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Interview with Yoav Goren
29 Oct 2006
For starters, could you please give us a quick overview of who and what Globus is?
About 7-8 years ago, Globus originated in my mind as a concept project. Conceptually, it was not terribly original; I wanted to juxtapose various vocal melodies and stylings from around the world and surround it with contemporary western music. I started on this journey when I traveled to Israel several years ago and set up some recordings of traditional vocal folk and religious music from various cultures – Arabic, Russian, Persian, Afghani, Turkish, Eastern European etc. Israel being a melting pot of cultures in a small place afforded the opportunity. I was armed with quite a bit of a capella vocal tracks, and my intention was to write songs around these “samples”. As the years passed the concept evolved into that of joining these ethnic vocal samples with the contrasting power of a traditional western choir and large orchestra. This all came together when Immediate Music (Jeff Fayman and myself) set out to record our “Themes For Orchestra & Choir” series for our trailer music catalog. Borrowing recordings from those sessions, I wrote new material around these short cues and turned them into more structured ‘songs’. I then searched and found talented collaborators such as Dann P, Lisbeth Scott, Anneke van Giersbergen et al to foment the vision. The end product is not nearly as ‘ethnic’ a project as was originally conceptualized, but it certainly allowed me to immerse myself more fully in orchestra & choir music, pushing that style into more of a song format than trailer cue format. Globus is really a project more than a band, as the main thread throughout is the big sound of the orchestra & choir, and the cinematic writing of Jeffrey Fayman and myself, as well as other contributors.
How did you and Jeffrey Faymen meet and start working together?
Our friendship had humble beginnings. In 1991, I was working in a small music shop in Santa Monica, California while also tutoring people part time in the use of synthesizers and computers. MIDI was a fairly young concept, and during those days many composers discovered they could actually set up complete recording setups in their bedrooms. Jeffrey had a small composing setup in his apartment. One day, he walked into the store I was working, saw that I was proficient with MIDI gear, and hired me to teach him how to use the equipment in his current setup. We became friends and also started sharing with each other our compositions and love of film music. Just for the fun of it, we started writing together, and were able to get a few jobs writing for television shows and music libraries. Both our aspirations at the time was to get into film scoring, and to that end we thought we’d try to break into the trailer scoring market in order to gain experience. Jeff had actually composed several B-movie trailers in the 80’s and knew the names of some of the trailer companies in LA. We put together a demo tape (cassette!!) and dropped it off at several trailer houses in town. Slowly, we started getting calls to score trailers. By the beginning of 1993, we were scoring one trailer per month, and in our down time, we’d be writing big thematic cues together which ultimately laid the foundation for our trailer music catalog.
There was a time when original trailer music wasn't so prevalent, since existing scores were edited to fit the trailers. Could you talk about when you started seeing a shift towards using original music for trailers?
In the early to mid 90’s, being a trailer composer, while lucrative, was a thankless job. Primarily the reason you’d be brought in to compose a trailer would be to replace the trailer’s “temp” score, usually an orchestral cue from an existing soundtrack of a different film. The scenario for getting hired today is not much different, except for the fact the results of composed trailer score today far exceed the quality usually heard back in the day. Back then it was always an uphill climb to match the intensity and emotion of a soundtrack cue. Today, thanks to technology, a big orchestral sound almost matching in production value to many soundtracks can be achieved in one’s home studio. Additionally, the industry of trailer scoring is now a mature one, with many seasoned composers experienced in composing and producing quality trailer scores, either electronically or with full orchestra. I think the shift started happening as studios and trailer houses forged solid relationships with newly respected composers who could prove they could deliver customized music which rivaled soundtrack material, yet probably cost less. Also, the existence of trailer music libraries such as Immediate Music established a basis for editors to draw from “trailer music” as opposed to “film music”. I’d like to think that Immediate Music had a hand in this transition to more original trailer music through the quality of our work starting from the mid to late 90’s.
What were the circumstances that led to the start-up of Immediate Music to take advantage of this trend?
