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Published

19 September 2023

"For Elvis, we had to go through and listen to all 800 of his songs and work out which ones might be good. And this is all stuff that you do with the director, obviously with Baz" - Elliott Wheeler

About the 

guest

Composer Elliott Wheeler and music editor Jamieson Shaw have worked on the Netflix series The Get Down, as well as world-renowned Baz Luhrmann movies such as The Great Gatsby and the Elvis Movie.

The Production Talk Podcast - The modern way of producing music

In this episode:

  • The early days of Elliott's and Jamieson's careers

  • Composing film music for Baz Luhrmann films such as Elvis, and The Great Gatsby

  • Keeping creative focus and flow while under high pressure 

  • Rhythm and timing in film score

  • Remote orchestral recordings in lockdown

  • Elliott and Jamieson's take on what makes a good song

  • Jamieson's microphone tips for recording at home

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Extra Content:

Baz Luhrmann's ELVIS: The Story of the Score

with Elliott Wheeler




Contact the podcast host Jan 'Yarn' Muths at mixartist.com.au

Disclaimer: The Production Talk Podcast is independent of (and not related to) my teaching responsibilities at SAE.

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Jan 'Yarn' Muths or mixartist.com.au, in the studio

Transcript:

(auto-generated by a robot - please forgive the occasional error)

Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Before we begin, I would like to acknowledge the Arakwal people of the Bundjalung Nation as the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we record and produce this podcast. I pay my deepest respects to elders past, present, and emerging, and acknowledge that sovereignty was never ceded. This episode of the Production Talk Podcast is brought to you by mixartists.com.au. Whether you're looking for a top notch recording studio on Australia's East Coast, or if you're looking for online music mixing from wherever you are in the world, mixartist.com.au has the experience and expertise to take your audio to the next level. Welcome to the Production Talk Podcast. Join us as we explore the creative and technical aspects of music production with expert guests, practical tips and exclusive insights. If you love what you're hearing, don't forget to hit that subscribe button so you'll never miss an episode. Grab your headphones, turn up the volume, and let's get started with another episode of the Production Talk Podcast. Roll the tape! Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Welcome back to another episode of the Production Talk podcast. Today with me is Mr. Elliott Wheeler and Mr. Jameson Shaw, welcome to the podcast. How are you two? Jamieson Shaw: Good, Good, thank you. Thanks for having us. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Thank you so much for being here today. So you two are film music specialist or film score specialists. Both with a bit of different specialization in your career path, but you've worked on many productions together. I did a bit of research, you worked on The Great Gatsby, one of my favorite movies, and of course the Elvis movie, which is phenomenal. The music in it is, is just ridiculously awesome. So I'm really amazed to hear more about that today. But before we get into the nitty gritty details, I'd like to hear a bit more about you two, and how you started, the early days. Elliott, would you mind to start to tell us when you discovered that you had a musician in yourself and how that came out as a, as a younger person? Elliott Wheeler: Yeah, it's, look, it's always a really interesting question and I sort of can't really remember a time when music wasn't a part of my life. Like, I started piano lessons, I think around five and It was just something that I've have always done. And, one of those things that, as you get older and you get a little bit better and you discover that you've got a bit of a knack for it and you sort of put more energy into it. And um, I ended up sort of going through and doing a lot of classical training, a lot of jazz training, went to the con, did a little bit of the composition course there before I dropped out. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: How old were you? Elliott Wheeler: When I was doing the course? Ah, end of high school, so I guess whatever first, second year unis 19 18, 19, something like that. And then I started getting some session work doing keyboards. And I was just very lucky. I had a, a wonderful composer, Peter Kaldor, who sort of saw that I was interested in doing film work and started throwing me a bit more work and then eventually sort of took me under his wing and, and gave me a job in his studio. And at that point in time, there was a slightly higher barrier to entry just in terms of the technical gear and just the know-how of, how it all sort of, synced together. So it was really wonderful having someone like that to actually just show you like, this is how you get MIDI to work Jan 'Yarn' Muths: and mm-hmm. sync Elliott Wheeler: up with U-Matic, and all these things that you don't have to think about anymore. But it was it demystified a lot of the mystifying things about how you actually got into the world. So that was really lucky. And then I've sort of been working in film and TV ever since. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Fantastic. Thank you. Jamie, what about you? Jamieson Shaw: So yeah, I. Started playing guitar quite young. I think I've around five or six. I've sort of begged for one. My two older cousins who I hero worshiped were both musicians. They're sort of about 10 years older than me. But I was probably a bit too young and unfocused, so I didn't really, didn't really stick. But then in primary school I started clarinet and went through in a, in a classical setting with clarinet until about 15, well maybe a little bit younger, but sort of mid high school I got back into guitar and bass in a big way and I wanted to be in a metal band. And then that was my absolute obsession. I was really lucky that I went to a performing arts school for clarinet and just met some really talented peers and formed a little rock band and, and sort of, we had a little flash of popularity in the under eighteens live concerts. And from that got a, a very small, very unfair record deal, which put me in recording studios for the first time. And just the moment I stepped foot in. Interestingly enough, what was then big Jesus Burger Studios in Sydney and then became Turning Studios, when Elliott took it over I just couldn't believe how cool it was, so Jan 'Yarn' Muths: yeah. Right. Jamieson Shaw: I just did everything I could to try and be in the studio more and in school less until eventually that meant dropping outta school. And yeah, just sort of hung around, , making cups of tea. Just met some really great producers at that time and the whole time I was playing in bands and writing songs and, and touring. But yeah, met some really great people. Eric Debosky took me under his wing for a, for a few years, which was awesome. And then Evan, who we all know we really got along. And then, Elliott Wheeler: Evan McHugh. then Jamieson Shaw: from there, So I sort of was working really just in rock production really. BJB studios at that time was, was very much known for Silverchair and the Sleepy Jackson and that sort of sound. And then, yeah, I ended up doing a lot of freelance engineering and, and producing and then got the opportunity to work on a writing session with Daniel Johns at Kimra that was happening at Elliott's Studio, which was Turning Studios, which in a full circle moment was the same physical space as BJB where I'd first entered a studio. And then through that met Elliott and we sort of hit it off and he was doing Great Gatsby at that time and sort of just needed an extra assistant to help on some of the bigger big band sessions. So I came in and did those and then I sort of stuck around. Elliott Wheeler: Don't leave! still, still here. , Jamieson Shaw: Yeah. And that was about 10 years ago. So, okay. Yeah. So, and that's, I've done some composition work for friends, you know, theater productions, a few dance pieces. Yeah. But that was really my introduction into the film and TV side of things in a, in a more serious commercial way . And I really, it really clicked with me. I've, I've always been really big into film and film music and a lot of the music I liked sort of had a cinematic element to it, I think. But I was, it was really appealing to me to see the work that could be done and the creativity that could be done in that bigger scale where there's so many departments working together and the music is serving kind of a bigger story. And it just, it felt like that Jan 'Yarn' Muths: was something that Jamieson Shaw: was missing from my work with bands that were, it was all a little bit insular and you know, a little bit looking inwards. I was really excited to be able to use music as a way to, yeah, serve a bigger. Bigger vision and bigger story. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: It sounds to me like you are describing the job description of a music editor in film. Is, is that that what I'm reading That correctly? Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Just, just tell us about that role maybe what does a typical day look like in the career of a music editor in film? Jamieson Shaw: Well, there's sort of three distinct stages for, you know, being a music editor on a film project. The first one is often, quite early in the post-production process, and sometimes that's before the composer has started writing the score. Or even if it might even be before the composer's been, you know, spoken to about the film yet. And it's working with the director and then ultimately the composer on kind of the broader ideas of what the director wants the music to do. And the most useful way that we do that is by doing a temp score, which is basically, you know, it's like DJing against the film, but with emotional score and, and usually other film scores, sometimes classical music sort of editing them into the, into the film so that the director can kind of get a sense of what they do and don't want the music to do in a way that is really quick and doesn't involve someone having to think they've, like, interpret the emotions and then go away and sit a piano all night and come back and directly go, oh, that's not what I meant at all. You know, it's it's sort of a way to shortcut the, basic outline of what the music in the film should do. So that's the first step is the, the temp score. The second one is then working with the composer on things like tempo maps for orchestral recordings. So, the composer will obviously write the piece usually these days with a midi demo. So it'll be taking that and making sure it's sort of all the click track works before you go into the orchestral record. So managing that side of things. Then once the score is recorded, obviously sort of in modern filmmaking particularly the picture edit is never really locked, basically. And, and in a lot of the things we've worked at, it's not really locked into the films in the theaters. And even then, I'm not sure. So a lot of my role is making sure the music is still working, even if the scene's been sort of completely rearranged since the score was recorded. And just trying to kinda keep the composers intentions and vision intact, even if you have to take a minute outta the music or, Jan 'Yarn' Muths: That is a lot of information already and we probably need to unpack this in a bit more detail. like to have one, one more thing. Yeah, Elliott Wheeler: think Jamieson hasn't talked about, which is I think what he's described there is a very traditional music editorial job, but a lot of the stuff that Jamieson does when we're working together as well is also a lot of production work, Jan 'Yarn' Muths: mm-hmm. Elliott Wheeler: a lot of remixing, sampling, a lot of programming and even coming up with ideas and lots of us bouncing ideas between each other. But a lot of the actual, basically a lot of the really cool stuff that we get to do I often just go to Jammo, can you do something cool. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Okay. Elliott Wheeler: The, the product, and Jammo's an amazing producer as well. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Elliott, what about your side of things, as a composer for, for film music, what are the typical stages , and, you know, how does your day look like ? Elliott Wheeler: .Again, it really depends on where we're up to in a project and what stage of the project we're in. And, for whatever reason, over the last sort of decade, I've had dual roles of being both the composer, but also executive music producer, which is sort of taking responsibility for all the music that'll be in a film. So, on something Jan 'Yarn' Muths: mm-hmm. Elliott Wheeler: Elvis, it's from everything from sort of putting the team together going, Jamis and I were there when we were auditioning all the actors and seeing if they could sing. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Yeah. Right. Listening Elliott Wheeler: to, on Elvis, it was, we had to go through and listen to all 800 of his songs and sort of work out which ones might be good. And this is all stuff that you do with the director, obviously with Baz. And then sort of doing pre-records, which is pre-records are when if you're gonna film similar to the way that you'd cut a film clip, often you, you go and you, you cut the band and the singers performing it live. And then when they're filming it, they're often filming back to what they've already done. And the reason you do that is because the director will often go, Alright, that's amazing. We got it. It's fantastic. Let's turn it around and we'll get it from seven different angles. And so in post, you need to be able to sync it up. And so it's making sure that everything's in sync. That, and if there's other musicians that are on stage that they can all look like they're playing on stage and everything's, looks like it's legitimate performance, which on something like Elvis was a huge, huge job. It's working with the actor to make sure that they're singing well on camera, which, obviously for Austin in, in Elvis was a, a big deal when you're playing the, the king of rock and roll. So there's that stage which sort of happens in, in pre-production and then what we call production, which is when you're actually filming. And then once we get to post-production, I sort of get to take off my producer's hat and put on the composer's hat much more. And that's a part of the job that I really love and really is why I do the other stuff is to sort of get to, to this point usually. And that's everything from doing orchestral recordings to band recordings, programming. But it starts with sitting down with the picture by itself without any music generally, or Jan 'Yarn' Muths: mm-hmm. Elliott Wheeler: that Jamieson's put together as our sort of temp guide. And we work very closely on the temp when we're working together to sort of make sure that there's, we sort of know what the, the sonic universe is gonna be before we start that work, or, or we find that together, which is an incredible bonus to be able to work so closely doing that hand in hand. And then it's just sitting down with each scene and sort of working out what your themes are, who the characters are, what the story is that isn't being told by the dialogue or the action, and really trying to knock that out and going through and making sure that the director agrees with what you think the story is and that that's a really, one of the most fun parts of the conversation for me. And the whole project is really working out what the storytelling is. And then you get this wonderful thing as a composer where you get to hurl all of your creativity into telling that part of the story. And I find that incredibly liberating. I find writing for myself often can be quite stultifying because it's, you've got this blank page, it's like, who are you as a person, and as an artist? And that can throw up its own obstacles. And I find that having a story to tell is someone else's story to tell. You can sort of lean into all of your creativity and it takes away whatever bizarre psychological problem I have with Jan 'Yarn' Muths: stories Elliott Wheeler: about myself. I find it really liberating. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Oh, wow. I can imagine it's gotta be actually really challenging being part of such a big team and then having to perform creatively on the spot. Do, do you feel that sometimes, I, I think as creatives, you all know that we have moments when it just flows and then there's also days when it just doesn't work. Everything depends on you as, as a composer now, so how can you be creative like this on the spot? Elliott Wheeler: Look, it's very hit and miss. And, you go through periods where it's all cooking and it's great, and there's other periods where you you're kicking yourself and you're procrastinating. And it's, Jamieson knows all, like find entirely new ways of data basing our workflow system and all, all very busy work, but stuff that's got nothing to do with writing. But the, at the end of the day when you've got a deadline, you've just gotta put yourself down and make sure that you are sitting there and, and putting the hours in. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Mm. Elliott Wheeler: it's amazing how mental the process is and how, how much it does come down to focus and, and all the sort of mind tricks that you do for yourself and a lot of sort of meditation. And you get to know your creative flows very well. And when it's going well you can sort of manage that and you find times sort of, windows where you sort of know you're gonna be more productive in your day. Like on Elvis, I was going down and doing a lot of very early morning. sort of, I've got a young family, so I would be up at four and sort of work until sort of six 30 and then go home and have kids breakfast with them and, and then get back down there. And I'd sort of find if I could do really creative work from about sort of 8:30 to 9 until about 12 after that, the brain would start wandering. And I think generally if if I can do four hours, really focused, creative work a day, if I'm being honest with myself. If I can do that every day, I've, and Jan 'Yarn' Muths: that's it's lot. Elliott Wheeler: it, it is a lot. If, and knowing that there's also a lot of other parts of the project that you have to deal with. There's a lot of meetings going on and there's a lot of team management once you're in, particularly when you're in production. So if I can regularly get that much done, then I feel, I feel like I'm on track. But it's very easy for that not to happen as well. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So you really got to dive in and out of these two different mindsets all the time. You know, being a team player, answering emails, checking messages, you know, all of that collaboration stuff, which is a job by itself. But that's really counterproductive when you want to be creative. So, do you switch your computer off? Do you just turn the internet off Elliott Wheeler: yeah. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: turn your phone down to, how do you all, those kicks? Elliott Wheeler: that you put the phone in another room, Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Okay. disturb Elliott Wheeler: on. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Yeah, Elliott Wheeler: Don't check your, like I've got, the, I mean, I've, you can also spend a lot of time, which I do. Finding ways to think about not procrastinating. Jamieson Shaw: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: What's, what's your trick? How, how do you overcome that? You know, I'm, I'm a bad procrastinator myself. Elliott Wheeler: Oh, it's, it's just lots of things like this. There's, you can get filters so that you can't see your 'cause often you do have to go and check an email or whatever, but having filters up so that you don't see all the other emails that come in, like you, you inbox is hidden. You just search for the person that you need. You get that answer and then you, you turn it off. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Ah, that's smart. Mm-hmm. Elliott Wheeler: Stuff like that just is trying to eliminate as many, just visual distractions as possible to turn off all notifications. Jameson's incredibly respectful of, if you can see that I am working, sort of not coming in. I'm, I'm nowhere near as respectful, Jamieson Shaw: Yeah. Elliott Wheeler: just wondering, going. I've had this thought about something. But yeah, it's just trying to, giving yourself as many opportunities as you can not to be distracted. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Okay. Wow. Doesn't sound easy. So being, being part of such a big team, in the end, you gotta do whatever it takes to, to keep the director happy, I guess. And to do that, you gotta be to some degree of mind reader, because language, words can just vaguely describe music. I find it, it's really hard to really put in words what you mean and just get that across to somebody else. Is that a problem for you typically, or how do you overcome that? How do you figure out exactly what the director really wants? Elliott Wheeler: I think it's comes down to relationships and it's, luckily we've been working with Baz now for almost a decade, and so that's one particular relationship where we've got a really, really good, really close shorthand. And we were talking about this before we went on, on air here that It's not until you work with someone else where you sort of realize just how much a shorthand you do have with those close relationships that you have. And it's not just with Baz. I've got close relationships with other directors as well. But it's, it's like any relationship, like you get to, you learn to read people, you learn to read. if they're saying stuff, just because they're in a particular mood, if they're saying stuff because they're excited if sometimes, they listen to a piece of music and they just get bored of it. So it's learning how to sort of keep stuff interesting as well. And sometimes not playing tracks straight away if you know that they're gonna have to live for another two Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Yeah. Elliott Wheeler: Or sometimes it's good to put that stuff down and stuff does, if it's a really strong idea, you can put it down in the first couple of weeks and this, it's still there five years later, which has also happened. It really just comes down to being as clear as you can and just really trying to identify, particularly in creative sessions, what you want to get out of a creative session and having sort of a, almost a creative meeting agenda going. I've written this and this and this, I need to know, is it hitting the right marks for you? Are you okay to proceed with it as it is? Do we need to change it a lot? And someone like Baz who's incredibly involved in, in the musical process, he's feeding us as much as we're feeding him off and he's constantly looking for new ideas and new artists and yeah. It's just sort of about trying to make sure that you're as aligned on the storytelling as you can be aligned. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Jamie, if, if we could just go back a couple of steps you mentioned earlier that one of the first steps is to lay down temp music . That's like being a dj, just going through music library, finding temporary pieces of music. And then later, you basically need to create a map, you said, to match the composed music to the movie. Can you talk about that timing element there? Because that's obviously very different to music that you find in a library, which has its own b p m, it's not adjusted to the visuals at all. What's on your mind when you map music to visuals, do you go for edits? Or do you go for impacts on the visuals or what, what drives the B P M for you? Jamieson Shaw: Well, it really depends. Usually, and this is something Elliott taught me, that if you watch a scene without music at all, usually find that there is some kind of rhythm. Whether it's in the scene or usually the picture editor has imparted some kind of rhythm and it's not uncommon for a picture editor to throw something in to edit to these days as well. And it really depends on the film and the, the director's style. Some people really like every gesture to be hit and sort of have lots of impacts and, you know, every cut to be sort of marked in some ways. And other people like the music to sort of be more textual and more of a landscape for the action to happen against. So there's not really a clear answer. And one thing I will say, which I think sort of leads to the question about talking with