Artist Spotlight (Jan. - Aug. 2014)


By Jan Hoeglund

Thank you so much for taking the time Matthew. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

Thanks for having me. I grew up playing classical piano from a young age and when I was in high school I started playing guitar as well. Oddly enough I was never in any bands or anything but I did occasionally jam with friends. In school I was always a math and science kid and never really considered the possibility of pursuing music as a career. I kind of always thought that I would go into either mechanical or electrical engineering or some other math/science related field. I was one of those weird people that thoroughly enjoyed architectual drafting and accounting classes. When the time came to look at colleges my parents and I talked at length about what I would possibility study and that was when the idea of going into music was first introduced. We visited various colleges/universities in Minnesota and after doing some research we came upon a music school in Boston called Berklee College of Music. I was very impressed by the programs they offered so we took a little trip out there and visited the campus. Needless to say I was hooked in about four seconds. I knew that this was the place that I had to be. I applied and was thrilled to see that I had gotten accepted. When I first started at Berklee I was set on doing a dual major in Music Business/Management and Music Production/Engineering. It wasn’t until my sophomore when I saw my roommate Kevin, who was a film scoring major, writing music for film. I remember thinking to myself how amazing that was. I signed up for a class called Introduction to Film Scoring and the rest is history. After graduating with a dual major in Film Scoring and Music Business/Management I rolled the dice and moved to Los Angeles. I interned with composer Richard Gibbs for almost a year and then attended the University of Southern California’s Scoring for Motion Picture and Television graduate program. Since graduating from USC I have worked for various composers around town including Walter Murphy, Stacey Hersh, David Schwartz, and most recently Brian Tyler.

When did you realize that you wanted to become a composer? Do you remember a specific moment where it just made "click" in your head?

It has been a serendipitous journey, there wasn’t just one moment when it clicked. Every time I go see John Williams conduct I am reminded why I decided to get into this crazy business. It’s the effect that music has on people, the way it moves people, the way it inspires people. That is something that is endlessly inspirational.

Now, you are part of Brian Tyler's team. How did you got to join the team of a major Hollywood composer and what would you say is your main role on his team?

I was referred by my good friend Bob Lydecker who was a classmate of mine at USC. I was Brian’s assistant for almost three years working on projects such as Thor 2: The Dark World, “Iron Man 3”, “Now You See Me”, “Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag”, and “Far Cry 3”. My role has varied over the years, it really depends on the project and what is required. I will say though, I always have a blast working on his projects. He has one of the best teams around.

Take us through a day in your life. Do you have to go into the studio every day? What are usual your hours?

I’m an early riser. I usually start writing around 7:30am, I find that I get way more accomplished that way. When I was assisting Brian the “normal” work day would be from 9:00am­ to 6:30pm but there is almost no such thing as a normal work day over at his studio. Some days I would work 9 hours, some days I would work 12 hours, or my longest shift which was over 50 ("Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3"). The important thing is to be organized and have daily/weekly goals for yourself. It’s easy to get flustered and anxious when starting a project but if you take it day by day and focus on one cue at a time you’ll make it to the finish line and it won’t be a mad dash to the end.

Of all the projects you got to work on, which one was your favorite? Do you prefer scoring movies or video games?

It’s hard to say because each project brings its own unique challenges and rewards. I’m extremely proud of my latest score for Chiller’s (NBCUniversal) film “Deep in the Darkness”. Writing for the orchestra is my favorite thing in the world and I was fortunate to have a pretty good size group for that film. The working process for film and games is pretty different especially when it comes to the quantity of music you have to write. Big games like Assassin’s Creed could have 3­4 hours of music where as the typical film has around 65­70. I feel much closer to the music I write for film because most of the music for video games isn’t written to picture.

You have a pretty wide range of styles? What comes more natural to you and what takes more effort? Where do you draw your inspiration from when you're writing something that takes more effort? Who are your favorite composers?

