Dren McDonald


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The PTEROUS album is out now!

PTEROUS the full length album has just been released by Appearing Records.The album, Pterous, is a collection of 'orchestral' guitar instrumentals. Each piece is played entirely by McDonald, as he layered hundreds and hundreds of tracks of guitars (electric and acoustic), steel strings, nylon strings, ukulele, baritone guitars, fretless bass, and mixed in Dolby Atmos (Apple Spatial Audio) available on AppleMusic or Tidal. The album cover (as well as each of the pre-release singles) was created by artist, Christine MacTernan.Pterous is available now at the following platforms:
Bandcamp | AppleMusic | Spotify | Amazon Music | Tidal

A Mescaform Hill Music Story

A Mescaform Hill Music Story is a new approach to a soundtrack recording, just released by Appearing Records.Rather than release a series of short cues for this VR animation, where the tracks might be jumbled out of sequence and played out of context with playlists in random. So this is a 17 minute long, single piece of audio with all of the cues and sounds from the VR animation. The score features a live string quintet, African vocalists, fretless banjo, and modular synthesis.A Mescaform Hill Music Story is available now at the following platforms:
AppleMusic | Spotify | Amazon Music | Tidal

Dren's previous release, polyheDren was released in April '22 with guests, The Residents, Josh Freese (Foo Fighters, NIN, Sting), Nels Cline (Wilco), Iva Bittová (Nonesuch, ECM Records) and more!

Quotes about Dren's work

"The score, composed by Dren McDonald, adds measurably to the experience..." - BoingBoing review of Gathering Sky"A journey into new territory..." - PopMatters review of The String Arcade"This is one of those examples where The String Arcade takes a theme from a game and makes it better! 5/5 Stars" - Examiner on The String Arcade"Dren's soundtrack for Dangerous Dave hit the target perfectly - 80s chip tune references within a modern hillbilly sound that's bent towards the kind of diversity that games demand in their music." - John Romero (game designer, Dangerous Dave, Doom, Quake)


dren mcdonald | Pterous

Pterous is the full length album of 'guitar orchestra' pieces, just released (2023) by Appearing Records.Pterous is available now at the following platforms:
Bandcamp | AppleMusic | Spotify | Amazon Music | Tidal

polyheDren | PSYCHIC

polyheDren is a collaboration project, and the 1st album, Psychic, includes a list of great guest artists that collaborated with Dren such as The Residents, Nels Cline (Wilco), **Josh Freese **(NIN, Sting, Devo, Danny Elfman), Ivá Bittova(Nonesuch), Rini, and many more. 100% of the sales/streaming from this record goes to Bay Area Music Project, a non-profit after school music program.

Gunman Taco Truck Original Soundtrack

Gunman Taco Truck is an original score for the hit video game featuring Mariachi music from a dystopian future where maybe a good microphone, a tuba, or a guitarrón is not easy to come by (due to the accidental explosion of a few nuclear bombs). It features fantastic trumpets, violins, drums, percussion and lots of guitars (acoustic, baritone, electrics etc). This soundtrack is also featured as a music kit for Valve's CounterStrike Global Offensive.

Dangerous Dave in the Deserted Pirate Hideout Original Soundtrack

A hybrid of bluegrass/country and chip tunes that we call "chipbilly", this is the soundtrack to John Romero's (Doom/Quake) classic game, but the high definition remake. The original was released in the late 80s and was one of the most popular PC shareware games in history. In 2014 it was re-released on iOS/Android.

Gathering Sky Original Soundtrack

This award winning game (and soundtrack) features a live chamber ensemble score combined with ambient synth textures. The video game is special in that there is no scoring, no language, no dying or winning...it's simply an experience.

The String Arcade

Classic video game music arranged for string quartet! There are tunes from Galaga, Minecraft, Plants Vs. Zombies, Legend of Zelda, Ecco the Dolphin, Portal 2, Sonic and more. There are a few original pieces from Dren in here as well. 100% of the proceeds from this release goes to Bay Area Music Project a non-profit after school music project.


