This episode of The Trailer Music Composers Podcast features an in depth conversation with a master of epic trailer music, Ciaran Birch.
Rich and Ciaran talk about how Ciaran started out, how he landed one of the greatest placements in movie history: Avengers End Game, Ciaran’s approach to writing tracks and his mindset in fostering and nurturing relationships in the industry. Ciaran even shares his favorite libraries and plugins!
Hey guys, welcome to session number 22 of the trailer music composer’s podcast. Woka, woka.
One man, with one microphone, and a Beavis and Butthead card collection. Welcome to the trailer music composer’s podcast.
Hello, hello and welcome to the trailer music composers podcast. And I have a very, very special guest on for you today. Someone I am very blessed to be able to say is a friend of mine and also a co-composer at Elephant Music. His name for those of you that don’t know him is Ciaran Birch, he has done some amazing things and in my mind has reached the paramount of trailer music compositions when he did the Avengers End Game custom last year, which was firstly a phenomenal piece of music, phenomenal and powerful trailer and it just represents his skill level. He is incredibly talented and his work is just fantastic. And you can tell that by the fact that he gets the big trailers with his big sound. And the wonderful thing I love about Ciaran is he kind of has done the thing that I try to get people to do, which is just navigate the music world with their own sound. You know I can hear a piece of music and immediately go, hey that’s Ciaran. And he is such a wonderful, a nice guy. So I hope you do enjoy this, so yeah let’s dive in.
Rich: Ciaran Birch, welcome to the trailer music composer’s podcast. Good to have you.
Ciaran: Thank you very much, yeah, thanks for having me on because it’s great to be on and to chat to another human being in music during these times.
Rich: Yeah. So for those listeners who aren’t fully aware we are on mid lock down right now. So me and Ciaran’s life has not changed too much, we’re still stuck at home in our studios. But at least we’ve got some Zoom banter going on right.
Ciaran: Zoom, I wish I’d invested in Zoom shares about three months ago. Actually I hadn’t even heard of Zoom, but hindsight’s fantastic.
Rich: I agree so. Or at least I’d like a PE programme for people on YouTube or something like that.
Ciaran: Yeah, the musician’s PE class.
Rich: Yeah, it’s working on your wrist mostly. Listeners not like that, come on.
Ciaran: That’s what I went for that one.
Rich: I was thinking more the guitar come on.
Ciaran: Yeah, yeah.
Rich: Alright, so I have my first question here for you, which I ask anybody who comes on this audience, which is not many people, but you’re honoured. So the first question is Ciaran, if you were an instrument, what would you be and why?
Ciaran: Oh I didn’t expect that, it was like tell me about your childhood, and if I was an instrument. Do you know I see myself, that’s very good because I was thinking like oh I play a little bit of guitar, and what’s a cool string instrument and cello. Double bass. And I’ll tell you why because I’m very slow at everything. And I just feel double bass is kind of ploddy. Kind of bum, um, bum, bum. I just feel like that’s me in a nutshell, slow and methodical.
Rich: And cool and classy and a bit jazzy occasionally.
Ciaran: Jazzy, yeah. Just sunglasses on in a dark corner of some bar, bum, bum, bum. Yeah that’s what I would say double bass, yeah.
Rich: Awesome. Actually I was not expecting that answer, that’s the great thing your explanation does make sense so I appreciate that. Right so on to the meteor questions Ciaran, tell me about your childhood. No that’s not…
Ciaran: I got my first violin when I was two and my parents forced me to play it every day. No that didn’t happen.
Rich: That’s the Yamaha method. Ok. So tell everyone about yourself, you know what’s your story, where are you now and how did you get here?
Ciaran: Well I’m 32, I live in Dublin in Ireland and pretty much got into music itself when I was a kid, just played guitar, my dad was always into guitar and Pink Floyd and that kind of genre. But when production music itself, we always had little recorders around the house, like just for my dad to play with 16 tracks or four tracks. And I’d always kind of during my teenage years I would always kind of mess with those and layer up stuff. So I was actually creating production music with guitars and stuff at that age. But again in, I don’t know what it’s like in UK schools, but in Irish schools there is no mention of getting into a career in music at all. So you can do music classes where you do, you can read music, you can learn how to sight read, but I was never interested in that kind of stuff, I was just guitar kind of indie rock. And so I always kind of thought there’s no way I’m ever going to get into any sort of music career apart from maybe singer songwriter, maybe play in a band.
And it was only really when my dad, he worked for the beer company, the drinks company. But when he retired he always wanted to study music, do something in music. So he treated himself and he went to a place called Windmill Lane in Dublin which is where U2 record a lot of their stuff. And these huge bands. And it’s an amazing recording studio. And he just did a course there and he bought an iMac and he bought Pro Tools. And I said that’s kind of cool, that’s better than the 16 track recorder we have, maybe I can start layering a few bits down.
And then I noticed Pro Tools came with like factory strings or factory drums, that was my first stray into kind of orchestral recording. And so at the time I was working as an accountant, I’d studied accountancy. And I hated it, every waking moment working in an accounts office. But I was told listen that’s a great career, stick with it, it’s going to earn you so much money. And just I was miserable, and one day the company I worked for was very small, about 50 people, they were pitching to the likes of Skype, the likes of Orange to do Money Cards. So do you know like kind of what Revolute would be now, they did kind of prepaid money cards. And they were like this does anyone play music, does anyone have any kind of musical background in here to maybe add music to a pitch we’re doing. I said well I actually do a little bit of music on the side. So I started doing like jingles for them. And then they would have like radio ads, so I was doing the radio ads and I was having the most fun I had ever had in my life.
So I would go home from my accountant job, it was an hours train journey home and I would sit there until midnight, one o’clock in the morning creating these sounds for them to go back in the next day to show the marketing guys. And I just knew that I was, I wanted to do something like that. And I told my parents, I said listen I’m probably going to leave this accounting job and I want to become a composer. And obviously as parents would be they were like stay in the safe job, the safe job is where the money is. But luckily my girlfriend who is now my wife, she was doing a PhD at the time and she said look, its three years until I’m finished, I’m earning like a student salary at the moment, why don’t you go and try it, if it doesn’t work, if you’re earning zero money or you’re not making any headway go back to the accounting maybe after the three years.
So I said ok, so I left and I went into a golf shop, because my other passion of golf, and earning minimum wage I just did three days a week in the golf shop and I worked on my music the rest, I did student films and tried to meet people in Ireland. And it kind of just started from there, every bit of money I’d earn, the minimum wage, I’d be like every month I could buy, I think my first library was Passionatta Strings from Vienna. And I was just oh my God, this is so realistic, this is brilliant. And I just built up little bits. Then I bought an iMac and I bought Logic and it was just ticking away little by little, by little, by little. And I was always big into trailer music, but I always thought that the composer for the film, I don’t know if you thought that, did you think that before you got into it?
Rich: I did indeed.
Ciaran: Yeah. So I’d be watching The Dark Knight Rises in the cinema trailer and I’d be like wow, look at Han Zimmer. Obviously Han Zimmer is a bad example because he does, but I think the first one I noted was The Bourne, was it the Bourne Supremacy, whichever one was with Uman Rayner in it.
Rich: I couldn’t tell you who did it.
Ciaran: It was like one of the middle ones, it was Two Steps From Hell, another guy you know, he did the trailer for it, and I just remember noticing that music and being in love with that. And so I think it was, Danny Cocke and Jay Trammell and I bought their albums because public albums, so I would be listening to them going to work all the time, and one day I just happened to be, I hope I’m not eating into all your questions because this is quite a long winded story.
