Composer Interview – Rotem Moav

Do you have any formal musical training?

I studied composition with a privet instructor in Israel. I also learned jazz guitar at high school and I graduated from the musician’s Institute in Hollywood with an associate degree in performance.

Do you think this influences your compositions in any way (positively or negatively?)

I think the fact that I studied composition privately allowed me to explore a more personal area of composition. And being trained as a performer in different genres really helps being a versatile composer. Obviously, it will be pretty hard for me to orchestrate heavy classical pieces. But I don’t really need to.

What would you consider to be your strengths and weaknesses?

I think a composer’s strength lies in his unique style. Not to be too philosophic about it, I believe the fact that I came from a different country and musical background than most of the film composers in my area gives me a certain edge and uniqueness that is an important part of being a composer. The other thing I was told I’m good at is to be able to read in to the story and reveal really subtle emotions with the music.

My big weakness is the lack of experience in working with a live orchestra, I think that theoretical orchestration knowledge and midi mock-ups skills, could never match the experience of dealing with an actual orchestra that is alive and breathing. Even though it is getting less and less common, I do hope one day I will work on a project with enough budget for a live orchestra.

How are you working to overcome this lack of experience with orchestra?

I am actually starting the UCLA extension program for film scoring in few months. My main reason is to hone my orchestration and conducting chops, and to get some experience with real orchestra. Till then I am just making sure that the orchestration of my mock-ups are correct and playable by real players.

My other problem is that I’m always behind on the technology side. I never have the latest plug-ins, sample libraries or gear.

Living in LA, does this tend to be a major issue?

I actually found out that for the people that actually matters (AKA directors, producers, audience) it doesn’t really matter what year was your sample library recorded at… it is something that bothers mostly myself and perhaps some fellow composers. I realized that I can get better responds for old cues I recorded with cheap sample library and a dynamic mic than ones with expensive library and a stereo condenser mics, It’s all about how you use what you have. but we always have the urge to want the newest and biggest product available don’t we?

Who would you consider to be your musical influences?

Alexadre Desplat, Thomas Newman, Howard Shore, John Powell, Alex Wurman, Lisa Garrard, Philip Glass, Radiohead, Bjork, Massive Attack, Tool, Sound Garden, Ennio Morricone, Maurice Ravel, Aaron Copland, Richard Strauss, Claude Debussy, Giuseppe Verdi, J.S Bach, Tekbilek, Oum Kul Thum, Farid El Atrash, Beri Saharof.

Hollywood strings or LASS?

Just from demos I saw and my experience with East West’s earlier products, I would say LASS is my choice.

What would be your dream setup for your studio?

First of all, acoustically built studio, nice set of Neumann mics, SSL pre amp, all kinds of instruments from a grand piano to kalimba, a decent external sound card interface, few pair of monitors for mixing and mastering, and of course a monstrous Mac with all the plug-ins and sample libraries available. I would be pretty happy with that…

What equipment do you use?

I have different kinds of guitars, Flute, other random instruments I can barely play, A strong PC, Midi keyboard, a set of KRK monitors, AKG headphones, Mbox interface, few mics, that’s it pretty much.

Whats your main DAW, and how do you find it?

I use Cubase, which is pretty rare in the US, but I used most of the other popular DAW’s and for me, it is the most comfortable and flexible to use. However, it doesn’t come with a lot of virtual instruments and plug-ins and those can get pretty expensive.

What VSTs do you use, and what are your favourite ones?

My main VST’s are a few of East West libraries, IK multimedia and Native Instruments. I think East West’s Symphonic Choirs is a very useful library. I also like FM8 and Spectrasonic’s Omnisphere. Like many others, I am currently saving up for LASS.

Do you play any instruments? If so, what do you play and for how long? How have they influenced the type of music you make today?

Before I started writing music for films I was a guitar player and a songwriter. Performing with bands really influenced my writing and even though today I use mostly my midi keyboard to come up with musical ideas, I always prefer to record into a cue a real instrument I can play.

Whats your favourite instrument that you own, and that you would like to own and why?

I really like my silver flute, and it seems to be working very well in mysterious or eatern related cues. I love having a lot of instruments around me when I write because you can never know which one would turn up be perfect for a cue you are working on. Some of the instruments I would like to own in the future: Sitar, Harp, Tablas, Cello, Kanunn, Charango and English horn.

Whats your favourite piece of software and why?

I would say again the Symphonic Choir, I find it’s solo samples very useful, and the word builder ad-on is something that I don’t believe you can find in another software.

Whats your favourite piece of hardware and why?

I love my PRS guitar. It has great playability and sound that can fit almost any genre of music.

How important do you think it is for a composer to have his own style and why?

I think it is crucial. Like in any aspect of life, diversity makes everything much more interesting :)

Are you a multi-genre composer? Or do you like to specialize in one particular area?

I try to always develop my own style, which derives from my musical and life experience. But I also try to be as flexible as I can so if a director is not interested in my own style but wants me to imitate existing music or genre, I can do that.

What appeals to you about creating your style of music?

I think this is the ultimate way of self-expression as a film composer. This is the real difference between an art and a craft.

Do you find that as a composer, you have less time to keep your musical chops up, and thus your keyboard/guitar skills degrade? If so, do you do anything to combat it?

