The Natural Aristocrat spoke with Hexany Audio’s Lead Composer Matthew Carl Earl about his inspirations for Star Trek: Dark Remnant’s musical score.
Matthew Carl Earl may have started off only a Star Wars fan growing up but Michael Giacchino’s 2009 film score for Star Trek stole his heart. After being approached to compose the soundtrack for VRstudios and Dave & Buster’s featured VR attraction, Star Trek: Dark Remnant, he was soaring on cloud 9. Earl would fully immerse himself in anything and everything Star Trek, listening to piece after piece in his car… Imagining every corner of its universe.
Earl told The Natural Aristocrat about the differences of composing for a virtual reality-centric project, using Pro Tools to make the magic happen, and how it’s all in the details. Fun fact for those curious what the ‘Hexany’ in ‘Hexany Audio‘ means: “A Hexany is a contemporary six-note geometric musical structure.”
Interview with Matthew Carl Earl on Star Trek: Dark Remnant
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: How much creative freedom were you given with the Star Trek license for the score?
Matthew Carl Earl: Yeah, I had a lot of freedom, for sure! When we first set off on the project we went through a lot of the Star Trek music and were looking at what we wanted to bring into the game that was just super iconic. Obviously, the Michael Giacchino soundtrack for the 2009 film, was like ‘Duh, we have to use that!’ I mean it’s just so iconic!
We obtained the license for much of that [Giacchino] soundtrack, and I wrote and cut the music within that style while employing those themes. But other than that, it was really about staying within the universe and staying true to the whole Star Trek kind of sound. I’d say I was pretty free.
What’s it like to compose for a VR project? Do you ever wear the headsets yourself while recording to test out the experience so-to-speak?
At our studio, Hexany Audio, we do a good amount of VR games and I’ll always play through the game before I start writing music. Just to get a feel for things and look around, see what the game really feels like. We get a video capture while I’m playing and then I’ll bring that back to my desk when I’m writing. So I’ll watch the video capture and write through it, almost like scoring a film. But even just going through and playing the game to get the experience does help tremendously.
As for the actual music, for me I feel VR music has to be more atmospheric and a little bit more mood setting. Instead of in your face wall to wall music. Definitely more immersive than just music on top of something, you know? So I do tend write VR music a little bit more underscored, and a little bit more ambient.
Do you need to have a lot more leniency in sound effects then because of the potential for jump scares?
Yes, I guess but sometimes those jump scares are the desired effect! (laughs) The sound guys also do take the fact that it’s VR heavily into account. For example, not in this one but in other games, you could pick up an object and hold it right up to your ear.
Let’s say you grab a torch and put it right beside your head, you want to hear the fire going crazy! But in a normal game you couldn’t really do that. So there’s a couple of extra things you take into account especially with the sound, but also with the music.
Were you inspired at all by ambient-focused material like the original Thief games by Eric Brosius? I notice you mentioned torch sounds.
Yeah, yeah definitely. But for this project not as much because this was a weird middle ground where yes, it’s VR so you want to make it immersive but it’s still Star Trek. The music in Star Trek is bombastic and huge, ridiculously orchestrated. So I was trying to find a middle ground where I was using only the orchestra but creating a lot of textural music.
How do you feel fans have reacted overall to the audio work? Do you ever frequent Dave & Busters just to see how people react?
Yeah, yeah! We’ve done a couple of projects with VRstudios and Dave & Busters that were similar to this project. It was really fun to actually go there and see people freaking out about it. It’s often people’s first experience with VR. And it’s also VR plus, motion based, and has a ride-based features like the wind blowing in your face and stuff. It’s pretty cool to see people’s reactions!
Were you a Star Trek fan growing up?
You know I actually wasn’t I was a big Star Wars fan! (laughs) But I knew the new Star Trek films and I was pretty familiar with the music already. When I heard we were going to be working on this project I was so excited I binged on everything for two weeks. I listened to Star Trek in the car so I could get fully immersed in the Star Trek mindset and the music would come more naturally.
Do you feel it can overly influence you creatively to hear other people’s work on such a level? Or that with a license-based game people have certain audio expectations you have to meet?