Rich: No indeed, we’ve had our starters this is the main course.
Ciaran: Ok, oh we’re diving in. Yeah, I went to a talk in IMRO, which is like the PRS of Ireland. And I ended up bumping into a guy called Dean Valentine who is a big trailer composer. And it just happened that somehow I see my name on VI control mentioning something about trailers or something and I literally bumped into him walking out of the toilet at break time. And I think I was going to go home, I was feeling really sick, I had a headache and I was like I’m going to go home. And I bumped into him and he’d just landed Captain Phillips, the trailer for Captain Phillips and I just, I generally wouldn’t be the type to be oh hi, how’s it going, I’m Ciaran Birch, how are you, be my friend. But I just happened to say to him oh by the way Dean hi, I’m a big fan of your music, congratulations on your latest trailer. And he was oh I think I’ve seen your name on VI control, are you hanging around for the lunch break, do you want to go for the lunch? So I said wow, yeah, that would be brilliant thank you very much.
So I went down with him, he’d landed Prometheus maybe six months before and I’d kind of been keeping track of his kind of progress. I kind of thought when I saw him, like I say you see someone like that and you know they landed big Hollywood trailers, I thought to myself, oh that hey, excuse me, he’s probably super in to the degree in music and has a masters in music theory and can play every instrument, he’s probably not going to talk to someone who has not music theory, has like, is all self taught, he probably won’t want to know me. But he’s exactly the same, completely self taught, no music theory really basic stuff. And we kind of just kept in contact. And he really gave me, not that he gave me, he obviously never said oh I’ll get you a pusher, he was a pusher, he didn’t, it was more that the belief that somebody in Ireland who is living in a normal house, using the internet to contact these publishers was doing something I really wanted to do. And it was the belief that well if he can do it, maybe I can get there as well. And having that kind of friendship and camaraderie was a huge thing, kind of. So I’ll always be thankful to him for that.
And then I think I put together a few tracks, they were very kind of basic, like very what would be now called epic orchestral, you know like kind of dated stuff.
Rich: That’s still very present. Everyone loves epic orchestral.
Ciaran: No, no. Two Steps From Hell There. You want to earn YouTube royalties. People do love that thought, not for trailers, but just for listening. Yeah, millions love that kind of stuff. But I sent them to about eight companies, and one got back to me, replied. So out of all of them, not even saying I’m sorry your music isn’t good enough, or your music isn’t relevant. Seven of them didn’t reply and one did. This is my first round of ending out emails. And it was really emotional. And the guy Brain, he kind of said listen your music is kind of in need of a bit of work, but we think it could do well. So why don’t you come on board. You will need to redo these tracks, and so it was, I remember going out to dinner when I got that email to say like come on join our company, I thought it was the biggest thing in the world to get into, because they gave me the chance, because people say to me like hey, ok, its generally with most of these companies its a 50/50 split the publisher takes 50 the writer takes 50. And people said to me well why don’t you go and set up your own company and take 100%? And I said yeah, I could do that except I would just sit there with a big pie of music that has no contacts, no relevant, I don’t know somebody in you know Warner Brothers. Whereas say we work for Vic, Vic knows somebody in Warner Brothers, or knows somebody in the trailer houses. That contact. So publishers are very important in getting there.
So, I felt really privileged to be able to get in the door. And I think it took me, it was May 2014 was when I joined Really Slow Motion. And I think my first album was maybe in, that was released was in July and I thought as soon as I released the music I thought wow I’m going to land a trailer, a Hollywood trailer in about a month. This is going to be brilliant. I didn’t know how it worked. And every morning I’d get up and check my phone, was there a message saying congratulations you landed the next whatever trailer. And so it was about a year, May till May and at that stage I’d written a track or two for Colossal Trailer Music and it was purely by chance that I was looking through YouTube and I clicked on a trailer and it was a TV spot for San Andreas. And I remember thinking that sounds familiar, that’s my music, and I thought it was a fan made music and so I had to go search again until I found the official Warner Brothers page and I was like oh my God, this is unbelievable.
And it was such a kind of, I don’t know if you remember your first trailer and the feeling, you think you’re, how am I doing this, how is this possible. And yeah it was just, from there it was just pretty much it’s been a consistent explosion which is, it’s still a thing where I’m, myself and Vik were having a chat before about imposter syndrome and you know imposter syndrome, I think in music had a huge benefit because every album that I do when I start to write I have a little mini meltdown, I’m not good enough, this is terrible. But then you kind of realise that you have built skills and you can do this, but it means you’re keeping yourself in check, there’s no ego getting involved, which has happened once or twice, when I’ve landed something huge. But trailers are so fast paced and they evolve so quick, that you could be the biggest fish out there. Like every trailer, if it was possible to land every trailer and the next month you could land nothing, and then you could land nothing again if you’re not careful in what is going on.
So yeah, I mean I’ve been very fortunate with the people I’ve met so far and that’s been kind of my story up until now.
Rich: Mate there are so many elements of that story I love. So many. I think we’ll work backwards in chronological order. Firstly I found out my trailer , the first big trailer I had was Men in Black 3, I found out exactly the same way as you. I was writing for Pusher at the time, at the same time as Dean Valentine was, and I did some, pitched some work, didn’t hear anything, I just happened to be surfing YouTube as you do, wait a second, that’s my track. And that feeling of oh my God, I’m going to have to go and get my big boy pants on. This is pretty, it was huge.
Ciaran: Big boy pants.
Rich: But yeah, also the imposter syndrome thigh, I really like the fact that you were just saying about using it as a driving force to kind of keep yourself on your toes essentially. Which is interesting because my tactic with that stuff is rather than use it like a driving force, my tactic is usually to go oh I’m feeling negative, I’m obviously tired.
Rich: Stop work.
Ciaran: Let’s have a nap.
Rich: I wouldn’t say that, I’ve got three young children. Naps for me are a distant past.
Ciaran: I’m at the stage where I’ve no children yet, but three pm naps became an all too familiar site, daily sometimes. Good luck, if you have the luxury of doing it, if you’re working from home you might as well.
Rich: Exactly, exactly. This is the problem you know, we’re all so loaded with this guilt that actually firstly we’re doing something we love, secondly we’re doing something we love from home, secondly we’re getting paid pretty darn well for it, I said secondly, thirdly. Fourthly everyone around you doesn’t get it. Which brings me back to one of the points you mentioned about when you first tell people, oh actually yeah, I’m with a publisher and they’re going to be taking 50/50. And they all go, that’s so much of your money. And my response to them was well, and they would say the same thing: why don’t you set up your own company? And I would say to them 100% of nothing is nothing. Whereas 50% of something is something. So that’s the way I would respond to that. Because no one ever responded to that in a good way.
Ciaran: No. It’s also a thing where I think I would be in an early grace doing what publishers do. And I couldn’t deal with the different hats. I think some publishers do it extremely well where they have different people with different hats, meaning that no one person is trying to be a chameleon. And that thing comes across as being disingenuous. If your a publisher saying hello, X trailer house, yeah, I’ll get my best composer on it and then its a thing where you do a great job, the composer does a great job, the clients happy, it comes to the fee and they’re saying oh I’m sorry, X amount you’re charging is too much and then you have to, hang on a second let me get my negotiator hat and put that on. And the person you have just be super pally with and chilled and happy all of a sudden you’re negotiating and you’re being a hard arse. I couldn’t do that. And I think that’s why some publishers do it extremely well with different people, different hats and I think it stands to those types of people in the long run, they way they do it, it’s a business, and I think people when they see, I think that applies to real life as well. I think people see a chameleon person that they don’t really, they can’t get to know the proper you, and they’re wondering which part of Richard is it, if you’re kind of saying no, no way, I’m taking that fee, you can F off that’s not what I’m taking. And then the next thing the next day you’re like hey mate, how’s everything, so delighted, I want to work with you again. It’s confusing. So no, I couldn’t. I think I would be stressed to nines if I ran my own trailer company.
