Thomas Bergersen is a composer and founder of trailer music production company Two Steps From Hell. He kindly sat down with me to chat about his career.
What is it about films that attracted you to the industry in the first place, specifically composing?
I liked the tonal language of the music in American movies, and was drawn towards that more so than the aspect of filmmaking. I always enjoyed writing the big epic pieces of music, and trailer music provided a natural outlet for me in that regard. I love how the marriage of visuals and music can create something incredibly powerful and magical, and how the right visuals can inspire a composer to write better music.
Tell us a bit about Two Steps From Hell. How did you get involved?
Two Steps From Hell was founded by myself and Nick Phoenix in 2006 when we decided to release an album of music to the trailer editors out there. I had written a great deal of music, as had he so we put it together into an album now known as Volume 1. There was never officially a Volume 2, but a whole lot of albums followed suit. Fast forward some 7 years later and we have wonderful fans all over the world! We are excited and incredibly thankful for our fan base.
In 2010 you composed the music for The Human Experience. What is the difference between that and trailer music?
The difference is in how you approach the notes. With film music you are supporting the visuals, supporting a story, a scene, accentuating emotion, contrasting emotion, playing the heart strings of people. You look at the scenes several times, find a good pacing/tempo, mood, overall dynamic range throughout the cut and fit the orchestration to the size of the scene. There are a lot of restraints, which to me is slightly unappealling, as the nature of my music is like an untamed lion. With trailer music you just floor it and steer clear of pot holes! Much more to my liking.
I have to say that although people associate Two Steps and myself with trailer music, the reality is that apart from some of our earlier albums, most of the music I write is not written specifically with trailers in mind, and in the case of my album Illusions it wasn’t written with trailers in mind at all. I just enjoy writing music that tells a story, makes an impression and leaves the listener exhilarated and/or immersed in a different world. Musical escapism.
Do you plan on scoring more movies in the future?
I would score a movie if I was lucky enough to be presented with an opportunity to work on a project that I really genuinely believed in, or had some sort of emotional connection with. Something where the combination of the heavy nature of my music and the director’s vision would be a perfect match, creating a playground and catalyst for something artistically satisfying. However, such opportunities do not present themselves with great frequency, and I would much rather just write whatever springs to mind when I wake up in the morning, rather than join the ranks of 100s of working composers who are simply working to fill a need for some generic music in a generic movie.
How likely are we to see a Two Steps From Hell live tour?
We’ll see how well this concert in June is received. We are playing at Disney Hall downtown Los Angeles the 14th of June. It is our first and quite possibly last concert we do, so don’t miss a unique opportunity to witness it in person!
What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on several things, but the concert preparations are taking a lot of time. I’m trying to finish my second album, the sequel to Illusions called Sun, but it’s difficult to focus wit so many other exciting things happening at the same time.
Do you have any advice for budding composers?
I think the best advice I can give is to let the music inside of you pave the path in your life. Once a musician, always a musician. You can’t fight it so you’re better off just letting it dictate your way in life. Find out what you want to do with your music, and what your ultimate goal as far as an audience goes is. Stay focused and work extremely hard. There’s just no substitute for hard work and there’s a lot of truth to the saying “success is 5% talent and 95% hard work.”
Check out Thomas’ album Illusions on iTunes!
If you’re around Los Angeles, CA on 14th June, head to Ticketmaster to get tickets for Two Steps From Hell live.
For more of Thomas’ work, follow the links below: