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Backstage with James Brandon Green

If you’re ever wondered what’s involved in being a movie trailer composer, this is one instalment of Modal Electronics’ Backstage you can’t afford to miss.

James Brandon Green AKA HIVEMIND

A deep dive into the wonderful world of Movie Trailer composition with HIVEMIND

So, tell us who you are, where you’re from etc?
I’m James, I’m from Birmingham and I’m a composer and sound designer for movie trailers.

What’s on your playlist at the moment?
This has been an amazing year for music discovery. Daughters – “You Won’t Get What You Want” has made its way to my absolute favourite album ever! I tend to listen to that a few times a week. I’ve also recently been listening to a lot of Tropical Fuck Storm, The Haxan Cloak, Billie Eilish, Lingua Ignota, JPEGMAFIA and Swans. Anything mastered by Heba Kadry is usually a winner!

Has Music always been a part of your life? Was Music a big part of your childhood? What did you listen to back then?
Yes, I had a very musical upbringing. Although no one in my family was musical my mom always wanted me to play an instrument and bought me a trumpet when I was 7,  then a piano around the age of 13, so a lot of my extra time as a child revolved around practicing and lessons. Back then I used to listen to a lot of Chopin, Liszt and Alkan piano works, Eminem, Electric Six and Slipknot.

What inspires you musically?
All sorts of things, I love hearing a new sound that invokes a new emotion or flavour I’ve not experienced before, these pop up all over the place, both in music and everyday life!

Who are your biggest influences on your production?
Lorn is my number one production influence at the moment. The way he slowly fills out the frequency spectrum is very creative. Especially in an industry where your music needs to continuously build, it really helps to have a lot of places to draw this energy from and he’s shown me a few tricks with filtering that have been incredibly useful!

Technology is my creative process.

How does a track start for you – what is the spark that kicks off the rest of your production?
Usually some kind of signature sound kicks things off. A unique ident to repeat throughout a track. Often these are happy accidents from sound design experiments, either through recording a bunch of musical and non musical objects or heavily modulating a synth. Then I’ll use this as a basis around which to build the orchestra and percussion.

How did you get into trailer composition?
My lecturer at university was the orchestrator for a composer for trailers and advertising. After university he bought me in on a few projects as an assistant and it was so unbelievably fun I knew it was what I wanted to do for a living!

How does the process for trailer composition work? Are you given briefs to work to? If so, how does this impact your creative process?
It’s a split between library music and custom briefs. I’m always working on music for my library and jump onto custom work as a priority when it comes in. This could be either a totally original track/sfx or a development of some of my library music to better fit a brief. Briefs massively change my creative process, having limitations and something specific to write for can be really focussing, whereas writing library music can sometimes be so open that it’s hard to know where to start.

You have some high-profile sound design projects – any that stand out to you as favourite projects?
The Walking Dead Season 11 project was a particularly fun recent job. Very hands on with lots of field recording and post processing to make everyday objects sound just a little “off”. Horror projects often end up being the most fun to work on, there’s a lot of creative freedom with anything invoking a creepy or scary mood!

What was your approach to this project and where did you get your inspiration from?
Colin Stetson’s soundtrack to Hereditary was a big inspiration. Slow pitch bends to hard cut silence work amazingly well to build and break tension.

How does technology impact your creative process?
Technology is my creative process. Without plugins, synthesisers and modulation I’d be totally lost!

What is your production setup at the moment? Is it fixed or do you switch things up regularly?
I like to move quite often so I try to keep my setup as minimal as possible. For years I’ve been working out of logic on a Mac with a pair of Shure SRH1840’s. But since we’ve all been locked down this year I’ve started to get some outboard gear: A Behringer Neutron, my SKULPT SE and a Soma Pipe are some new additions over the past few months.

So we hear you have a SKULPTsynth SE in the studio at the moment – what’s your impressions on this?
It’s an amazing little synth, I’ve only had it for a month but it’s already fleshed out a few tracks for me. The spread setting has been particularly useful, adding harmonies to pulsing textures I would never have arrived at without it. I suspect the portability will really make it indispensable in the future!

Looking to find out more about the man himself, head over to his website here:

Hivemind Signature Sound Pack


Fancy injecting some HIVEMIND flavour into your production – we have just what the doctor ordered! Checkout HIVEMIND, our latest free Artist Series pack for the SKULPTsynth SE loaded James’ signature sounds to help inspire your creative workflow!

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