I think the overall fine tuning in the industry of the art of trailer production has played a big part in IM’s success in the field. As major campaigns insisted on “branding” their marketing with unique music, the opportunity for IM and others to customize not only trailer scores but also selections in their respective production libraries emerged. Hence, for example, the niche market of orchestra & choir cues created specifically for the big summer and holiday blockbuster release. I also believe the genre of the films Hollywood has produced over the past decade, with the incredible advances in the fantasy quotient of CGI, has created the opportunity for us and others to define musically what these fantastic images should be married to in the two and a half minute version of the film. The emergence of the trailer as a very well thought out and executed art form has spawned this niche industry of trailer music, which in turn plays a part in shaping the evolution of the trailer as a distinct art form. Very circular, that…
Immediate Music is the industry's leading provider of promotional music. Do most film and TV producers/directors prefer to purchase music that you already have "in the can", as opposed to original, custom-made compositions? If so, are you continually writing new ones for your library? Do you try to suggest fresh new themes and sounds, or do most producers prefer to go with what’s familiar?
Due to our experience and our fierce addiction to high quality music, most clients rely on our “in the can” music. Most of IM’s revenue is derived from licensing existing cues in the library catalog. The custom side of IM produces far less cues in a given year, probably on a ratio of 1-10 compared with the production of cues for the library. Yes, we are continually writing new material for the library, as well as seeking out other composers material (mostly film composers). Most producers prefer to go with what’s familiar, because I find that most of the industry wants to use a formula that will guarantee success for the film’s marketing campaign. But as composers, we try to stretch the limits of “trailer music” by writing creatively challenging pieces that on the surface may not seem to fit into a trailer. But because so many producers turn to our music catalog as a market indicator of what “trailer music” should be, we sometimes are able to define new areas and trends with some of our more experimental pieces.
What makes Immediate Music's sound unique and so highly sought after in the industry?
If I had to strip it down, I’d say it’s the impact, emotion and production value of our music. It’s these attributes, which our clients in the trailer industry consistently compliment us with, that led me to think that some of our tracks could actually be attractive to a wider audience than just movie marketing executives. A lot of music appreciators like impact and emotion, and the production value we’ve achieved is as good as any soundtrack on the market. Epicon emerged from the unique sound and commercial success we enjoyed these last few years with our “Themes For Orchestra & Choir” series.
Let's talk about your Epicon CD. What inspired and drove the production of a commercially-released album compiling so much of your earlier work? When did you begin to conceive of your music for listening, rather than simply accompanying trailers?
The inspiration began those 7 or 8 years ago, when the idea for Globus was formed. I wanted to create a concept album which incorporated a range of ethnic singers and styles, each track being a different language, set against western music, be it orchestral or modern. Globus was conceived as a world music hybrid, hence the name of the ‘band’. As my musical life was filled with writing trailer music, the project never really enjoyed the benefit of my full attention and focus. Here and there, I managed to record some soloists with the thought of writing the songs around the source vocal material. After Immediate Music produced the “Themes For Orchestra & Choir” Cds, the Globus idea evolved into specifically taking trailer music compositions and turning them into more accessible songs, featuring lead vocals. Some of the tracks on “Themes” were really not supposed to be trailer tracks to begin with, but were written specifically because both Jeff and I realized we couldn’t miss the opportunity of taking advantage of a 100-piece orchestra and writing material just for ourselves. This “other” material was much closer to song format as opposed to trailer format, and these pieces lent themselves better to the Globus idea. The world music hybrid survived in a couple of tracks, such as Spiritus Khayyam. But Globus really became an attempt to create new material based on the familiar sound of trailer music. And the fact that there was a growing awareness of trailer music, and specific demand for Immediate Music trailer music, solidified the decision to go commercial.
What was the main difference in the creative process between composing for a trailer and composing an Epicon track?
With the Epicon tracks, I was able to tap into my always-present songwriting sensibilities and my love for a strong melodic pop song. Not every second of an Epicon track had to be hard-hitting and emotional, as trailer music tends to be. Also, Epicon material could be much longer and take time to develop and build, much more so than trailer music. The melding of the “pop” structure (for lack of a better term) with the climactic nature of trailer score was what fueled the creative process for me. In a way, the “otherness” of introducing pop and rock elements to these existing tracks was exciting and challenging enough for me to experience Epicon as a uniquely organic project, even though practically all the foundational material had been previously composed.