I’m definitely more of a traditional writer. I still think melodically and harmonically about absolutely everything. I compose most of my music at the piano (unless it’s guitar-­based) sketching themes and chord changes on paper. After whole cues are laid out I jump into Cubase and orchestrate. If I’m recording live musicians I export the midi from Cubase and import into Finale and do any necessary tweaks to the orchestration. My music doesn’t sound like his but John Williams is my biggest source of inspiration. His level of craft and orchestral brilliance always keeps me motivated. There’s just something magical about an orchestra without all the other electronic and massive drums laid over the top. I just love the purity and raw emotion of it.

Writing electronic music is definitely harder for me because so much of it is dependent on really good production chops but I do enjoy it very much. I’m actually working on an electronic (glitch­hop etc.) EP this summer.

What are you currently working on?

I just finished working for composer Brian Tyler as a Score Producer for "The Expendables 3". I will be starting my electronic EP soon, I’m just waiting for some new analog gear to arrive. I will be composing the score for a 1960’s period film titled “Wishin’ and Hopin’” in a month or two.

What does your workstation look like?

I actually have a pretty simple setup. I have two audio interfaces (UA Apollo and Avid HD OMNI) so I can run Cubase and Pro Tools simultaneously on the same machine. These are both to clocked to an Apogee Big Ben. The output of both interfaces goes to a PreSonus Monitor Station so I can switch between each interface and two sets of studio monitors. On the midi side of things I use a MOTU Midi Express XT as a midi interface for all of my analog gear. I have a Behringer BCF­2000 that I use as a midi mixer for Pro Tools. Lastly, I have a Korg padkontrol which I use to do expression mapping (articulation key switches) in Cubase.

I always try to incorporate as much of a live element as possible so I use a various assortment of guitars, ukulele, mandolin, bouzouki, and various small percussion. I modified my walk-­in closet as an isolation booth so when I’m tracking myself I use V-Control on my iPad to control my rig.

Do you guys use a lot of custom samples at the studio? What is your favorite Soundiron instrument?

It depends on the project but if I’m doing something that is very sample heavy I will make sure to include some of my own sounds. I love all of the Soundiron Tuned Percussion instruments, great for adding color.

What do you do when you're NOT working? What helps you to keep a balanced life?

I go to tons and tons of concerts. Going to live shows is still one of my favorite escapes from the real world. I saw Arcade Fire play The Forum a couple days ago and I’m seeing NIN, Soundgarden, FYF Fest, and John Williams later this month. I also go to the gym pretty regularly and go to the cinema as much as possible.

If you were to teach a beginner's class on film scoring, what would you tell those young composers? What would you have liked to know before stepping into the world of composing for media?

I had never heard the term “ghost­writing” until I moved to Los Angeles. It’s a little disappointing to see how much music is ghost written on big projects but that also means there are more opportunities to write on big projects. Stay positive and believe in your craft. It’s very easy to become jaded and cynical especially in Los Angeles. It’s definitely not an easy career path but it can be extremely rewarding. It’s important to eat healthy and get exercise for those moments when you have to stay up for 24 hours or more without sleep.

More Matthew? Go here:


By Jan Hoeglund

Danny, thank you so much for taking the time and congratulations again on the placement of your music in the new The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies trailer. Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. What's your educational background?

I bypassed the traditional education route, being pretty much self-taught my whole life (with many talented mentors along the way). I began my music obsession as a kid, playing guitar everyday religiously. My parents bought me a 4 track recorder for my 12th birthday, I then spread my obsession to recording my songs, multi-tracking myself playing drums, bass, piano, and getting really into the engineering as well. I played in some serious bands over the last 15 years, working with some members of Linkin Park and NIN, learning and honing the craft of writing and producing. I also produced albums for a ton of bands in my home town of Sacramento, California. I was devoted to studying the science of engineering, and mixing. I spent a lot of grueling hours editing drums and tuning vocals haha. When I first moved to LA five years ago, I began working for composer, Paul Haslinger. I helped out with some writing on the films he was working on at that time. All the while working on my first trailer album release “From The Blue”.

Now for those out there who don't know what a trailer music composer does, please tell us a little bit about that and how you first got into doing music for advertising?