My playing chops are definitely not as strong as when I was a performer. To prevent this from becoming a problem, when recording a part, I try to rely less on editing and really give it the best performance I can. This forces me to practice more on the specific instrument I’m using for the part.

How do you stay fresh as a composer, and keep active when there’s no jobs?

I’m always on the hunt for new leads so I manage to keep myself busy, if not by a serious project so by a non paying student film. As long as I write music, I’m happy.

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

I do some music production, meaning that artists and bands come to me and I help them to arrange and record their songs.

What is it about film that you like as a media to work with? Why not video games?

I don’t have anything against video games, I was actually an RPG nerd when I was younger and played a lot of video games. I think it’s a completely different experience and usage of music but both are interesting and challenging forms of scoring.

Do you sell your music on any music libraries, and if so how are they working out for you?

I got few of my tracks licensed and downloaded on youlicense.com, and I have some tracks in the boutique library of the incredible composers Deddy Tzur and Daniel Alcheh. It is not something I’m focused on but it can bring some extra income and might put your music in pretty serious spots on TV.

What types of media have you composed for and which is your favourite?

I worked mainly in film and this is what I like the most.

What is your process for composing, especially if you are composing for a particular film/game?

I see the film few times, let it sink, make some decisions about the character of the score I’m going for, listen or read some related material for inspiration, write some sketches on the keyboard or different instrument, write a sketch for a specific scene, work out the hits and timing and produce the desired instrumentation. Then it’s either thumbs up from the director or to start everything all over again…

Have you had any large clients, and if so, who were they?

Not yet.

What form of marketing/promotion do you use, if any, and which was the most popular?

I have a website and I send links to as many job opportunities I can find online but so far the most successful way was when I got recommended by a filmmaker I already worked with. But the internet is a good start.

What project have you enjoyed working on the most?

‘Chapter 21’ A short film by Ilya Farfell about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a personal point of view. It was a subject I was close to, both musically and personally.

Have you ever had a client who was hard to deal with, and if so, what did they do and how did you deal with it?

Without mentioning names… I had the experience of working with directors that were hard to please. I believe it was mainly due to their lack of musical vocabulary to describe what they hear so clearly in their mind.

How do you try to work around this?

In the end of the day this is part of the job, I had to get in to their head until I could translate their words in to music. A film composer have to learn how to do that, ideally without causing any tension or frustration between you and the film’s director.

Do you have any tips for people starting up in the music industry, on how to market themselves, get jobs, and get started off in general?

I think a composer that wants to get in to film scoring will have to get some experience even by participating in a non paying project such as student films, those are great to get your demo reel, future contacts and honing your composing chops. Another important thing is to have a website and a business card, and to make sure everybody have it…

Do you ever get writers block, and if so how do you deal with it?

I usually just move on to something else and get back to it with fresh ears and clear mind.

Do you find that when you’ve finished a song, your sick of hearing it?

Never!

…Well, ok. Sometimes.

How long do you typically spend on one track?

It varies from one day to a week usually. Then I keep on re-mastering my tracks whenever I get new gear (which is not very often).

When creating a track, do you know how long it will be before starting it, or do you tend to just “see how it goes” and let the track make itself?

I usually have at least a vague guideline for the track, especially when it is for a specific scene and then I know when and how it will start and end.

Is there anything you wish you could do musically, but can’t now?

There are many many instruments I would like to be able to play at least at a beginner’s level but don’t have the time to practice or more importantly the budget to by them.

How would you define success?

Waking up every morning to do what you like to do the most.

What ultimately are your goals?

Working on A list movies while conducting and scoring for a full orchestra.

If you could change one thing in the music industry, what would it be and why?

I would add music as one of the core classes in film schools. this would make our work with future directors much smoother.

What are your other interests outside of music?

Does film counts?

Over the past while, I’ve done a few things that I’ve found useful such as keeping notepads everywhere to jot things down.  Have you picked up any habits over the years that you’ve found useful?

Besides the obvious things such as healthy diet, exercise and positive attitude, I’ve found that it is sometimes underestimated how important it is to talk with the director you are working with about his musical vision before starting to work on the score.

And when working on your DAW – ALWAYS SAVE.

If you were stuck on a desert island with 3 tracks, what would they be?

As of now, I would say:

1) ‘Carnival of the animals’ by Camille Saint Saens

2) ‘Song to the siren’ by Tim Buckley (Cocteau Twins version)

3) ‘Right in Two’ by Tool

What is the most stupid thing you have ever done?

One time I was working on a track for a whole night and was so in to it I didn’t do any saves. Just before I was almost done, the computer crashed and I had to start everything all over again.

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.

Film and Game Composers

www.FilmandGameComposers.com offers a wide range of interviews, reviews, guides and tutorials for composers and musicians who are interested in writing music for film, TV and video games.

Sign up to our newsletter to get a monthly digest of the latest content and information on new competitions and freebies. If you would like to write for us, please contact us.

Tweets

If Sam Lake looks a bit familiar, he's both the man who created Max Payne and modelled him in the first game :) https://t.co/N163ci9apU
If you're looking for somewhere to start, check out this course from @EvenantOnline: https://t.co/U44ecBVOXK