Interview with Ryan Amon
Ryan has already written music for PostHaste Music and he just started his own company: City of the Fallen. His music is featured in trailers for Monsters vs Aliens, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Seven Pounds and many others.
TMN: Hey Ryan! Some of our readers might not know you. Can you talk about yourself a bit?
Ryan Amon: Hey guys! I was born and raised in a small town in Wisconsin called Elkhorn. Apparently the town’s name came from a guy finding the horn of an elk up in a tree. Useless information, I know, but hey, when you’re from a small town, these things become legend.
I started out with classical piano lessons around the age of 6, I believe, and after an on-and-off affair with the whole piano thing, I finally decided I was going to be a aerospace engineer, because it sounded cool and I might be able to get on a space mission someday and walk on the moon. C’mon, you know you’ve dreamed of the same thing… Well that didn’t last very long, but I did go through 3 different universities, studying Biology, Art/Photography, and a few other concentrations along the way. During that time I got back into writing music on piano and I picked up a guitar as well, and began to realize I had the most fun writing songs. I was more into the singer/songwriter thing at that point.
I attended the McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul Minnesota, where I studied songwriting as well as motion imaging, learning the computer software for composing music, as well as editing film. While I was still at the college there, I decided to enter one of the orchestral tracks I had written in the BMI Pete Carpenter Fellowship contest, pretty much on a whim. To explain what the Pete Carpenter Fellowship is, every year Mike Post (multi-Grammy award winner and composer) selects 2 people under the age of 35, who are aspiring film and tv composers. He provides them with a stipend to come to his studio in L.A. and work with him for a month or two, in honor of his friend and co-writer, Pete Carpenter, who passed away some years ago.
After the fellowship was done, I decided that I wanted to write music for visual media, so I packed up all the stuff I could fit in my car, and drove out to Los Angeles – without a job or place to stay. I’ve heard of a lot of other people with similar stories, and even though some people thought I was crazy, I have a strong faith that God opens doors for us at the right times throughout our lives.
After about 6 months of working odd and end jobs around L.A., I finally got a call back from one of the demos I sent out to work as an assistant for some reality TV composers. It was my first job, and I learned a lot about the production side of things, and how to write really fast, since the amount of music needed per week for reality tv is absolutely insane. After a couple years of writing for television, I decided to venture out on my own and write music that I really connected to. Trailer music was the perfect fit for me because of its emotional impact.
On a more personal note, another thing about me that I’m proud of is my faith in Jesus Christ, which defines who I am and why I even have the ability to write music at all. I believe any talents that I have are from Him, and I don’t want to waste them. After all, life is pretty short, isn’t it?
TMN: You mentioned that you live in Bolivia? How did you end up in that country?
RA: My wife is from Santa Cruz, Bolivia, and when I proposed to her 2 years ago, I decided that I would live here so that she could be close to her family and her work. It was also an exciting adventure for me to leave the fast-paced LA lifestyle for a culture that is much more laid back and family-oriented. The people here really seem to know how to slow down and enjoy life, and I like that about Bolivia. It’s amazing to see people who have so little, but are constantly smiling and thankful for the few things they do have. I may eventually set up two studios in both Bolivia and the US, since I travel back and forth between the two countries pretty frequently.
TMN: How were you drawn into the trailer music business?
RA: Well, when I left the reality tv realm, I felt like I had learned a lot of the basic tools I needed to produce music at a higher level, and I knew that I wanted to focus on trailers and really push myself creatively. I love the challenge that comes with it.
TMN: You started a new company, called City of the Fallen. What does it offer that other companies don’t? What makes it special?
RA: My idea for City of the Fallen came to me one night when I was thinking how I could have a bit more creative freedom – a way to put a special sound and/or signature to my music. Although I had been writing for other trailer music libraries, I still wanted to put my own music out there – music where I wasn’t being asked to copy a certain style. I think what makes City of the Fallen unique is that I try to create a mood… and that hopefully this mood pulls the listener in and takes them on a journey, and inspires them in a way. It’s coming from my own travel experiences to different parts of the world, which is why I love to mix elements from all over the globe into my music.
TMN: Where did the name “City of the Fallen” come from?
RA: The name “City of the Fallen” was actually a track I had done for another library, but I liked the name so much that I chose to use it for my own company. It comes from my viewpoint of the world after the “fall” of humanity, when Adam and Eve were sent out of the garden of Eden – when the world changed forever, and humans began to build cities and towers like Babel, based on their own pride and self-glory. God destroyed the tower and scattered the people as well as their one, unified language. It’s a time in history that really intrigues me.
TMN: What will be the musical profile of City of the Fallen? Only huge epical choral orchestra for trailers or do you have other plans?
RA: Right now I am just writing music that I feel emotionally connected to, trying hard not to “get in the way” of the creative idea. And what seems to be coming out is this fusion of orchestra, choirs, vocals and ethnic elements. The first CD will be called In the Beginning. I like what groups like E.S. Posthumus do – to keep the music as pure as possible and to stay true to themselves when creating it. I’m kind of waiting to see how people like the first CD to see where it goes, but I’m definitely excited about working on more in the future. I have ideas for a CD of ancient war music, as well as some sweeping, pastoral drama music… We’ll see
TMN: Do you collaborate with someone in City of the Fallen?