I first got into writing for trailers when my manager sent some of my early demos to a music supervisor at a big trailer house years ago. The supervisor really liked my sound, so I would get a lot of opportunities to submit cues for specific projects, always with an over night turnaround. I learned how to write really fast, riding the anxiety of having a 12 hours turnaround for a cue. After a couple years of developing my production and building up a nice amount of cues, I released my first album and was suddenly in almost every trailer in the summer of 2011! I’ve been working steady on releases ever since. I've been really fortunate to be in the fold in that world.

You are part of Position Music team, alongside other fantastic trailer composers such as Jo Blankenburg, Jack Trammel, James Dooley and others. Do you guys collaborate a lot or even meet up?

I know all the composers at Position pretty well, they are all great dudes and super talented. Jack Trammel and I actually go way back. We worked on music together in Sacramento for one of my bands he produced. We all get to meet up at events here and there, or for an occasional hike, though every one is pretty busy these days. The only collaboration I’ve done was called “Destroyers In The Sky” with Jim Dooley, featured in the “Jupiter Ascending” trailer. The collaboration was still very remote. Jim basically sent me an orchestral track he was working on and I went in and did my thing to it.

Take us through your thought process when you work on a new track. Do you start with a melody, a percussion line, the sound design?

Each track begins in a unique way it seems. It all depends what kind of cue I’m working on I guess. Usually the melodic emotional cues start on my baby grand piano. I record myself just jamming out ideas for an hour or so until I find something that speaks to me. Sometimes its on the guitar, or sometimes I’ll just start going through my sample libraries and a sound will inspire me, and I’ll start tweaking it and building around some cool sounds. Usually its always the melody or tonal elements that drive the beginnings of a cue and percussion and sound design come in the middle/end of the phase.

Without giving away any of your secrets, what tips can you give other trailer composers? For example, what is more important these days sound effects or melody?

I think my biggest tip for other composers is try to find your own sound. The biggest issue with trailer music these days is so much sounds the same. There’s a lot of knock off cues and sound-a-likes. The sound in demand is always changing every year too. One year everything is really sound designy, then the traditional orchestral is the trend the next year. Its always changing and its almost impossible to try and chase the sound. You just have to do what inspires you and hope it resonates!

What things should a trailer composer stay away from (Pianos, Choirs, etc.)? And how many sections do you usually set out to create in each track?

I can’t say there’s any one thing to stay away from. The trends change so much, sometimes the clients all say NO choir, then later they’re all asking for choir. There’s a niche need for every style too. Some trailers have totally piano based cues, some sound design, some all hybrid action. It all just depends on what the movie is, and what the studios and clients are envisioning. Its too much to try and worry about, so you just have to not think too hard about it all, and just focus on writing great music. That's my philosophy anyways!

My cues usually are structured with 3 acts, but most often they extend out to 5-6 acts with some extra little goodies in between. Typically, everyone asks, “can it go BIGGER at the end??” So when I think I’ve reached the end, I end up adding an even more frantic and huge back end to really bring it home.

What are you currently working on and what kind of trailer/game/movie would be your dream thing to work on?

I’m currently working on my next full length album the rest of the year which will also be my first live orchestral recording. I’m really excited about it and taking my sweet time on it to make it stand out. I have a couple feature films in the works that should be starting for me early next year too. I’m really super excited about them as its been almost 3 years in the making.

My dream film is actually the film I’ll be scoring next year called “The Prototype”. I cannot wait for it, the sound is a nice combination of subtle and ambient, to really gritty industrial. I’m looking forward to some day working on either an awesome sci-fi video game or even fantasy. I’m a huge fan of both genres.

What does your workstation look like?

My workstation currently is fairly simple. I have the new 6 core mac linked up to my old 8 core for a lot of my orchestral stuff in Vienna Ensemble Pro. I’m pretty much all in the box, but I run my live piano and guitar through my api 512 and every now and then I re-amp synths through my UA LA-610 to get a nice squashed tube sound. I have the iPad to do some automation or play with some cool synth apps. Lots of guitar pedals and guitars always in reach. I’m using the Focal Solo 6-Be’s as monitors too which I love (for now haha).

Listening through your tracks I do hear a lot of synthesizers and samples. What are your favorite Soundiron instruments? Do you use live instruments/vocalists a lot?

