‘Noir, Longing, Cinematic’ | Interview with Nathan Scott Madsen

The energy and excitement of the day began to fade away. So I decided to watch a dark film noir. Even though it was already ten past midnight.

Read our discussion with composer/sound designer Nathan Scott Madsen

Describe your sound in 3 words

Noir, Longing, Cinematic

What was the process like for creating Ten Past Midnight, from the initial jam session to the finished product?

It was surprisingly organic! I had the jam session version of this song off to the side for quite some time as I was still busy working on SkateBIRD, MagiQuest and my day job at SciPlay. Much of my time is spent toggling between day job and freelance work. I rediscovered the jam session version of this piece a few months ago and thought it needed to be fully fleshed out into an actual song. I reorganized the song’s arrangement, added some new elements and created a melody. Then I slowly began to hire one musician at a time to replace my MIDI work with actual audio. Once I had all of the pieces in place, I did an editing pass to clean things up or edit the recordings to make it feel more like a combo playing as one unit, in the same room at the same time.

If Ten Past Midnight was a film, which film would that be?

I love David Lynch and Twin Peaks. Angelo Badalamenti, who recently passed, has been one of my favorite composers since I was in elementary school. It might sound presumptuous of me but I would adore it if my music was ever used in a Twin Peaks or Lynch project!

Artists and people that have influenced you?

I have a pretty diverse group of artists and influencers that inspire me. I’ve already mentioned Lynch and Badalamenti. John Williams is a sheer genius of theme writing, orchestration and arranging to film. I also really loved Thomas Newman’s work in American Beauty as well as Finding Nemo/Dory. Newman’s score to Wall-e, especially “Define Dancing” is simply magical! I really dig Miles Davis especially his work with arranger Gil Evans. Blues for Pablo is a masterclass in creating textures and timbres in a jazz setting. With regards to Ten Past Midnight, specifically, I’ve been a long time fan of the German group Bohren and Der Club of Gore. Their music has a haunting, minimalist, spacious vibe that really takes you somewhere. I tried to put my own little spin on something similar with this song.

How do you feel your experience in the video game industry has influenced your music writing and production?

I think my experience in games and films has made me more focused on the cinematic aspect. So much of my work, both full time and freelancing, involves taking a story, a visual or a setting and putting audio to it. Sometimes I’m writing a score and other times I’m creating sound effects to these situations. I’m even creating the systems that control how a sound behaves and functions in a game. All of this is done with the focus of “what do we want the player to notice and feel here?” or “What kind of story are we telling?” I think that constant focus on storytelling has influenced the way I create music that, hopefully, also tells a story. Puts the listener into a vibe and a setting that their imagination creates as they listen.

What do you hope listeners take away from your music, whether it’s the dark, gloomy jazz track or any of your other projects?

I’ve sorta hinted at this above but when writing music that will stand on it’s own, like Ten Past Midnight, I mainly want the listener to feel something. It’s when I’m writing music or producing sounds to media (be it a film or game) where I have to really focus on leaving the listener with the “right” kind of takeaway. To ensure my audio is on brand and on target for the kind(s) of experiences we’re creating in that project. But with my own personal pieces, I just hope to make some kind of impact. What the listener imagines and takes away can vary and often hearing what they imagine inspires me even more! When I was in high school, I started running a lot. I would always run with some music and often times I would imagine scenes to the music I’m playing. Sometimes the music was a film score other times just pop tunes I enjoyed. It was a fun, quirky, little exercise that I did while running. I didn’t realize it but, in a way, I was reverse engineering music. A song would play and I would imagine what settings or situations would work well to that music. What kinds of arrangement and orchestrations felt right to various settings? How could I make something that is unexpected or juxtaposed? I did this for years and still, to a degree, do it when I run. I think this practice helped me begin to listen on a deeper level and equip me with ideas and approaches that have helped me score my own projects.

What is a crime but it should not be?

Oh wow, that’s a hard one. Not to get TOOOO deep on this topic but I sorta feel like if someone has a terminal disease and are of sound mind, they should be able to decide how they want to pass on. They should be able to get medical support of that decision. Granted, there needs to be a ton of oversight to prevent abuse of such a situation. But it’s always bothered me that we can put down our pets when they get sick enough so they don’t suffer but we let humans suffer to the very end.

A song you are convinced was written about you?

Any song that deals with chocolate, especially Kit Kats is SOLELY written about me! Hahahaha, I’m a severe chocoholic. So I guess the Kit Kat jingle “Break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar!” would apply. But I don’t want just a piece. Give me the WHOLE thing.

Thank you!

Cal Rustad, trumpet
Giulio Esposito, guitar
Dan G, bass
Glenn Welman, drums
Nathan Scott Madsen, piano, synths, tenor saxophone, composition, production, mixing and mastering

Follow Nathan S Madsen

Follow our Spotify Playlist Reinvented Eclectic feat. Nathan S Madsen

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s