Epicon was a collaborative project. What composers worked on the Epicon album, and how did you coordinate what each would do?
Besides Jeffrey Fayman, and myself we had several collaborators. The collaborations were not planned, so there was no scheduled coordination involved. For instance, Mighty Rivers Run started life as a very cool chord progression and majestic French horn line written by my friend, film and TV composer Gil Talmi. I then was inspired to write the melody and the bridge section, and then orchestrate the song, I had a sketch of some lyrics for the song, but it did not quite have the feeling that would make it seem complete. I then sent the song to the proposed lead vocalist, the very creative Anneke van Giersbergen. In shaping the lead vocal, she wrote entirely new verses. I then keyed off her inspired work, and was able to glue snippets of her emotional lyrical content with my additional lyrics, which gave shape to the entire piece. On Orchard of Mines, the Immediate Music cue “Serenata” served as inspiration for Dann P. He literally wrote an entire song, with totally different melodic and lyric content, which miraculously fit over “Serenata” so well, that I was literally speechless the first time I had heard his demo. Two other songs, Illumination and Madre Terra, which I composed, were sent to lyricist Frank Musker in London. He came back with some very inspirational work on Illumination, which is one of my very favorite songs on the album. On Madre Terra, Frank in turn collaborated with Italian songwriter Kaballa to pen the ode to mother earth.
A number of tracks on Epicon seem to have lyrics and/or choral text hinting at spirituality. Please tell us about some of the inspirations for these lyrics. Do many of your artists look to personal faith for inspiration?
Well, it’s interesting that once you put a choir together with an orchestra, our aural senses immediately lead us into a feeling of spirituality. I guess society has impressed this feeling in people over a few centuries. And this is true for the composer writing the material as well. I would not call myself a spiritual person, but being immersed in this kind of music for the past three years has obviously led me to dig into a deeper place in my being, and I found myself writing music and lyrics which convey more profound emotions and sensibilities than your typical orchestral or rock/pop music. Indeed, some of the lyrics here truly are religious in nature, although I would not describe any of Epicon’s artists as have deep traditional faith. For example, Diem Ex Dei (“Day of God”) could fit quite nicely into Sunday Mass at the Vatican. Crusaders of the Light sounds like its got liturgical text, but its actually gibberish lyrics that were born out of syllabical urges which were penned about half an hour before the choir was scheduled to record! Prelude was inspired by a sense of love lost while still in the formidable stages, and the separation between the lovers that is as wide as earth and heaven and is as permanent as life and death. Mighty Rivers Run was inspired by my experience of raising innocent young ones in a world which has lost it direction, where demons and angels of all kinds fight for newborn souls. Some of the lyrical content is metaphorical, some does not make any sense in any language. The hope is that, while not every listener will understand the words, the conveyance of a need for a deep attachment to our spiritual core is realized. Epicon really wishes to illicit emotional responses which truly border on the spiritual, while not being specifically religious or preferring one culture over another. The band name Globus was conceived from this desire to present all our varied musical tastes as one common global commodity, which, given half a chance, might lift us all to a higher place.
YouTube.com has several of your videos including a taped live performance of "Madre Terra" with vocalist Scott Ciscon, who is simply fantastic. What was it like working with Scott, Dann P, Anneka Van Geirsbergen, Lisbeth Scott , etc. and how much creative input each had?
