Tell us a little about yourself and what you do for a living?
I am a full-time composer for media from Athens, Greece. While I am currently involved with game audio and music for US TV, I enjoy writing for any kind of media.
What is your niche or speciality, that makes you stand out from rest of the audio professionals?
My two strong points are writing melodies and being able to adapt to different styles easily. I love music and I enjoy writing anything from hip-hop to purely orchestral.
Can you give us a brief summary of the equipment you use regularly?
My main DAW is a MacBook with 8GB or RAM running Logic Pro. All my sound libraries are hosted on an external hard drive connected via Firewire and a slave PC connected via LAN and the Vienna Ensemble Pro interface. In terms of MIDI controllers I use a Studiologic VMK 144+ as a master controller (which has an excellent keybed as close to a real piano as possible), a Korg PadKONTROL for drums and percussion (to avoid breaking any of my keyboard keys in times of crazy inspiration), a FaderPort for DAW control and a Novation Nocturn for quick plugin tweaking.
What are your go-to plug-ins and software? (virtual instruments, audio processing etc.)
It depends so much on the kind of music and the project that it is hard to say. For TV work I love Heavyocity’s EVOLVE. For orchestral stuff I use a combination of VSL, Kirk Hunter and East West libraries, bass and guitars often come from Yellow Tools Independence suite and drums and percussion come from Sonokinetic, Kontakt-powered libraries and EW Stormdrum. Ethnic and unique instruments come mainly from MOTU Ethno and Sonokinetic’s fantastic libraries.
Regarding synths and audio processing I mainly use Logic’s built in plugins, NI Guitar Rig and Waves OneKnob series have proven to be an excellent solution that allows you to focus on writing instead of mixing!
When do you find you are most creative?
I always thought I was most creative late at night but I lately discovered that my most creative hours are between 7am and noon. When my mind is fresh from a good night’s sleep I wake up with a ton of new ideas and the sooner I play them out the better!
What is your usual process for creating audio content for games, films etc.?
As a general rule (and if time permits!) I like to keep each step of the process separate.
The first thing I always do is work AWAY from the ‘rig’ (i.e. my keyboard and computer). I want to plan out the project before I actually sit down to write any music; I do a lot of research and listening and I plan out the project requirements. For example, I want to know in advance approximately what kind of instrumentation I will use, how many themes I need to write, what are the distinguishing elements of the particular style I am asked to write etc.
As soon as I have a solid plan, I move on to the composition stage where I load a simple piano-strings patch and I start improvising until I get down a few themes I like. At this stage I also work out the harmonies, voicings and general form of the composition(s).
Then, I move to the instrumentation/orchestration stage where I load all the instruments I will use and start laying the parts one-by-one.
As soon as the full orchestration is ready, I bounce to audio and mix.
I also like to keep separate project files for each stage of the process (e.g. composition, orchestration, mixing) so that I can easily go back and correct/change if I get any requests from the client.
Are there any particular secrets to your creativity?
No, not really! There are days when I wake up and I have a bucket of ideas wanting to be explored and there are other days when I simply cannot write a single note. I have found, though, that a lot of times inspiration comes if you pursue it. So even in days when I am feeling the most uninspired, I still sit down and start playing and eventually nice things start coming out!! Also, when something is simply not working out I set it aside and work on something else.
Do you have any audio creation techniques that resulted in something interesting?
I am still in the process of discovering new things every day so I haven’t reached the stage of experimentation yet.
Any specific “lessons learned” on a project that you could share?
The most important lesson I have learned is never to underestimate myself. When you are new in the ‘block’ and you want to get established you often make the mistake of giving away too much for too little and that establishes a hard-to-break precedent. This is why I have promised myself never to work for free again. Compensation might not always be in monetary terms but there must be SOMETHING that I get in return for the work I do.
Any tips, hints or motivational speeches for the readers?
I do not think I am still at the point where I can give advice, but here goes…
Always, ALWAYS believe in yourselves. Talent is nothing if you don’t believe in it. Do not waste time listening to opinions of people you don’t admire. There are a lot of people out there who are ready to either ‘lick your ears’ or pass very hard judgement on your music because they lack your abilities. Don’t limit yourselves to one or two styles; instead, try and immerse yourselves in as many different styles as you can because this will eventually result in your own unique voice. Music is one and the same (call it orchestral or dubstep) and the more genres you ‘study’, the better you speak the ‘language’. Read, listen and research as much as you can and DON’T EVER get disappointed if things do not go as planned from day 1. The road to getting where you want is not easy but is not long and hard either as many people would have us believe. I am tired of hearing how hard and difficult it is to make it and how tough the world of music is. If you want something and fight for it you WILL get there. Keep your mind open to new opportunities and your eyes on the ball.