Jonas Frederik interview

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Tell us a little about yourself and what you do for a living?
Hi, my name is Jonas Frederik. I am a trained classical pianist and composer and I am just starting out as a composer for film as it has been a lifelong dream of mine to be in the film scoring business. Otherwise I make my living playing piano recitals, writing concert music and teaching the piano.

What is your niche or specialty, that makes you stand out from rest of the audio professionals?
That is for the future to decide, although I can tell you that I have never shied away from a challenge. Even though I have a classical background, which of course influences me quite a bit, I am still being adventurous in regards to different types of music I am writing and I am at the moment developing my “ambient soundtrack”-chops for those moments when you don’t need the big orchestral themes.

Can you give us a brief summary of the equipment you use regularly?
Well, as a concert pianist I have my Bechstein grand piano which I use for several hours each day for practising and when I am writing music I also lure themes out of it. I recently bought my first music PC containing 24gb RAM, Intel core i7-960 and the trustworthy M-Audio Audiophile 2496 soundcard. I use an M-Audio Keystation 88ES and for monitors I use a pair KRK Rokit 5.

What are your go-to plug-ins and software? (virtual instruments, audio processing etc.)
When writing music I almost always only use Sibelius 7. For making mock-ups and the like which I have just started using, I use Cubase 6. For samples I use a lot of EWQL’s libraries. I have I have just bought Heavyocity Damage which I can’t wait to use and I have just pre-ordered a triple pack of the three EWQL Hollywood-libraries out so far, which is going to leave my PC begging for mercy.

When do you find you are most creative?
When there is a deadline looming! I mostly write music late evenings as I spend most of the day practising on the piano but when the deadline approaches I will just become absorbed by it. The first real short I scored called Space Nazis Must Die the main theme came to me in the shower and as I have a really bad memory I just kept humming it to myself until I could sing it into my phone. Back in the day before phones became super computers, I often used the answering machine on my cell phone when an idea struck, for example while walking to a bus stop or while trying to fall asleep. These things can be hard to control.

What is your usual process for creating audio content for games, films etc.?
Communication is key. Being a composer on a director’s film is a really sensitive thing. You have to accept the fact that this is his baby that you are contributing to. When common ground is reached, reading the script or watching the film (you have to really “get it”) usually gives me an idea of tone and which instruments to use, and then I usually just spend some time sitting at the piano and just playing what comes to me in terms of themes and ideas (while I have my phone recording, mind you!) I just don’t feel comfortable (yet, at least) improvising at a midi keyboard, to me, nothing beats the real thing. Then enter the notes into Sibelius where I flesh out the ideas and arrangements. And finally creating mock-ups which is often the end result. For a more ambient score I would skip Sibelius and go straight to Cubase creating some form of sound design.

Are there any particular secrets to your creativity?
Not giving up! This is a craft that needs constant honing. And I try to keep creating exciting opportunities and challenges for myself in a lot of different areas, which keeps the creative mind alert and ready at all times. That said, I also find it important to find time to relax as I am worth nothing if I am exhausted after a long haul.

Do you have any audio creation techniques that resulted in something interesting?
An open mind. Sometimes you just need to get something written down, no matter how bad it seems, as it is much easier to work from something instead of just looking at the blank screen only intending to write the perfect notes. More often than not, they will simply not come. But if you experiment with what you have and keep improving it, it can actually become something amazing, that you never would have thought of in the first place. This happens a lot, to me at least. If I have trouble getting started on something, this is the way to go.

Any specific “lessons learned” on a project that you could share?
We all know that communicating with the director is crucial. Also while you are working on it, no reason to only wanting to show a complete score if the director is going to shoot it down. But in the editing room anything can happen, so I prefer, when possible, to be present when the music is put on top of the film if I am not doing it myself. Especially if it is an inexperienced crew, this could be of invaluable help to them. Just keep in mind that you are not the boss, the director is, so only try to steer them in the right direction, help them where you can and do not demand.

Any tips, hints or motivational speeches for the readers?
Creating opportunities for yourself like contacting up-and-coming film directors can do wonders for your career if they like what you do, so keep at it, and keep creating music, demos and stuff people can listen to. You never know who is going to be the next listener so do the best you can – and be your own worst critic.