Scott really is a rare talent. I can’t describe in words the feeling I had as music composer of Madre Terra sitting in that studio in London listening to the vocals going down. His interpretation of the melody is actually miles above what I heard in my head when I wrote the song. Moments like these in the recording studio are simply magic. Scott is the real thing, and that makes all the difference in music. I’m anxious to work with him again. Dann P was a bold choice for so much of the male vocals on the album, inasmuch as I would not necessarily classify him as a vocalist in the traditional sense. With Dann, the magic really emerged when pitting his vocal performances against the orchestra and choir in the mixing phase of the project. His raw and unseasoned, yet very emotional voice, blends intriguingly with the smoothness of strings and female choir. My work with Anneke on her vocals was a bit different. I’m in LA, she’s in Holland. We did the entire collaboration through email and uploading. But she is so scary good that I could literally send her the backing tracks, and she’d return those with a killer vocal that instantly made the material a finished song. Her vocal on Diem Ex Dei is actually the demo she performed in her apartment, sitting in front of her computer. I’ve never met Anneke face to face. Sitting two feet away from Lisbeth in my small studio allowed me to lose myself in her incredible talent. The range in her voice is truly staggering. In Preliator, she really pulls off the required fragility of the intro, and the strength and ballsiness of the verses and back end. She was also incredible in the live show.
Please tell us a little about the Northwest Sinfonia, one of the two orchestras on your Epicon CD. Do they record exclusively for you? What is your connection to the Pacific Northwest?
The Northwest Sinfonia is a very busy orchestra emanating from Seattle. They have recorded dozens of films over the past few years, and have done many sessions with Immediate Music and Globus. We first worked with them in 2000 on our first orchestral project, Immediate Music Volume 20. The success of that recording led to the “Themes” recordings and several one-off custom trailer jobs (i.e Van Helsing, King Arthur). By now, they are very well versed in the Globus style, so it almost is like having our own personal orchestra, but they are certainly not exclusive to us. Our peers in the industry, like Xray Dog, have contracted with them as well. So it is not just our connection to Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, but for many other groups and films that require the next best thing to L.A or London.
What was it like having Epicon performed for a live audience at the Grand Hall in Wembley, London? Where else did you have performances? Any plans to perform in the U.S.?
The concert at the Grand Hall was really an experiment – I wanted to see if I can take the act from the recording and mixing studio to the live stage. For me personally, having last performed live as a musician about 17 years ago, it was a double thrill. Not only having my music played by about 120 people on a large stage, but also participating in the process. The first few minutes were a bit of a thawing out process, but after about the fourth song, the whole thing came together. With every passing song, we felt the audience was getting more and more blown away. It’s really tough to nail down the album sonically in a live venue, but Globus live has another dimension to it that you miss with the studio album. The movement of the air, the thudding of the subwoofers, the light show, the visuals on the screen, the sheer volume……It’s an experience. The Wembley show has been the lone performance thus far. For me, the ultimate goal for Globus is to be able to perform it live on a regular basis. To that end, I will be pursuing more shows in the UK and ultimately Europe and, hopefully, the US. I just need to find someone who’d get behind the show financially, as you can imagine that it’s not inexpensive to put on live.
You work in various locations around the world for composing and recording. What is the main one, and what is your favorite?
The main recording venue has been Seattle, Washington, where the Northwest Sinfonia has become quite accustomed to our composing and arranging style, and have performed our music better each time we’ve visited. But I must say my favorite place to record is Abbey Road in London. Not only for the incredible sound of the room, but also for the unmatched musicianship. It’s also got quite a vibe. My favorite place for composing is in front of my old upright piano in my home studio.
Have you considered releasing 'instrumental' (i.e. without vocals) versions of the tracks on Epicon? These would be akin to the way they were originally heard in the trailers. Do you plan to release recordings of future trailer music or other recordings similar to this album?
All of the above has been considered. To be honest, Immediate Music being a small company is not set up to operate in the commercial music business, i.e. marketing and selling Cds. The cost for setting up such a business and operating would dramatically cut into Immediate’s existing balance sheet, and the resulting revenue from such a venture would probably be miniscule. Couple that with the unfortunate reality of rampant pirating of our music on the web, and I think anyone would understand how we would not motivated to go through the process of packaging and selling retail Cds. Having said that, it is our hope that Imperativa Records, which has released Epicon, enjoys a bit of success on the commercial side of the business, which would justify the effort of releasing original trailer tracks to a potentially larger fan base than just die-hard trailer music fans who probably already have our music in one form or another. As it relates to instrumental Epicon tracks, I am planning on some of these soon as bonus tracks as further promotion of the album, and could incorporate these in a subsequent release on the Imperativa label.