I have a ton of plug-ins, sometimes some independent companies I try out, and also a lot that I use a few times and forget that I have them haha. The only live elements I use usually are my guitar and my baby grand piano. I love to create a lot of weird ambient or unusual sounds with my guitar. I spend a good amount of time doing my own sound design as well. I make custom patches out of everything as well.

My favorite Soundiron release is actually the Tuned Artillery! Its one of the sickest and most unique sample library of any I have. I’m always looking for unusual small perc or tonal keys with tons of character. Either for piano type parts or for making “Ticky” high percussion lines. Seems like that's a totally overlooked thing with a lot of sample libraries. I could surely use way more of that stuff. I love the Sick series, and I’ve been using Requiem Light, Emotional Piano, Antidrum, Dhol Drums, Riq Drums, and Ambius for years as well. All the Soundiron samples are useful, high quality, and inspiring.


By Mike Peaslee

What inspired you to start creating music? Was it something that happened early as a kid on or did you gravitate toward it later on?

It was actually improvisation that led to an interest in composing. When I was a teenager I began taking jazz piano and improvisation lessons, which involved learning about music theory, harmony, etc. I found that I really enjoyed this aspect of music – the more creative side of improvising and composing. It was a refreshing change from the more technical and mechanical aspects of performing instruments.


What was your first instrument. What instruments do you play these days?

My first instrument was the piano. I started taking lessons around eight years old. Shortly afterwards I began learning classical alto saxophone. Later I learned a bit of guitar and drums. Nowadays I continue to play the piano and also the guitar. Unfortunately the saxophone is in a case collecting dust.

What led you to become a media composer?

Growing up I loved video game and film music. I was always listening to the video game scores as I played the games, or the dramatic music in the movie theaters. Around age seventeen I knew I wanted to be a media composer.

While I was at university Chance Thomas, a video game composer, came to speak about video game music. This perked my interested in being a video game composer – I saw it as a unique and emerging medium for scoring.

What style of end product do you enjoy working on most - games, TV, film or trailers?

I enjoy them all for different reasons, though currently I’d say I enjoy working on video game music the most. Video game music seems to offer more compositional freedom, as the music is comprised of standalone cues that aren’t scored directly to picture, and thus allow for more flexibility in the structure and form.

I also like the hybrid nature of video game scoring, in that many different instruments and styles are used. This can be the case for film and TV music as well, though I find games to require consistently diverse instrument palettes.

Do you prefer working alone or as part of a team? Do you interact closely with the production team as you shape a score or go with a more independent workflow?

I enjoy both approaches actually. I’m currently co-scoring a couple of games with other composers, though the music we are working on is fairly separate, so there isn’t a great deal of collaboration.

I interact very closely with the production team as I’m working on the score. Whether it is a director, a producer, etc, I’m always sending them the cues as I write them to get feedback and make adjustments. At the start of each project I like to understand as closely as possible the creative direction so that I can best meet the musical needs of the production.

What inspires you to compose? Do you sit down and just see where the mood takes you or is it more methodical?

Interesting question! It’s a combination of many things. I’m a fairly methodical composer, so I begin by first defining the instrument palette I will use. I like to write down the different instrument categories (such as strings, percussion, synths, guitars, etc), then select instruments from each category that will best serve the music cue. After that I map out the general form of the piece – the various sections, where to insert themes, the overall dramatic flow of the cue, etc.

I find that doing this preliminary organization before composing helps me have general parameters in place to define the overall musical approach. Then when I actually start composing I let the creative side take over and “go with the flow”.

Do you thrive on the pressure of deadlines or prefer a more relaxed pace?

Deadline do help bring some pressure and immediacy to getting the music done on time, though even on projects without hard deadlines I will still set my own timetables. However, I’ve found that it’s best to strike a careful balance between the structure of a deadline, but also not too rushed a production schedule. I find that I can be the most creative when the deadline is not so tight that things feel rushed. Creativity needs a bit of space to breath, so having a realistic deadline is always best.

What do you fear most when starting a new project?