Rich: Also considerably poorer as well.
Ciaran: Oh yes. I mean my mortgage wouldn’t be paid. And yeah, my health would suffer. So there are two important things in life that you need.
Rich: Yeah. I mean even to this day if I had no representation, if Vic was not doing his job that he does somebody says to me hey we love this track here’s like a few hundred pounds, I’d be like oh great thank you. Thanks. Yeah. Whereas Vic is no.
Ciaran: No you’re undervaluing yourself.
Rich: Exactly. And that’s why we need great representation like Vic as well and others of course, like the BBC there are of course other representatives around. But yeah. I could never do it. Because you’re initially being a sales person.
Ciaran: Yeah. I think the way I try to do it is, I mean I’m being very fortunate through working for Vic to have actually met, like as in virtually met because most of them are in Los Angeles and America some wonderful people who are editors or music supervisors and I can just then work on being me, I don’t ever feel like I have to be a sales person which means that I may be coming across as disingenuous to them because my goal is just to get to know people. And genuinely get to know people. And there’s no hint of me trying to sell anything. Because I just write music. If these people want to get interested in, they would be interested in the music because obviously we’re all in the trailer industry. But it’s not my primary, it doesn’t have to be my primary thing of hey I want to get to know you because I want to sell and that’s so huge because relationships are so important. And it would be something I would tell your listeners, please, please, please do not send people hi mate, can we collab. It is the worst thing a composer can get. Get to know the composer first. Please like even send an email and pick a track. The amount of people I’ve gotten in touch with, that have gotten in touch with me and said, first of all they quoted the wrong track. The wrong trailer. Some people even got my name wrong, and then it’s wanting of you know even if they do kind of say hey I loved your Avengers trailer it’s amazing, listened to it 100 times. And I reply, because I’m a nice guy, you know I like chatting to people. But then the next thing after I reply would be I’d love to collab. And I’m like I don’t know what you do, I don’t know who you write for, I’ve never talked to you before and it’s like everything, I think if I was to message you know say for you’ve got Motion, You’ve got Wild Card Trailers, all these big, big companies, if I was to message the editors of those and just say hey guys I love your work, here’s my album, the last thing they’re going to want to do is listen to my labrum, because all I’m interested in is what they do rather than being interested in the person.
And I think it’s so important to see the people rather than what you can gain. I think that’s so important and I think people see through it straight away. So yes to your listeners please, please get to know the people rather than just seeing what they can do.
Rich: Well Ciaran you’ve made me feel really small because I never get those emails.
Ciaran: You have a whole cohort of students. So I don’t have any students. So when I say I get loads of emails, I would say you’re probably talking maybe a dozen a year. That’s probably it.
Rich: That’s a dozen more than myself I would say. Ok right so I just want to return back to your story because you took us to a point which was essentially your sort of really slow motion Colossal days which if I’m right was about five years ago, six years ago?
Ciaran: It was five years. So five years ago was my first placement. And then yeah May 2015, and then again it was a couple of months and then I got told oh you’ve something in D23 for Captain America and I’m a massive Marvel fan. So that was huge. Oh Marvel. And then it just kind of like, really like a great company for the tracks that it did, it was like here’s another trailer, here’s another trailer, and it was surreal. I mean I was still working in the golf shop, I worked there until 2016, about July of that year. And the reason I left was mainly because I was doing my first solo album with Vic, with Elephant Music and I wasn’t going to get it done with the amount of hours I was doing at the golf shop and again you work for minimum wage, and you’re having to deal with, I mean look it’s the best thing you can do, if you want to become a composer and you’re struggling with a full time job you don’t have a mortgage, you don’t have kids, you can take a financial hit, it’s lovely to have that money rolling in while you’re getting yourself going because I think one of the biggest kind of, what would you call it, the things that stop you writing is stress, and if you’re stressed, you quit your full time job and you’re sitting there every day forcing yourself to write good music, I think mentally you’re not going to be at your best.
So that really helped me kind of get to where I got to. I was earning enough money from music that I could say you know I’m comfortable that I can quit, and I’m pretty sure that it’s going to keep going and I can earn a living at it.
Rich: Was that in the three year window?
Ciaran: It was in the, actually yes I quit my full time job, sorry I quit the part time job just as Jill was finishing her PhD. So she finished in June and I finished in July, and like I was saying by that stage, not only had I landed a trailer or two, I’d landed many trailers, but I was making a full time living from that. So yeah, I surpassed the top goal that we had set. Which was if you’re making any sort of living stick with it, but I was at the stage where I could actually go full time. So actually I haven’t really thought about that in a while how fantastic it was, because you kind of push it to the back a bit.
Rich: Dude that’s amazing. Within three years. Like it took me seven you know.
Ciaran: And look where you are now.
Rich: Exactly. This was, I wish I could remember, the tortoise and the hare. Slow and steady wins the race.
Ciaran: And what did you work at for the seven years?
Rich: I used to teach music so that was either like a peripatetic guitar teacher, which is like travelling to schools teaching guitar, or teaching big whole classes of instruments, so I had like 30 kids with ukuleles or African Drums or, and then on school sort of, they really enjoyed the classes that I did so they turned around and said actually we’d like you to do all of the music for the whole school. So I was there for three or four days a week teaching five or six year olds reception, up to year six. So it was tons of fun, kids are bonkers and so entertaining, you know I felt like I was in my maturity level there.
Ciaran: I definitely love Han Zimmer’s quote, ‘growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional’.
Rich: Big time. Big time. It’s lovely still being in a room with the amount of people who find so much enjoyment from farting like you know as a teacher you know.
Ciaran: You should come over to my studio that’s pretty much…
Rich: Amazing. So it was loads of fun with that and I really enjoyed it, but it took me awhile. But yeah, three years dude that’s immense.
Rich: What I’d like to know is how you went from, ok, you went full time essentially, I say full time because obviously once you’re working from home you know, you’re probably not working 40 hours a week, or what’s the full time, 25, I don’t even know I don’t think I’ve ever worked.
Ciaran: I think 37 hours I think is a general like nine to five or six.
Rich: So 37 hours I definitely don’t do 37 hours.
Ciaran: No, unless I have a custom and it’s crazy hours, or a deadline that I have left until the last minute for an album. But no I wouldn’t be doing that either.
Rich: Ok. So my question to you is like you’ve just quit the day job, you’re steaming ahead with your trailer music career, what steps did you take because I don’t know if any of the listeners know, I probably mentioned this in the intro anyway, if I haven’t already mentioned it, you obviously recently, I say recently, was it last year, wrote the custom for The Avengers End Game trailers which for me, as we talked at the time that was like the paramount of trailer music. I don’t think you can get much bigger in the scale and emotional weight and like childish excitement than The Avengers End Game trailer. Because obviously it was a culmination of all the Marvel Universe stuff up to that point. And it was huge, it was massive, it was exciting. So how did you go from doing stuff with Really Slow Motion which was, you’re still getting amazing placements obviously, going full time to then writing I would say one of the biggest trailers of all time?