You know it depends. In other games if I’m trying to write something that’s a totally original style, yes, I’d definitely worry about listening too much to one composer or style. As I wouldn’t want it to sound only like one other thing. But since this is Star Trek, and you’re trying to sell that experience, I totally want it to be within the sound that’s already established by Michael Giacchino. We did have the license for a lot of the themes, so I obviously employed those.
How big was your team? I know you’re the lead composer but I know there is a lot of other composers at Hexany Audio so I was curious, do you work primarily alone with just slight assistance here and there?
At our studio we have fifteen people and that consists of mostly sound designers and production people who help manage different things. Then we have our music team. For this project, on the music side of it, I was the sole composer until the very end.
Then another composer here, Obadiah Brown-Beach, I had him help me with the multiple branched endings. We went back and forth working on each other’s themes to make sure it’s seamless and reach deadlines. The fact we all work in the same building makes collaboration really easy.
What software do you use to record on digitally? Cubase?
Pro Tools actually.
Is that what you got used to when you were younger? Or is it a professional standard on the gaming audio side these days like Unreal Engine and Unity is on the visual side?
No, no Pro Tools was what I first started using when I was like 13 or 14, and I’ve used it ever since! I know it really well and it fits my needs, so I wouldn’t want to switch to something new. I’m totally 100% fine with it! (laughs)
We actually use Pro Tools almost exclusively in our studio because sometimes clients will actually ask for Pro Tools sessions. Especially on the sound side, not so much on the music side.
Using Pro Tools keeps everyone really synchronized, it’s still the industry standard for recording, sound engineering and stuff like that. For music, it’s not used as much but it has no drawback. So a developer wouldn’t really request to use different software in place of it.
Are you possibly going to work on a Star Trek sequel to this VR attraction?
I have no idea but more Star Trek please! This was honestly some of the most fun I’ve ever had writing music. I would 100% love to be working on more Star Trek stuff!
Find Matthew Carl Earl and Star Trek: Dark Remnant on social media
Read more about Hexany Audio and and VRstudios at their respective official websites. Pro Tools is available for purchase on their official store page and Amazon for those looking to begin their own scoring journeys.
The Natural Aristocrat spoke with Dr. Teasel Muir-Harmony about the legacy of Neil Armstrong’s iconic first steps on the moon.
Dr. Teasel Muir-Harmony told The Natural Aristocrat about why the Apollo 11 moon landing meant so much to so many, the unifying once-in-a-lifetime television broadcast, and the Politics of Space Flight during the era. Muir-Harmony’s quote about NASA’s reputation painted a fascinating picture on its own. “It’s hard to imagine any other government agency where people wear their T-shirts, just because they’re so excited about the work that they do.” During our interview, Muir-Harmony discussed how important the mission was to foreign relations and how ‘that’s often forgotten today.’
As the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Space History Department Curator and Artifacts Expert, Muir-Harmony has an excellent vantage point toward current public reception of space flight. Particularly by youth, who she said are captivated by the idea. Dr. Teasel Muir-Harmony mentioned once meeting legendary astronaut Neil Armstrong, who asked about her research while she was a bit starstruck… Or you could say, moonstruck!
Smithsonian Channel will be airing a six-part series called Apollo’s Moon Shot starting tonight (6/16) in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing on July 20, 2019.
Watch the interview video above or read the full transcript below!
Interview with Dr. Teasel Muir-Harmony
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: How do you feel space education has changed over the years? Do you think kids today have lost any interest in space compared to the 50s? I’m really curious about your thoughts after asking the Armstrong brothers about it.
Dr. Teasel Muir-Harmony: Well, I think there is an immense interest for space exploration today! If you look back 50 years, kids were very captivated by the Apollo program. But working at the [Smithsonian] Air and Space Museum, I see millions of visitors coming every year and enthusiasm for space exploration really hasn’t waned. It’s there! The sheer numbers alone, the kids in particular seem really captivated by spaceflight.
Did you ever want to be an astronaut yourself?
No! I never wanted to be an astronaut. I’m afraid of heights and claustrophobic so, I always wanted to be a historian of Astronomy and Space Exploration. I’m exactly what I want to be!
I’m surprised you’re afraid of heights!
Yes, I… I don’t think I could have gone into the command module on top of a Saturn V rocket. I’m not that brave! (laughs)
What does it mean to you to be a part of this moment? To be attached to this special moment frozen in time for people across the world alongside Neil Armstrong’s own sons. You’re now a part of its preserved legacy.