Often it’s a fear of not making the score unique or memorable enough – something that stands out as diverse and distinct. One of the things I like to avoid is generic sounding music. I like to carefully plan out the different instruments I use, scoring approaches, etc, to ensure that each project has a unique music score.

There’s also the initial fear of sending the client the very first music cue for feedback, as you never know what the initial first reaction will be. Though I’m pretty good at adapting to feedback so this isn’t so much an issue.

You've scored some very different genres of film and television. Is there a particular film genre or type of scene you most enjoy scoring?

I enjoy scoring hybrid genres, in particular those that blend synthesizer and modern elements with the orchestra (such as sci-fi scores). These scores give me a chance to use traditional orchestra (strings/brass/percussion), but also to layer in electronic instruments, sound design elements, guitars, etc. I’ve done work as a sound designer for video games, so I enjoy using these different skill sets when composing.

I also like working in the action genre – writing fast and intense adrenaline-fueled music. I enjoy the challenge this gives in allowing me to work with a large ensemble for a powerful sound, and finding interesting ways to keep the music cue evolving and progressing for the length of the scene or track.

Can you tell us a little bit about your studio set up?

My studio is acoustically treated with bass traps and absorption/reflective panels to ensure a solid listening environment. My current monitors are Focal Twin6 Be, which provide great sonic accuracy. I have a 2014 Mac Pro loaded up with RAM and processing power. My DAW is Logic Pro. For virtual instruments I use a midi keyboard to play them in. I also have a collection of guitars that I’ll record if the score requires it. And of course many virtual instruments/plugins/software.

How do you balance samples and synths versus live recorded instruments?

I start by using the best possible virtual instruments, as this makes the mockup sound polished and allows me to envision how the live recordings will sound. I’ve been surprised at how close the mockups will sound to the live recordings – it’s a real testament to the quality of today’s virtual instruments.

If a project budget allows for a full orchestral recording, even still I will at times blend in some of the sampled strings to make the live strings sound a bit larger and more epic. An example of this was my score for Sony Online’s PlanetSide 2 video game – we recorded string and brass live, but used sampled percussion and at times sampled choir (actually Soundiron Mars/Venus choirs!) as well.

Having a good mix is critical in blending samples and synths with live instruments. When I blend synth elements with the orchestra I will carefully place the electronic instruments in the appropriate range (low/mid/high) so that the texture sounds balanced and full. In the same way that an orchestrator will ensure that all the instrument ranges are proportioned and balanced, likewise when composing a hybrid score the composer needs to be sensitive to the overall EQ balance and relationships between the different sonic elements.

Which Soundiron library do you find yourself using most? Any weird ones that have come in handy in unexpected ways?

I really enjoy the Mars/Venus choirs, they sound great! I’ve used these choirs on several video game projects, including PlanetSide 2 (Sony Online), Heroes Of Kingdoms (NetEase), and others. I also get regular use from the Apocalypse Percussion Ensemble – it’s great for large and impactful percussion.

Another Soundiron library that I’ve enjoyed is the Sick series – last year I composed an album of dark trailer music and I found some great use for these libraries. The Emotional Piano library is fantastic as well; I’ve used it on several projects. I’m currently using the Bamblong, Bamboo Stick Ensemble, and Little Epic Percussion on several projects. I enjoy these unique sounding instruments; they have a lot of character.

Any new projects that you can talk about?

I’m currently scoring a couple of exciting undisclosed video games for release later this year. I recently composed the score to the video game Dawngate (Electronic Arts), which is currently in beta phase. Another recent project of mine is the score to the online video game Lego Legends Of Chima Online (Warner Bros), a fun game that accompanies the television show of the same name. I also compose trailer music – a recent trailer music placement of mine was for the film Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.

Any last thoughts for our readers?

Keep writing music! If music is your passion then always stick with it and find new ways to be creative. I know I speak for many composers when I say many thanks to Soundiron for making such creative and inspiring instruments that help us composers bring the music to life. =)


By Gregg Stephens

What compelled you to start making music?

