Australian composer Luke Gartner-Brereton has written music extensively for film, media, TV and online spanning a range of genres, styles and moods. Now, he joins us to chat about his inspirations, hobbies and upcoming plans for 2017.
Hi Luke, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. When did you start composing music?
For fun, in my teens – professionally, seven years ago.
You have a wide range of music on Cinephonix. What’s your favourite genre of music to compose?
My instrument of choice is the nylon string acoustic, and I love anything with a Latin vibe. So, classical hybrid Latin I suppose is my favourite genre. Blues is a close second, with funk coming in third. Having said that, the great thing about production music is that you get to write tracks in a wide range of genres and styles, which keeps it nice and interesting.
What gives you inspiration when composing music?
What I like to call the happy mistake. I love experimenting and freewheeling with an idea until I find something unexpected. I might put the basic structure of a song together in the usual fashion, but when it comes to the melody or the thrust of the track, I tend to rely on experimentation and error to come up with the ideas that I like the best.
It works particularly well with guitar. Lay down the rhythm tracks, then start riffing over the top of them (recording everything, just in case you happen upon something you can’t replicate). Then, when you find that awesome idea, go back and learn it, then re-record and start building the song around it.
It doesn’t always work this way, but this process is what inspires me to create. Also, great films and tv shows that have bespoke soundtracks are a great source of inspiration, particularly when I’m getting bogged down. Sometimes the mix of visual and aural is enough to kickstart a new idea for me and get the juices flowing again.
Roughly how long does it take you to compose a piece of music from scratch and how do you know when you’re done?
That really depends on what style and purpose I’m composing for. If there’s an urgent requirement for a genre which is something I’m relatively skilled at, I can usually knock out a full track in a couple of hours. If I’m putting together a specific track for a client (e.g. an advertising piece or something for a short film or specific video) then it can take a few weeks. For more detailed work, I prefer to get started early and then let it sit for a while, coming back to it 2 or 3 times until it’s done. So I might spend 10 hours over a few weeks to get it done. Stopping and starting means I don’t get too bogged down and helps keep it interesting.
When is a track finished? I’m a fan of not overcooking a project. The temptation is to keep toiling away on a piece until it’s perfect, but you tend to miss deadlines and often end up with a track which is too full or too complex—particularly for tv and film. It’s rare that incredibly complex and detailed pieces are required for film/tv. Usually the music sits in the background, so it’s more important to have the track perform well as a whole rather than including virtuoso performances or intricacies that only music nerds can appreciate.
Short answer – when I’m happy with the overall quality and the number of peaks and troughs in a piece, then it’s ready (unless I’m delivering directly to a client, and then there’s usually a bit of back and forth until we get to the finish line).
For music that I write for myself – i.e. instrumental albums – writing times tend to be super quick. Most albums I write when I’ve just got hold of a new instrument (e.g. when I laid hands on my first Ronroco, or discovered the baritone ukulele). The excitement usually takes over and, before I know it, I’ve managed to bash out a dozen tracks.
How did you find Cinephonix?
A friend put me on to it. Actually, that same friend put me onto the whole production music scene. No idea how he came across Cinephonix. He knew I’d started writing music again (I wrote a few instrumental guitar albums which coincided with the birth of my son) and suggested I look at production music.
From memory, I think Cinephonix were one of the first libraries I dealt with. I really liked the ethos of the company and the way their site was set out. Uploading etc. was really easy to, so it was immediately appealing.
What’s the hardest part about composing music?
Two things I’d say – first, having to produce music in a genre that you really hate; particularly when you’re working with existing material which is really not your thing (vocals that are off kilter, instrumentation which is all wonky, country and western….). Having said that, I enjoy almost every genre (again…with the exception of country and western) and can usually find something to enjoy about a song, even if it’s learning forbearance.
Secondly, I’d say production fatigue. You go through seasons where you’re bashing out twenty tracks a week and after a few months that gets super tiring; especially when they’re all in the same style. It gets hard to be inventive when the vast majority of tv shows are looking for a very select group of styles. When I get bogged down in this kind of factory production mode, I usually start working on a new personal album, or try learning a new instrument. That keeps me motivated and excited.
What’s the best part about composing music?
I’ve heard it said that the production of art is like a kind of possession; where you’re driven to get something out of yourself and put it on paper, or video, or music or whatever. I completely identify with this. Music is a way of exercising the demons within; not in a creepy way, but in terms of a constant need to make something, to draw out what’s inside and give it life. Ok, that still came off sounding super creepy.
Music, for me, is an amazing outlet. When I come across an old song I wrote years ago, it’s like listening to someone else’s work. I can still remember playing it, but it’s like the thing has a life of its own and I get pleasure out of just listening to it. There’s something magical about giving birth to something like that, to the point where I feel like I don’t really have ownership over it. It’s as if the ideas themselves are playing through me (although, for legal and financial purposes…I absolutely have ownership!).
Also, music is just sublime. Sometimes, when all the pieces fit together and you stumble upon just the right combination of sounds and textures…wow…all you can do is listen and smile.
Who are your inspirations in the music industry, such as other composers or artists?
Thanks to a rather rigid religious upbringing, I have a massive hole in my musical vocabulary (I was thirty before I’d heard my first Led Zep song). For that reason, and because I lack the fortitude to go back to the start and give myself a classical music education, I’ve got a fairly eclectic selection of influences, ranging from Gustavo Santaolalla, through to Jamiroquai, Radiohead, Jo Satriani, and the dude who composed that one track on The Venture Brothers…what was his name?
If I dig deeper I’ll likely find a more satisfying catalogue of inspirational souls, but I’m a little like a butterfly. I tend to flitter and flutter from place to place, picking up on a track here or there that really inspires me.
When you’re not composing, what music do you enjoy listening to?
Most of the time I’m surfing on Bandcamp, checking out new artists that I’ve never heard of. I typically lean towards the electro stuff, because it’s not my usual thing. I keep searching until I find an artist I like, then I’ll sit for a while, buy and album or two and then move on.
I get bored easily, so this helps to keep me moving.
What can we expect to see from you in 2017? Anything exciting?
I just composed the soundtrack to a fantasy/steampunk book (http://www.rustchronicles.com/) and I’m looking at some follow up work there which will be great. I’m also putting together an electro album and working with some indie artists from the US on a few new projects which will be launched this year.
I’ll probably get a hankering for something more organic, so I’ll probably release another guitar-based instrumental track this year (or maybe something with the guitalele?). One good thing about music production is that you never know what’s coming up next, so I suppose we’ll see.
We’d like to thank Luke for taking the time to answer our questions and we enjoyed finding out more about him. We’re also looking forward to hearing his new music! Make sure you check out Luke’s music, he has a wide range of tracks available on Cinephonix so click the link below to have a listen.
Luke's Cinephonix Tracks
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