#TBT Interview with Composer Reinhold Heil on His Work on The Helix TV Series on SyFy

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I’m enjoying watching season 1 of the SyFy series Helix on Netflix for a second time. Back in 2014 I interviewed the show’s composer Reinhold Heil on his amazing score for the show. I thought it would be fun to post a link to the interview here as a “throw back Thursday”. Since I interviewed Reinhold he’s gone on to compose for:

Read the original interview here

https://modulatethis.com/2014/05/02/modulate-this-interview-composer-reinhold-heil-helix-tv-series-syfy-music/

Enjoy,

Mark Mosher
Synthesist, Electronic Musician, Producer
Boulder, CO
ModulateThis.com


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Modulate This! Interview with Composer Reinhold Heil on His Work on The Helix TV Series on SyFy

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I’m a HUGE fan of the television show Helix and especially love the score which is composed by Golden Globe-nominated composer Reinhold Heil. Here is a brief bio from Reinhold’s official web site.

A multi-instrumentalist with a broad musical range, he first came to prominence as the keyboarder of the legendary German punk band, the Nina Hagen Band, and as a producer of international pop stars. His film and television credits include Run Lola Run, One Hour Photo, The International, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Deadwood, Without a Trace, and the epic adventure-drama Cloud Atlas. He is currently scoring Helix for Syfy. He lives and works in downtown Los Angeles.

I googled around a bit and found no interviews on Reinhold’s work on Helix so I reached out to him with some questions about his work on the show. He was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer these questions and offer a fascinating behind-the-scenes look into his work on the show. Note, one of his answers contains spoilers and I wrapped the answer with with **** Begin Spoiler Alert ****   and *** End Spoiler Alert ***.


Mark Mosher: How did you get involved with Helix?

Reinhold Heil: My agent asked me to submit a demo and I did. I put a lot of effort in that because I love the genre and really wanted to show what I have to offer. Apparently they liked the demo and gave me the job without an interview. They must have been swamped with the shoot that had just started in Montreal, so most of them weren’t even in town. As it turned out they were all wonderful to work with and I had a lot of fun doing the series.

Watch Season 1 Trailer

Mark Mosher:  When Did you Start Working on the Show?

Reinhold Heil: On Helix I [started] developing material in August 2013, while they were assembling the first episode. So there was definitely an early involvement, but it was already inspired by the look of the show and the characters.

Mark Mosher:  There are some very happy – dare I say – “elevator music” style and old Wurlitzer organ/drum machine styling’s in the show. Do you use vintage gear (and if so what gear) for these cues, or are you using virtual instruments or libraries?

Reinhold Heil: Funnily most people don’t understand that I have mostly nothing to do with the elevator music. It becomes very obvious when they are using classics like “Road to San José” or “Fever”, but the only easy-listening pieces I actually contributed to Helix are the main and the end-title. And I did the adaptations of the two pieces from Tchaikovski’s Nutcracker that happen in episode 6.

I’m not involved in the selection but check out the two transitions into “Fever”. They are pretty smooth and I did work hard on those. I did try to have the score segue seamlessly into the source pieces as often as I could. Some of them are exceptionally well chosen and used to great effect, but the guys in the writers room and show runner Steve Maeda as well as Producer Stephen Welke are the people to give credit for that.

Mark Mosher:  These twisted “happy” cues are so great and act as an emotional signal to viewers that very bad things are just about to happen. It’s such a clever idea and it makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck when I hear any happy music in the show – lol. How did this idea for using happy and lounge sounding orchestrations come about and evolve?

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Modulate This! Interview with Gary Numan

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Gary Numan will be playing Denver tonight at the Gothic Theater. Show starts at 8pm. He’s currently on tour supporting his fantastic album Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind). I caught the show at the Mountain Oasis Festival 2013 and will be at the show tonight. It’s an incredible show so if you are in Denver area come on down.

For those readers not in Denver and for those who have not yet bought the album visit so visit http://www.numan.co.uk for more information on the album and tour.

Gary was kind enough to take time out of his schedule to answer a few questions for Modulate This!