directors and other creative people and that temping process is, I think that that is a really helpful part, especially with newer relationships where, I mean, obviously you can talk about music forever, but there's nothing quite like listening to it and there's nothing quite like listening to music against the scene. So I think what's really useful about some of that temping process is that you can literally show the director 10 different things. Cut in, some might be fast, some might be slow. You know, a whole range of emotions. And, and you can pretty quickly from that distill at least some broad parameters. And that might start to answer the questions as you know, does this movie, you know, do we need to Mickey Mouse it as we call, where, where you're literally putting a musical gesture on every action. Or is it, or is the music gonna be doing something different and something more subtle? So, yeah, you do. I think the temping process is really helpful for that. And then once it comes to the tempo mapping and things, that's really the composer, once they've actually written the original piece of music. And then as I mentioned often that, you know, we might have a MIDI demo in the cut and that will get, the scene will get recut, so that'll get cut 15, 20 different times. It's just then going through and making sure a tempo map is playable and that the music makes sense to then be recorded by humans. So often in film music there's a lot more time signature changes than in anything else. And same as tempo ramps often to make something work with a picture that might've been written at four four and 120 b p m. We'll end up having, a whole bunch of five four bars, three four bars, and it might go from 120 to 130 to 110 to sort of then serve what the picture needs to do. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Got it. So effectively the film editing gives you sort of a framework to build the rhythm of the composition around. Jamieson Shaw: Yeah. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Yeah. Is, is that fair to say? I Jamieson Shaw: Yeah. And, and one really wonderful thing about working with Baz, especially as long as we have, is that there is a, a fair bit of scope and certainly an uncommon amount of scope for music to lead. He's so invested in music, and music does so much heavy lifting in his films, and he's so musically involved himself. What's really wonderful is if, if the musical idea is really strong and really needs to be a certain way, he's often quite happy to recut the picture, to help the music be as best as it can, which is not often how it happens. Elliott Wheeler: Very, very, rare. Jamieson Shaw: yeah. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Okay, Jamieson Shaw: that answer your question? Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Yeah. Yeah, I guess so. It's, it's a complex process obviously. Production Talk fans. We know you're loving the show, but are you following us on social media, yet? Our channels are your backstage pass to all things music production. We've got exclusive content, sneak peeks, and occasionally some insider tips from Yarn's Studio. So, hit that subscribe button and follow us on social to join the conversation and stay in the loop. Head over to speakpipe.com/productiontalk. It's your chance to get your own voice onto the Production Talk podcast. It could be a question, it could be a comment, it could be some feedback or something exciting that you want the podcast community to hear. Head over to speakpipe.com/productiontalk, I would love to hear from you. You rock. And for, the average movie, how many different musical pieces do you actually need? We obviously need to reuse music, there's themes that reoccur I believe they're called Leitmotif, if I'm not mistaken. Is is that something that is on your mind when you map the pieces across the movie and. Elliott Wheeler: And it really defend, depends on what form you're working on. In as well. Like if you're working on a series, Those themes become something that you're gonna live with for a lot longer time. Like something like the Get Down that we worked on, those themes had to play across 12 and a half hours of, of tv. But yeah, you choose your themes at the very beginning often and try and work out, are they character themes? Are they, is it a love theme? Is it a a more overarching sort of societal theme that you're working with? And that's a really good way of getting rid of the terror of the blank page as well, 'cause often otherwise you just feel like you have to keep writing and keep writing and keep writing and sort of these endless opportunity for ideas. Whereas if you can come up with a sort of a skeleton like that, then it's the fun becomes, okay, well I've got that theme. When do I sort of expose it fully? When do you give the full presentation of it? When do you just sort of feed it in a little bit? Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Ah, tease a little. Yeah. Elliott Wheeler: Yeah, just tease a little bit and 'cause what you want to do is have it in there enough that by the time the main theme occurs, you're like, ah, that's what that Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Mm-hmm. Elliott Wheeler: Or you establish it really strongly at the beginning and then you're just teasing it out at little bits. And something like Elvis was really fun. Where. I didn't want to use any of my own themes. I wanted to use old themes that were from Elvis tracks, but you had these tracks that were absolutely iconic pieces of intellectual property that everyone knows, but you then get to twist them and morph them into these wonderful dramatic effects, which was a, a real dream as a, a composer. But it's the idea of having themes. If you look at that I've just been obsessing with it last week or so, so it's very fresh in my mind. But Nicholas Britell who did the score for Succession. And that's just basically one or two themes that he's used. And it's nine hours worth of viewing, but it's just such a brilliant presentation of how you can take one idea and just keep morphing it and working it and morphing it, and it becomes a real treat to see how he's gonna deal with, with what scene's happening and, and how the, the theme's gonna be developed. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: What makes a good song, what makes a good composition? Jamieson Shaw: Ah, thanks. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I know that's super open-ended, but Yes. Jamieson Shaw: I mean, It's a really interesting question. I think the more I do this and the more I listen and the more I think about it, to me it always just comes down to communicating. I think, all good music communicates an emotion. It can communicate something on a human level that we can't by speaking or doing. I think that that's the thing that I, I would find is a common thread with any really good piece of music is that it is communicating something. I dunno if there's, that's too wishy-washy, but Jan 'Yarn' Muths: yep. I get exactly what you say. I love the way you phrased that. Thank you Elliott Wheeler: what Jamieson said is a really fantastic answer. For me, it's, there's gotta have. I wanna use the word danger in it, but it's gotta have a, this is way too philosophical, but a recognition of death in there, which sounds absurd ' cause it can be in the most joyous pieces of music as Well, there has to be something that, the pieces that really move you. The moments when you are utterly happy, this is just my jam. It makes you forget about what's coming up or what's been before, like it is, it's, it's a moment of stillness. And, and the pieces that really get me are the ones where you aren't aware of, of what's come before or what's going to be coming afterwards. But there's also, I think, often. For me, there's almost an instant nostalgia where it's capturing something that is so essential to your being that, and it hits you to the quick, and for me, that's also, there's a, a, a beauty in knowing that that's gonna pass as well. Or it's capturing something that's already passed, which is why it reverberates with you so well. Bill Evans says something beautiful like the, the wonderful jazz pianist. He said, there's the universe reverberates. And sometimes, with music you're able to just click into whatever that reverberation is and someone else can hear it as well. And I think that notion of there being a movement that happens once, that you can share with somebody else and have that what Jamon said, that communication. But for me, there is a transience about it that, that I find both beautiful and heartbreaking and joyous at the same time. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Wow, that's deep. Wow. Okay. Thank you for sharing. With a focus on composition, can you share one trick that every musician can implement in their own work immediately to make their composition snappier and better? Just a short bit of wisdom. I know I'm putting you on the spot here. Elliott Wheeler: I, I think just beg, borrow, steal. I think, particularly when you've been doing it for a long time, the most dangerous part, and when I get at my lowest is when the welders dries up and I I think think On some of the projects that we've been doing, like on Elvis, there was, you asked how many pieces of music there are. there was 237 pieces of music in that two and a half hour of film. And on the Get Down we did I think 14 hours of music in about Jamieson Shaw: 12 hours of, Elliott Wheeler: Yeah. in about 12 hours a picture. But we worked on it just solidly for like 21 hour days for about two years. And, there's a certain point where you just need to go back to the well and, and drink again, and, and, and fill yourself back up again. And if you're not doing that, that's when I find I start getting cynical about the process. And you lose the joy. So I think for me, it's going back in and allowing yourself to be refueled by other people. And I'm never shy of taking that inspiration and putting that into my own work because, as long as you're respectful and you're obviously not Jan 'Yarn' Muths: trying to pass Elliott Wheeler: something off as something that's not your own. But, even when you try to, it never ends up sounding the way you think it's going to anyway. And if you're taking the joy that you're finding in someone else's music and finding a way of, of putting that back into your music, then that's sort of, that's the only way you can keep growing, I think, and keep continuing to evolve. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Okay. Well that's another really deep answer. Elliott Wheeler: So You're asking good questions. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: got a lot to do with, I'm just trying to, you know, test if I'm actually understanding you correctly. In some ways it has to do with self-care, to make sure that you are at your very best and you find ways to, you know, fill up your well, as you said. Okay. You said you did 21 hour days for how many years? That can be healthy, Elliott Wheeler: was 2 21 hours day for Full two years, but it was Jamieson Shaw: pretty long. Stretches Elliott Wheeler: pretty close. Yeah. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Yeah, right. That must have completely drained you. So Elliott Wheeler: a very particular thing about doing series work, and particularly in the style that Baz works in, that you're trying to both write. And because we're so involved in the script process, with bands, with music, you're trying to evolve a script for one episode at the same time as you're trying to shoot another script. So you've, Jan 'Yarn' Muths: and you pre Elliott Wheeler: all the artists, you are rehearsing them, you're trying to be on set with the music supervisors as well. And then once you get into it, you're also then trying to do all the score at the same time so that that particular process was just intense. And we're living in New York for the first time and, oh, I mean, don't get me wrong, it was incredible. It was amazing. And We're working with all these, some of the founders of hip hop and Grandmaster Flash and incredible disco artists. And it was, it was a dream. But, we left nothing on the table. So it Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Mm-hmm. So we were keeping a lot of boards in the air. Yeah. Juggling a lot and. Yeah. Right. Wow. Okay. I guess you can only do that for such a long time. Yeah. At, at some stage You gotta sit back and Yeah. Catch a breath, huh? Elliott Wheeler: Yeah. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Jameson, over to you. The, the one tip to write better songs for every musician out there. Jamieson Shaw: I really wish I'd spent this time thinking about it. Um, I also think as much as possible try to remove self editing from the time that you're actually creating. And that's something that is a big thing for me, where you have those doubts, does this sound too much like that thing or, you know, I think it's pretty easy to doubt yourself. And it will really slow you down if you're doing that while you're actually trying to be creative. But then I'm a big believer in self-editing after the fact. I mean, there's so many different things, but, but one thing, is to sort of sing things more or whistle or, go for a walk and, and if you've written a melody, just see if it's still with you as you walk around the block and away from your instrument. That was the thing that took me sort of a long time to sort of get into was, you know, trying to rely less on whatever technical proficiency you have on your instrument. And rely more on how it sounds and how, how it's listened to. I think music should always be about the listener. So. I think it can be a bit of a trap, and it certainly was one for me when I was younger, things are fun to play or you feel impressive playing a certain thing. So you start to write melodies in in a way that it may be a more technical than they're a motive. So I think the idea of stepping away from your instrument and just thinking about it as a piece of music that exists in your head and hear it in your head, I think helps you get to things that probably communicate more to other people. Yeah. It Jan 'Yarn' Muths: gives you a change of perspective, is that really the core of it, isn't it? When, when you step away and, you know, go for a walk? Jamieson Shaw: And my f I mean, and everyone has their own thing. Like some people love, you know, guitar ninjas and, and all that sort of stuff. And I think, you know, that could be really fun. But for me, all my favorite music doesn't really even sound like it's a human making it or something like, I, I never pictured the piano or I never pictured the guitar. It sort of exists. And I think, for me it's really helpful, if I'm working on something to sort of either go for a walk listening to it if it's something I'm recording, or just thinking about it to try and get it to that point where it is just a communication of sound rather than the technical proficiency that it took to create it, if that makes sense. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Got it. Yeah. Got it. Okay. So in, in some ways, it's important not to get lost in the technical domain too much and you know, find your own distance from that. I think so. Yeah. Yeah. I can really see that, especially with all the tools that we have and yeah, computers and what they're capable of and all the plugins. Sometimes it's, Elliott Wheeler: Can another one that was, that ties into that, which I think is, is don't overproduce your demos. Like when you're, when you're songwriting, there's a real and, and, Yarn, we've just been involved in this, the three of us, doing exactly the opposite of what I'm telling you about not Jan 'Yarn' Muths: known Elliott Wheeler: to do. We've just recorded a fantastic big band for a project that I'm working on which is still a demo stage, but there's a real danger once you've sort of sketched out an idea and then you start making it sound awesome. And then, you've spent hours doing the programming and if you've practiced the parts and whatever, and done lots of overdubbing with the vocals. Once you start baking that stuff in, it's very hard to go, oh, you know what, actually that's just a shit idea. Like, Jan 'Yarn' Muths: yeah, right? Elliott Wheeler: that verse didn't work. It wasn't really strong enough. I should have just spent an extra day working out whether that was like gone home, gone to bed, come back the next day and said, is that really doing what I needed to do storytelling wise? Rather than going, I've spent seven hours now on a string sound. It's sounds awesome. Jamieson Shaw: Yeah. Elliott Wheeler: It's, you can really trap yourself into mediocre writing, I think by overproducing demos. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So by spending too much time on the bare bones of something, are you, are you saying that you basically get attached to it and that's hard to let go and see it from a distance? You know, and sometimes it just needs the editing stage. You need to go back to the drawing board, but it sort of prevents this Elliott Wheeler: recording something into your iPhone, or whatever it is, it's much easier to go: actually no, what about this blah, blah, blah, blah. And just there's no attachment to the production on it. Whereas once you start producing it, 'cause it's so easy to produce stuff at home, now. You can sort of tie yourself into a false sense of how good the actual idea Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I think the name for, for this phenomenon is called 'demo-itis', isn't it? You fall in love with a raw version of something and it's not quite as good as you believe it is, but you've heard it so many times that we all get used to it. Jamieson Shaw: Yeah. Elliott Wheeler: you put the Jan 'Yarn' Muths: you put Yeah, yeah, right. Look, this is a typical trap that pretty much everybody that I know, including myself, falls for every once in a while. What's a good method to break out of it? How do you overcome this? You know, you know, you mentioned just record into your iPhone instead of producing it in a full DAW. Elliott Wheeler: Yeah, Yeah. Well, for me, it's just, I'm not a good singer, so I just, if I'm putting down ideas, and I am using my, my d a w, just pulling up a piano and a microphone and just banging it out. And like Jamon said, not self-editing. Let it be out of tune. Don't go back and auto-tune it. I don't even tempo map stuff if I'm just at a sketch stage. And just make sure I keep it as raw as I can and don't let myself go back in and start Jan 'Yarn' Muths: it. Keeping Elliott Wheeler: it. up until, and even with harmonies and stuff like that, unless I'm fairly locked in. Once you start doing harmonies, then you start tuning stuff. And then you're suddenly investing in the production and not the actual idea. And I find even with score work, it's if I'm writing at the piano and I'm writing into my DAW it's a very different process to, if I'm, like Jamon said, sort of walking around, whistling ideas, whistling stuff into the iPhone, or using a, an actual scoring program to just jot stuff down. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I, I know exactly what you mean. And I sometimes feel like the more mouse work is involved, the worse it gets. Yeah. And it's, it's, that's right at the core of that. Fantastic. This is really good to bring up. Thank you for sharing that with us. Jamieson Shaw: I just remembered another funny thing, I think Baz said it about great film scores and how a great film score will still be a great film score when it's played at the day spa. And you know, those like the sort of ambient versions where they'll do an instrumental piano version of Titanic or whatever and it's like, and that, that should be your lit litmus test for whether you've got a good theme. It's like if you can play it on a bad MIDI piano with some bells and imagine you're getting a massage while you've done it and it still works. Then it's like, then you're up there with the great themes. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I Love that analogy. Yeah. Yeah. Fantastic. Cool. All right. Thank you so much. Look, it's time to introduce the Speakpipe feature. So, to our listeners, you can head over to speakpipe.com/productiontalk and record your voice message to get your own voice and your own question onto the podcast. And today, I'd like to share a question with you and see if we can answer this together. So let's head over to speakpipe.com/productiontalk and have a listen. speakpipe.com/productiontalk: Hi Jan, um, this is Marie here, um, and I'm just actually wanting to do some long distance recording. So what I'm going to be doing is recording with somebody over the internet, um, through some recording software. And I'm just thinking about the best way I could do it. Um, What we'll probably be doing is doing it through a collaborated, um, session of pro tools. And we wanted to see what you thought about, um, the kinds of marking, um, sort of positioning we'll be using, like how far, how close we should mark ourselves for that, because what we want to achieve is a pretty, um, sort of a sound that sounds like we're actually in the same room together. And it's, um, so it's for my album. And just, yeah, just getting a few musicians together. So just curious to know what you would, what you would think about it. Thank you. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: All right. Thank you very much, Marie. So that was a big question and I think we need to split this in half. So I guess the first question was about online collaboration, how to make music together. So I think, Elliott, that's right down your alley. You work across the pond between Australia, New York with collaborators all over the globe. And I'm sure you must know some workflows that we can recommend to Marie here. Yeah, Elliott Wheeler: absolutely. I mean, we've ended up. Because we were in the pandemic, ended up having to record our entire orchestral session for Elvis with us here in the Gold Coast. And we were recording over at Air Lindhurst in London with wonderful London Orchestra over there. And, and Jeff Foster, who's an incredible, incredible engineer. And we did that in a 5.1 surround monitoring situation using a program called Audio Movers. Which I'm sure most of you are aware of by Jan 'Yarn' Muths: this point. Yep. I put the link in the show notes. Elliott Wheeler: And it was fantastic. Worked really, really well. We did have few headaches but called support and they fixed it up straight away for us. And just doing that and then using Zoom for your actual talk back. So just having Audio Movers open in Pro Tools with a, a send and a receive on both ends if you need to. Yeah. And then yeah, using Zoom with ideally just make sure you've got some sort of microphone system or you get very used to muting the zoom when you're not using it, so you're not getting feedback when you're trying to listen to the music coming down. But that was incredibly successful for us. We did two weeks of at least two weeks of recording over there, all our Nashville sessions, we ended up having to finish off doing the same technique. So yeah, I'd be using audio movers and Zoom. It's, it's a, it's a cheap option. It's really good. There are much more sophisticated, Source Connect is another great one. It's a little bit more expensive. