Dragons & Kings: Interview with the Composers of Gothic Storm’s Biggest Release to Date
Gothic Storm’s biggest release to date, Dragons & Kings, focuses on heroic, majestic and inspirational orchestral music – big budget fantasy and family adventure with live orchestra, featuring the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. The album represents the company’s most colourful, uplifting and melodic album set to date.
Dragons & Kings was composed by Dan Graham, Chris Haigh, Gabriel Brosteanu, Lukasz Ledzki, Piotr Musial and Andrew Swarbrick. The artwork was made by Sam Hayles – aka DOSEprod.
On this occasion, we did an interview with the composers behind this major album.
Trailer Music News: Tell us a bit about this album. What inspired you to release this inspiring fantasy/adventure collection? What was the creative process?
Piotr Musial and Lukasz Ledzki: We love composing fantasy and adventure music. We’ve previously worked together in this style, so it was perfect timing for Gothic Storm to bring us in for the album. We like using irish music styled instruments and vocals together with battle drums and eerie ambiences. Sometimes it feels like telling a story, or painting it. You set an overall background, color palette, then paint in sky, land, trees and hills, and then make everything a bit darker to hint an army of orks approaching the field, blowing battle horns and getting ready to fight. You can always imagine the rest of the story.
Chris Haigh: An adventure style album is something that Gothic Storm was missing from its catalogue but I think we realised how much when we went to L.A. last year. A lot of the music supervisors were asking if we had adventure music. Which at that point we didn’t. It was always in the schedule to do one. So because of this it moved up the release schedule pretty fast.
Dan Graham: Chris Haigh and I visited the L.A. trailer houses last year and were asked a lot if we had any adventure music and since we only had a small number of tracks it seemed like a good idea to make an album of it. I think as a writer it’s more inspiring to think of imaginative scenes and write uplifting themes than just straight action music so for me it was a great excuse to be colourful and magnificent!
Gabriel Brosteanu: The label didn’t have recent releases in this genre but clearly a huge potential for writing this kind of music existed. For me, imagining the worlds and universes that help me inspire the music I write is probably the process that I always look forward to most, before starting to work on a new track or album. Because of that, because you can take your imagination with you, wherever and when you want it, many musical ideas came to me not in a typical fashion, but when I was away from my piano. This album is about stories, those fantastic stories that we all probably grew up with and not once, wished that we could be part of them just for one second.
Andrew Swarbrick: When I got the brief for this album I was excited but also quite daunted as it was a genre I hadn’t ever really put my hand to. I was definitely keen to do something on the positive / family-friendly end of the spectrum – I wanted it to be as exciting, and as full of energy as possible – big, fun brass melodies… fast string runs… I was inspired by “Adventure Of A Lifetime” by Two Steps From Hell.
TMN: How did you work together?
Piotr and Lukasz: Dan set up the background for us. We (P&L) then independently sketched ideas for tracks on it. Some worked out, some didn’t, but we always managed to find a spot, where our ideas met perfectly. We then put them all together in one project and the tracks were ready for the recording. At final stage, we also worked to make the hybrid versions of tracks, so they would not only fit fantasy but also superhero setting.
Gabriel: It was just the usual way (and probably the best way, I might add), there is a brief about the project involved, then there are demos and feedback. Of course the incredibly beautiful album artwork from Sam Hayles (aka DOSEprod) helps so much! It’s always nice to have a visual reference that your music can hopefully relate to. Anyway I think in the end it all comes along pretty nicely… 🙂
Dan: As the project manager I wrote a brief with a lot of examples of the type of music we need and tried to make it as inspiring as possible. Any Gothic Storm writer will tell you I work very hard on my briefs! The writers wrote their demos, I gave a bit of low level feedback, we recorded the live strings, I mixed the live recordings and sent them back to the writers. Finally the writers created the different versions. As one of the writers, it was great to hear the amazing tracks in progress and have to work very hard to compete!
TMN: The album features live orchestra and choir. The recording sessions must have been a thrilling experience. Can you tell us more about it?
Piotr and Lukasz: It wasn’t our first time working with live orchestra and choir. But it’s always an incredible experience to hear the music come to live. Real musicians add tons of sparks to the music. Too bad we couldn’t be there in person during the sessions.
Gabriel: Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to take part at the recording sessions since there is some considerable distance between my studio and UK, but Dan sometimes sends me snippets of the action and it’s so nice and satisfying to see the musicians give their best to make your music come to life. It really is the best reward a composer and musician can get.
Dan: We’ve been doing them for years now so although it’s always amazing to hear how good they are (all players from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra), in some ways I’ve got a little used to it. And, when the music, players and studio are all this good I can’t really offer much input except say “that was brilliant, next!”
