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Howlin' with Wolfie - EMusician

Howlin' with Wolfie

Wolfgang Matthes is not only Tyler Bates's close friend, but the two also work together to develop nonorchestral concepts which are often synth and sample
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Wolfgang Matthes is not only Tyler Bates's close friend, but the two also work together to develop nonorchestral concepts — which are often synth and sample based — for Bates's scores. Matthes is usually credited with doing the “electronic development,” which means that he carries out the sonic experiments that composers generally don't have time to do themselves when they're in the process of writing a film score. Matthes's work yields unique and complex textural themes. “Wolfgang's understanding of programming techniques and synthesis are far beyond my technical knowledge,” says Bates.

But Matthes also helps Bates out with numerous other aspects of a scoring job. “His spirit is connected to everything in the score, including the mix,” says Bates. Over the years, Matthes has mixed many of the scores that Bates has composed. “He's always involved in the mix,” Bates says.

In addition, Matthes helps him integrate new gear into his studio, something Bates is usually too busy writing music to deal with. “Regardless of how much preparation time you have, there is usually not much time to learn or research new gear, especially to the extent that Wolfie does,” Bates says. “He gives me the CliffsNotes!”

Matthes also brings along an impressive knowledge of synthesis and a Synthesis Technology MOTM analog modular synth rig (see Fig. A) that's often a key part of the electronic aspects of Bates's scores. According to Matthes, the MOTM accounts for 90 percent of the electronic textures they use. “It's a classic,” Matthes says, “basically like a Moog modular, but brought into the year 2000. I have 25 modules, which is midsize.”

Bates and Matthes have a collaborative work style that relies on a lot of back-and-forth. “It's like a band jamming together,” says Bates. “Often what we'll discuss are concepts. And then I'll work on a framework for the film and an overview of the movie while he goes off to his dungeon [studio] for a week or so and experiments with variations on ideas we've talked about. Next, we get together to preview the work that he does. Often he's thinking of a sound in a specific register, and I'll be like, ‘What if it's three octaves this way or that way?’ He usually gives me an off-color glance and pretends not to hear me [laughs]. This stage is always fun and exciting because a lot of discoveries are made by chance that turn out to be very cool.”