Mark Mosher: I love the amazing amount of sonic space and dynamic range in the mix of Splinter. I especially like how your vocals are right up front and you can hear the amazing detail in the music and sound design. Even when songs like “Who Are You” are running at full tilt, the mix has enough sonic space so you can make out interesting sound elements like scraping metallic noises and such. Can you shed some light on the overall development of Splinter and your collaborative process with producer Ade Fenton to create an album with such drive and emotion without losing all the sonic detail?


Gary-numan-album-splinterGary Numan: No special tricks or processes were employed to get the album to sound the way it does, just a lot of attention to detail and care. Ade worked very closely with Nathan Boddy with the mixing at their respective studios in the UK and those mixes were sent over to me for feedback. There was a lot of communication and discussion obviously as things progressed. The songwriting part of it is fairly simple. I start with a piano and work out the melody and structure. When I’m happy with that I turn to the technology and begin to flesh the song out, building the dynamics and mood. A rough guide vocal without real words follows so that I can get the phrasing exactly right without trying to squeeze in lyrics that don’t really fit, then, when I’m happy with that, the actual lyrics, then the final vocal. At this stage I will have a fairly well developed demo that gives Ade the guidance he needs to know where I see the song going. Those files are then sent to Ade and the production part of it begins. From then on it’s a lot of to and fro as we move the song forward. We do argue but it’s rarely angry, we’re always trying to get the song as good as it can be rather than win a contest between us. It’s quite difficult to comment on the way we work as being anything unusual because it really isn’t. I write the songs and create reasonably high quality demo’s, Ade makes them sound much better and, quite often, will take the song in a new direction. Sometimes that works, sometimes not, but I’m always happy to try out his ideas and see where they take us.

Mark Mosher: My favorite track on the album is “A Shadow Falls on Me”. It has such an interesting arrangement. The non-vocal elements of the song are conjured up in a wake behind your vocals. The end result is you really pull the listener along and make them try and anticipate what’s coming next. Was this a idea pulling the listener along with the vocals and melody a conscious idea from the beginning or something that happened as you developed the song?

Gary Numan: Yes, pretty much. The idea was to build the song with each new vocal section, increasing the level of emotion and power at each step. Ade came up with a huge drum part that was great and changed things considerably but it was just too much to have running from start to finish so we adapted it and used the idea to build an even bigger series of steps, following the original idea but with a greater shift in power and emotion each time. Interestingly the vocal line started out as my first attempt to collaborate with the band Battles. They weren’t too keen on my first vocal idea for their My Machines song so I used it on A Shadow Falls On Me instead.

Mark Mosher:  There are some amazing textures and sound elements on Splinter. What’s your creative process for creating unique sounds to support your song writing?

Gary Numan: Sounds can come from anywhere. Walking around the street with a recorder kicking things, slamming things, scraping, dragging, whatever. Using software packages like Omnisphere and Massive, whispering words and phrases and then manipulating those sounds beyond recognition, recording journeys, trains, cars, absolutely anything and everything, and then finding ways to mess with those source sounds until you have something you’ve never heard before. There is no process as such, just a real pleasure from finding new ways to create new sounds.

Mark Mosher: There is a fantastic video on the Nine Inch Nails YouTube channel where you make a surprise appearance and perform “Metal” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehMqEXUspfs) back in 2009. You’ve gone on to share the bill with NIN for a series of concerts and NIN guitarist Robin Finck both plays on Splinter and has played with your touring band. Can you tell us more about the Gary Numan-Trent Reznor-NIN connection and perhaps how this connection has deepened since you have moved to LA?

Gary Numan: Trent came to see us at a show I was playing in Baton Rouge many years ago, this was when he was making The Fragile. He brought with him a copy of a song of mine that he had covered called Metal which was fantastic. After that, whenever NIN played in London I would go and see them and we would meet up briefly for a chat. Then in 2009 I was invited to join them on stage at their O2 gig in London, then to do the same thing when they played the last four shows of that version of NIN in Los Angeles that same year. When I moved to Los Angeles Trent wrote the first of my Testimonial letters for the US authorities which really helped. As soon as we moved to the US he invited to his house a couple of times and made us feel very welcome, then the recent shows and some other social things. He’s been a good friend, in his own, quiet way, on several levels and I’m very grateful to him.