RA: As of this moment, I’m not collaborating with anyone, although I am open to whatever opportunities might come my way.
TMN: When will debut the first album of City of the Fallen and when will it be available for the public? (The heartbeat of all trailer music fans just stopped for a second).
RA: Well, I’m not sure exactly when the first CD, In the Beginning, will debut. It’s still in the production phase, and there are a lot of things that have to be put together first, but I’ve always felt that music should be made available for everyone, and if for some reason In the Beginning won’t be available for consumer purchase, I would really want to put together some re-mixes of it for people to buy. I’ll definitely keep you guys posted.
TMN: What is needed to make a new music library successful? All you need is a bunch of tracks? The market of production music is open for new, unique ideas?
RA: That’s a great question, and when you find the answer let me know I’m just starting out with the new CD, so I’m not quite sure what the reaction will be. Being outside of Los Angeles could make it tough for connections to the trailer houses, but I’m hoping it can grab some people’s attention. I do know that a lot of big music libraries have so much music that it doesn’t leave any more room for individuality. I’m a big fan of small companies that have a unique sound. If someone can listen to my music and say, “that sounds like City of the Fallen”, that would be a success for me. My hope is that the production music industry will begin to open themselves up to new companies that may be small, but have a unique voice to be heard.
TMN: In your opinion which production music company offers the most enjoyable music?
RA: I’ve listened to quite a bit of trailer music, and I really like the tracks that Two Steps From Hell are doing. They really have some great ideas, and the production is incredible as well.
TMN: What do you think where does trailer music genre evolve to?
RA: Hmm.. That’s a tough one. There always seems to be the need for big epic orchestras and choirs that blow you out of your seat, but I’ve also seen a subtle detour towards sound design and minimalism as well. I definitely think technology has turned the music industry upside-down right now, and will continue to do so with more and more great sounding samples coming out for the composer to use in their palette. I think in the future we might see more world influences in trailer music – a big melting pot of cultural identities mixed together.
TMN: Where does your inspiration come from?
RA: I remember a quote from that songwriting movie with Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant, where he says “inspiration is for amateurs”, and I think in the business of music, there is a bit of truth in that… Sometimes you don’t always have the luxury of waiting for inspiration to come to you. But I also have other perspectives on it… For me, the source of all my inspiration comes from God, the ultimate Creator of everything around us. When I write music, I have all these ideas flying around in my head, and I’ve realized that the less I try to force a good idea or melody to come out, the easier it becomes. Letting that source of Creativity come straight through without my ego getting in the way always gives me my favorite ideas. I also get inspiration from people in my life – especially my wife, Carla. I think when you feel completely loved for who you are, you feel much more free to try new ideas, even if other people might laugh at you later or tell you that it’s horrible. For me, it’s all about shutting out those negative thoughts of what other people might think or say.
TMN: For recording your music do you use live orchestra and choir or samples? Which of them do you prefer?
RA: Man, would I love to get my hands on some live orchestras and choirs I use samples in my music, although I have some weird and interesting approaches to using them. I like to mix, layer, and EQ things to try to get them sounding as real as possible. I also sing on my own tracks from time to time, blending my voice with choir samples (which must sound ridiculously funny to people walking by on the street while I’m recording
Sometimes, and this will sound crazy, I actually prefer samples – it all depends on the style of the song for me. For one project, I had the opportunity of having some of my tracks recorded live with orchestra and choir in Bulgaria. The orchestra and choirs sounded great. When I listened back to my original versions (the ones using the samples), I actually thought the samples sounded more powerful. It’s because with samples you can layer them to make a wall of sound. I think mixing samples with live players has had some great results for many composers. Of course, it all depends on the style of music, and nothing beats a real orchestra for most applications, like pastoral string melodies. The emotion that comes out of the players is nothing short of amazing.
TMN: We assume that you are busy with composing music for City of the Fallen, but do you have any other project you working on? Can you talk about it?
RA: Right now I have a few projects going on, which I may or may not be at liberty to talk about, so just to be safe I’ll leave that one open
TMN: Will you continue writing music for PostHaste Music?
RA: I would like to keep writing for whatever trailer music libraries are interested in my music. Post Haste has been great to work with – this is my second year working with them now. I’m definitely open to working with new companies, as well as possible joint ventures with other composers.
TMN: Which of them would you choose: a bottle of Glenfarclas 105 whisky or a 18 years old bottle of rum from Panama?
RA: Haha… You guys are great Hmm… Let’s see…. Well, I’ve never been a huge fan of whisky (sorry to all you whisky fans), and after checking out the Bacardi factory in Puerto Rico a few years ago, I’ve become a rum fan. I don’t think I’ve actually had any rum from Panama, but now I’ll have to try it! Maybe afterwards I can use the empty bottle as a musical instrument in my next track -
Also, I just wanted to send out a huge “Thanks!” to everybody for giving me the opportunity to do this interview, and I really hope you guys like the music from City of the Fallen. My dream is that somehow through writing this music, people will be moved, and in some small, humble way, it can help make the world sound a little bit more beautiful.