Dren has made many different impressions throughout his musical adventure. From touring and releasing records with Giant Ant Farm in the 90s, founding Vaccination Records Co, to working with artists like The Residents, Nels Cline & Ivá Bittova, composing/sound designing for over 75 video games, scoring for film, TV, VR/AR and theme parks up to his current releases; his approach to sonic creativity is driven by curiosity. Visit the Nerdtracks site for details on his interactive music and audio work.

Dren performing at The Residents Secret 50th Annivesary show in San Francisco, 2023 w/ Josh Freese and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Ensemble - photo: Josh Keppel

Always creating and experimenting with new instruments, arrangements, musical structures and collaborators , new music and sounds are always being recorded from his studio.


ArtistAlbum TitleYearLabelRole
The ResidentsSecret Show (Live in San Francisco)2024Cherry Red RecordsFeatured Guest Performer (along with Les Claypool, Josh Freese, David J, Ego Plum, and Pamela Z)
Star Stunted IIMahagony Wood2024Melodic VirtueFeatured Guest Performer, along with Nick Rhodes (Duran Duran), Rob Crow (Pinback), Roy Mayorga (Ministry), Neil Burke (Men's Recovery Project), and Aaron Tanner (Melodic Virtue)
MastermindsCounter-Strike Music Kits Box Set (V/A)2023Mastermind RecordingsArtist
Dren McDonaldPterous2023Appearing RecordsArtist/Composer/Producer
Dren McDonaldA Mescaform Hill Music Story (soundtrack)2023Appearing RecordsArtist/Composer/Producer
polyheDrenPsychic2022BAMP RecordsArtist/Composer/Producer - collaboration project including guests Nels Cline (Wilco), Josh Freese (Foo Fighters), Iva Bittová (Nonesuch), The Residents and more.
Dren McDonaldEverywhere Spies2022Nerdtracks RecordingsArtist/Composer/Producer
Dren McDonaldWelcome to Vampire City2022Nerdtracks RecordingsArtist/Composer/Producer
Fingerprints World OrchestraFingerprints Single2017Fingerprints MusicArranger/Producer
Dren McDonaldGunman Taco Truck Original Game Soundtrack2017Nerdtracks RecordingsArtist/Composer/Producer
Dren McDonaldDangerous Dave in the Deserted Pirate's Hideout Original Game Soundtrack2015Nerdtracks RecordingsArtist/Composer/Producer
Dren McDonaldGathering Sky Original Game Soundtrack2015Nerdtracks RecordingsArtist/Composer/Producer
The String ArcadeThe String Arcade2014BAMPArranger/Composer/Producer
GrndNtl BrndsThe Great Dumbening2002Vaccination Records Co.Band Member
Robot ArmGiant2002Motherf**kingjackson RecordingsGuest Performer
Moe!kestra!, Knormalities V. 2Exclamatories!2000DephineKnormal/AmanitaGuest performer including Nels Cline & Alboth
GrndNtl BrndsCommunicating for Influence2000Vaccination Records Co.Band Member
Compilation (V/A)Rawk Party2000Vaccination Records Co.Band Member/producer
Compilation (V/A)Funny Rubber Hand1998Vaccination Records Co.Band Member/producer
Compilation (V/A)Oh God, Mother, Blood1997Vaccination Records Co.Band Member/producer
Giant Ant FarmDressed in Milk1996Vaccination Records Co.Band Member/Producer
Compiliation (V/A)Eyesore: A Stab at The Residents1996Vaccination Records Co.Band Member/Producer - included artists such as Primus, Stan Ridgway, Cracker, Idiot Flesh, Snakefinger and more.
John CageEuroperas 3 & 4 (Long Beach Opera)1995Mode RecordsContributor (turntables)
Giant Ant FarmFortune!1994Vaccination Records Co.Band Member


J2 (or J squared when there's no subscript available) is the last piece on PTEROUS, a series of 'guitar orchestra' compositions. Illustrations by Christine MacTernan (taken from her cover art for the album and singles), still photography and videography by Maddox McDonald.

