We are extremely excited and fortunate to have the pleasure of hanging out today with epic-music composer and producer, Ivan Torrent! Ivan has worked with a myriad of top-notched production companies, released two studio albums to date, each having garnered millions of views on YouTube, and has emerged as one of the most outstanding epic-music composers within the last several years.
Ivan! So glad to have you with us today! So, tell us a little about how you got started with music, and how your journey was like as a producer, and then eventually, becoming an epic-music composer.
Thank you so much guys for your interest! It’s my pleasure!
I started at a very early age with music, when I was 5 or 6 years old. I grew up with that respect and love for her and I studied solfeggio from 7 to 13 years old. I gave up my musical studies at that time, and I became more interested in learning about music production through computers… The sampler phenomenon at the early nineties, was very fashionable at the time. I wanted to learn how to do what I loved and heard on the radio stations, and learn how to give shape to my compositions. It became almost obsessive in me to get keyboards, computers that would allow me to achieve that goal, and even with some difficulties, I was entering the world of production. For some years I wrote music in radio stations, creating jingles and tunes and over time fantastic opportunities arose, to work with several very important artists in my country and write songs for them. This gave me an invaluable experience, which I try to apply in my daily life and work.
I used to produce House, Techno, Dance, Chill-out, Hardstyle… but my influences always led me to incorporate orchestral arrangements into my work, even if the style was very electronic. There was always some orchestral winks, no matter how small they were… I was passionate about advertising soundtracks, and also about the music of James Horner, Danny Elfman, Harry Gregson-Williams, Hans Zimmer, John Williams. They were like a drug for me… And it was important to go to the movies to listen their work in action.
I remember that watching the first trailer of The Lord of the Rings, I heard a track that broke my schemes, and it was like a catalyst for me. That was “Gothic Power”, by composer Christopher Field. I used to think, like many people, that trailer music was part of the soundtrack, but when I bought it and didn’t find that track that I liked so much, it made me think that something was different from my approach. I became more interested in the topic, discovering how the trailer industry really worked shortly afterwards. What I didn’t know is that this interest would become so strong that it would lead me to work in the same industry years later, after starting doing demos for sample libraries.
What is your creative process like? What is your typical experience starting a track, “from idea to finished recording”?
It’s a random process… In most cases, the melody usually comes first for me. Unless I’m creating a rhythmic groove, like a 7/8 for example, that somehow pushes you to a certain type of melody. I always try to find the key that works best with the main instrument and the melody to be played. That in the case of samples, or synths… if the arrangement is for real orchestra, there are other limitations that I must take into consideration. After that, I begin to create all the orchestration, incorporating tensions and counterpoints, percussions, synths, bass sequences, accents throughout sound design and effects, but I’m mixing all the time. Is not that I mix later… I do it constantly because I need to create a symbiosis between all the characters, and above all of balance between them. For me it is extremely important that everything works in harmony, and that the most insignificant edge is as inconspicuous as possible.
It’s true though, that the post mix, where almost all the musical aspects are done, and you concentrate on special frequencies, masking and mastering, is the most delicate process for me, and it takes me several days, sometimes weeks or months, depending on the complexity of the song. It seems excessive, but I am very analytical with equalization, and automation something that sometimes may seem unnecessary given the quality of the samples we use in production, but it is extremely important that everything coexists in and works as ONE. Perhaps almost as important as creating a good leitmotif.
Who are your biggest inspirations?
Enigma, Deep Forest, Mike Oldfield, Enya, Clannad, Vangelis, Pet Shop Boys, Chicane, James Horner, Danny Elfman, Hans Zimmer… There are a lot and so different between them!
What was the biggest thing you struggled with when you were just starting out as a composer?
Maybe the lack of resources to evolve as a producer. In my case, I didn’t have the opportunity to attend any music production school, since they didn’t exist. At least in my country. Also, during my apprenticeship, it was frankly expensive any kind of equipment that would allow me to produce music. Neither computers nor software was up to the level they are now, and so much of what was used was real hardware, extremely expensive and within reach of a privileged few alone. Today, making computer music the way we can make it is a dream that many of us would have wanted to achieve earlier.