With the release of Epicon, as well as a few other albums by other artists, some are declaring the emergence of a new genre of music. What would you call this genre, and how would you define it? Do you predict the continued proliferation of this style of music for listening?
I still believe that this is a tiny, niche genre which will take many more artists and Cds to put what I call “Cinematic Rock” (for lack of a better term) on the map. E.S. Posthumous and Globus have taken the first steps in their own respective approaches. Globus tried making the material more accessible to a wider audience in order to expose as many people as possible to the drama and epic nature of trailer music and film soundtracks. Hence the addition on some songs of more structured, pop-like lyrics and vocal stylings. I do think there will be a proliferation of this genre as trailers get more and more exposure in our over-amped marketing culture of product branding, video-on-demand and personal video players like the iPod. Trailers have also carved out a distinctive music style, and that should help the emergence of this music genre into the mainstream vernacular.
With the ubiquity of electronic music and sampling, it seems that the possibilities for instrumentation are virtually limitless. How do you determine the boundaries for instrumentation in a certain piece? What factors frame the decision to go with live or use sampled instruments?
When writing for Globus, my musical anchor is the orchestra and choir. With these elements pervasive in the material, it makes it so easy to branch out into other electronic and acoustic instrumentation so that the material adopts a more contemporary feel. If I write a piece that is exclusively orchestral, it usually is meant to evoke a more distant era by sounding more “classical”. I really do enjoy creating hybrids of orchestral and other genres of music, because the material then seems fresh and is a twist on familiar territory for the listener. But the notion of a predetermination of boundaries doesn’t exist. And I think the key to Immediate Music’s success, in a way, has been the mixing of our orchestral recordings with orchestral samples from various commercially available sample libraries. For instance, we always use sampled percussion (mostly our own samples) to juice up any orchestral percussion track, because the samples have an attack and timbre that really brings an aggressive quality to the percussion group, and hence bolsters the entire track. This also applies to other orchestral instruments as well. And certainly mixing in electric guitars and bass is a signature sound I aspire to in the Globus project.
Based on your experience, have you figured out what gets people's attention from a musical standpoint most quickly so that they watch the trailer?
Wow, I hope I never truly “figure out” what gets a viewer’s attention, because that’s when its stops to be creating music and starts to be a technical, formulaic exercise. What I can say I aspire to in writing trailer music that ultimately has kept me employed in this industry the last 14 years is the creation of emotion and impact. But your question actually contains part of the answer. When writing trailer music, you must go for the jugular “most quickly” because you do not have time to set up your music. Many times, a featured piece in a trailer lasts no more than 20 or 30 seconds (if that much), which means you come out of the gate big and hard, and are expected to get bigger with every reiteration of the piece’s theme. And this sound coupled with picture must generate an emotional response, which somewhere deep inside the viewer will (the studios hope) trigger a positive association for the film and ultimately lead to the parting of $10 for a seat during the film’s opening weekend!
When composing for trailers, do you think it's a good idea to invoke memories of other films by composing something similar to a previous score in order to attract the target audience?
I personally am on the fence on this issue. On the one hand, I endorse allowing the composer to join in on the creative collaboration and write an original composition for the trailer, unencumbered by any “temp” track. On the other hand, I understand the marketing team’s insane deadlines and their reliance on such a wealth of available high quality film music in order to sell their film. To be sure, film music has a certain intrinsic value in marketing a film. This is why you don’t hear too much country or jazz in film trailers. It’s because the target audience expects to hear cinematic music of some type in a film or a trailer. So the music in trailers is an element of marketing exploited to great effect with the one goal of putting bums on seats. Inasmuch as it’s a marketing tool supporting a product, as opposed to just standalone music to be judged on its own merit, I can see how predeterminations of musical styles based on previous soundtracks can be made. The same way a visual style, editing style, lighting styles are chosen for the trailer, so is the music. And the best way to do this is by using soundtrack cues from other films to guide the composer. Keep in mind, most people in Hollywood marketing departments don’t feel they can afford to take enormous chances in their campaigns, and often default to choosing a previously proven method employed by similar genre films. That is why a lot of our music tracks get licensed dozens of times for dozens of different films. If it worked in the past, odds are it will work again. I feel that Immediate Music does actually enjoy a rare privilege of creating original trailer music, as so many of our original compositions are cornerstones for marketing campaigns from even before the first day of editing has commenced. Trailer houses now often look to lock in the main musical pieces of a trailer as dailies start coming in to their bins.