I feel extraordinarily lucky, I came to this topic at a perfect moment. I’ve had the opportunity to speak to many of the astronauts who were involved in the program. As well as people who worked on all different dimensions of Project Apollo including Public Diplomacy, which is my particular area of research. I just feel Extremely lucky that I’ve had the opportunity to speak to so many people who were involved first hand.
How do you feel about the general population’s perception of NASA these days? There have been some tragedies in the past (The Challenger and Columbia). Do you feel overall, NASA’s legacy has been rejuvenated and come back in the public eye?
I think if you just walk down the street, you get a sense of how NASA has maintained a lot of enthusiasm among the general public. You see people wearing NASA paraphernalia all the time who do not work for NASA. I think that’s quite a sign. It’s hard to imagine any other government agency where people wear their T-shirts, just because they’re so excited about the work that they do.
Did you get your own NASA T-shirt from Urban Outfitters?
That’s true, I feel like they’re all over! You see them everywhere and it always reminds me that there is a lot of public interest in space exploration and what NASA does.
What were your studies like back at MIT? How do you feel you’ve changed since then? If you have changed…
(laughs) Well, I think I’ve had the opportunity to broaden my understanding of Project Apollo. In Graduate School, I really focused on the role of Apollo within Public Diplomacy and Foreign Relations and sort of as a form of soft power. Being at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum has given me the opportunity to focus on many other dimensions in the history of space flight and also what resonates with people today.
I’m curious since you’ve written about ‘The Politics of Space Flight,’ can you elaborate more on the what is encompassed in that phrase? I have a pretty good idea of what you mean by it but I’m very interested to hear it from the original source.
I tell everyone, go and listen to Kennedy’s original speech when he proposed Project Apollo. He really made it very clear, that he was motivated by soft power and the potential of space flight to effect National Security interests and National power. He said, ‘If we are to win the battle that is going around the world between freedom and tyranny, dramatic achievements in space should made it clear. As should the Sputnik in 1957.’ I can’t do the Kennedy accent! (laughs) But it’s about winning hearts and minds, it’s about political alignment.
It’s very much a Cold War program and Kennedy was motivated to demonstrate U.S. Technological Capability, Managerial Capability. Spaceflight was sort of the measuring stick National power and prestige at that moment in time, and he recognized that. It was an extremely important program when it comes to foreign relations. I think often we forget that today. But that is what motivated Kennedy and that was essential to why the nation at one point, invested over four percent of the federal budget in space flight.
My final question… Some day, someone will likely walk on Mars. It could be through NASA or SpaceX or something else altogether. How do you think it’ll compare to the moon and that iconic first step?
I think it’ll be an entirely different experience, and resonate with people in a different way as well. When Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, space exploration was still relatively brand new. The first human that was launched into space was in 1961 and then he [Neil Armstrong] was taking those first steps in 1969. So it was a brand new field, and it’s also important to remember the role of television. People at that time were just getting television sets in their house on a large scale.
By the end of the 1960s there were televisions across America, but the first lunar landing was the first live global television broadcast. That’s an important part of that mission that explains how we remember that moment in history. It enabled the whole world to follow something in unison. That was new at that time, and I don’t know how we recreate something new like that. So I think when humans go to Mars, people are going to be excited for different reasons!
Thank you Dr. Teasel!
Be sure to follow Dr. Teasel Muir-Harmony on Twitter at @teaselmuir for her latest updates!
The Natural Aristocrat spoke with Fear the Walking Dead’s soon to debut Austin Amelio (Dwight) at NYC’s IFC Center during Split Screen Festival.
Austin Amelio is about to make his Fear the Walking Dead official debut and relishing the opportunity to create ‘something deeper’ with Dwight. Amelio was in the Big Apple along with fellow Fear cast mates for the Season 5 Premiere at New York’s IFC Center and living in the moment. The Natural Aristocrat initially asked Austin off-camera how happy he was Dwight got to live on in Fear and didn’t get killed off by Daryl after all… Which Austin replied comedically deadpan, “Careful, Scott Gimple could be around here somewhere,” (shifting eyes from side to side) drawing laughs from Gimple and everyone around close by.