Ciaran: How did I get there. I suppose again if you want to start at the beginning of that time it’s like I feel like I’ve always had the same idea what my sound is. But if I listen back to the tracks from years ago they are completely different to what they are now, and I think it’s a thing of I don’t just jump on, it took me ages to say get say a piano ping in my music or took me ages to get a ticking sound. And I don’t like jumping on these things unless I’m told by a custom to jump on it. So I think my music just evolves through either the publishers pushing it a little bit or I what a sound or see a track that I love, or I see wow. And it’s a very natural evolution of what I hear or what I want to do, where it goes. But yeah I think then so late 2016 obviously I was working with Vic in Elephant and the Colossal and Emotion, I worked for Emotion until 2018. I mean Elephant is kind of my main company, now, and I do a bit of work with Colossal trailer Music and Audio Machine.
Rick: 2016, had you done No Control in Chaos with Elephant Music by then?
Ciaran: Yeah, that was my first track with Elephant. So I remember I got a message from Toby Mason who masters and mixes a lot of our tracks and he just said hey there’s an album same design would you be interested. And I said ok cool, yeah ok. I’d never worked with Elephant, I actually hadn’t heard of Elephant at that stage.
Ciaran: Yeah I know, let’s just cut that out so Vic doesn’t hear. But I was kind of in a very small pond of two trailer companies that, yeah, so I did the track, and obviously it’s been massively successful. That was the first track I wrote for Elephant and it’s still the most placed in my Elephant catalogue. So that was late 2015 I wrote that and it got published in 2016. So that was kind of when it started getting a little bit of attraction and Vic was like hey do you want to write a solo album? And so that was the kind of big thing that I did. Started writing in late 2016, Vic had half my tracks and it got published in 2016 when we re-did loads of them, Self Flux, that was my first solo album actually, I’d never done one before. So that was kind of the lead into that one. So you know (Inaudible 0:35:11.8) was my first one?
Rich: Yeah, you’re still getting placements from Flux aren’t you, you got one recently.
Ciaran: Yeah. Singularity, which is so funny listening to the, or seeing the comments, because Vic is saying to me that’s the chameleon players or something on YouTube. And I went to check it out and you see the comments and it’s like whoa this sounds like The Avengers End Game trailer, this guy just copied it. And I’m like hi guys I’m actually the composer for that trailer, but it’s so funny seeing the amount of people that said this should be in End Game. And I’m like well thanks, I have a sound, so that’s…yeah flux is still…
Rich: That you do Ciaran, that you do.
Ciaran: Thank you very much sir I appreciate that. Yeah that was my, Flux is a great album. And again it’s funny listening back now because I would have done things differently now on some of the tracks and yet the album was very successful. I’ve had some great placements off that.
Rich: Big time. So was it a case of the tracks that you were supplying to the publishers were getting traction and getting placements so they then came back to you or did you have to kind of openly say hey guys you know I want to do some more music, have you got any more stuff I can pitch on, how did it go from there?
Ciaran: Luckily I have not had to contact any trailer company. Any publisher since the first one actually. Michel from Colossal contacted me early 2015 to see would I write for him. And then obviously I got into Elephant. The same with Audio Machine. That was a lovely one, there’s a guy who does graphics for trailers, he’s working on the Ubam trailer and he did The Venom, Smoke, he did a few bits on that as well. And he’s a guy I love his work and it just happened that he actually loves my music. So we kind of chat a little bit on Twitter every now and then, and he just messaged me one day and said hey I hope it’s ok, but a friend of mine was looking for musicians for his trailer company. I suggested your name and he’s going to contact you. I said oh what one is it and he said its Audio Machine.
So that was lovely because Audio Machine are one of the main kind of old school kind of longest kind of ones in the industry. So yeah I haven’t had to kind of contact any since the first one which is lovely. And I’m very kind of picky. I don’t like, I think it was your first question, I’m very slow at writing, like I think I’m slow and I think I’ve had too many people tell me that I’m slow at everything. From accountant in real life to my music. I just think that I’ve accepted that’s my personality and that’s who I am. So it’s kind of worked out like that I don’t like taking on too much, so I’m really happy with the people, I try to find the people that I’m really happy with and share the same personality, the same kind of, i don’t know you just get that kind of camaraderie, you just get that personality match. And I think then, A, you’re going to write better music then you’re not going to be as stressed, you’re going to stick at the same kind of amount that you’re happy with and the same quality that you’re happy with, but it’s not going to be six companies trying to pull out at the same time, looking for tracks.
Rich: Big time. I just want to go back to what you were saying about you being a slow composer and always being told that you’re slow, I’m going to go against the grain. So I don’t know if any of you guys listening know that me and Ciaran collaborated on a few tracks. And Ciaran has been very kind to invite me to collaborate on a couple of solo albums. One, two, one.
Ciaran: Two now, the one that just came out yeah.
Rich: Two yeah. Two. And Ciaran can write very quickly because he enjoys the time and space. That’s a choice, so there we go.
Ciaran: Yeah. That’s true actually, you’re right, if I’m put to a custom I like to say if Vic just contacted me tonight and said hey custom, I want you to do it. I haven’t replied to him actually yet. But he’ll find out from this podcast that I’m doing it. So say they want the custom done for Friday, so it’s now Tuesday evening, it’s Wednesday I have a few things on tomorrow, so I’ll do a little bit of work tomorrow, but I’ll work Thursday, Friday. And I will have a track done, and it will hopefully be decent, so I can write a full track, like The Avengers custom, I think I did the first draft in two days. Which was not too dissimilar to what the finished product was. And so like two days, I mean I still don’t know how I did that, but then if you asked me to write an album track it could take me a week, maybe two weeks, depending on what I’m feeling, if I’m getting the right vibes from it. And so I think yes you’re right, I think it is a choice.
Rick: It is and I just want to Google something, there we go, so this fits in beautifully with what we’re talking about here Ciaran, this is called Parkinson’s Law. Parkinson’s Law is the adage that work expands so as to fll the time available for its completion. So what happens here right, you’ve got your custom, the deadline is in two days, bosh it’s a complete track. You’ve got an album, the deadline is two months, ahh.
Ciaran: Very true.
Rich: And you spread the work. So Parkinson’s Law. I always forget that.
Ciaran: Parkinson’s Law I have not heard of that.
Rich: Parkinson’s Law I think it was something to do with, I think he was a consultant who was brought into a council to observe like productivity. And he noticed that when people were given a strict deadline their productivity increased dramatically compared to when they had lax deadlines or no deadline at all. And they would suddenly just fit the same amount of work spread over weeks rather than compacted. I only think of that because one of the big shifts for me was having kids and wanting to split childcare with my wife. So my working day went from I don’t know a full six hours to like two or three hours. So I had to kind of go well ok how can i produce the same amount, if not more music in that time. But anyway I just wanted to giver you a kind of boost of confidence.
Ciaran: Thank you very much. Actually I needed that.
Rich: You can write quickly and not just write quickly but you can write amazing music really quickly. And also me and you pitched on the same briefs together, and your tracks sound way better than mine. I send off sketches.
Ciaran: Thank you.
Rich: They do, yours sound like….
