Saturday, October 20, 2012

Austin Lawrence Composer

Music collection #1 Composer Austin Lawrence

I left the title simple this time because Austin describes himself in this way, and that is how I'm used to seeing Austin Lawrence's name online. It is as if composer is just attached right to it, and I mean this in the best way possible. He is talented far beyond your scope of typical aspiring musicians and is easily in the top 5 best composers I have ever had the pleasure of speaking with. Over the years, he has had opportunities to score several projets, all of which turned out pretty great, and I believe it is only a matter of time before we see his name in the credits "on the big screen" next to John Powell's or Hans Zimmer's. I interviewed Austin a few weeks ago, and here is what he had to say:

1) Where are you from and how long have you been a musician?

I'm originally from Naples Italy.  Both my parents were in the U/S Navy,  I've been all over the world, and reside in the US as a citizen.
I've always been making music of some kind, using pots and pans as a drum set, messing around on a guitar, (even though I didn't know what I was doing it was still stimulating)I've been listening to music for as long as I can remember, but I really decided I wanted to be a musician in my early teens.  I started to teach myself the guitar, once I got good with that, I taught myself to play the piano, violin and percussion instruments.  ( I made an attempt to take lessons before, but I found myself being bored to tears and restricted)  So i've officially been a musician for about 5 years now.  And once I realized that there were full orchestras to be written for, I began my career in film scoring.

2) What equipment do you use to record your compositions with?

Being on a mac, I use logic 9.  Why?  I'm comfortable with the layout.  "The best DAW is the one you're used to." For instruments, I have so many it's hard to keep track at times and remember what I have under the hood.  EW and Kontakt are a must to anyone in the industry. I use a lot of instruments from EW, 8dio, Tonehammer, Kontakt and others.  To get my "sounds" in my compositions I mix and match several libraries, as well as  incorporate some of my own custom samples and recordings.  Thinking outside the box is important for writing using samples too.  Non traditional methods can do amazing things. But of course there's just no substitute for live musicians.

3) If you could meet one composer or other musician, who would it be?

Oh man, Impossible to pick just one, there are so many wonderful composers and musicians in the world, all who deserve recognition and praise for their outstanding work.If I have to give the minimal amount of names, they would be Hans Zimmer , James Horner, and John Williams. Hans Zimmer has always been a big inspiration to me, so naturally I'd love to meet him not only as a fan, but as a fellow film composer.  Working with him would be a blast! James Horner pretty much wrote the soundtrack to my childhood.  And John Williams.....is there really anything to say about him?  He's every film composers idol.

4) What is your ultimate goal in music?

It's hard to define an ultimate goal in this industry, with so many possibilities.  But I'd say one of the most important things to me is to be able to write a score, or single piece of music that has meaning.  One of my major goals would be to create scores for major films that really communicate to the people who are listening.  Personally, there are many soundtracks that have completely changed my perspective on music and even portions of life in a funny way.  Now that I think about it, I'd say the ultimate goal for any composer is to leave a legacy of music that touched people, changed people, while making friends along the way.  Then you have things like Oscars and Grammy's, etc.  I really wouldn't mind having a few of those.  In fact I'm going to shoot for 150 major films, 50 academy award nominations....and a list of other things.  I realize my goals are extreme, but I wouldn't have it any other way.  I've always aimed higher than recommended...and I don't think that will ever change.  To achieve all this, I'll need the help of amazing musicians, talented directors, and many more people, and in it's own way, that's another "ultimate goal in itself.  To be surrounded by the brilliant minds that fill up this industry.
5) What do you use as inspiration for your compositions?

There are many things I use an inspiration for the music I write. poetry, paintings, nature, stories, etc.  Though specifically for when I score a film, the inspiration for the soundtrack really comes from the emotion of that particular film.  Learning about the characters, their stories, and what they're going through gives me a huge amount of inspiration.  It's really interesting when you seem like you cant be original anymore, the director hands you a scene of the movie, and suddenly you're filled with creativity!  It's truly fascinating.  To be inspired to write is wonderful, but there's an importance of being able to intellectually defend your work that a lot of musicians and composers seem to overlook.  They have all the inspiration, but perhaps for the wrong reasons. I've seen many artists who were "inspired" to do something, but couldn't explain why.  perhaps it's the feeling we can't explain, but we should be able to explain why we attempt to achieve it a certain way musically.

My thoughts on the interview:

Wow, traveling the world and making music in a self-taught fashion. Remarkable! I took piano lessons as a kid and found myself bored as well, and I was constantly confused because nobody likes to teach theory to children. I gave that up from the beginning of high school until the beginning of college and taught myself guitar. I have a violin as well, but don't have time to learn it (I only had a basic introduction to it in my fifth grade music class). I play drums and piano now in bands, but I'm realizing that I'm spreading myself too thin and not becoming great at any one thing. I would love to find work as a composer, but it seems a little hard in Southwest Florida, so I decided to go back to school to get a composing degree and find the contacts that I need to get some good projects. I know they are out there. I just don't know where.

For school, I had to get a mac and Logic. Luckily, I have a Logic class that is helping me to switch over to my new DAW, and I am very excited about it. I'll be even more so when I figure out a few more shortcuts. I just got my first set of EW plugins too, as it is the most complete thing I could get for the money. It is a huge upgrade from what I was working with in Reason 5. As I continue to grow and expand my library, I hope to get Kontakt and some of its extremely high quality libraries as well. Austin makes a great point; one that many people erroneously disagree with. There is absolutely no substitute for live musicians, no matter how good you or your samples are. I believe this is especially true for electronic stringed instruments, such as guitar. People claim that there are samples so real you cannot tell the difference, even for advanced techniques like bending, sliding, hammer-ons, pull-offs, and others, but I say those guitars still don't stand a chance against the real thing, and it is rare to hear them. The majority of sampled guitars you hear in regular libraries sounds like no instrument I have ever heard.

Yes, I too love the work of Hans Zimmer. I like John Powell a little more, but I really like it when they work together like they did on Kung Fu Panda. I think part of the reason I like these two so much is because they do many of the DreamWorks Animation movies, and I really like that style of composition. James Horner is also great. I don't get to hear his stuff as much, but I'm never disappointed when he comes on the radio. As far as John Williams goes, he is probably the most respected composer alive, but he doesn't really make it into my list of heros, except for the fact that he probably inspired all of my heros. He does great work, but his enormous style and super adventurous, almost cheesy themes, are a little much and too old fashioned for me. Still, can't be that cheesy if your themes are the most well-known movie themes in all of existence.

Trust me, your goals are not too extreme to be accomplished. I dream in a similar manner. For example, I would love to be in at least 1 major movie that is remembered by everyone, score a video game series that has a similar effect, do many other side game and short film projects, be in multiple bands that play several different styles of music professionally, become GREAT at guitar, piano, drums, bass, & any other instrument I take up, record bands and musicians as a part of the mega media company I want to open with my brother, help him on his end by being great at video, editing, & photography, learn 3d animation so I can reverse score a scene to some of my music and perhaps inspire projects for game designers and film makers, do graphic design for people, compose for and conduct an orchestra, and still have a fantastic time with my family in the adventure of life. Those are just a few things that were at the top of my head. I may not be able to physically accomplish all of that since I am only allowed the same 24 hours in a day that everyone else gets, but I can sure try.

Wonderful interview, Austin. Thank you for participating and sharing your experiences with us. For more of Austin Lawrence's compositions, visit his SoundCloud here.

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