We interviewed the ever-talented composer extraordinaire, Matias Puumala and discussed his process, sound, the serendipity that helped build his fan base, and what he hopes the future holds for composers.
Kyle Warner: When did you start composing – and who or what are some of your influences?
Matias Puumala: I first paid proper attention to soundtrack music back in 1997 (being 12 years old), when playing Final Fantasy 7 with Nobuo Uematsu’s magnificent soundtrack. After that, I started doodling around with tracker software of the time (scream tracker, impulse tracker, etc) and tried to create my own music. Some time along the years, Hans Zimmer’s music also made a huge impact on me. These two masters of music have certainly had the most influence on my music.
KW: Your music has such a powerful sound. Is there a certain state of mind that you have to get yourself in before sitting down to write?
MP: Most of the time my music just flows out naturally and I don’t try to tone it down unless I’m creating some specific project with certain limitations. So most what you hear, is my style.
KW: Do you rely more on improvisation or a detailed plan when composing?
MP: Over the last couple of years, I’ve built an orchestral composing template for Cubase where I have everything ready to go. I have sets of chord progressions, ostinato patterns, etc. on hand in the template that I’ve found useful and powerful, which I use as a base and go from there. That is my way of getting inspired and I rarely stumble on any writer’s block anymore.
KW: Can you describe what the relationship between music and visual art means to you – how do they complement each other? How can one be incomplete without the other?
MP: Bad music and audio can break any amazing visuals, or totally change the tone or the meaning. It’s essential for audio and visuals to work together to create the most amazing experience.
KW: You have quite an extensive following, including almost 8,000 monthly listeners and several hundred thousand plays on Spotify – How did you grow this fan base and how do you interact with fans as a composer?
MP: Back in 2014, I got 2 of my songs (‘The Art of War’ and ‘Black Widow’) placed on a popular Pandora playlist by their curators, that had songs from all the big names in this style, such as Two Steps from Hell and Audiomachine. Play counts exploded and all that attention then trickled down to Spotify, Youtube, etc. I still think my play counts are a stroke of luck, but obviously, without my hard work, it wouldn’t have happened in the first place. And how the music industry is nowadays, you need luck.
KW: Does seeing a very successful composer like Hans Zimmer perform at Coachella excite you about what the future of composing could look like?
MP: Absolutely. I’d love to see it when even smaller names than Hans Zimmer could do live performances with their orchestral music. It’s been great to see how traditional, classical orchestras have started performing game and film music to full concert halls.
KW: Obviously writing for score takes a lot of time, how do you handle the quick turnarounds that are so common in the music licensing world?
MP: You just need to be confident in what you do and finetune your workflow so that there are as little distractions as possible. And forget about being overly perfectionist. Trust in your skill and in yourself.
KW: Have you ever seen a piece of yours get placed without you specifically composing for that show, movie, scene, trailer, etc?
MP: Nothing massively impressive, unfortunately. That is certainly the area I need to work on, getting those sync placements. All of my music is available for licensing.
KW: What is your favorite piece you’ve ever composed?
MP: That’s a tough one. Probably would need to choose between ‘Wild Hunt’, ‘Black Widow’, or ‘Rebellion’ from my album The Omega Code.
I feel that my upcoming album (to be released in early November) has my best work yet, by far. Everything from compositions to arrangements to mixes is coming together better than ever before.
KW: What’s next for Matias Puumala?
MP: Taking the leap of faith this fall and trying to pay my bills with my music and sound as a full-time entrepreneur. It’s a big step, but one I need to take to fully concentrate on my music and take it to the next level.