Will Whitmore as the voice of the apocalypse

Wasteland 2
Wasteland 2 “Ranger” concept art

As a working musician, William Elliott Whitmore has become a jack-of-all-trades. In addition to six full-length records and a handful of singles, Whitmore has provided music for various movies, documentaries and television shows. In 2010, Whitmore recorded his own version of the old cowboy tune “Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie” for the emotional climax of the western themed Red Dead Redemption video game, which sold 15 million copies.

Whitmore explained how he chose his work and how he felt his songs, which can be very personal, fit into the context of movies or television.

“Under the right circumstances, with the right people, I’m glad to do the work,” said Whitmore. “If it’s music, the song has to match the scene, add something emotional to it or serve a purpose.”

Now Whitmore is taking another gig in the video game industry by voicing the lead character in Wasteland 2, a highly-anticipated post-apocalyptic RPG 25 years in the making. Sounds kinda wacky, right? To make this story even weirder, the first Wasteland game was released in 1988 and developed a cult following over the years, generating the need for a sequel. That need began to steamroll until a California company, inXile Entertainment, created a Kickstarter project for Wasteland 2 with a goal of $900,000. By the end of their campaign in April, the company had raised almost $3 million dollars in funds to finance their game. The project ended up being the 10th largest Kickstarter project of all time.

Whitmore, who is in the process of recording a new album of original work with his cousin Luke Tweedy, explained the oddity of landing a gig like this while taking a break in the control room at Flat Black Studios.

“It was weird. They just contacted me,” said Whitmore. “They said the president of [inXile] was a fan of my music and they wanted me to do the voice for this character.

The company offered to fly him to a fancy studio in New York, put him up for a couple days and record the dialogue. But, Whitmore felt more comfortable recording his lines here in Iowa City, and convinced the company to let him record at Flat Black Studios by sending them a demo that he and Tweedy recorded after first being offered the project. Once inXile heard the demo, they gave Whitmore and Tweedy the green light. They sent a director from Los Angeles to the small, garage studio and they went to work.

“Luke and I have worked on so much stuff,” said Whitmore. “It made sense to do it here. His setup is world class. I’d put him up against anyone in New York.”

Whitmore’s character in Wasteland 2 is a general in charge of a misfit company of soldiers who are sent out west after Los Angeles is inexplicably destroyed and “wiped off the map,” explained Tweedy.

After seeing early gameplay footage, Whitmore’s role as the grizzled general makes perfect sense. The character sports a cowboy hat, full beard and aviator sunglasses, a look that you could easily and comically imagine Whitmore dressed up as if he were in a Hollywood movie.

The game has a similar feeling to the Borderlands or Fallout video game series, and describes itself as the “godfather of post-apocalyptic RPGs.”

The recording process, which is only half finished, has taken two, short sessions of rapid fire recording and sending files back to Los Angeles for approval.

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“It was a lot harder than I thought it was gonna be,” said Whitmore. “How do you sound angry when you’re not angry, you know? It gave me more respect for actors.”

He laughed and brought up Robert DeNiro as a comparison.

“When DeNiro acts sad, he has to tap into something that’s not there. But what I’m doing is a little sillier,” explained Whitmore.” I mean, I’m being attacked by killer plants.”

Wasteland 2 is set for release in October 2013 on PC and Mac.