How do you know your use of music for a scene is overpowering it, or do you rest on the judgment of the producer/director for this?
I think I can count on one hand the times I’ve been told my music was too powerful for a trailer. There virtually is no such thing. You cannot get too big and powerful on so many of the trailers nowadays. The more over-the-top, the better. But ultimately, the trailer’s producers, in conjunction with the studio, producer, director, lead actor, his girlfriend, her agent, they all have much more influence of judgment on the appropriateness of the music than I do!
On a more personal note, your 'Special Thanks' to your parents in the Epicon CD insert was very touching. How did they help foster and nurture your love of music and career?
My parents always encouraged my artistic endeavors without ever suggesting it was foolish to pursue them. Both mom and dad have enormous artistic talents themselves, in sculpture and painting respectively, although they never really were able to immerse themselves completely in their art as I have. I can quickly point to two tiny examples from my childhood that, because of their influence and support, helped shape my love of music and my career: My mom procuring a copy of “A Hard Days Night” by the Beatles when I was a year or so old, and playing it for me over and over again as I unceasingly bounced vertically in my playpen. And my dad buying me my first electronic keyboard – a Casio – circa 1980, which started me on the road to sonic exploration (a short and cheesy road it was with that Casio!). The Beatles have become a lifelong passion, and I type these answers from my studio surrounded by about 20 or so synthesizers and samplers, which fill my life with incredible sound and were the building blocks of my career. They did the best thing any good parent can do for their kids – provide a foundation of love and let the child discover his/her own life. I’m so glad my folks are still around to enjoy the fruits of their labor and to be able to paint and sculpt all day– while a boombox fills their studio with the sound of Epicon.
Outside of music, what is one talent you have found that helped you the most in the music industry?
Truly listening and responding to people. Bending over backwards and doing whatever to satisfy a client to not only surpass their expectations on a project, but unequivocally justify the trust they’ve placed in me. In a nutshell, a deep and sincere dedication to customer service.
What advice would you have for those who are trying to get into the media music industry?
Well, I can specifically offer advice to musicians trying to get into the trailer music industry. It really is a small industry, and many of the top companies (such as Immediate Music) are actively seeking composers who can write in this style. One of our most successful composers is a young man from Norway who immersed himself in the “Carmina Burana” style that is so prevalent in big box office movie trailers, sent us examples of his work, and ended up getting a couple of his pieces produced by us and performed at Abbey Road. This is not like the mainstream music business. If you have talent in this field, chances are quite good you will succeed – if you contact the right companies or libraries. So it really is simply about digging out the names and addresses of Immediate Music, XrayDog, Brand X, Music Junkies et al, and submitting your very best sounding work. Since we all take on tracks on a one-off basis for potential licensing to our clients, even if you have 1 out of 10 tracks on your submission CD that sounds like it could work in our world, it will probably be considered for placement on one of our production Cds. Immediate Music gladly listens to submissions from outside composers, as long as you’ve taken the time to determine whether or not your music could actually be classified as “trailer music”, and that you’ve endeavored to produce your music to the same exacting standards of production quality that it necessary in our industry. We are, after all, competing on the same level as fully produced soundtracks. But again, if you’ve got music that we think could work in trailers, we’ll push it to our film advertising clients.
Mr. Goren, we appreciate your taking the time for this interview, and for providing the music for our new StreamingSoundtracks.com station ID sweepers. We will certainly be more aware of your work now whenever we see a promo for the latest major Hollywood release. We all look forward to the next CD release from Globus. Thanks again, and good luck.
Thanks for the consideration, kind words, and this well-thought out collection of questions. I look forward to many more enjoyable hours of listening to your fine station!