Ciaran: I do love the way you work and I think I have always had, I still I’m only starting to kind of get into, no I’m not I’m lying here I’m not getting into the mindset of the Richard Schrieber with Vik and Elephant. Because I find that I love the way you do it. Sending a sketch off, getting feedback, working then through it. Because once it’s left the studio it’s not your responsibility anymore. And all of a sudden weight is lifted rather than, what happened to me is I’ll get an email from Jamie or from Vik, they say hey matte, you got any music from us, and I’m like frantically trying to fix this low pass which is going to give my sound the best thing in the world. And I’m panicking. Whereas if I had sent that off maybe two hours before it would have been off my plate and I can enjoy my life for those extra two hours and do something different. Maybe reset the brain. But I find maybe it’s the type of music. I can’t write your music which I think is great because we all have our own styles then, I find minimal music, I just keep layering and I keep adding, so my music is always quite big and it’s full of different sounds and different bits. But I find if I send Vic my sketch I know full well I will send it right, he’s going to let the pretty sound design at this point, he’s going to think the drums aren’t big enough. So all the things I am thinking about myself I know that the feedback will include. So that’s I think why I’m a little bit slower, because I want to get it as good as I can that I’m happy enough with it and if someone comes back with feedback well then I know it’s not just due to laziness, I’m not saying you’re lazy.
Rich: How dare you sir.
Ciaran: I’ll get kicked off this podcast. I feel that I didn’t kind of, I knew he’d say that, I knew that was going to come back as feedback, but that’s probably why I massage it a little bit more, but if I’m not given the time to, like you said if there’s a deadline, like if I’m speaking to, I think decision making I’m awful at decision making I kind of over think things a little bit too much. So I think that does come into the music. You know I have listened to a lot of your podcasts actually about like let’s try and kind of make a decision, just keep writing, don’t be editing you know. All that kind of thing. I think it’s quite interesting. So I’ve been trying to include a few of those in my process.
Rich: I’m flattered thank you.
Ciaran: No problem.
Rich: You’ve made me lose my point, my mind has gone completely blank. Ciaran flattery will get you everywhere.
Ciaran: I do. See this is what happens when I have a glass of wine and I’m just chatting to a friend. I just ramble.
Rich: The one thing I feel I should mention, obviously we’re friends we know each other and we keep mentioning Vic and Jamie. So for listeners, for those of you who don’t know, Vic is the founder and director of Elephant Music and Mammoth Audio and Jamie is a producer for Elephant Music and Mammoth Audio. So there we go. So when we say Vic and Jamie it’s because both Ciaran and I work for Elephant music. There we go. I was just very aware that we might have been doing exclusive banter.
Ciaran: That happens I think when you know somebody, little in stories.
Rich: Yes absolutely. You’ve kind of already alluded to this already actually, but I’m always intrigued to hear about people’s writing process. Everyone who is listening to this knows my writing process in great tail, view quickly with very little thinking so that it flows out. Send out a sketch, see what happens. It doesn’t have to be a sketch, when I’m saying a chord sequence that’s looped for two minutes 20, I’m talking about you know that it’s got all the elements it needs. It’s got some element of percussion, some elements of harmony and melody so the producer knows what’s going to happen, what is your writing process?
Ciaran: Mine would be depending on the genre. So say for example the type of music I generally do that is kind of my sound, it will be kind of hybrid, like orchestra, synths and very heavy percussion. What I like to do first is figure out my chord structure so I like to, because I can kind of hum along, if I’m coming up with a nice chord structure that I feel is kind of, because mine just go dark, if I feel I’m hitting the right time, I prefer working out the chords first, I prefer working on my baseline. So I will start a load of base patches and just mess with that. I will just do loops of recordings and try and figure it out. And once I’m kind of happy with that I will start trying to figure out, ok, well is that my, what I’ve found with a good few tracks that have come out recently with the base is the melody, the base has become the bit your humming along to. And I think the composers who have started doing that I find that the music I write is driven by more what I steal and what I am emotionally drawn to. Rather than the next trend. But obviously the trends are very important, we’ve got to know, you have to stick to what clients want, what is current, there’s no point writing two steps from hell music from 2007 now, because that’s not what they want.
Rich: Unless you’re going for YouTube plays.
Ciaran: Unless you’re going for millions and millions of YouTube plays or TV shows. The amount of TV shows that I’ve watched that have two steps from hell built into them, it’s absolutely insane.
Rich: Yeah, rock n roll.
Ciaran: But yeah, that’s what I would start with. I would generally these days, I’ve starting act three first, so the end of the track, the big meaty giant part which is selling the movie just telling you the tension is here, what each character is doing whatever, flying through the sky or, and I just found that I can, I struggle with intros, and I struggle with section ones. And so if I write the part that I really feel I excel with, which is the big part, I have every part of the track loaded into that. I have all my percussion, all my synths, I have my orchestra, and now I can say ok well how do I want to build to this. Do I want to change the chord structure, do I want to keep the same chord structure and have a different melody over it. Do I want to just have an atmospheric pad leading up to it. I find that if I have something concrete, I have an idea then I’m more capable of letting my brain figure out where I want to, where the path goes to get to that main part. It’s very confusing. I find track structures are the most confusing part of it all.
Rich: I think you’ve revealed the really, really good tip there. I call that reverse engineering a track when you write the ending, you write the climax, because like you say you’ve got everything pre-loaded, you know the end goal. So the path is much clearer. Because sometimes what happens, I’m sure you get this too, you start with act one, you get into act two and you’re like this is immense, this is immense and then you’re like oh, what am I supposed to do now, how do I make this any bigger? So yeah, I completely agree and I like the idea of that, and I still do that to this day as well. You load up kind of sixty patches, going crazy guns doing their business, and then what I do is I take a few of them, move them back, so I’m using them as blocks, and gradually take out blocks going back until I get to the intro where there’s like one instrument. And then the next repetition of the loop if two, three instruments and then you gradually build the instruments as layers. And then obviously you can fine tune it with automation and velocity and things like that and make the transitions feel more natural. But I do like that a lot. That’s very interesting.
Ciaran: Yeah. I think because the whole point of the thing I like about trailers is you know I think which is the really hard part as well. If you only have a general trailer, you’re doing a cinema trailer, it’s two minutes 30-ish, give or take 20 seconds either side of that. And you have to tell a full story in that time, and it’s trying to, as you said the building blocks for that, and once you get the blocks in place you still have to tell a story. So you can’t just, oh I’ve created this lovely section three, you know what I will just loop that smaller through section two, I’ll loop that smaller again for section one. There has to be a story and a kind of flow to your track that makes the editor and the client and the supervisor interested in your track, that it’s worthy of telling the story of the film that’s there.
And I just find the structure is nearly as important as the kind of what you’re doing in your track with the production and the kind of melody as well. Because you don’t want someone to say here hang on a second, I know what’s coming up now, that you want them to be intrigued by every bit that they hear within the track. And I find that very difficult. Yeah, it’s silencing the inner critic an awful lot as we talked about with the kind of, you know the criticism of when you’re writing and it’s difficult. You know people think maybe you land trailers easier, but I think it becomes more difficult in a way. Because you can’t rely on the same tricks and things you did in the last track. You kind of have to create something slightly new. Or you might be forgotten which is a scary thing in this industry.
Rich: You won’t be forgotten Ciaran.
Ciaran: Thank you. I will keep working, I have a house, so.
Rich: I think going back to what you were saying about the structure being one of the most difficult bits. I think that point that you mentioned there is one of the reasons that I sort of sculpted my work flow the way I do. Because one of the first things I will do is I will sketch out the entire structure first. So in the same way that you have your chord progression I generally start with a baseline or chord progression or some kind of pattern. And I will just literally like copy and paste and then colour code. Oh this is act one, this is act two, this is act three, this is the drop in the out tray or whatever it is. And then I go ah there’s the structure. Now let’s get in the detail. And you know it might be worth having a try because it used to stress me out the structure as well. For that reason that I would start at the beginning and work up and then ahhh, act three.