 

Mark Mosher: I was in attendance at your interview at the Mountain Oasis 2013 Festival in Asheville, NC with Geary Yelton for Keyboard Magazine. In that interview, you mentioned that since you’ve now moved to Los Angeles, that you were hoping to get involved with some film soundtracks. Can you give us an update on any developments in this area of your career?

Gary Numan: It’s a very cautious thing for me. The musical side of that idea is very exciting but the political side of it, or at least the horror stories I’ve heard about it, are really quite daunting so I’m not sure whether it will suit me or not. I’m just finishing my first film score, which I co-wrote with Ade Fenton on this occasion, for an animated movie called From Inside. A grim and heavy story about a pregnant girls journey on a mysterious train after the world has been destroyed. It has been a gentle first step into writing scores for both of us and again, I’m very grateful to the people involved, John Bergin the Director, and Brian McNellis the Producer, for giving me the opportunity and for making it a stress free project. We’ll see where it goes from here.

Mark Mosher: Rather than fall back on “nostalgia” you have really pushed the envelope to try new ideas throughout your career. Do you have any advice for Modulate This readers on how to take the “long view” of their craft and their music careers?

Gary Numan: I’ve always been aware that everything you do today will stick to you in the future so you must be very careful. You need to think about how today’s actions will be perceived in the coming years. Will they hurt your reputation, weaken your fan base? Are you doing things now for short term gain that might kill your career growth in the coming years? I’ve made some terrible mistakes over the years but the thing that has always been important to me is never to rely or dwell on past glories, no matter how big they might be. Try to move forward musically with every album, don’t be afraid to try new things, constantly, and avoid nostalgia at all costs. Of course, if you just want to be rich then milk the nostalgia route for all it’s worth. Plenty of people make very good livings by simply repeating things they did decades ago but I think that’s a pretty empty way to look at creativity. Write music because you genuinely love what you are doing, not because you think it might get you on the radio or keep the record label happy. I went through a period of writing ‘strategically’ and the music suffered and I did nothing that I’m proud of or still play today. It was soul destroying actually and almost ruined my career. For the first part of my career, and certainly for the last 20 years, I’ve written songs with no thoughts at all about how they might achieve commercial success. I want that of course, but you must NOT try to design your music to achieve it. Write what’s in your heart, what you love, and then hope for the best as far as commercial success is concerned.


Special thanks to the fantastic photographer and musician Rod Tanaka for coordinating this interview.

mark-mosher-fear-cannot-save-us-cover-final (550x550)Mark Mosher
Electronic Musician Boulder, CO
www.ModulateThis.com
www.MarkMosherMusic.com
MarkMosher.Bandcamp.com

Music Monday: An Interview with Kent Barton (aka SEVEN7HWAVE) on His New Concept Album “CYBERIA”

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Denver artist Kent Barton (aka SEVEN7HWAVE) just released a new concept album called CYBERIA. I met first met Kent at the Ableton Colorado User Group a few years back when he was just starting down the path to create this album so I thought it would be interesting to hear about his creative process.  Oh, and Kent is also a member member of the new Boulder Synthesizer Meetup.

First I’ll offer some links to the album, then the interview followed by Kent’s social links. Kent is offering this new album ”name your price” over on bandcamp and as always I encourage a buy to show your support.

CYBERIA Album

Hong Kong: 2050 A.D. You're about to inject a dose of mind-altering nanobots. This is the soundtrack to your trip.

http://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/v=2/album=1415150382/size=grande3/bgcol=FFFFFF/linkcol=4285BB/

Concept and Production: Kent Barton
Mastering: Tarekith at Inner Portal Studio
Vocals on Brain Zaps: Brittany Patterson
Field Recordings on No Passengers, Kowloon Bay, and Brain Zaps: swuing
Field Recording on 0100000101001001: James Tobin
Muse: Brittany Patterson
Creative Inspiration: Mark Mosher, Marc Wei, Matt Stampfle, and the Denver Ableton User Group

Interview with Kent Barton

Mark: Tell us a little bit about your musical background. What instruments do you play and how did you first get interested in electronic music?

Kent: I had some formal classical training on the violin as a child. Even though I got tired of the instrument by middle school, it did a good job of wiring my brain for music. Fast-forward to the start of college, and I decided to pick up the guitar to emulate my metal heroes. That was my introduction to the world of songwriting, bands, live shows, and the search for the perfect tone.