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Bit techy. Yeah. Elliott Wheeler: And Clearview is another one we use a lot for actual music. And, and video editing, and that's fantastic software. But again, It's a pretty high end solution in terms of pricing. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Got it. Yep. Elliott Wheeler: in terms of mic placement, Jemmo, I'll throw to you 'cause you're a better engineer Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Yeah. So the question is how do we get the same sound on, on both ends to being in two different rooms, I guess. Jamieson Shaw: Yeah. So I mean, without knowing the instruments, the recording, my advice to that would probably be to keep things pretty close and dead. And then use the same reverbs in the mix. I really like doing a lot, using a lot of reverb, but a very short room reverb. So that's probably what I suggest, you know, sort of not, sort of not trying to get too much of each of the, however many rooms that they're actually in. Keeping things like quite focused Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Let's just stay with that for just a moment. So, practically speaking, how what, what can we do to make a room a bit less reverberate? Let's say they're just in their living rooms and they both sound different. One is a bit more echoy than the other. Sure. So what do we do now? Jamieson Shaw: Soft furnishings probably the first thing. So, if you've got some extra rugs, just putting Jan 'Yarn' Muths: them around, Jamieson Shaw: sort of avoiding a hard surfaces. So if you've got a beautiful stone fireplace in the living room or wherever you're recording, maybe that's worth covering up. I don't think you'd need to be too particular about getting a, a dead, dead sound. Obviously, if something's got quite a bit of echo yeah, sort of essentially just using soft furnishings around yourself and getting the microphone relatively close using something relatively cardioid, rather than anything Omni. So Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So directional microphone, got it. Jamieson Shaw: relatively directional. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So condenser or dynamic microphone, which one would you recommend here Jamieson Shaw: to know without knowing what their tracking and what their style is. I'm a big fan of dynamic microphones. Like I think they're, they're a bit unsung sometimes, especially the SM7B that you are talking to is what Michael Jackson recorded Thriller on. Yeah. So Jan 'Yarn' Muths: James Hetfield from Metalica and countless others. Jamieson Shaw: So, for the right voice obviously Condenser will give you a really beautiful, detailed, open sound. Yeah. But then the goal is to make it feel like these musicians are all in the one room. I'd be looking at room reverbs quite short, reverbs and don't, not being afraid to use quite a bit of it. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Thank you very much. This is very insightful. I definitely recommend , dynamic microphones as they usually reject the room a bit better than condensers. So yeah, experiment with that. , I think, and Jamie's trick of adding the same reverb is definitely a great trick. Thank you very much. We are down to almost two more questions now. Uh, Can you spill some beans about the future projects you are, may be involved in at the moment or embarking into? Is there anything that you are legally allowed to share with us? Elliott Wheeler: you legally allowed to talk about what you're working on? Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Um, Jamieson Shaw: Dunno Jan 'Yarn' Muths: okay okay. I I we got it tread lightly, Jamieson Shaw: here, Jan 'Yarn' Muths: but, um, that Jamieson Shaw: that differently yesterday, but I got some paperwork today that made me think otherwise. Elliott Wheeler: Oh, right. Okay. Jamieson Shaw: Okay. Um, Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So maybe best not to name anything or call any titles , but are you involved in new film productions at the moment? Jamieson Shaw: Yeah. Yeah. Elliott Wheeler: Jameson's work. It's a shame we can't talk about what it is, but Jan 'Yarn' Muths: you're probably right. Elliott Wheeler: right. It's probably better not to say, but it is a fantastic big blockbuster that Jameson's can be working on. Which will take up probably the latter half of the year. And I'm working on another big film project as well. A big musical. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And so that's separate program. Separate project. You, You, are on different projects for, for a change. Okay, good. Interesting. Elliott Wheeler: interesting. It is all well and good in practice until I actually realize that Jameson's not there. And then, yeah, a project that's based over in LA and one another one that's based in Chicago at the moment, which is really fun, sort of exploring some of the music of Chicago. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Okay. Elliott Wheeler: Yeah, it's great. And then, and a few other films sort of down the pipeline that Yeah, still on the back burner bit coming up and a couple of local projects for, again, things that we can't talk about, but interesting, interesting sort of socially social impact projects. So. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Interesting! You have quite a few projects going at the same time. Is, is what I'm reading here, of different scale. You probably need some, some help scheduling or, you know, an assistant to look after your calendar to manage all of that. Wow. Cool. Okay. Elliott Wheeler: do spend a lot of time thinking about calendars. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: If the listeners would like to find out more about you, have you got an online presence? Where can we send the listeners to, to find out more about you, Elliott? Elliott Wheeler: I've got my website just elliottwheeler.com or turningstudios.com. Has examples of our work. I'm terrible at social media, partly by default and partly by choice. But Jamieson's much more present on social media. Jamieson Shaw: Yeah, probably Instagram. But then again, they're the Turning Studio's website. We both have artist profiles on Spotify. Elliott Wheeler: If anyone wants to, there's an interview. If you're interested in the process of how we scored Elvis and want to hear some of the actual score. There's an interview that I did with Baz, called Elvis, the story of the score. Which is about an hour and a half and we play most of the score in there and it's Baz and I sitting down and talking about the process and what we did. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I would love to put the link in the show notes if that's okay with you. Fantastic. Thank you both so much for sharing all of this insight and wisdom today. That's really amazing to see the inner workings of your brains, creating all these masterpieces. So it's, it's a real treat for me to hear all of this. So thank you for sharing. I really appreciate. Elliott Wheeler: And Thank you for having us in your incredible studio down here in Mullum Jamieson Shaw: Yeah, it's Elliott Wheeler: in Mullum. It's Absolutely beautiful. for those of you who haven't been here yet, you should get down here. It's a gorgeous space. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Much appreciated. Cheers. Thank you. That's a wrap for today. I hope you enjoyed this episode of the Production Talk Podcast. Thanks to our expert host, Jan Muths and our sponsor, mixartist.com.au for making this show possible. Don't forget to hit that subscribe button and follow mixartist on social media to stay up to date on all things music production. And, if you have any questions or comments, we'd love to hear from you, just drop us a line at mixartist.com.au/contact. Until next time, keep creating and producing great music.
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