Ciaran: Yeah, the mind kind of just, I think you’re right they always say what’s a foolproof plan….
Rich: It’s a plan to fail, yeah.
Ciaran: Yeah. I mean that is huge, I mean you know I think sometimes when custom work comes around you know obviously it’s stressful with the very tight deadlines, but I love the customs where they’ve really spelt out we want a very slow intro, we want it to kick in here, we want to stop here. Then we want an act three which goes crazy and ends around the two minute 30 mark. Because it kind of tells you, you’re not trying to guess what is going to be good, what is current, what is the kind of like you know that somebody has kind of instructed you to go and create something. Which doesn’t happen too often like, I mean that’s that unique thing and I suppose it’s good and bad in our industry that we’re kind of left to our own devices with the albums. Whereas in films for example, obviously you’ve got your locked picture and you have to compose to that. Whereas we don’t have that, we have full creative reign over the type and the length and the4 style of the track. But that obviously leaves a lot on our course to try and figure out. Which can be a lot.
Rich: Yeah. I think that’s one of the reasons I don’t do customs, you know if I do they have to be a custom that’s already using my music. I’m not going to do any customs guys, it’s way too stressful. I have the utmost respect for you, the amount of customs you do, and like doing the Avengers End Game custom, that must have been a lot of work and stressful work too because obviously we’re working with LA time with customs so we do our work during the day, they wake up and tell us to do more work. So we work through the night. And then they go to sleep, we have to do our work the next day so it’s ready for them when they wake up. And then that carries on.
Ciaran: Yeah, yeah. It was very, one of the best experiences in my life in music to do that custom are not just because of the film itself that I was working on because obviously I’m a massive Marvel fan I have been since I was a kid, like my dad would bring home the Spiderman comics. But then I was huge into 1960s old comics in the house from Marvel. But the people that I got to work with, the editors and the music supervisors to kind of see the detail that they would want in their trailers, you know it could be a brass rise, and they’re like oh the brass isn’t brassy enough here, it’s not kind of raspy, can you kind of do that again, ok I’ll do it again. No it still needs to go higher, and you’re like I’ve layered like 16 different brasses in there, you know we’ve got like seven, 16 patches of french horns how can I go bigger? Well it’s to look at that and when you see the final product come out you know like ah, I see where they were going. Because we don’t get to see the trailers. That’s a huge part of our job that people go wow did you get to see the trailer before it came out? And I’m like no, still haven’t seen it in the cinema. Ireland is awful for trailers. I’ve seen, I think I’ve landed, I’m over I think I’ve about 60 trailers at this stage including TV spots and so I can‘t think of the presenters that are theatrical trailers. But I have not seen one single trailer.
Rich: Oh mate it’s a magical experience.
Ciaran: Yeah. And I’ve asked the managers of the cinema, oh sorry we don’t have that one in stock, we were given the teaser trailer and you’re like oh I didn trailer one, or I did the teaser and they only have trailer one.
Rich: Oh mate I’m sorry.
Ciaran: Oh I know, it will happen one day, it will happen one day. But sorry I digress there with the custom, you’re right LA time is tough to work to over here. And yes it can, I think as we talk about you feel like as you’re writing am I getting this right for the client, if I’ve got it wrong are they just going to cut my track. That’s the kind of thought process you have, but at the same time it’s so much fun. When you’re at that stage of the thing, you’re at the end of some experience.
Rich: It’s very thrilling, especially when you know you’re like one or two tracks in the game. That’s really exciting.
Ciaran; Yeah. Yeah.
Rich: But I don’t envy you, but so yeah. I’m just wary that I’ve got a few more questions to go and we’re going well over my 30 minute mark dude. It’s not a 30 minute mark. I just…
Ciaran: Lets go, lets go, come on.
Rich: I’m actually enjoying the rambling, I’m just thinking I want to go to bed soon.
Ciaran: I go to bed, let’s see, I go to bed about one o’clock in the morning, I’ll be probably up playing Duty War Zone with the guys till then.
Rich: Oh mate fun times for you.
Ciaran: I don’t have kids yet. Don’t worry a couple of years and I will be going to bed at 9 o’clock as well.
Rich: Yeah that’s it, yeah. You definitely will. Anyway, so my next question, we’ve kind of covered it actually. I think we have. It’s like what creative barriers do we have as trailer composers? But you’ve talked about so many, not like we have a lot, but you’ve covered good ground here, you’ve covered imposter syndrome, you’ve covered LA time is actually a kind of creative barrier because it kind of makes it a bit stressful. So yeah, is there anything regarding sort of a creative barrier that you don’t think you’ve covered?
Ciaran: Like I do find that I think as a composer, I talk to a lot of people who are very successful in this industry and you kind of hear, you do have similar tones, but I think we’re very hard on ourselves. And I think creatives in general are quite hard on themselves. And you know I think sometimes we need to take a step back and just realize that the chord progression that we created isn’t actually pure (bleep) it is decent and it is just like 90% of all other chord progressions that created brilliant tracks. And I think sometimes like, and I think your ethos of just keep writing I think is a very., very good ethos to have.
And I think people starting out, I think would listen to tracks, if you’re into trailers, which is obviously for the people who will be listening to this. If you’re listening to you know your epic haven or epic heaven trailer music channel on YouTube or Trailer Music Weekly and you’re listening and going oh my tracks aren’t similar to those, you just have to keep working and believe that we all started out at a pretty crappy level and worked out way up and figured out different tricks by ourselves. And I think that’s a huge thing, self belief I think is a huge thing in this industry that I think people talk sometimes. And just that keep going and keep going, and eventually…
I have the same process on every track. I will start the track, I will cry and then I will go down for a cup of coffee, I will come back up, I will cry again, say this is terrible. And eventually if I just keep going and going and going all of a sudden it’s like, I imagine it’s like the guys with the marble, you know with the sculpture back in the day. They’d have one big block of marble and out of this marble they said that all they’re doing is freeing the sculpture from the marble. And I think the same with music. Eventually you just keep sculpting away and knocking away and ok I didn’t like that drum pattern, but I’ll keep going, I’ll keep going. And eventually you have a full track. The amount of times that I just kept going and just silenced that critic and kept composing. And eventually I’m like woah, how did this happen, and I have a full track in front of me. But if I deleted that at the first instance I would have nothing and I wouldn’t have created this either by accident, sometimes it happens completely by accident, you hit a wrong chord and you’re like that’s nice, on a synth sound design patch, and that’s the basis for your track. So yes I think self belief is a huge thing and you should never really put yourself down too much. There will be other people to do that for you. So I think if you don’t believe in yourself I don’t think anybody else will.
Rich: Yes. Perseverance in the face of negativity, I think that is a beautiful sentiment and too true that too many creative people, and incredibly talented creative people suffer from the overactive inner critic. And that’s one of the reasons I do try and teach people to just tell it to bugger off and just keep writing because you know what, you might go to it the next day and think this is the best piece of music I have ever written. That’s the thing, it’s a changeable beast.
Now I’m very intrigued to what the answer to this question Ciaran, what advice would you give to people who want to get into trailer music? You’ve already given one nugget which is don’t email me asking for collaboration, at least not without taking me out for tea.
Ciaran: Yeah. Get to know me first, and yeah I did get one before where it was like you’re going to introduce me right. Like to this company. I was like no, introduce yourself. Not my job. But yeah, I would say there’s a great Facebook group which was actually set up as a bit of a mess group called The Trailer Music Support Group. And it was set up by Cody Still and a few others, just as kind of like a joke, kind of we all need support in trailers because we’re all very much down in the dumps all the time. But in terms of these mammoth kind of beasts. I suppose like your course, your trailer music course and you’ve got all the forms for that, but in terms of this thing if there’s a thousand members. But there are some brilliant people on that who will give great advice. And the same advice keeps coming up all the time.
