing to the Sky took a lot of ’80s disco inspiration. Has your vision for this new album changed significantly in any way?
Stefanie Joosten: Yes. There has been a shift in the vision, because Singing to the Sky really was a very nostalgic album, so we were looking for authentic, almost ’80s sounding. It was really trying out this feeling of having a nostalgic synth pop album, and the overall themes were very happy. And compared to Singing to the Sky, Intermission has shifted towards more of a bittersweetness. I put a lot more of personal experience into it.
And I think what my goal was, was trying to convey the beauty of the bitter moments in life to – I think it can be very encouraging for people. At least that’s what I hope, is that they’ll listen to some of the songs and can see the beauty of breakups or of heartbreak. It’s a bit more diverse. It’s a journey across these different harder experiences in life, but still encouragingly.
What kind of lessons do you feel like you learned with making the first album that have transferred into your creative process for this one?
Stefanie Joosten: I think more than finding out a clear lesson from my previous album was probably getting more comfortable with opening up while performing as a singer. Also, I came to realize that when I’m singing, it’s very close to my work as an actor as well, since I’m portraying characters in the songs that I’m performing. So I got to see it that way, which was very helpful too, to actually be a character in my songs.
It’s funny, one of my next questions was about your history as a voice actress and if there are any things from that which you found transfer to this. So clearly in a way, yes, you have, in terms of playing a character and that sort of thing. But I’m curious if you have anything else to speak to in terms of your acting parlaying into this new experience?
Stefanie Joosten: Well, it’s a different form of expression. And I just really enjoy diversifying the ways to tell these stories through characters, through songs. And it’s just approaching things from a different side, which is really fun and interesting to do.
Are there any particular tracks on this new album that you are either especially proud of or you feel like were especially challenging to get just right for whatever reason?
Stefanie Joosten: Well, there are tracks on the album that are cover songs of existing songs from the ’80s, and there are original songs. So in the original songs, I got to tell my own story.
But I’m also very, very proud of the song Tryouts for the Human Race, which was released a couple of weeks ago, mostly because I had the huge honor of Giorgio Moroder himself to join me on the track, in the vocals, on the vocoder as well. I was so starstruck that he was willing to join in, and it was just an amazing experience. It’s a song with a lot of humor, so we really had fun working on it, and I’m just so happy with how it turned out.
How did that collaboration first start for you guys?
Stefanie Joosten: Well, it was interesting. The first step of collaborating with Giorgio Moroder happened coming from my work on the soundtrack for the game Wanted: Dead, which Raney Shockne, who’s a producer that worked with Giorgio very closely.
He worked very intensely on the soundtrack of Wanted: Dead. And from one thing to another, through Raney I received word that Giorgio was interested in working with me directly. So he was already an executive producer on the last album Singing to the Sky, and for my next one, he was interested in being even more involved.
I’m just incredibly honored for Giorgio to want to collaborate with a relatively new artist on the stage as I am. It’s still quite incredible and unbelievable how it came together.
Yeah, that’s awesome. And going back in your history a little bit, you mentioned Wanted: Dead. Following the release of that, you worked on the Vivienne’s Chow series on YouTube. I’m curious how that first came about and what your role was, creatively speaking, for those episodes.
Stefanie Joosten: Yeah. Vivienne’s Late Night Chow, it’s a video series that’s part of the Wanted: Dead universe. And how it came together was – it’s quite funny because on Wanted: Dead I worked as a casting director. But of course I worked very closely together with the creative director for Wanted: Dead, Sergei Kolobashkin, and there were a lot of themes in Wanted: Dead, a lot of scenes and mini-games already that involved food.
And there was also the concept of food porn in games, which I really do enjoy. I love cooking, and I just appreciate all kinds of food and especially Japanese food. I just have a really good relationship with food and cooking.
And from one thing to another, we were discussing Vivienne’s past, her character background. Vivienne, she’s a gunsmith in Wanted: Dead. So we wanted to create something really crazy for her backstory, and it turned out to be that she was a celebrity chef before the events of Wanted: Dead took place. And we figured it would be really cool to have these bits of cooking show videos as a collectible in the game, and that’s how it came to be.
We actually came up with this crazy idea of creating a real-life film project, basically just to put it in the game, which was really cool because aside from doing the motion capture and voice acting for Vivienne, I also got to actually portray her on-screen. We just had such a blast doing the cooking show.
Did you have a say in which foods each episode was?
Stefanie Joosten: Yeah. I did bring in a lot of ideas, especially the Japanese dishes, tonkatsu and ebi fry, which were my ideas probably. There was a lot of food discussion also about the food being portrayed in the game, and there ended up being a ramen mini-game in Wanted: Dead already. So we had a good variety of dishes.
Going back even farther a little bit, of course Metal Gear Solid was a really big first part of your career. I would just love to hear about any moments that stand out to you, from working with Kojima, whether it’s anything especially funny or breakthrough creative moments in the recording process or anything like that.
Stefanie Joosten: Well, it was a really big and incredible experience working on Metal Gear Solid V. It was one of the first big budget games that I worked on, and the motion capture process was very intense. I really loved the entire process. It was an intense experience for the actors. Motion capture in general, it’s – even more so than working on film – it feels like you’re so immersed in the world that you’re in as a character. And that was a really beautiful experience.
And what was really cool was how devoted Kojima was to bringing the characters to life, that even as actors we got the opportunity to undergo a very short military training course before we even went into motion capture of the game.
So there was Mori-san who, in Tokyo, was the military advisor for Metal Gear Solid V. And I believe also he worked extensively on previous Metal Gear projects. And we got basically, an extremely condensed version of SWAT training and some other training sequences that were not necessarily related to the characters we were portraying.
But it was just such an incredible bonus even on top of the experience you get from doing the motion capture itself. It was just so cool to learn these new skills, and that was quite incredible.
What was Kojima like, just from a directorial standpoint? You mentioned him being really devoted to the game.
Stefanie Joosten: Very, very devoted. Also very involved in the motion capture process. He was there most of the time really working closely with all of his actors really just making sure we had a good understanding of the characters we were portraying.
And going back to the present, I’m curious just if there’s anything else that you want people to know about this upcoming album.
Stefanie Joosten: Well, first and foremost, it’s coming out on November 10. It’s called Intermission. And the title came up while we were working on the project, an intermission came up as – it’s a short pause between parts of a play usually. But somehow it felt very appropriate, as working on the album felt like a break during my work on other projects, mostly gaming projects.
And it really felt like somehow it was a time for me to unwind and express myself in a personal and different manner, so that’s how we came up with the title. I’m very proud of it, I’m really excited to share it with everyone.
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Intermission is available now.