By Jan Hoeglund
If you are a fan of epic trailer-style music you have without a doubt heard of Spanish composer-extraordinaire Ivan Torrent. The young producer has been a major force in the world of trailer music over the past couple of years as a composer for production music companies and sample libraries.
Thank you so much for taking the time Ivan. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
Thank you guys, it's my pleasure! Well, I am a composer and producer based in Spain, I am 36 years old, and I began my romance with music when I was 6 years old. That’s when my parents bought me a little keyboard. I’m not sure if they knew how much headaches this would give them along the years, but my interest was growing and I studied some music theory till I was teen. I was playing with keyboards and doing my audio mixes with cassettes, vinyls...you know...haha crazy times!
When I was in high school one of my best friends introduced me to the world of Midi, and that was like a catalyst. The opportunity to write music within a computer changed the game for me since my keyboards were extremely limited. It was fantastic and we started to work with recording software Cubase when it first came out and a Roland keyboard as controller.
We began to write some electronic stuff (Oh how bad it was, lol!) and bit by bit we learned all the steps that are in the production process. There was no internet as there is today, so it was an interesting process of try and error as we were completely self-taught.
What was your first job in the music industry? When did your career make the turn towards full-time composer?
I was around 16-17 when I got my first job. I was really young but, and even though I was still learning, I had the chance to release my music under some labels in my country, mixed by some established producers. My skills were slowly growing, and I began to work on a local radio station, doing jingles, tunes for the radio formula...etc. This resulted in a humble production company that I formed with a handful of people, and with time and a lot of effort we achieved some good projects. We did some projects with artists in our country which in return allowed us to work as full time composers.
Of all the projects you got to work on, which one was your favorite?
I feel good about some of my older works I did for other artists, where I worked as a producer or composer. But I would say that these past few years have been more exciting and interesting to me, since I'm doing more and more what I really love which is to mix epic and instrumental music with electronic stuff. As many other composers, I come from the world of EDM. I’ve always tried to add orchestral arrangements into my electronic tracks. It seemed risky or weird to some people, but there were pioneer artists that were working that way and to me those sounds and those productions were terrific! And I wanted to reach that level in some way myself.
My last tracks "Architects of Life" and "One of Us" are maybe the tracks that show that I feel more comfortable now mixing these styles together, since I think they express the essence of what I was looking for: Blending the orchestra with vocal elements and aggressive electronic elements, but all of them living together in harmony within the composition itself..
How do you experience the world of trailer music? It is a fast growing industry and technology is allowing more and more composers to create realistic mockups and cues, how do you feel about it?
Years ago when the first trailer of LOTR was released, I was blown away by “Gothic Power” from Christopher Field, the track that surrounded those epic images that mesmerized all of us. At the same time, it was frustrating not to find the track on the official soundtrack. I had never realized that the music in the trailers was not from the soundtrack, but this introduced me to a whole new concept that was totally unknown to me.
I think that current sample libraries and the power of modern computers to which we have access nowadays, allow us to create more realistic orchestral tracks. It's a fact that has changed the rules of this current hybrid music trend and it has opened the door to new composers from other styles to build a large catalog of tracks that can be used in trailers. All of that makes this style of music really visible to the audience and less niche. Of course, this creates more competition but as in every business, competition is what pushes us to provide our best and foster the evolution of the genre.
You often work with vocalists on your tracks. Do you have a method of choosing them? Or do you usually already have someone specific in mind that you in other words compose for when you are working on a new cue?
The voice is a really important element in my tracks and I have very specific tastes in vocal colors and textures. Honestly, I am extremely picky about this. I tend to research on Soundcloud and other social network profiles and, depending on the the color, air, pitch and texture of the voice, I contact the vocalists. When they are interested, I then I send a mockup with the melody lines sung by me as blueprint for the recording.
The process it's quite simple, but it's important to me that every artist feels comfortable with me and also that he/she has the ability to express emotions and by doing so add their own character to the composition. By doing all this, the listener has a much better experience and a deeper connection with the track and that's what it is all about.
What are you currently working on? Is there an Ivan Torrent solo album in the works?
Yes there is. :) I am trying to focus on it and to release it in 2015. Fingers crossed! I began to write sketches in 2012 but it’s been difficult to find the time to work on it lately. But I have decided to refocus on it and put all my efforts and love into making this album. I am currently also working on something special to me that will be released before the end of the year. A compilation with almost all my tracks, with new mixes, mastering and extended versions of some of them.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I don't know...I prefer to live the present, with some perspective, but without thinking too much in what's what the future has for me. Life spins a lot, sometimes faster than what you expect. Lately I learnt that is better to live the present intensely, but with pragmatism and patience. This is a distance race...