So you want to get into trailers, what do you need to do? And I would echo probably the same advice, meaning get yourself a good, hey first of all figure out what genre you’re in, you can’t be in all the genres. And slightly digress here, but Vic has kind of given out to me a few times for trying to be you know a Richard Schrieber, I’d be like I can do minimal, and I can’t do minimal, so he will be like, even for my recents that we collaborated on, I’ll be like, I had a few very kind of minimal sound design horror tracks, is it me, no. do your sounds, do you and that’s what people want. So those tracks ended up completely being changed and I’m so thankful that he gave me that kind of constructive criticism, that everyone is talented at different things. So I knew from the beginning I loved Danny Cox music, the hard hitting trailer music, that’s what I was into. I’ve always been into bigger sounds. And so that’s what I do. So I was creating bigger, orchestral hybrid sounds and sound design sounds. So that would be my thing, figure out what is the genre you would like to be in. Is it the kind of horror genre, is it hybrid, that you’re pitching for Marvel and DC and that kind of thing.
And put together a little pack of tracks. Listen to the tracks that are on YouTube, there’s some unbelievable tracks, I use them as references a lot to see what is current, what is being used, and what are the things that maybe they would use in tracks that maybe I wouldn’t use, I wouldn’t think of for chord progressions. So listen to a lot of those tracks and when you’re ready to have maybe three tracks minimum figure out all the main players in the trailer industry, I mean there’s a huge amount of them, they’re all on Facebook, they’re all on line. I think if you just did a quick search of trailer music publishers it would come up with a giant list. Figure out who the people are, so figure out who the music guy is in it and please, please send personable emails. Don’t just send hi, I’m interested in joining your company. Please listen to my sound play link. Bye. that will not work. It is the biggest relationship industry I have ever seen, everybody knows everybody, you know there’s just, it’s phenomenal the amount of people in, from an editor to a music supervisor in a trailer house to clients that will know everybody. It shocks me how small it is for such a big Hollywood industry. But please be personable in your emails.
And maybe people won’t get back. It happens a lot, they’re busy, but they just have their own company to run. But if your music is good enough and you keep knocking at the door, somebody will take you on, one of the good companies will take you on. And start from there. Its criticism from these guys, I remember even when I was starting out I would get an email about a track and they would tear it to shreds. And the same with Vic at Elephant, he still tears my tracks to shreds. And the little ego inside me cries and it dies a bit, it goes to hide in a corner, but, and there have been times where I really would like to email Vic and say no, my track is fantastic, how dare you tell me that this is wrong, or its not building enough. But you swallow that pride and you go and you do it. You make the changes because these are the people who know, if you’re with a good company, who know what to do and they know where the track should be, they know what the people are asking for and I think that is one of the biggest things I will always take with me whenever I write music, that when somebody gives me criticism, if its constructive I will gladly take it because it’s the only way you will improve, and it’s the only way you will keep improving which means you will have a long career and hopefully keep earning money.
And that’s what I would say is the way to do it. I mean be humble, stay focused on what is there and you know if you don’t get taken on by a trailer company first of all just keep trying. I mean if this is what you want to do and your goal is to land a trailer in a Hollywood film it’s doable if you have the right skills and you keep at it. There’s too many people I do see who quit or who do get that ego and it really is not an ego driven industry at all, it’s not so. They would be my tips.
Rich: Great tips actually. I often talk about that issue, my career has been formed on relationships and your career from start to finish, from start till now.
Ciaran: Start to finish you’re done. Once you come on this podcast for an interview your period is over.
Rich: That’s right. I’ll send the lads round is all about building relationships, you build relationships with these people, you made connections, like I love that story about the guy in Marvel who, the illustrator or designer who you’d built a relationship with and then he introduced you to Audio Machine.
Ciaran: And what a lovely guy, you know it’s not like we’re best friends. That’s such a, I think that’s the power of this industry where if you’re very genuine, even for example I met this lovely girl who works for one of the trailer houses. She’s a music supervisor. And we both followed each other on Instagram from ages, but I’m not going to start, I mean unless there was something to message her about, because you know we’re kind of strangers to each other really apart from I love her career and I love what she does as a music supervisor and I would have hoped that she liked my music. But there was one time where she had a picture of her dog up and was saying something about dogs, and I have a Saluki dog. And I just commented on something on it. And she was like oh my God you have a dog as well, I saw pictures on Instagram. And three hours later she was like oh my God it’s 4 am in Ireland, so sorry, you’d better head to bed. And I was like oh don’t worry about it.
But there’s a relationship, like I mean she’s such a lovely person and I didn’t just go and spam her messaging to check my music, check my music because that’s not what relationships are about. We just happen to be in the same industry and she can see, hopefully I’m a nice person.
But that’s what I love, that’s what this industry is about. And we’re all in it, there’s job to be done which is create music, and for them its to get the good music, but they’re not going to go and pick your music out if you’re just emailing them stupid stuff. Yeah that’s what I love about this industry.
Rich: Wide words sir, wise words.
Ciaran: Thank you, thank you.
Rich: Ok, we are onto the quick fire round. So this is like, I mean I may not get asked to collaborate but I definitely get asked a lot of these questions. And this is like, this is nerd question everybody, because at the end of the day we’re all secret, or not so secret nerds. I see, I believe that’s a Death Star in the back of your studio.
Ciaran: It is, and I’ve a Spiderman lovely limited edition my friend got there as well.
Rich: There we go, all nerds. So Ciaran what is your go to door?
Ciaran: Logic. I don’t use anything else.
Rich: How dare you, go to piano library?
Ciaran: Emotional Piano.
Rich: Mm. Go to string library?
Ciaran: Um, it will change soon so I will go with what I have so CineStrings. Or Spitfire the first album. For sure, I love sketching with that one.
Rich: Oh mate those just sound so beautiful don’t they? Go to brass library?
Ciaran: CineBrass. Or Music Sampling Brass because I have two, so it depends what I want to do, so if I’m just sketching out brass like normally I will go to CineBrass but if I want to sketch something massive I will go to Music Sampling Brass.
Rich: Nice. I do really enjoy this because I, this is the wonderful thing about me as a trailer composer, I know so little about the various sample libraries, I’m just like there are other libraries other than Spitfire? What.
Ciaran: Yeah. it’s a UK addition here.
Rich: Yeah. Ok go to percussion?
Ciaran: Um, it has carried. So I have literally got my percussion down to six things, so obviously you’ve got Damage, I mean I use that none stop, but what do I use an awful lot now. ATO and they had a sale on for ages where every drum library was like $28. And I bought a lot, I don’t really use ATO percussion, apart from the toms and the frame drum is phenomenal, I love the ATO drums some of their libraries are a bit suspect but their drums are phenomenal. So they and I use a lot of hits from library Pulsetter, Decimator or something I think it’s called. But Pulsetter is brilliant, it’s just hits like hybrid…
Rich: Detonator Rage.
Ciaran: It’s phenomenal, love it.
Rich: They got someone hits on there where you’re like oh yeah. I’ve heard that before.
Ciaran: Wow and I love this where they don’t go and go (makes sound) I love the hits that just go and just have a nice clean tail and you can do what you want with them.
Rich: Who uses those ones?
Ciaran: I don’t know.