Andrew: For me, this was one of my first experiences of having my music recorded with world-class string players and I was very excited about it. Even though it wasn’t required or necessary, I was very keen to attend the recording session. Unfortunately I wasn’t there for all of it because it happened over two days, but I managed to travel over to Liverpool for the session where my track was being done. It was really fantastic hearing your piece performed by a group of excellent players. As a composer who spends hours on end in my home studio working with samples all day it was incredibly refreshing and it reminded me how it’s supposed to be!
TMN: What is your favorite track and why?
Piotr and Lukasz: “Seventh Tale” is pretty massive (we can’t be objective though 😉 ).
Chris: I’m not sure I have a favourite track as all the tracks seem to hit different genres of adventure and I think as a collective all the tracks are exceptionally strong. But if I had to choose, “Dragon Lands”.
Gabriel: Hmm, that is a tough question, I think all the tracks from Dragons & Kings are beautiful (hopefully mine too haha) and each one has a story to tell in its own way, but if I had to choose one track it would be “Saviours Of The Universe” ( Dan’s track ) because I think it has that classical music flavor that I grew up with, but brought “up to date” in a massive epic fashion.
Dan: I like Piotr and Lukas’s track “Dragon Lands” the best. It’s extremely colourful, imaginative and melodic but also exciting and full of light and joy.
Andrew: It’s hard to pick just one. But I think I’d say “Saviours Of The Universe”. I think it has an interesting sound and has something unique about it.
TMN: What are your next projects?
Piotr and Lukasz: We work together on more music. We like diversity, so not only fantasy style. Piotr’s also composing and orchestrating for games, but his projects this year include orchestral and choir sampling. Lukas this year is focusing on his personal orchestral projects.
Chris: Well I’m currently working on the follow up to Epic Emotional Piano, creatively titled Epic Emotional Piano 2 haha. The first string recording took place last week and sounded amazing. The next session is at the end of May. So hopefully looking at a late summer release. I’m very excited for you guys to hear it. I hope you won’t be disappointed.
Gabriel: Well, there is a lot of work involved, I can tell you that for sure… Besides doing mixing and mastering work for Gothic Storm’s sister label The Library Of The Human Soul, there is still some work to be done on one of Gothic Storm’s upcoming albums called Stories Of Hope which focuses on inspiring and dramatic stories. Besides that, I’m almost done with writing the tracks for my own album for Gothic Storm, which I hope will see its release soon. All in all, keep your eyes (and ears!) on Gothic Storm, there are a lot of surprises coming your way !
Dan: A lot of work is going into the sister label Library Of The Human Soul which is a 5-year project to create thousands of short pieces of live strings music, each for a different human emotion, until the whole of the soul is captured and made available for film makers. I really want this to be amateur-friendly as well as used in big productions so please take a look at the site, all the Gothic Storm writers have contributed to this. We also have a new Gothic Storm album coming very soon Heroes Of The Apocalypse – some amazing dark hybrid tracks with heavy rock and programming, and also some more uplifting emotional albums in the works.
Andrew: I’m currently writing music for a short film called Twine – that’s taking all my time at the moment! It’s a creepy, tense, weird drama – should hopefully be appearing in film festivals this year. I’m fortunate to be a writer on the Library Of the Human Soul project so I often have that going on in the background. I’ve also written a track for the upcoming Stories Of Hope album with Gothic Storm – I believe the live string recordings are on their way soon! As well as that I’ve got an exciting collaboration going on with a drum and bass artist called Slighter – we’re working on a collection of trailer material which is coming on nicely. And lastly I have a collection of tracks on some up and coming releases with Hi-Finesse (Adagios Vol. 02, and Preludes Vol. 02), so I’m very much looking forward for those coming out soon!
TMN: Do you plan to release more albums to the fans in the near future?
Chris: I believe that most of our releases will be made public eventually. I think it’s the least we can do for all the amazing support we get from the fans of this type of music. It really means a lot to us composers that our music is being enjoyed by more and more epic music fans.
Gabriel: I certainly do intend to write as much music that I can, composing music has always been my dream and it really is the best feeling when you discover that other people enjoy and love to listen to your music !
TMN: Anything else you’d like to share with us?
Piotr and Lukasz: We hope you liked Dragons and Kings as much as we did working on it. Stay tuned, for more of our music is on the way. This is only the beginning.
Gabriel: Trailer Music News is one of the first websites I’ve bookmarked when I first got into this business. I don’t have much time for reading now at the end of the day, but when I do find a few spare minutes I always load your page up just to stay informed and up-to-date with the industry. You’re doing such a great job and your dedication shows itself , so thank you for that !
Dan: Well I’m just extremely grateful that you’re helping to spread the word about this new music which I’m so proud of. And I’m extremely grateful to be in an industry which rewards hard work and good ideas, and also extremely grateful for the interest of fans of this music. There is also a very healthy competition of fantastic albums coming from other companies. I think that everyone involved in the Epic Music scene is in a very positive spiral at the moment where tracks are being used on trailers and fans are buying albums and watching a lot of YouTube videos and this really inspires me and all the writers to feel part of something special and make everything the best it can be.
TMN: Thank you!