Austin would later comment at Split Screens Festival Fear the Walking Dead panel that when he was told he was riding with Gimple he was worried about having ‘the talk.’ The character end talk to be exact. Fear castmate Colman Domingo remarked, ‘Well you still have to ride in the same car with him back!’ which brought big laughs from the rest of the cast. The Walking Dead star and former Daryl Dixon rival discussed the initial pressure of being on the grand stage in the role, relaxing more now, and if he thinks he’s ever getting that vest back…
Watch the interview video above or read the full transcript below!
Interview with Austin Amelio on Dwight
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: Austin, how does it feel to transverse and do your own crossover? The first semi-villain to come over to Fear the Walking Dead!
Austin Amelio: I’m really excited about it because I get to keep playing with this character and create something a little deeper with him. So it’s been nice.
We spoke off-camera about how you’re afraid of Scott M. Gimple over there killing your character off!
(Gimple laughs in the background)
Are you guys always watching your back when he’s around?
Of course, it’s part of the show! (laughs) Whenever you’re turning the script pages, and you see a walker, you think “Oh no! This could be the episode where I go!”
How do you feel your character has changed over this season?
It’s changed a lot, that’s about all I can say. I don’t want to talk about it too much or give it away… But he leaves on a pretty emotional note and the troubles rise up on the show I’m on now.
Do you feel you prepare differently after you’ve gotten experience on The Walking Dead than when you first came on the show, acting wise?
Oh, a little more relaxed now. I was pretty stressed out the first couple of years but after playing the guy for a while… I just sort of sunk into what he’s about. So yeah, I’m not as stressed out anymore.
Why do you feel you were stressed out?
It was just such a big thing for me, it was a big show… It’s not like it’s just your grandma and grandpa watching, it’s millions of people. There’s a little pressure with that. But yeah, I’m just sort of relaxing now.
I’m wondering where you’re going to go forward with your career. Are you getting offers to do movies now in-between or after Fear?
No idea, I just take it day-by-day. This business is pretty unpredictable. So it’s just day by day and if something comes around and I jive with it, then great. Sort of where I’m at, no pressure.
My last question is… You ever going to get that vest from Daryl back?
(smiles)I don’t know. I think he took that for good! (laughs) I think it’s gone.
Absolutely, thank you!
Be sure to follow Austin Amelio (@austin_amelio) on Twitter!
Check out The Natural Aristocrat’s interview with Fear the Walking Dead’s Colman Domingo ahead of Fear the Walking Dead’s Season 5 sophomore episode tonight!
The Natural Aristocrat spoke with Fear the Walking Dead’s Colman Domingo (Victor Strand) at NYC’s IFC Center during Split Screen Festival.
Fear the Walking Dead star Colman Domingo discussed the dynamics of his pairing with on-off ‘frenemy’ Daniel Salazar, missing the old Strand’s ways sometimes, and how Victor Strand likely feels about Charlie taking out his pal Nick right before the show’s Season 5 premiere on AMC.
Watch the interview video above or read the full transcript below!
Interview with Colman Domingo on Victor Strand
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: I gotta say, you’re one of my favorite characters on this whole series from the beginning! Legendary voice, Morgan Freeman-like. I think one day you’re gonna be doing tons of voice overs!
Colman Domingo: Thank you, thank you! Voiceover is really another way to tell stories, which is great.
I’m really glad to see it was you that spotted Daniel Salazar on that tape in Fear’s Season 5 premiere. Especially because I think Victor Strand works best when he has an opposing character that doesn’t like him for some reason.
I think you’re right! I think he actually thrives off of that because it’s like he’s got something to prove, in some way. He’s a guy who’s used to the art of the deal. And I think if he didn’t have a deal, he almost doesn’t know his purpose. I think Victor Strand does his best in that way. So the idea of finding Salazar in on the tape is a unique opportunity.
Hopefully, he needs something from Daniel Salazar. A big part of the journey is him going after him to get back but he also knows all the complicated history that lies within them… Like the last time Victor Strand saw Daniel Salazar, he shot him in the face. So there’s some work to be done with these two now and it just gives you more compelling drama.
How was that first crossover episode where Morgan Jones came on? How excited were you about him joining the cast?
