It’s not every day you get to sit down with a film composer and sound design legend to discuss their favorite gear, writer’s block, and working in the industry.
We met with Jörg Hüttner, the musician behind the electronic soundscapes of “Girl on a Train”, “Cries From Syria”, “Fifty Shades of Grey”, and “Independence Day: Resurgence”.
I started out in a similar way to a lot of people: you like a type of music or some band (in my case Depeche Mode and Jean-Michel Jarre) and you start dreaming of doing the same thing. In my case this led me to buy my first synth at age 15. It was a Roland D-10, nothing to really write home about, although I used it in my first band at age 17.
It never worked out with the “pop star” thing, and I never became famous with a band, but it led to working for the music instrument industry. I became a product support specialist and sound designer, which put me in contact with established composers that heard my sounds in synths they liked.
Party in the USA
Moving to Los Angeles offered up so many opportunities to work in film music and for top composers like Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, Atli Örvarsson and others. My preset sound design work for synthesizer companies like Waldorf, Alesis and others back then opened the doors, so that was my way in.
I was in touch with Hans and other composers in his production facility in the early 00s, and after a few years knocking on their doors I was offered my first job: “Catwoman”. Not the best film, but the music production was fun. Two more projects followed, including “Batman Begins” in London. I made the decision to move the UK, but getting a my work permit took ages. I finally moved over in March 2007. Then all went pretty quickly. I worked as assistant for Atli Örvarsson first, and over time I worked for more and more different composers and also on my own stuff.
Using MiniBrute 2S
This thing is definitely worth every penny.
I mostly use it for more dirty sequences and to create “drive” in a piece I’m working on. Obviously it needs to be music that allows the use of synthetic sound sources, which is not always the case, but like the MatrixBrute it finds its spot.
The fact that it has 64 steps allows you to use it in odd time signatures or with enough variety to not get too repetitive, which can be a problem in music for media. I just did some more industrial-influence tracks for fun a few weeks ago and it was all over those.
MiniBrute 2S is packed with features I love. The sequencer, in particular, it’s really versatile and laid out really nicely. It’s very easy to edit things and to expand the sequence past the 16 steps interface. Also the sound of the unit itself is really good. I especially love the “Brute” knob, which sounds different than the MatrixBrute, since it sits at different points in the sound engine.
The modulation matrix field on the right is also really cool. I use this to trigger the sequencer of the MiniBrute 2S via the Expert-Sleepers system in my Eurorack modular, so I can have total control of timings.
Wired-up analog mutant
I often use patch cables to route the LFOs to different parameters than they are hard-wired to control, or I exchange the envelopes for instance. I also use additional time-synced LFOs from my modular system as modulation sources via the matrix. It just expands the possibilities with other modular gear.
Avoiding “writer’s block”
The interesting thing about inspiration and coming up with ideas is that if you’re not on a deadline you can simply have days where nothing comes up. With a deadline approaching, you simply cannot afford this to happen, so I try to work on something by either creating a sound or putting a simple sequence into my music software, or taking a piano sound or similar and playing around. Inspiration will hit - you just need to be patient for a little. It can also start with reworking an existing piece of music in the project for a different visual cue.
Music for film
The way I approach sound design for films varies very heavily from project to project. For “How It Ends” Atli Örvarsson just needed sounds from me, which meant I didn’t see much of the movie at all, while on “The Mortal Instruments” I did synth programming and electronics over his existing orchestra ideas to picture. That was great fun, especially as I got asked to “go to 11!” On other projects I write additional music, like the documentary “Cries From Syria” by composer and cellist Martin Tillmann. For this one, I also designed sounds for rather sobering scenes of chemical attacks, which was not an easy movie to watch while scoring. The idea here was to capture the eerie scenery with some subtle but anxious sounds. The entire music team received an Emmy nomination this year, which was a great honor. Outside of working with other composers, I work on my own compositions for trailer music, production libraries and also movies as composer.