Case Study: Halt & Catch Fire

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Halt & Catch Fire was my first collaboration with the legend that is Paul Haslinger. I had to pinch myself when he got in touch with me. Here was an ex-member of the legendary Tangerine Dream asking me to create synth sounds with an 80s vibe.

Now, of course, Paul is more than adept at conjuring up his own synth sounds, so it was extra rewarding to learn that he wanted me to bring my interpretation to the table too for Halt & Catch Fire.

The AMC series is set in the Silicon Prairie of the early to mid 1980s, following the trials and tribulations of emerging computer programmers and engineers during the industry’s boom. This called for lots of lovely warm and characterful synth sounds, that would be evocative of the era without feeling trapped in it. Or cheesy!

Diva came to the fore, as you could imagine, but also Omnisphere – there’s a ton of great soundsources from classic analogue synths in it. We also briefly flirted with the idea of using Massive, before we realised it wouldn’t work. It was a real treat to be going back to the sounds that first got me interested in synthesizers. Alongside the obvious names, such as Tangerine Dream, Vangelis and Harald Faltermeyer, I was also hugely into bands like Ultravox and Human League.

The focus was on the more atmospheric side of the 80s synth sound; lots of pads, textures and subtle bass pulses. This brought Absynth into the equation, as I’d been getting a really nice analogue drift sound of it.

For season 2, we needed a slightly edgier sound. Out went Omnisphere though, and Absynth. And we went a little bit lo-fi by introducing TAL Uno LX and u-he’s free synth, Tyrell N6. Both a re capable of noisier, grittier classic sounds. This allowed us to freshen things up a bit.

Soon it will be time for season 3… which new synths will we use for that I wonder?


  • Andre Lefebvre
    12/07/2017, 5:57 am  Reply

    Gosh, I am reading through your BESPOKE portfolio, Matt. How awesome! Closest I came to Tangerine Dream was a few emails with Steve Joliffe about some of his solo work (I had a radio show (University radio) in 2003 where I’d play ambient (the ethereal floaty light/dark type). I also think District 9 was brilliant and fresh. Wallander (with Brannagh) I find had a great score too. Cheers! Andr√©

    • Andre Lefebvre
      12/07/2017, 6:00 am

      Ah, and Unforgotten, wow.

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