Raimund Mathias Hepp is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, and artist from Austria, currently based in both Vienna and Los Angeles. His roots are in film music where he honed his craft of expressing emotions through expansive soundscapes and storytelling melodies. Additionally, he has been part of the music team for the renowned Hollywood in Vienna gala, provided additional orchestrations for a well-known ABC TV-series, and contributed as synth programmer to Hollywood blockbusters like Roland Emmerich’s Second World War drama, Midway (2019). As a solo artist outside of the film world, Raimund composes minimalist, instrumental, and experimental music, with influences ranging from neo-classic, classical minimalism, to contemporary electronic music. In this case, he is his own director, creating music for the films in his mind to lead the listener through a unique inward visual journey. Raimund enjoys musical simplicity as a backdrop for more out-of-the-box and complex sounds by employing an assortment of sonic colors, weaving in traditional dissonance so skillfully as to bring it all the way back to assonance in the listener’s ear. His solo albums frequently include contributions by some of the finest musicians from the world of film music and classical music. For example, the solo musicians on the current album are also frequently featured in the work of film music composers Hans Zimmer or Christopher Young. When not composing, Raimund perpetually seeks new inspiration from walks in the rain.
We met the artist for an exclusive interview that you can find below.
Welcome Raimund and thank you for this interview.
When did you start composing – and what or who were your early passions and influences?
I started to fool around with chord progressions when I was 10 or 11, …only to find out later that I had just recreated all the cliché standard progressions taught in music theory. But it was good practice to figure out basic things myself and sharpen my mind. At that time, I loved the Beatles. After that, I did not “compose” for a while because I discovered jazz, especially jazz-rock. When I was 13, I focused on learning how to improvise, which was good preparation. Alan Holdsworth and Weather Report were some of my big heroes. I think I started really composing when I became interested in film music, and decided I wanted to become a film music composer.
What do you personally consider to be incisive moments in your work and/or career?
Career-wise, it was when I got the chance to write music for a big film, or at least one that was big in my home country, which was eventually nominated for our national film awards. Getting the first job in film music is difficult because usually, it is very important to have a resumé with several credits. No past jobs means no future jobs. For me, this was the moment when other people started to see me as a composer. I met so many interesting people as a result. For example, all the musicians that played on my new album are related to the film music world, and I would not have met them if I hadn’t become a part of that film music bubble. My new album, Chapter One, will hopefully be another incisive moment and the beginning of a new parallel chapter in my career. When Apple Music added two of the tracks from my new album on editorial playlist, this was a great moment. While I love film music and hope to write music for many great movies in the future, I also hope to establish a parallel career as a solo artist.
Can you tell us something about your last release “Chapter One”?
When I wrote the first pieces I had no intention to make an album. I went through some rough times and lost my joy and passion for making music. Probably, I composed the first two or three pieces just to process my emotions at that time and to distract myself from certain things that were going on in my life.The idea of “Hey, why not make a whole album?” came afterward.
How long did it take to prepare the album?
Schedules in film music are usually very short. The making of the album took a rather long time. There are two main reasons for this: first, I was experimenting with different styles and various ingredients to find a good balance. Some of the pieces that I composed first were quite different. Once I decided that I would like to release the music as an album I had to find a way to somehow match them style-wise, and emphasize or even introduce common elements. Second, all the musicians that were involved in the making of the album had a very tight schedule. Some were touring and I had to wait until I had a chance to record with each of them.
What do improvisation and composition mean to you and what, to you, are their respective merits?
Improvisation is, for me, a good way to warm up before I start to compose, or to develop short ideas and motifs. Improvisation is also good if I want to bring my own emotions from that particular moment into the music or if I simply want to follow my emotions and translate them into music, which is a very rewarding thing to do. But for me, the difference between composition and improvisation is about structure and balance. There are different levels of structure: from easy to recognize to hard to grasp. And there are many kinds of balance: the energy and dynamics within a piece, the instrumentation, dissonance and perfect harmony, and also the production. I balance these aspects mostly by gut feeling. Of course there are a lot of ‘rules’ of composition, but I lay them aside when I wish, otherwise the result will sound technical with no feeling. You will find neoclassical music quite often on playlists that is meant for relaxation, studying, and focusing on work. While I’m very grateful that my music can also be found on such playlists, and I’m sure that there are composers that specifically write for these kinds of playlists, I think that there is also the danger focus on expecations of playlist curators and end up with music that has primarily the goal to blend in and you forbid yourself to stand out. On one hand, I love to have some elements that stick out and are unique, I don’t want to compose elevator music. On the other hand, I don’t want to throw off listeners on purpose. Special elements should stand out so engaged listeners don’t get bored, but resolve so they don’t disrupt the experience for other listeners. When I compose I can work on each of these parameters until I’m happy and that then write down the result. Finding a good balance is for me takes time and thought, and I couldn’t achieve it through improvising.
The role of the composer has always been subject to change. What’s your view on the (e.g. political/social/creative) tasks of composers today and how do you try to meet these goals in your work?
Usually, I try to stay out of politics when I make music. Most of my music has no lyrics, anyway. I’m not saying that music SHOULD not be political, not at all. Art has always had so many political aspects, but I leave this up to other artists. In my case I feel that I only have creative responsibility. I want to put out good-quality music. However, I have to admit that “quality” does not mean the same thing to everyone. But I want to raise listeners’ standards. As an example from film music: in the past, many orchestral scores were not recorded with a real orchestra, but with digitally emulated orchestra sounds. I’m afraid that a lot of people have gotten used to these artificial and fake orchestral sounds to a degree where they believe that is what an orchestra sounds like. I think that’s a pity.
What equipment do you use to compose your music?
I compose mostly with a piano or a computer. If I write sheet music for solo musicians or orchestra then I will write the scores on my computer as well and not with pen and paper. When I’m not composing a piece for solo piano, the arrangement and the sounds are also very tightly connected to the composition. I have a huge collection of instruments that I will use as well: a custom built electric cello, a violin, a glockenspiel, some guitars…but I will not always use them in a traditional way.
Everything that I record with microphones will also go straight to my computer. I do have a weakness for guitar effect pedals. I used the time during the 2020 lockdowns to build two rather big pedal boards, which involved a lot of soldering
How, do you feel, could contemporary compositions reach the attention of a wider audience?
My experience has been that having music placed in film is a good way to get the attention of an audience that is hard to reach otherwise. If you got their attention they will often listen to the film score afterward and look for more music in that style. A good example is young people who attend film music concerts who would never go to a concert with an orchestra otherwise, and I’ve seen that this is sometimes also a starting point that leads to a more general interest in orchestral music.
Could you tell us something about your future projects?
The album title Chapter One is already giving away that I would like to make more albums in the future. I can’t say anything about the timeline. I have some vague ideas on how to introduce more electronic elements…maybe… and process acoustic instruments, but still in a very organic and melodic way…but let’s see.
Where can our readers find more information about you?
I will most frequently share new information on my social media pages. Find me on Instagram and Facebook.
We thank you for your time!