My father had quite a diverse album collection, and in my early teens I remember my father playing an album he loved “Bernstein Plays Brubeck Plays Bernstein” and I was completely mesmerized by this. I wore that LP out…I was sold right then and there. A few years later, I heard the Patrick Williams album “An American Concerto”… I loved the mix of genres…the colours, that rhythm section!!! Those two albums (and composers) inspired me throughout my college days and later, career. It drove me into this industry, to try and push some boundaries…to take risks, and unapologetically be adventurous in my writing.


What was your first instrument and what instruments do you play?

My first studied instrument was trumpet, and while at college we also had to take functional keyboard (although I sometimes call my technique an oven-mitt approach)… I also studied with Jimmy Bruno (jazz guitarist from Buddy Rich) on guitar. In my youth I also played and taught in several Drum Corps…so I was always hanging around great drummers and percussionists, and so, picked up a lot of concepts, and knowledge from those teachers/educators/players. These days most of my session work is on guitar.

What lead you to become a composer for media? Did you expect to end up in this field?

I can’t say I ever expected to end up in this field. Although I always had dreamed of it. I started as a jingle writer. That really was the beginning for me. I was hired on by a music house in Toronto, Canada, and spent 10 years writing jingles and ads – probably hundreds of commercials. And that was an eye opener for me. I was mentored by some of the best ad guys in Canada…and I was completely schooled by them. When I started, I was amazed on the speed and creativity of the guys. They taught me the ropes, the do and don’ts…I got put in my place, torn down, and built back up. And after 5 years or so I ended up being the head writer for the company. They taught me so much…..I’m very thankful for them.

After 5 years as the main writer, I was burning out on ad stuff, I felt I needed a new challenge. So I went into long format – TV series/Film, and started out on my own only doing long format and stopped the jingle work.

Do you prefer working alone or as a collaborative process? Do you interact closely with the production team as you shape a score or prefer a more solitary workflow?

Depends on the gig really…I’ve been involved in many writers camps for the labels, and those can be quite fun…back to actually putting an instrument in your hands and playing with other human beings. These days, because of budgets and time constraints (in TV land) you spend quite a lot of time by yourself in a room writing…and that can get quite uninspiring after a while. So, to answer the question, I love writing/playing with others when I can get the chance!! It’s just harder to manage that with the tight deadlines…

What styles of music or particular artists compel you most? How do you feel those influences have consciously or unconsciously shaped your sound?

I’ve always been attracted to groups/composers that have been a little outside the box. From Stravinsky, to Zappa, Amon Tobin, Weather Report, to John Cage. Unique blends of palettes and tonal colours really attract my ear. Whether it be classical or industrial grunge…

But to relax and rinse my palette, I always come back to the jazz greats – my regulars on my playlists are Miles, Bill Evans, and Coltrane…

What inspires you to compose? Do you sit down and just see where the mood takes you or is it more methodical?

Coming from a big jazz background, I believe I do my best sketching improvising… and with different instruments. Because that can change my approach very quickly. If you’re a guitar player, and that’s only what you write on, you’ll always be coming from that angle, and sometimes I find that can handcuff you or box you into a corner pretty quickly. So, I like starting out with an instrument I’m not so schooled in…it forces me to think differently. To work around my inabilities at that instrument, and come up with ideas I never would have come up with on one of my main instruments. Later on…I may bring it back to guitar (for example) but by then, it would have been all flushed out.

Do you thrive on the pressure of deadlines or prefer a more relaxed pace?

I prefer a deadline… I like the pressure. For me, I like that it forces me to go with my gut, and to not over-think a concept or idea. I can also procrastinate like no other – so a deadline keeps me in check.

What do you fear most when starting a new project?

To be honest, I think what every composer does – “I hope they like this”

Congratulations on the Juno Award win! How was the whole experience of being nominated and winning? What's your personal take on awards in general?

It was pretty surreal. I didn’t even know the album was even entered! So, to have the album recognized like that was quite a surprise, and lovely. I’ve never been in this industry with a goal to be recognized or famous. I just always wanted to create something that was interesting to me. Something to challenge me, make me uncomfortable, and to overcome those fears and challenges…that’s success to me.

You've scored some very different genres of film and television. Is there a particular film genre or type of scene you most enjoy scoring?