Rich: Yeah, what is wrong with these weird tails like goes (makes sound) what why would I want that?
Ciaran: I have to bounce that audio and just chop it up and put a reverb on it and bounce it off again to use it.
Rich; Yes I agree. Ok go to synth?
Ciaran: Omnisphere. And Zebra and I can’t use it, I’m ashamed to say, not that I can’t I won’t because I am too lazy to go and spend hours trying to work with you.
Rich: Yeah, fair enough I think that’s the problem with synths. I would say I’m nerdy but then when it gets to a synth I’m like little time. Ok, top three effects plugins?
Ciaran: Sound Toys, all of them let me see, what else do I use.
Rich: That’s about 12 plugins dude, so….
Ciaran: Yeah, ok well if we’re going like Sound Toys.
Rich: Just Sound Toys.
Ciaran: All of the Sound Toys, every Sound Toys plug in is just phenomenal.
Rich: Yes I agree.
Ciaran: Oh and Fat Filter.
Rich: The EQ one?
Ciaran: The EQ yeah. That’s the one.
Rich: I’ve heard you talking about that for ages and its been on my list to buy so…
Ciaran: It does so much.
Rich: Is that the one that analyses the two tracks and tells you if they’re clashing?
Ciaran: Um, well if it does I don’t use that. There’s probably going to be listeners going yes that’s exactly what it does, but no if it does I don’t use that part. I use the Neuron EQ if I want to analyse the two tracks and look so it tells you where they are clashing, a quick draw on a bass it will tell you, so that’s what I would use for that.
Rich: Amazing. So is that three plug ins?
Ciaran: That’s a lot of plugins.
Rich: Sound Toys, Fab Filter, well you said Neutron.
Carian: So we’ve got 12 Sound Toys plug ins ne one and then Fab Filter EQ 3 and then if we’re saying analysing tracks there’s also one called Wavesfactory something, something that I bought and pretty much again you put that on your track and you can link again it’s like side chaining it to another track, you can actually then it will actually start to look it will say put a filter on it and it tells you then ok I’m going to dip the track that it’s on by X amount because the bass is heavier in the other track. So if you want the rhythm and you go the bass is a little bit too heavy but I want it to go kind of up and down a little bit, that’s what I’ll do very quickly, you don’t have to start messing around.
Rich: Mate that is awesome. Is that Wavesfactory the Sample Ivory company?
Rich: Mate I’m getting that.
Ciaran: It wasn’t expensive either, it was so good, so quick. That’s what we want, we don’t want to be there forever.
Rich: No definitely not. Ok. And what is your number one piece of advice to write better trailer music?
Ciaran: I would say look at the tracks on YouTube it has to be the biggest thing you can do. Public releases are another one from industry kind of trailer companies, but sometimes those tracks are brilliant, and the fans favorites but they’re maybe not what’s landing. So I would go on to the two ones, again Epic Heaven on Trailer Music Weekly and they will actually have upped the tracks. Because both of us have tracks on it, that will actually have landed in the trailers. So you could be looking at a trailer and you’re thinking wow, Venom Trailers amazing, that you know that Fast and Furious trailer is amazing, who did the music and what does the track sound like as a full one? And there you go they have the full track up. And it’s just brilliant to look and see, compare how is your track different, is my production level the same? Is my EQing the same as the master? Are they using less orchestra than I used because maybe that’s a hybrid kind of track? So that’s my biggest bit of advice I would give to people is to constantly compare and see ok, well the people who are at the top landing Hollywood trailers where does my music differs and why it is the same? And you will get your positives and negatives from that.
Rich: Can I add a little addendum to that which is make sure you’re in a good mood when you’re doing that.
Rich: Because the moment you start comparing if you’re feeling a bit sad you’re going to start ripping your music apart rather than looking at the other work critically and analytically you’re going to be like well how am I supposed to ever compete with this I’m not supposed to do this, I should just go back to the say job. So…
Ciaran: Yeah I think you’re right because I’ve done it when I’m in the middle of writing and I would say that’s probably the worst time.
Rich: Big time.
Ciaran: So I’ve kind of said I’ll be writing, writing, and say ok well actually I am aiming for X, look up a load of trailers that style, listen to the tracks. And oh my track is a million miles of how good that track is, where I think as we said you fail to plan you plan to fail, this should be done as part of your planning process. Look up the tracks, hot down the things that you like about the tracks, maybe the bassline is distorted and fuzzy but it still stands out, well that’s something to write down. Maybe the percussion is super hard hitting but sparse. That’s another thing to write about. And keep those notes and ideas in your head. And take a break, come back to it then, start writing your track, but it is yeah like you think that’s a good addendum to it because you can drive yourself insane compressing while writing.
Rich: Big time mate. Ciaran, I want to say thank you very much for all of the value that you’ve given to the trailer music composers podcast audience. I need to come up with a really short way of saying that, with the audience. I’ve obviously very much enjoyed light of you and love how much emphasis you’ve placed on building up relationships with people because that’s so important, the people who have tried to build a relationship with me as a person over and above me as a trailer composer are the ones that I would generally respond to more readily. And if there were ever any opportunities, you know like that guy, maybe like hey I can’t do this custom, but this guy’s pretty cool. So I’m not saying that Ciaran will do that to you guys I’m just saying…
Ciaran: No it’s not going to happen, and please don’t come round to my house.
Rich: Which leads me on to my last thing ok, if people want to get in touch with you or check out your work where can we send them?
Ciaran: I’m pretty much on all the social medias. I do have a website as well so generally Facebook is kind of for me a dying social media for me, it’s just annoying. So I’m generally on Instagram, it’s just so full of just nonsense.
Rich: That’s why you don’t answer my messages.
Ciaran: Oh yeah that’s the reason yeah. No, I would be on Instagram a lot and I am on Twitter and if anyone wants to check out my website it’s carianbirch.com so there’s an email address there if anyone wants to get in touch. And I will respond to you eventually, and…
Rich: Because you’re a true gent.
Ciaran: So yeah, I mean i think i do like if people are genuinely seeking help I basically like every other very like the whole trailer industry really if I can be of any help I will, but it’s yeah, the people who are demanding help and wanting me to collab I generally steer clear of.
Rich: Amazing, thank you so much for coming on the show and I do hope you enjoyed it as much as I did and yeah guys go check out cairns work because Ciaran is an absolutely brilliant composer and his trailer tracks are huge and epic and they ring across the narratives of the trailers that he scores. Beautifully. You know he has the intimacy of the characters set in their huge landscapes and he does that with his excellent hybrid writing which I am always in awe of and I tell him that all the time, so thank Ciaran.
Carian: Thanks very much Richard. It’s been a pleasure.
Rich: What a nice guy and his music is absolutely fantastic as well. So for those of you who don’t know his music go onto YouTube check it out I mean there’s tons of it around on YouTube, just type in Ciaran Birch music and you will find loads of it and if your aspiring to be a trailer composer i would strongly recommend giving his stuff a listen because he develops his ideas based around usually a synth based idea, it’s just fantastic and he just gets this lovely powerful sound at the end. And I want to reiterate a couple of things here like the importance of relationships with people. At the end of the day if you want to get into trailer music you know don’t see to like who can I pester with emails, see it like who can I build relationships with, who can I* have common ground with, who can I share, treat them to people you know. You don’t go up to a stranger on the street and suddenly start asking them for their email do you, and it’s the same online, you know be a naive person, it will get you much further.
I hope you enjoyed it guys and I thank you so much for taking the time to listen to this. You guys are absolutely awesome.