What does your workstation look like?
It looks like it’s been taken straight out of the Enterprise, lol! Thats what my friends say when they come over to my place. It's a little room, acoustically treated. But in it I have three 22” monitors and an additional 51” screen. The computer has an 8-core processor, 64GB RAM and a good amount of SSD drives. I use a pair of Adam S3X-V speakers, a MOTU audio interface, and a Neuman U87 mic with Avedis and Anamod gear for the recordings. Although it is not a huge studio. I am really comfortable. It’s my little temple.
How often do you revert to using live instruments in your tracks? Or is most of it sample libraries?
It depends on many things. Mainly on how good the libraries that I am using on the track sound, as well as the overall context and how the elements blend together. It's obvious that live instruments bring an organic essence to the music, which helps a track to grow exponentially. But at times there is no need to break your wallet when the track works great with samples and there is a good production involved. It's a plus, but not always needed I think. There are albums of other artists that I have worked on, where almost everything was recorded live. Others where it was a 60% or even just 40%. But my goal definitely is to achieve a good balance with live recordings and samples. For instance, on this new project that I am working on live elements will be crucial.
What is your favorite Soundiron instrument?
Mars and Venus, without a doubt! I use them in a good amount of my trailer tracks and they have a great sound for that epic trailer context. In particular the Slavonic vowels helped me a lot to achieve that realism and energy in some moments. They also have really great playability, something really important to me in my workflow.
How do you feel about music and movies? Unfortunately, there's a lot of movies (AND video games) that just seem to disappear shortly after the release. How do you feel about this subject? For example, a lot of composers respect Alexandre Desplat for not using sfx / electronic elements in his scores as he uses nothing but what the orchestra can offer.
You talk about how timeless can a product be, when the resources that the industry uses to make it more appealing and shocking for the current market, which in turn goes against its longevity and that in 20 years in the future we will see the current music, as the way we see the CGI from 20 years ago, right? Well, I think it's all about the trends and the generation that embrace those trends. I agree that the more a film is on the classic side in regards to the music, it is more timeless.
The soundtracks from the last four to five decades are a blast. We can go back, and look at some tracks from Williams, Morricone, Goldsmith and Silvestri and they will draw a smile on the faces of many of us. They are emotional, shocking and really touchings. The leitmotifs were maybe more descriptive and captivating than what the industry seems to need today, but at the same time we all know that, unfortunately, they could sound out of place in a current and more modern film. The electronic stuff is way better nowadays than when it began to appear in some movies back in the day.But it is a fact that the balance between electronic and orchestral in those instances were more experimental and reserved. So the blend between both were not so established and evolved as it is today.
Music was really orchestral or really electronic, the blend was not so obvious. Which played against the electronic tracks, making them obsolete over the time. Now that that blend is really tangible, I would say that it's necessary to be competitive. Orchestra and synths work in many many cases as a single entity and personally, I love it! In every generation, the market feels comfortable with what they have in front of them, simply because it can't go forward to know what the future holds. So we tend to compare what the industry is able to do nowadays, with the old things that we know. For better or worse.
In summary, I think the path is the same...The music trends, the way that movies are done, and the audience, is very very connected. It all evolves in the same direction and probably what we love today, we will hate it tomorrow, or it will seem outdated.
What do you do when you're NOT composing or producing?
Haha, that's pretty difficult. But when I have the chance, I try to go to the movies. It's something that I really love, or maybe I simply try meet with my friends or with my family.
What would you have liked to know before stepping into the world of composing for media?
I think that the music industry, in general terms, is a beautiful but a dangerous jungle. It's not always what it should be. And it's not always fair. I’ve experienced this too many times in my career. Our romantic and bohemian side tends to blind us and we are more spontaneous in our decisions, but without the necessary cautious. And the right decisions are really important in this business. They can decide a career, for good or bad. Definitely part of our learning process, but something that I would have loved to know before my start in the music business.
If you were to teach a beginner's class on film scoring, what would you tell those young composers?
As I mentioned before this is an endurance race. So whatever you want to do in this life, do it with conviction. The key is to be patient, work hard and enjoy the process. And all that life has in store for you will come at the right moment.