I would say my favorite is action/drama… I like the emotional curves, and the nuances.

Your work on Orphan Black creates the perfect mood for the show. What has influenced or inspired your vision for the score?

The creators of Orphan Black had sent me a large playlist of songs/scores that they liked. And that certainly steered me into a direction that we are at now. It was just a matter of sorting through it all and finding out what within the material that they were reacting too. They had quite a collection of stuff – from modern minimalism to dubstep and electronica.

There's a lot of sound design in your score for Orphan Black. How did you create the unique sounds in Helena's theme?

Helena’s theme was born out of two ideas and one happy mistake. I knew going in that I wanted to approach her score in a John Cage sort of way. I also was playing with a 12 tone row idea that I was working on…but I was concerned that it may be a little ‘out there’ for the producers. I had also purchased these instruments from Folktek – these sort-of circuit bent things that produced some odd and unusual sounds. So while working with all these ideas – I sort of went with the Cage idea with a partial tone row….then I started adding the Folktek stuff in. And that was the magic… it became its own thing very quickly.

The happy mistake was the screech sound that everyone remembers – that was a result of leaving a volume pedal up and the room monitors on…I got up to make a tea…came back, engaged record and bam! The screech was born and captured

Can you tell us a little bit about your studio set up?

I have two studio set ups…one in my home – more of a writers set up ….and one at my office downtown – that’s more of a typical studio setup.

I’m using Mac’s, with your typical outboard gear (pre’s, compressors, etc), some vintage mics (Neumann u87, km 184s, Cole 4038, etc) Adams monitors, Euphonics artist series mixing controllers, several keyboard controllers/perc pads), RAID drives, lots of instruments.

How do you balance the use of sampled instruments and synths vs. live recordings?

I’m a large advocate of - every cue MUST have at least one live instrument in there somewhere. To me it glues a mix together and makes it breathe. Also, I like to create a lot of ambiences myself from organic sources – manipulating them after (stretching, pitching etc…) From the most simple of sources – my washing machine, music stand, pots and pans, bicycle spokes --- anything that’ll create a tone or percussion element. A technique that I learned from you guys – with your bonus ambiences.

Which Soundiron library do you find yourself using most?

I’ve been a big fan since the early Tonehammer days. So I have a fair amount. Some of my regulars and favorites would include…the Ambius Collection, Antidrum, Bowed Bucket Bass (a personal fav), Rust, Twine Bass (another fav), and Bizarre Sitar.

Any new projects that you can talk about?

Not yet…. there’s another series in the works, and a feature film…


By Jan Hoeglund

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your musical background, influences, education, hopes, dreams?

I've been composing since I was a teen. I listened to just about anything and any style I could get my hands on, from Hendrix to John Williams. I started on guitar and piano in middle school and ended up studying composition at UNC-Chapel Hill. After getting my music degree, I played in rock bands that had major label deals and toured the U.S. and Europe, it was an incredible time of my life. In the 90's I opened my own recording studio and began scoring for television, films, commercials and video games. Since then, I've been very fortunate working in film and TV and and worked on over seventy video games.

When did you start scoring for media professionally? Was there a specific turning point that led you down this path?

I had some success composing for commercials for ad agencies in the early 90s. That work gave me great experience for scoring other media like TV, film and video games. My first game was "Dark Side Of The Moon" created by SouthPeak Interactive in 1998, I was hooked on scoring for games after that. Dark Side had over seventy minutes of cinematic scores, it was a blast! After that experience I was contacting everyone I could find to get more work in games.

Take us through a typical day in your studio. It starts with coffee and then... ?

Coffee of course, waking up in the morning is important:) I love mornings in the studio when ideas are new and fresh. The first thing I usually do is audition different sounds and libs that I might use for a particular project and familiarize myself with new patches and sounds. It's amazing how listening to patches can spark an idea for a new composition. Then I might listen to some favorite soundtracks that are in the style of what I'm composing…you know, something to help clear my head and prepare diving in...

Aside from video game scoring, you are also well known as a trailer music composer. Was that something you specifically chose to do or something that just happened along the way?

