Composer Interview – Nathan Allen Pinard

nathan allen pinardHow did you get into composition? Was it something you always wanted to do?

Not entirely. At that point in High School I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I was just sticking with music because it made me happy, but I didn’t have plans in where I was going to go in the music business.

One year in high school, concert band only had a handful of sign ups. They didn’t close the class down though. Instead we turned it into a composition class. However I my high school we didn’t just play straight ahead jazz and big band. We also played soul, funk, and even a few classic rock songs. We ended up re-creating a band that was in my high school back in the 70′s called “D-Crew”.

After that I moved into arranging songs for a small fellowship my family and I had going, and it just kept going from there.

Can you give us a brief overview of what your home studio consists of?

I mainly use virtual/software based instruments, so my studio really consists of very powerful computers, and minimal rack gear. I used virtual instruments from East West, Vienna Symphonic Library, Tonehammer, Spectrasonics, and a few other sample developers.

Do you prefer to work with music libraries, or write custom music for projects?

I only work with percussive loops usually, like the ever popular Stormdrum 2. Though most libraries nowadays are not just loops, but can be altered as you please. In terms of sound effects I use loops sometimes. Specifically some of the atmospheric loops from Apple Loops. But I always end up combining a lot of elements together to make it less recognizable.

There is one time I used musical loops though, and that was in Gemini Rue. The waiting music in the apartment lobby was from a library. All I did was process it to sound like it was coming out of a waiting room speaker.

Whats your favourite software at the moment?

Right now it has to be Hollywood Strings Gold. It’s very expressive and possibly the most realistic string library yet. I’m actually slowly building a system to work with the Diamond edition if possible.

What software are you most looking forward to in the future, if any?

Right now I don’t really have anything. I’m fairly content with my software. I need to work on my hardware though.

How did you get involved with Gemini Rue?

Basically I was looking to do some free projects in the gaming world. And the only way to do that is find small games that aren’t so ambitious. Josh was right in between. A short game but with some brilliant assets. I messaged him and told him I was interested. He listened to my demos and was please, so that’s pretty much how it started.

Tell us about the game? Genre/story etc.

Essentially in my eyes Gemini Rue is Blade Runner meets L.A. Confidential meets Dollhouse. It’s a very engaging and surprising story. Honestly, this game has one of the better twists I’ve seen, let alone a point-and-click adventure.

How does working on a game differ from other types of media?

You have to do it in small pieces. There is no timeline to work with, no sync points to write to. You simply play the game, and kind of imagine what goes with it, and write it. That’s my process anyway.

How did the composing process work? Were you given videos/cinematics to work with or did you get to see/use actual game play footage?

I got the play the game as it was built, so I definitely got a taste of what things could sound like. During the process I would actually jump between creating sound and music for the game. First I’d work on the ambience, then I’d write the first track of the scene. Then work on all the interactive sounds after that.

Is the whole score electronic, or were you able to record any elements of it?

100% of the score is electronic. Yet my libraries can sound pretty realistic to untrained ears. The only live instruments I play are ethnic flutes, but Gemini Rue didn’t require that.

What were the biggest obstacles you have had to overcome when working on audio for games?

Sometimes I would submit tracks that were a bit too busy, or too emotional. In Gemini Rue, Josh wanted a very simplistic score. So at times I would have to compromise, as there are emotional tracks in the game, but at the right moments.

What did you enjoy most about working on Gemini Rue?

Seeing the finished product. Heck, seeing the first published game I’ve been a part of on the market. Being able to tell people I”m a published game composer is a pretty good feeling.

Talk us through ‘Arrival at Barracus’. How did you start it, what did you use on it, how did you complete it – effects, mixing etc.

Arrival at Barracus” is the first room track, where Azriel is in the rain talking to Kane. This scene was highly important to set the mood. Not only for the gamers, but for the game developer. This was the first track I’ve ever written for the developer, so it had to be impressive and exactly what he wanted, which it was!

Basically I started off with the idea of Blade Runner, as that was a reference to me. There is a track in Blade Runner with a saxophone, that a lot of people remember. I decided to take that idea and replace it with a trumpet. The song ended up being more like a private eye type thing, which was perfect. I ended up using a more ethereal piano, and some muted strings. To make it more sci-fi like, I ended up using a pad throughout the whole thing.

How do you try to stay fresh as a composer?

I continually do projects. Right now I’m working on an album for my mother’s novel, then I’m taking a break. After that I may work on a Christmas Album, or search for more gaming projects.

What has been your biggest project to date?

Gemini Rue is biggest in my culture and taste, but in terms of companies I’ve worked for, Disney was the biggest. It was only one track, and was on a small children’s album, but I co-wrote and orchestrated “Dare to Dream” which was performed by Snow White. If anything, having that on my resume was important.

Do you market yourself as a composer – advertise, use social media, network?

I don’t really advertise my own services other than my website, but I am pushing to advertise the album I’m working on using social networking.

What is the one tool you couldn’t do without as a composer? Hardware/software/mental

I’ve learned to compose music from a computer standpoint, and haven’t done much hand writing of music. So I’d have to say my computer for sure. It’s a different way of writing, rather than writing notes on manuscript. That being said, hand writing music does have it’s rewards. You generally write more. But in the world of gaming or film, that isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Whats your plans for the future?

I am currently working on an album that is based on my mother’s novel “Chanson de l’Ange” which is a novel based off of The Phantom of the Opera. This is probably one of my biggest projects yet, as we have 4 musicians that will be joining us in this novel. We have Michele Karmin, Toni Gibson, Carrie Shaw, and Maria Lazareva performing on this album.

Do you do anything to supplement your income as a composer?

Yes. I work at HostBaby.com, a web host for musicians and authors. I work in customer service, which ends up being more like tech support. It’s probably the best job I’ve had, and I’m working to learn more so I can move up.

How did you make the transition to being a full time composer?

I never was truly a full time composer. Granted, you can be unemployed and write music. But it was nearly impossible to write music 40 hours a week. After the 4 hour mark your brain tends to go to mush, and you have to revisit later.

Who are your favourite composers at the moment and why?

I’ve always been a fan of Hans Zimmer, Howard Shore, Jerry Goldsmith, and most definitely Bear McCreary. There’s actually a huge list of composers I like. I tend to like film music in general as it’s designed to instill emotion.

What is your favourite score of all time?

That to me, is an impossible question to answer! There’s so many good scores out there, but I will say one of the scores that’s had a big impact on me was the Prince of Egypt.

What advice would you give to a composer starting off?

Research. I would say research is the biggest thing to do. Researching everything. Research about mixing techniques, composing techniques, software, etc. If you don’t have the tools, you aren’t going to get the results you want.

Listen to more of Nathan’s music or get in contact with him at http://www.nathanallenpinard.com/.

Written by: Emmett Cooke

Emmett Cooke is an Irish composer for film, tv and video games. His music has been used around the world by high profile companies including Sony Playstation, Ralph Lauren, ABC, CBS, NBC, Lockheed Martin and many more.

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