Paul Haslinger has been creating bold and imaginative soundtracks in Hollywood for over 20 years, after a formative career that saw him study at the Academy of Music in Vienna, and then become an integral part of the legendary electronic band, Tangerine Dream. Paul kindly had a chat with me about his music, his ‘education’ and what inspires him.
Your new series Halt & Catch Fire has been getting some great reviews, especially the music, tell us about your work on that?
It was one of the best collaborative experiences I’ve had so far. Great group of people involved. Anybody from show runners to editors, actors – everybody on the same page and working towards the same goals. Quite a treat!
Has working on an 80s inspired soundtrack brought back good memories?
Definitely has. And it was a lot of fun revisiting old hunting grounds with the benefit of perspective. The time depicted, the early 80s, was pretty much the time I started making and programming music. My first Atari, running Steinberg Pro-24. So in many ways, this did feel like coming full circle. That being said, the 80s aspect was an important part, but not the only aspect that went into writing this music.
You were kind enough to invite me to create some sounds for you for the series. What, to you, are the advantages of bringing in another sound designer?
To me, working with great sound designers is the same as working with great musicians. It’s a direct part of the creative process, and it inspires development. Everybody plays and programs in different ways, and with different sensibilities. My job as a composer is to find the right mix of these elements, and integrating custom designed sounds is the first step in getting away from the things I would normally do. It helps me and inspires me to explore new territory.
Well, it was my pleasure. An obvious question, perhaps, but what was it like working with one of the most influential electronic bands of all time, Tangerine Dream?
Well, at the time I was in my early twenties, so I didn’t really give it a second thought. Looking back, it was a pretty cool way to get started and it definitely became the foundation for all other developments since then. I will forever be grateful to Edgar Froese and Chris Franke, who took a chance on me and helped me grow as a musician and a writer.
How did you transition from working with them and into film composing?
I already did some film scoring with Tangerine Dream – even though that was pretty much a theme with variations. After I relocated to Los Angeles, I started working with film composer Graeme Revell. That’s when I discovered the wider application of film music, and the chances it offers to do and try unusual things (and get paid for it!).
You’re classically trained, you were a member of a pioneering electronica act: have you had the PERFECT education for a modern composer?
Maybe. I don’t know. I’m not sure education really works when it comes to music. All I see are tricks – good musicians and good composers know a lot of tricks. After a while, you understand it’s all tricks, and then you just manage your arsenal of tricks – and try to acquire new ones from people you admire. So, the big theory, and the programs, the courses – it makes it into a system, and in a way, takes the fun out of it, for me.
To me, it seems your film credits are quite an intriguing and eclectic bunch (the Underworld series, Crank, Vacancy, The Three Musketeers), what attracts you to a project?
One of the main reasons I like film music so much, is that it takes you to different corners of the world – figuratively and literally. And each new project has that potential, to explore something new, to try something you haven’t tried. So in the most general sense, this is what attracts me to projects. Of course, if it also just happens to be a good film or TV series, that never hurts.
What are your favourite bits of kit in your studio?
Hardware: Roland A-50 MKB, Hornberg Research hb1 (breath controller), Novation LaunchCtrl, Faderfox UC-3, Win7 PCs for Cubase and VE-Pro, UAD.
Software: Steinberg, U-He, NI, CamelAudio (RIP), FabFilter, SoundToys, UAD, PSP, AAS.
What hardware/software is missing from your studio? Does it even exist?
I would generally wish for gear and software that is more designed to accommodate a modular set-up. Avid was heading in the right way with the S6, but it would need to go further – different units of different sizes that the user can configure. For software/GUI: design to allow better data management and data conversion between sessions.
And anything you’d particularly like to see coming out from The Unfinished?
Oh, you just keep it coming, Matt! You haven’t designed a set yet that I didn’t find some use for! On a specific note… a swarmatron emulation would be nice!
I think I’ll pass that task on to someone more technically gited. So, apart from Halt & Catch Fire, what else have you been using my sounds on?
I got into your sounds a couple years back with some of your first Omnisphere releases (Eric Persing actually told me about you). I have pretty much used them in one fashion or another on any project since then: Mysteries of the Unseen World, No Good Deed, Messengers…
What do you enjoying writing the most/what would be your dream job?
I am most attracted to projects that have a strong script. And with that, I mean something not heard a million times before; and a distinct visual style (a la David Fincher, Jonathan Glazer, Michael Mann, Tony Scott, Nicolas Winding Refn, Stephen Soderberg).
A great list of directors. What will we hear from you next? And where can hear more of your music and learn more about your work?
I think Messengers (season 1) will start airing in the US in March, and Halt and Catch Fire (season 2) will probably come out in the summer. I start working on it in March. There is also a new Rainbow Six game, due to come out this fall (Rainbow Six: Siege). And some music projects on the horizon… I am trying to be good with updating my website and making announcements on Facebook and Twitter. But the studio still gets the better of me quite frequently… so many sounds, so little time.
In conclusion though: Thank you, Matt, for coming up with great sounds and putting your heart into it. It makes a huge difference to me and many of my pals here in Hollywood. Please keep doing it, for as many instruments as possible!
My absolute pleasure Paul. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me and I look forward to working together again soon.