Paul Houseman

Paul Houseman

This is our first interview in our newly started section! First off is Paul Houseman from Finland, a young and very talented composer.

Paul Houseman on Radio Rivendell
Official webpage

What musical education have you had?
Hmm, let me think... none!

What inspired you to start writing/composing?
I was an avid fantasy role-playing fan as a 10-year old kid, and eventually ended up designing my own, suprizingly complex games with designed characters, cities and stories. For many years, in retrospect, making my own "worlds" seemed to fill the gap of having no external interest in life (such as friends, school or hobbies.) Being very inspired by my favorite composer Nobuo Uematsu, I decided to give a shot at making my own background music for my games at the age of 12. The rest is blur.

Assuming you learned how to play musical instruments, which instrument
helped you begin your composing career?

It was some obnoxiously horrible-sounding synthetizator that I was learning to play "Axel F" and "Turtles" -themes with all day long, to the convenience and entertainment of my beloved parents and neighbours. Good times, I'm suprized my parents bought me a real keyboard later.

Do you use choral arrangements as well as instrumentals?
The choir is one of my favorite elements, I add it whenever it might fit to the setting. I'm trying to avoid having actual lyrics in my instrumental music, since without words, music is more true from a cinematic storytelling aspect. Just an opinion, though!

What instruments do you prefer to use in your compositions?
I'm a brass-guy. Other favorites include the string section and percussion. Oh, and piano! My orchestration style depends entirely on my project.

How old were you when you first started composing?
12, though I wouldn't call it composing.

What influenced your music then and how has that changed?
Nobuo Uematsu was my musical "mentor" then. Right now I'm leaning more into film music, so let's say I'm being influenced by Hans Zimmer and John Debney the most, I always check out their newest scores and think of new and creative ways of stealing from them.

How long does it generally take you to compose a piece?
It usually takes only a few hours to compose a piece, I work extremely fast. The actual production takes longer, it always takes the next day to return to the piece and refine it into something potentially impressive and worthy of listening. Some cues take longer than that.

Do you think your music fits in a fantasy or roleplay environment?
Most definitely it does! If there's someone using my music in the background when playing pen/paper RPGs, I'm happy and honored. I've been considering writing music specifically designed for that, might be an interesting project to take on. Perhaps a CD with looping music for cities, battle, sneaking, bar scenes, night / day exploration music would be interesting, either in a fantasy or cyberpunk setting. Will keep you up-to-date! : )

If you could be anyone/thing in Middle Earth, who or what would it be, and why?
I most definitely see myself as a dark wizard. I'll go with Saruman. I'd love to have a house like his, what an inspiring place to make my dark music in it would be! Then I could make all other wizards my slaves and have them write my music for me, copying my style and giving me credit for it... what?

What music software programs have helped you further your composition goals?
I'm stuck with relatively old software in terms of sequencing, nor do I have much interest in keeping up with the Joneses on this anyway. The most inspiring program was a free program called Anvil Studio, my first sequencer. Then I got Cakewalk and never went back. Some sample libraries are very inspiring as well, such as EWQLSO and Advanced Orchestra. Most of my samples have been heavily edited by myself though, and many have been recorded by me. I find the thought of having something unique inspiring.

If you use synthesizers what do you think their use does for your music?
Synthetizers add the healthy dose of "in-human" precision and power to the music, that a traditional orchestra cannot achieve. My style has in it's nature to blend synthetizer and orchestra, even if it's at the expense of "realism" and intimate sound. I prefer electronic bass instruments over real ones.

Do you consider yourself an 'artist' in the sense you create within the realm of your own vision?
Good question, since in my line of work, the director is the person whose artistic direction I have to follow! I always bring my original ideas to every project though, and often score something without any direction (which is when I get the best results in my opinion). I also write "concert" pieces, obviously those are more personal, reflecting something I've been inspired by recently. I have lots of very small personal music in my computer, but I won't post it anywhere since I doubt my fans are very interested in those.

If you couldn't be a composer, what else do you think you'd be doing?
Probably directing movies or writing science fiction or being a junkie.

If you could work with any other composer/band, who would it be?
You mean splitting the glory in half!? Hah! I have worked together on the same projects with a few composers and bands, all those experiences have been positive but I just consider myself lucky so far.

What musical composers most influence you?
I'd have to say Hans Zimmer and his "Media Ventures" buddies. I find myself constantly stealing from John Debney and James-Newton Howard too. Nobuo Uematsu's influences lie deeper within my creative soul, I hope to write music like he does some day and have the freedom that he has.

What is your relationship with other composers in the field, have they been helpful and supportive?
In most cases, absolutely horrible! I choose not to talk in detail about artistical choices with other composers, since they didn't write my music and I didn't write theirs. I'm sick of hearing how my music "could still develop", as if I didn't know that, and as if complexity and slowly developing boredom was something I aimed for over catchyness. I have many many great composer friends though, they are usually really cool and talented people and often supportive!

Do you consider that you have a 'musical signature' of your own - if so, what are its recognizable characteristics?
I would say that my musical "signature" lies within the sound itself, there's a texture in it that nobody else has. From a musical point of view, I think my music is considerably more progressive than most composers I've heard, be it for better or worse.

Who was the first person to recognize your potential in the business of music composition?
Career-wise, the most supportive person has been director Nick Hallam, he's getting me all these great projects from Australia through his connections. Otherwise, I think I plowed my own road to where I'm now by being active and making the kind of music I liked. Thank God it paid off!

Do you think Radio Rivendell gives your music a wider and more appreciative audience?
I certainly hope so! It seems to be a very busy community of fantasy music
lovers, my kind of people Smile

What market holds the most promise for you as a composer and why?
At the moment I'm leaned very much towards film scoring, though I've gotten the hang of making CD albums too. I'm co-composing two film soundtrack albums at the moment. The other one is a secret (for now), the other one is "Initium", co-written with my friend, composer Michael Law. Looking at future, nothing is impossible, but I'm very happy with where I'm now, I wouldn't move to Hollywood or anything to that effect. I'm just a Finnish guy making music in his house.

What projects do you have coming up on the horizon?
I'm currently negotiating a deal on a high-profile fantasy RPG, incidentally! Very excited about that. I'm also starting to work on "Desolation Angels", which is a great little road movie and will let me explore a lot more quiet and simple style of music. I'm also signed up for Nick Hallam's new space epic "Welcome to the Cosmos".

What advice would you have for budding composers who are just starting out?
I'm just a 20-year old, bratty little raggamuffin with 0 EXP points, so take this with a grain of snot: Be yourself and not somebody else! Do all the movies you're offered for experience in the beginning, film scoring is harder than you'd probably think. Money comes a bit later, but that doesn't mean you have to be a bitch and sell your art for free constantly. Always hold on to the rights of your music, only sell the "usage rights". There are many composers out there and therefore, "enough" is not the same it used to be - that's why you have to be good at selling yourself to the industry. Build a good sound library and learn what's "hot" at the moment, then make a good demoreel and try to network with interesting people. Don't set anything in stone, we all know variety and unpredictability is what makes life interesting. For example, I thought I'd never score a romantic comedy, and that's exactly what I ended up doing. The most important thing is to have fun (as cheesy as it sounds).

Thanks for the opportunity and have fun everyone!

/ Paul Houseman

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