I’m as excited as I am about any new actor joining the show. I feel like it’s another great storyteller. I’ve been a fan on Lennie James and thought he’s wonderful. I had no history of Morgan because I don’t watch The Walking Dead. So I was like, ‘Hey, Strand is about to interact with another character! We’ll see how that goes!’ I’m as excited about Lennie James joining the show as someone else joining the show. We always get a great roster of awesome talent! I just feel like ‘Oooh, I can’t wait to wrestle with them, dig in, see what it’s like.’ I love working with Lennie, he’s awesome!
Do you miss Kim [Dickens] and Frank [Dillane]?
Of course I do! They’re my buddies! I don’t miss Kim so much because I see her all the time. She’s one of my best friends! I have her over for dinner, we make plans, I join her family. Kim and Frank are still some of my dearest friends.
You had amazing chemistry with both on the show!
Yeah, it’s like you travel from Vancouver to L.A. then from L.A. to Mexico. We were in Mexico for two seasons and then Austin, you become family. Seven months out of the year we’re shooting, you spend more time with them than you do your loved ones. So we’re still close!
Do you prepare for each episode any differently acting wise, now that you’ve been on for a few seasons?
I think it’s a little different. For me, it’s a little different each season because I think there’s a very different objective for his character and a different way in. I know that I’ve made Strand for myself a bit looser because I think at first, he was a bit tidier. Even the way he spoke, the way he presented himself, the way he moved. I knew I wanted to sort of deconstruct that as an actor. I think he’s getting closer to Colman and less of Strand in a way. I think he had to find that balance of being tough, using his intelligence but also being kind and compassionate.
That’s the part that I understand and I wanted to bring more of Colman into Strand.
I feel as though the character has a lot of nihilistic elements, and then characters like John Dorie come in with this ‘goody goody’ vibe to them. It seems Strand can’t stand it at first but at the same time kind of likes or appreciates it.
I think Stand does like it, like even that one episode where he and John Dorie were trapped on that sort of island in a way. And I think that he’s actually entertained by it. He’s entertained by someone who is so optimistic and hopeful. He’s like, ‘Where does that come from?!’ And how sweet that is… But will that carry you through the world? How do you survive with that? So I think he’s curious about it.
So I’m not sure if he loves it or not but I know that he’s curious about it. Strand knows it’s not a threat but he wonders how useful it is. And so I think he’s always looking at it like, ‘Hmmm, If I were like that, what would I become?’ He doesn’t really understand it but he knows he needs some of those skills now. I think he looks at some of those characters like, ‘Hmmm. That’s curious. Let me try that on for size and see how that fits.” If it doesn’t fit, he’ll just go back to swinging his old ways! (laughs)
I like the old ways!
The old ways are good to have, they’re kinda cool! I think they helped him survive this long, so I think he trusts them. But with the changing of the world he had to adopt some new skills.
I think one of the coolest things about Stand in the early seasons was that he was always ready to pull a fast one. I feel he’s more Hero Strand a lot of the time these days.
It is Hero Strand and I do miss some of the old Strand, I’m not gonna lie! It’s still part of his superhero skills. I think at some point, if there’s an opportunity, he needs to use them. And maybe that’s a skill that he’s keeping a bit quieter for himself, while he’s with this new group. But if he needs to use them in support of the group in some way, I’m sure he will. You can’t take it out of him.
Since you mention missing the old Strand… Next time you have a stocked car like that, you think you’ll just take it and drive off?
Absolutely! (laughs) No, no, right now I don’t think he would. I think he’s really committed to this group. I think he’s committed to Alicia, Morgan, June, Althea, (John) Dorie, he’s commited to them. He’s going to see them through, it’s time to move on and change.Victor Strand (Colman Domingo) and Charlie (Alexa Nisenson)
Photo Credit: Ryan Green/AMC
Even Charlie! Because even though she killed one of his good friends, Charlie hasn’t done anything worse than anyone else. So who’s he to judge? I think honestly that’s what Strand feels.
I think you should judge!
Yeah, who knows, he could! (laughs) The guy’s in the apocalypse, we can’t judge anymore. We’re all killing people! (laughs) Good talking to you man!
Be sure to check out Ian McShane’s promising words to Deadwood fans about a potential followup to HBO’s film at Split Screen Festival. Via Skype no less!