Back around 2004, I discovered the Trance station on Shoutcast (!). A year or two later I got my first proper introduction to electronic music, clubs, and raves, with artists like Ferry Corsten, Junkie XL, and Infected Mushroom. Eventually my waning interest in playing intricate guitar riffs was replaced by a newfound lust for producing music.

Mark: What inspired you to create an album about “mind altering nanobots” in 2050 A.D.?

Kent: I’ve always been a sci-fi freak with part of my brain permanently lodged in the future. Blade Runner was an obvious inspiration here, along with the cyberpunk movement. But it’s also a commentary on where we are today, and where we could be headed. Technology is a double-edged sword; it can liberate us or imprison us. The internet connects us all, but it’s also a giant Big Brother machine. These two opposing forces will be even more important in the future, as computers get smaller, faster, and implanted into our bodies.

Creatively, I was inspired by Reboot and I Hear Your Signals (editor’s note – I did not bribe Kent to say this :^) ). The idea of a badass album telling a story has been around for a long time (Operation: Mindcrime, I’m looking in your direction), but it never dawned on me to use the same technique for electronica until hearing these two albums.
 
Mark: What role did Ableton Live played in your creative and production process?

Kent: Occasionally I’d go lo-fi and hammer out a melody or chord progression on my guitar. But other than that, Ableton was the centerpiece of everything, from sketching out ideas to recording to arrangement to mixing. People keep bitching about when Live 9 is coming out. I honestly don’t care; the current version is powerful enough to do everything I want to do.
 
Mark: What were your go-to synthesizers for this project and what is it you like about them?

Kent: My mainstays were…

Sylenth1: When I think bass, I think old-school West Coast hip-hop smooth-ass warm sub. That’s what I was aiming for, and Sylenth delivered. I also used it for the pad sound on “Vimanas,” which was my obligatory nod to Vangelis.

Peach: This freeware, from Tweakbench, had exactly the chiptune sound I wanted for this album. Pure NES awesomeness…and it sounds even better with some spatial FX slathered on.

Plogue Chipsounds: I re-sampled Chipsounds for a lot of FX, as well as the main bleep lead on 0100000101001001. It’s an 8-bit emulation powerhouse.

Mark: There is a consistent palette throughout the album which helps give listeners a sense of the “universe” the story takes place in.  Did you have a sense of the palette from the beginning, or did this evolve as the production progressed?

Kent: Early on, I stumbled across a collection of incredible field recordings someone made while traveling in Hong Kong. This inspired the setting of the album. As I was writing, these served as the “glue” between each track. I also started with a simple equation that I thought might yield awesome results: Chiptune + Strings + Guitar – fusing the organic and electronic. But as the album evolved, I found myself downplaying the guitar element and bringing in more synth.
 
Mark: I love how you modulated the arpeggiator speeds in “No Passengers” and also changed the glitch speeds in “Brain Zaps”. Did you record real-time automation for this or use automation envelopes?

Kent:  The changing arp speed on “No Passengers” was recorded in one pass. I like to limit myself to one or two takes to capture the moment and avoid endless tweaking. “Brain Zaps” was one of those cases where I forget to connect a controller when I’m arranging a track. Rather than stop the workflow, I’ll just draw in the glitches by hand.
 
Mark: How do you feel composing against a story line helped you keep the project moving to completion?

Kent: Having a storyline was incredibly helpful. It created a common thread throughout the songs, and added visual elements to the creative process. Sometimes I felt like a movie director, rather than a producer. Creating an environment and living in it was also a huge help – especially when I was stuck and didn’t know where to go next.

I can’t recommend this enough. If you’re a producer looking for inspiration that can drive an entire collection of songs, try thinking of a story to tell. You don’t need a deep plot or characters. Just a simple concept is enough to fuel that creative spark.

Mark: What is your next musical project?

Kent: I’m working with an incredible animator/visual artist on a video for “No Passengers.” I’ll be releasing that shortly.

I freak out if I’m not writing, so I’m also cobbling together the building blocks for my next album. I feel like I’ve found my own sound with Cyberia, Now I’m excited to evolve it and take it in new directions.

Links for SEVEN7HWAVE

Electronic Musician, Boulder CO
http://www.ModulateThis.com
www.MarkMosherMusic.com