Paul Haslinger has become one of the most sought after composers in both television and film – but this didn’t happen without years of hard work and dedication to his craft. Haslinger first began to play music professionally in the eighties with the popular electronic music group Tangerine Dream. He toured extensively with the group throughout the late eighties and worked with them on music for films such as “Near Dark”, “Miracle Mile”, as well as the documentary film “Canyon Dreams”. Haslinger utilized his time while a member of Tangerine Dream to learn all that he could about not only scoring music for films but also producing music for albums as well as touring.
Haslinger moved on from Tangerine Dream in 1991 after relocating to Los Angeles in the hopes of branching out on his own to pave his own path to a successful career in music. It wasn’t long before he was making his way into scoring music for various film projects. With each new score he continued to build a well respected name and body of work. He has gone on to score music for various films including “Blue Crush”, “Minority Report”, “Vacancy”, “Underworld”, “Crank”, and many more. Most recently you can hear Haslinger’s work in AMC’s hit television series “Fear The Walking Dead”. He continues to evolve as a composer bringing everything that is needed to make any project that he is a part of a hit.
I was recently able to speak with Paul Haslinger to find out more about his beginnings in music, his writing style, and what projects he currently has in the works. One characteristic that cannot go unnoticed when speaking with Haslinger is that on both an artistic and personal level he continues to look for ways to grow and learn in both his life and his work. His humble attitude even after achieving so much success within the industry is truly refreshing.
Paul Haslinger Interview
TAMMY: I was reading that by the time you graduated from high school you already knew that you wanted to pursue music professionally. What first made you passionate about music?
PAUL HASLINGER: I remember being pretty bored in high school. Music and sports seemed about the only fun things to do. And since I wasn’t that good at sports, I had to pick music. My family was pretty musical ,too, so there was always music and instruments around me.
TAMMY: When you were studying music in college did you already have an interest in scoring
music for films or was that something that you gained an interest in after joining Tangerine Dream?
PAUL HASLINGER: I never had a specific goal in mind, nor did I set my sights on film scoring as a career. My switch happened gradually. With Tangerine Dream, film was just one of many things we did. There was also a lot of live touring, studio albums and special event type stuff. After I left the band and moved to LA, the music industry was starting to crumble, and I began shifting towards film and TV. My greatest interest has always been the storytelling angle: how the story is set up and told, and how music functions to support it.
TAMMY: As a composer what do you feel are the pros and cons when using leitmotiv in a film score? Do you feel that it can at times condition the audience in a way that causes them to be boxed into a certain set of feelings or emotions?
PAUL HASLINGER: I think it’s one of many devices. Leitmotiv per se, is something that Richard Wagner came up with, and it is, at heart, an operatic device. However, if you replace ‘leitmotiv’ with ‘signature’, and allow for things to be not exactly 1-1, I do think you can let the audience have fun, by letting them enjoy a motive or signature they are already familiar with, in a new variation.
TAMMY: What are some of the unique challenges that you face when working with nonlinear storylines as opposed to linear storylines? Is there one that you personally enjoy more than the other?
PAUL HASLINGER: I love exploring the mechanics of how the story is told. It has become perfectly normal, these days, to tell stories in nonlinear, sometimes parallel storylines. I think this is also reflective of our time, which is that of many streams of information going on at the same. It is still a balance to find… there will be too much at some point. But some reflection of the increasingly nonlinear nature of our life experience certainly feels justified.
TAMMY: What keeps you motivated in your line of work? I was reading about some of the different deadlines and demands that composers face and it seems like it could at times be quite stressful. What keeps you inspired and driven to get the job done every day?
PAUL HASLINGER: This will sound a little quaint, but the honest answer is that I simply love what I do. I never get bored, I always see opportunities to try something I haven’t tried before. And working with directors and producers, to me, is the same as playing in a band. Or going on tour. You go through some crazy times together. And you collect some great anecdotes.
TAMMY: You have had experience in making both standard albums as well as scoring music for film. I would imagine that both are quite different experiences. Do you feel that with scoring film music you are given more freedom to experiment and branch out than when you are working on an album?
PAUL HASLINGER: Depends what kind of album deal you have. But on a general level: Yes. You can get away with a lot more stuff in film, than you can in the commercial music world.
TAMMY: I was reading that there are cases where sometimes you score the music for a film after it has already been shot while other times you are asked to compose the music beforehand. What do you feel are the pros and cons of composing the music for a film before it has been shot? What do you like about getting to write the music once you have bits of the film to see and work from?
PAUL HASLINGER: Well, it works both ways: music can inspire film, film can inspire music. There is no ‘this is how it should be’ It just so happens that by the nature of making film or tv, music usually is part of post production, and therefore comes second. This being said, I often pre-write music, based on reading a script. It always feels to me, that if you only write directly to picture, you are limiting the range of your ideas.
TAMMY: Technology is constantly changing and evolving. What are some of the core pieces of equipment that you use when making music? Are there any older models that you particularly still love to use?
PAUL HASLINGER: I find that the more I use and am dependent on technology, the more I see a need to
counter balance this side with something analog, or perhaps, imperfect. This can be done through tricks in software, but preferably I will use an old instrument, or go to a studio to do some recordings for myself, or with other musicians. Music should never be too perfect it just gets boring that way. It needs to stay raw on some level. And tricking our technical setups to allow this, is part of our challenge.
TAMMY: What are you currently working on that you are excited to share?
PAUL HASLINGER: I am about midway through the second season of Fear the Walking Dead. It’s a show I really love and we’re exploring some new angles this season. I am also starting on the third season of Halt And Catch Fire, a show that will always feel special to me, because it allows me to right some of the wrongs of the 80’s. ;)
TAMMY: What advice do you have for those who are just getting started in composing music for film/television?
PAUL HASLINGER: Just have fun and never stop exploring. Music, Film, TV, Life it’s all a big mix. Stay curious and things will never get boring.
To find out more about Paul Haslinger you can visit his website at www.haslinger.com.