But hey!, there is always a way to learn, if you really want to do it. Thank God, I had the chance to get a 486 computer, a Sound Blaster 16 card, Cakewalk and few sf2 banks! I remember pretty well that grey and basic interface with dots, the magic of sampling my first hi-hats and drum kicks, and all the coffees over my desk at 5am…haha. The ilusión to advance and evolve is incredibly powerful, and it can surpass any limitation.
With budgets shrinking, and technology improving, sample libraries can be used instead of, or in conjunction with, live players. Working in both film, TV and video game scoring industries, what are your thoughts on the topic?
Using live players / instruments takes it to the next level every time.. there’s no doubt about it. The technology and samples are getting better every year and I find it’s helpful to stay on the cutting edge of that as well. I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer to this, if it sounds great.. then it sounds great. But if your project needs orchestra, it’s just better to use an orchestra, period. The directors and producers who understand will make it work, even with lower budgets. I just hope we don’t lose all of our recording stages here in LA as things with the union and the industry in general settle here. I do wish we could go back to separate budgets for musicians and composers though.. ‘Package deals’ have muddied the water.
Congratulations on your latest release with “Immortalys”! It most certainly is one of the most anticipated albums for the epic music community as there was a big time gap between your first and second albums. Can you tell us about your journey during the 3-year gap in between “Reverie”and “Immortalys”?
Thank you so much!
I think it’s important to open myself up to this, and hopefully this experience which I don’t talk about, will be useful for new composers who can feel identified at some point in their lives with this… For many years, I tried not to stop in my quest to achieve certain goals. Music is a beautiful, powerful and magnetic entity that drags you to do things you wouldn’t do otherwise. Sometimes you even forget that you have family, and friends… that you have life. It can become very absorbent. But over the years you realize how important it is to live and rest in order to renew and reinvent yourself.
Three years ago, I had to take a break, because I was mentally and physically exhausted and I could barely compose a single note. It was as if the battery had run out. After a year or so, I started to flow again slowly and I recovered a piece that I left time ago… “The Edge of Consciousness”… It was like a catharsis to me. Like getting out of a well and back into the light. Then “Vis Motrix” came to life as well, and I understood that this was the momentum that would lead me to write an entire album. Hence the name of that track. For months I was writing the songs… I would say that around 120 proposals, of which I developed a couple dozen. In the end, some were left out by concept and I kept the 18 tracks that make up the album.
Still, the creation of an album is always a complicated process, because it is quite intricate and requires a lot of patience, effort and care to maintain coherence between the tracks. I think it is key to know from the beginning that it will be a long way to go and that there will also be sacrifices and tough decisions to make. But it is equally gratifying once made and released to the world. It is your legacy and the mark you will leave, so it is important to take care of all the details, no matter how small.
How it was your process recording the Vocals for “Immortalys”?
To control the recording is extremely important to me. It is usually easier to lead the performer if she/he is close to me, because I can nuance many details on the spot, and translating what I have in mind becomes easier. Sometimes it can’t be possible because of logistical issues… and I have to do remote recordings, but even so, I’ve always thought that knowing the performers who will sing your songs, beyond the music scope, creates a stronger bond with them. And not only do they understand you and your concept better, but they internalize it to make it their own and leave their own mark on the song.
All the singers and performers are special to me. They all add an invaluable human and organic factor, that I appreciate immensely. That’s why I tend to include vocals on almost all my tracks. There is nothing as live and as natural for us, as a voice, because we all listen that sound in a daily basis, and helps to connect better with a song. At least to me, is how it happens.
I’m so grateful with Lara, Celica Marta, Alek, Julie, Merethe, Irene and Estela for being so patient with me and with my obsession by seeking perfection in each take.
From the credits, I see that “Immortalys” was actually recorded by a real orchestra. Those of us who compose music know how special is to finally have an opportunity to record original music with a real orchestra. Can you tell us about what went in to making this chance possible?
The time to start recording a song you’ve created in the studio is always incredibly moving and it’s hard not to shed a tear. Certainly, it is a unique experience. Something as magical as watching an orchestra play your piece live is “eargasmic”, and the effort behind it is always worth it.