I've been very fortunate to have worked on many different facets of the music business including music for trailers. Having a knack of composing in many different styles doesn't hurt either. At first, composing for trailers wasn't something I sought after, but I love it. Creating music for trailers is really awesome, it's like doing the 100 yard dash. You start out of the gate running as fast as you can and then race to the finish line!

You've worked on a lot of game scores, including Rage, Pacific Rim, Dark Reign, Dead Space and many more. Which were the most fun to write? Which of them presented the greatest creative challenges and how did you push through them?

I have so many favorites. My heart still belongs to The Hobbit scores. I was also able to play a lot of acoustic instruments on those tracks. RAGE could be my overall fave, the whole experience of working on RAGE was the perfect gig for me. The ID audio director Christian Antkow gave me great license to explore on the RAGE tracks, he's one of the best audio directors in the business. And of course the live orchestral recordings of Dead Space at Skywalker Ranch were incredible to work on. Being a part of the music/audio team on Dead Space was a dream come true.

What project are you currently hard at work on?

I'm afraid I can't say, but it's an action fantasy score. I'm using Olympus Choir ALL the time:).

What kind of system are you running these days (Mac/PC, DAW, hardware, etc)?

I'm currently using Digital Performer on a Mac Pro for my DAW. I've used just about every DAW out there and I keep returning to DP because it's easy for me to get around on. I have a PC server that's loaded with my orchestral and percussion libraries. Over the years, I've honed my system down to a bare minimum of hardware. I use Apogee convertors, they still sound the best to me. Like everyone else, I have tons of virtual instruments and plug-ins but I'm still using my favorite hardware synths including my Oberheim OB-8, Access Virus TI, Roland Juno 60, Nord Lead 2 and all my Roland 1080s and my MKS-80 Super Jupiter.

How much of your scoring is sample-based versus recorded live?

It's about 50/50. Orchestral libraries are incredible these days and the amount of life you can get from some of the top-of-the-line sample libs are really astounding. Most of the time I'm never using "one" library orch patch for an instrument but mixing different libraries together. All orchestral libraries "breathe" differently if you know what I mean. Combining libraries can bring new life to a sampled instrument voice.

For instance, if I'm looking for a great cello legato of say six to eight cellos, I use the small ensemble legato patch from a couple of different libraries. Doing it this way can make an instrumental part come to life. You have to be careful not to overdo it or you'll end up with too many voices of the same instrument. And pay special attention to combining the ADSRs of the various patches and the different halls and ambiences that the different libraries were recorded in.

For some projects, nothing can replace a live performance. That's the case on many of the tracks on my latest album "Dark Evolutions" where the live string performances make the compositions come to life. Sometimes nothing replaces a real human moving a real bow on a string:)

What is your favorite Soundiron instrument library?

Right now, it's Apocalypse Percussion Elements. You guys hit a home run with this one, it's going to be a "go to" percussion lib for me. I love the Arp section, it's great for coming up with quick rolls and quirky patterns that I normally wouldn't think of. Olympus Choir is the best choir ever, enough said. And I use Cathedral of Junk a lot, it's a great tool kit of sounds, you guys need to charge more for that one:)

Do you have a secret for using samples that you're willing share with all of us?

This is no secret, but when making your own samples always listen to them in reverse…most of the time it will amaze you.

What changes do you foresee for the future video game and trailer music over the next few years?

Hard to say. Many of the so called predictions for games that I've heard over the years have proved false, for instance when we heard years ago that PC gaming was dead…lol! It's stronger now that ever! From what I can see, episodic gaming is going to become more and more popular. Games like Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us. And we're going to see more games like Journey that have a greater reach and appeal than your standard first person shooter.

For trailers, I'm hearing less of the heavy taiko drum action-big choir approach, but who knows…trailer music follows trends that are very hard to predict.

What do you do in your downtime?

I love playing guitar outside the studio. And I know this sounds crazy but I like building things out of found objects that I find at local antique stores and flea markets…kind of a 'steam-punk" hobby. It's not unlike the same creative process for composing:) .

Do you have any final words for all the young composers and producers reading?

Learn what you're good at. Then make it better.