D, Pt. 1 is the 2nd piece in the PTEROUS series of 'guitar orchestra' compositions and this is the music video, illustrations by Christine MacTernan.

Mescaform Hill: The Missing Five, is a VR animated story from Edward Madojemu that Dren audio directed and also composed the score. It’s part of 2022’s Tribeca Immersive Festival.. Mescaform Hill can also be viewed as a 2D experience (no longer locked to a VR headset) and you can watch it in your browser here.

16 Gold Candles is the song that Dren collaborated on with The Residents and Josh Freese for the full length polyheDren release, Psychic. The release is a fundraiser for Bay Area Music Project, with all sales going to support music education for children who can’t afford music lessons.

Lonely Lullaby is the song that Dren collaborated on with Czech musician, Ivá Bittova. It includes background vocals from Zoe Ellis and Ashling Cole, plus the saxophones of Kevin Robinson. This is the lyrics video for that tune.

Fingerprints is a short documentary about a music collaboration between a group of kids in Haiti and a group of kids in Alameda, CA. Dren scored this short documentary and arranged/produced the finished songs.

The launch trailer for the game/experience "Gathering Sky"

Music video for polyheDren's Buckaroo Moon song featuring Sangin' Sara Williams (Ledesi) and Daria Novo on vocals.

Music video for polyheDren's Planted A Flower song featuring Ali Paris (Alicia Keys) and Misha Khalikulov.

Music video for polyheDren's Film Stars song featuring Moorea Dickason and Daria Novo on vocals.

Music video for polyheDren's Tethys Express song featuring Rini on vocals.


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Another The Residents related project here! Dren was asked to participate in this cover of Mahagony Wood for this 10" limited vinyl release from Melodic Virtue. He played upright bass and pedal steel guitar on this!"This cover of The Residents’ and Renaldo & The Loaf’s “Mahogany Wood” was created by Nick Rhodes (Duran Duran), Rob Crow (Pinback, PLOSIVS), Roy Mayorga (Ministry, Nausea), Dren McDonald, Neil Burke (Men's Recovery Project), and Aaron Tanner to celebrate the release of The Residents: A Sight for Sore Eyes, Vol. 2! Also features a mix by GRAMMY Award Winner, **Joshua Blair **(Paul McCartney, Mark Ronson)!"You can order the 10" at Melodic Virtue here And while you are there, check out A Sight For Sore Eyes Vol. 2, the 2nd coffee table book that MV created with The Residents, and Dren has several stories in there as well.

To celebrate their 50th Anniversary, The Residents undertook a secret, one-off performance in their hometown of San Francisco. Joined on stage by a hand-picked cast of guest artists, the group and their friends performed a dream setlist of classics from the band’s back catalogue, including songs never performed live before.Dren was asked to write an arrangement of a couple of their songs and to perform it at the concert. His band included Josh Freese (Foo Fighters) on drums and a collection of musicians from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. The concert was put together with The Residents and conductor Edwin Outwater, and also features performances by Les Claypool (Primus), David J (Bauhaus, Love & Rockets), and Ego Plum (Cuphead Show).You can order the 2LP, CD or DVD here at Cherry Red Records.

The CounterStrike Global Offensive Masterminds Box Set is out!

Masterminds is the full set of music from the CounterStrike Global Offensive Masterminds Music Kit and it's now available in one collection on all streaming services..The album contains three pieces from Dren's Gunman Taco Truck Soundtrack (which were edited for use in CS:GO ) and also contains some mixed up genres from composers Matt Levine, Austin Wintory, Ben Bromfield, Tree Adams, Sam Marshall, and Tim Huling. CS:GO is the MOST PLAYED game on Steam, and literally millions of players have been listening to this music since the kit was introduced in 2020. Masterminds CS:GO is available now at the following platforms: on AppleMusic or Tidal.
Spotify | Amazon Music | YouTube