Along the time, I have been fortunate to record with some orchestras from different places in the world. It is a fascinating and exciting experience, and each one sounds incredibly different and has a different performance approaches, that affects expressiveness, color, dynamics and especially vibrato, at least for me. In addition, the Hall, the Stage or studio where it is recorded, drastically affects that performance. In my experience, the musicians tend to feel more or less comfortable, depending on the environment, and its sonic characteristics…
So choosing the right orchestra and environment is key because the subsequent editing process depends on that performance and it all will affect the rest of the elements in your production. For “Immortalys”, I decided for first time to record at home with the GIOrquestra, one of the best orchestras in my country and we went to the Auditori de Barcelona, an emblematic place, where many great musicians have played. So I was lucky enough to record there. I met the GIOrquestra 4 or 5 years ago, and I was simply fascinated by their quality and passion for achieving new goals. They were very open from the very beginning to collaborate with me, and throughout the time we forged a solid friendship. “Immortalys” has been the vehicle to make this collaboration a dream come true, and I can’t be happier.
What was the BIGGEST difference in transitioning from sample libraries on your DAW, to recording a real-life orchestra?
I would say that there are many differences. Perhaps not tangible to the naked eye, but I IMHO affect us more inwardly than in our ears. To me, the biggest difference is the organic factor. Something as simple as a small human mistake, the arc pressure or the moment in which each performer attacks the note or incorporates the vibrato, affects that organic sense. The coldness that we perceive sometimes from samples, and that is inherent in them because its own nature, ceases to exist with a real recording. It is simply out of the equation for many reasons.
Usually I’ve recorded the orchestras with all the musicians together, but this time I needed a lot of control in the mix. Over the years, I’ve realized that recording as a whole, although it offers some advantages in terms of emotion, tuning, color and harmonics, is complicated to mix when there are many electronic elements, as is the case of my music, and tends to sink among the rest. So this time, I decided to record the melodies and some harmonies on one side, and the chord blocks on the other, in order to have maximum control over the mix. I had no idea what it would sound like, and it was certainly a leap of faith, because there is a lot of money involved and not all the time you would like to record or make changes on the fly, but now I’ve realized that it is completely feasible, and 100% effective.
What are your plans for music for 2018 (and beyond)?
My main goal is to focus on my solo career, and be able to offer to the audience new music as soon as possible, but without rush. I’ve learned how important is to have time to learn, to rest and to push the creativity to new limits.
Just for kicks — what kind of gear are you using currently for your music production?
I’ve been changing my approach from time to time, trying to move from ITB to OTB and more analog gear… Actually I bought a Neumann bespoke summing box of 64-channels and an AD/DA Ferrofish A32 connected to the summing box and an RME MADI FX HDSPe Card. But I finally realized that the workflow with analogue material was slowing down too much. So I decided to go back to the ITB process completely, because the sound I was getting OTB didn’t seduce me either. Probably I have to find the right gear to my own needs.
Currently I have three ways to listen my work, speakers ADAM s3xV which I love due to it’s ribbon tweeter and they don’t produce fatigue on my ears as others do. Also the Avantone Mixcubes, which give me a more focused listening on mids, and they are incredible analytic, and the Beyerdynamic dt 880-Pro 250ohm Headphones, which give me a very similar sound to the ADAM’s. They all come out through a Dangerous Source (amazing stuff by the way) and an RME card. Also I have a Neumann u87, connected to a preamp Avedis MA5, and to an Anamod 660, wich sounds similar to the Fairchild 660 compressor.
Also, I’m working with an 8-core PC with 64 Gigs. About 20 Tb in hard drives… Cubase 9.5, custom sounds and more libraries than I can host… But, yeah… there’s never enough LOL!… Anyway, I guess that we’re always trying to reach the Holy Grail…
..and the favorite song of all time that you wrote?
That’s a complicated question, because it’s like choosing who you love most about your family… “Dandelion” and “Architects of Life” have been among my favorite tracks, but I guess that currently I have a special affection for “Passage to Eden”, because it’s a song that I wrote for my grandmother, and it keeps me attached to her.
Thank you Ivan for joining us! If you haven’t heard Ivan’s new album “Immortalys”, definitely give it a listen here!
That’s all for today folks! Hope you guys had a blast hanging out with Ivan today! Stay posted for more exciting interviews from Evenant coming soon!