Interview with Composer Heiko Klüh

Poet Samuel Johnson once said, “Self-confidence is the first requisite to great undertakings,” and nothing could be more assertive for Proud Music’s very own Heiko Klüh. He was direct and did not spare unnecessary words during our conversation, certain of what he said.

PM: Greetings, Heiko! Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me about your work. I am very much looking forward to our conversation and learning about it.

Heiko: Certainly! Thank you for having me.

PM: When did you discover your love of music?

Heiko: Two things actually happened that contributed to my love of music. The first is that, when I was 16 years old, I decided to invest in a Commodore Amiga. At that time, it was the most sophisticated multimedia device, and I was interested in learning how to use it. That was not easy, but I persisted and experimented always more and more, and I soon began composing with Soundtracker. The second – some three years later, I was interested in this girl and took her on a date to see the movie Hook with Robin Williams. As we sat there, all I could think of was, “Wow! What an amazing soundtrack!” That was the beginning of my beautiful love affair with soundtrack music… Unfortunately, I was not as fortunate with the girl (laugh).Yes, Hook was the first soundtrack I bought, and then came Backdraft, with music from well-known Hans Zimmer. I started working harder, composing further with the Amiga, especially demo scenes and chip tunes, since at that time there were not as many instruments available to work with.

Later on, I inherited some money from my grandmother and bought myself a synthesizer. Then, I only dreamed of being able to make a living this way because it is costly. At the music fair in Frankfurt, I bought my first Steinberg Midi software, the Steinberg Pro 24 Amiga. At that time, I started studying social pedagogy. In the meantime, my sister met Tobias Richter, who is well-known for his Star Trek animations in Germany, and she introduced me to him. Thanks to this, I was hired to compose the opening films from The Light Works for the FedCon convention for three consecutive years. I reinvested the money I earned from the assignment in musical gadgets. In summary, I started composing film music, and afterwards received orders to compose synchronic. Nowadays, I do whatever fits the image.

After I finished my studies, I had the chance to work for a year with the regional TV station. At the same time, I received contracts for pieces. Once the internship came to pass, I had to decide what I wanted to do: practice social pedagogy or compose music? By then, I suspected I could make a living from music, took a chance, and the rest is history.

PM: With the introduction of music studio apps for iPad in the last couple of years, have you experimented with those?

Heiko: Well, I own an iPod for testing app development in sound, but I have not used those apps because the studio equipment is all I need. You take a particular sound or noise, and program it on the keyboard, and that is how you design. I recently created a piece with coughing as noise, something fun, you know.

PM: If you were not a composer, what would you have done instead? Would you have become a DJ, for example?

Heiko: A DJ? Not at all! My main job is as composer, but I also do sound design and work with voice over artists. Every client wants something different, and it is good to be able to offer them what they want. I actually graduated with a degree in social pedagogy with highest honors. If it had not worked with music, I would have pursued my field of study, more specifically media pedagogy. That is actually what my internship at the regional TV station was about. An office job is not for me. I was able to prove this after working in a tax office for nine months in Frankfurt. Of course, something positive came out of the experience, since I know now how to organize office work and do my taxes… My social skills help me be clear and flexible with different people, and that is also an important quality for working with voice over artists.

PM: Do you have a favorite composer?

Heiko: To say that I have a role model seems strange. I would rather say that I am fascinated by someone. Earlier, I was fascinated by John Williams and Hans Zimmer. Nowadays, I have no favorites, even though I still enjoy watching Hollywood productions and listening to their soundtracks.

PM: How would you describe your style?

In principle, I would say that it is that of the so called media music, which is the one made for trailers, commercials, 3D animatics, and image and industrial films, and deviates from the classic song form. Therein lies my strength, particularly with lounge, ambiance, and technical futuristic music. The music is electronically based, and many good quality instruments are also available electronically nowadays. On demand, I can also hire live musicians.

Nevertheless, I am an all-around composer, and I have a great array of sound effects. I work closely with clients, because in the end, it is their wish I have to fulfill.

PM: Is there a musician who has influenced your style?

Heiko: No, not really.

PM: Do you write, play, and produce all your pieces?

Heiko: Yes, I do everything in most cases. I have my own studio, and also mix and master myself. In the case of picture synchronization projects, I carry it out until the very end so nothing goes wrong when placing the sound in sync with the image. Everything has to go as planned, or otherwise, it can be quite annoying when you have an event and the sound does not come until later, so I try to accompany the process as long as possible. In some cases, I synchronize sound and picture with Adobe Premiere and deliver the final format myself.

PM: Do you know by any chance, how many pieces you have written until now?

Heiko: Surely, over 400, but they are not all complete songs. Most of Proud Music Library’s pieces, for example, originate from clients’ projects.

PM: Do you play any instruments?

Heiko: No, I do not. If I need an instrument played, guitar, for example, I usually hire somebody. I took one piano lesson at some time, but I found it somewhat boring so I did not pursue it further. I am a self-taught composer and work with Cubase.

PM: What is a normal day like for you?

Heiko: First, I get up and I eat breakfast. Then, I check e-mails. Whatever I do next depends on my to-do-list. Sometimes, I compose for the Proud Music Library, other times I try to become better acquainted with my tools because only in this manner will I be able to fine tune my technique. Jobs with a deadline need to be finished and delivered on time. When not, then, I compose and experiment. At the end of the day, it is important to think about what to do next and have a goal for the next day. It is of utmost importance to be organized and manage your time well, or you will not make it.

PM: Do you have a manager or do you take care of work and administration yourself?

Heiko: No, no; I am my own manager. I have experience with time management, so I know what it entails. I also market my own music.

PM: Do you follow a ritual or take special measures when you write your music?

Heiko: Well, I have a couple of different approaches. When I compose music, sometimes I try to imagine the kind of music and the mood, or a concrete cue, for example, technical, underwater, futuristic, Asian, and so on. Then, I look for a groove that I consider expandable. Next, come chords and harmony, and in the end, I add other elements. Other times I find something interesting in my sample library, and I start to create around a sequence from it. I also find that if there is a certain mood I want, I can get certain instruments that fit that mood. I have to try many tones and harmonies. There are some instruments, for example, that do not go with certain moods. Let’s say that you are working on an underwater mood, you would not use bongo drums. Bongo drums are instruments that go better with an earthly mood. With these rituals, it is important to commit oneself to the task and to “travel” with the elements. And then, once you start composing, it might happen that what you considered the beginning of your piece actually fits better someplace else.

With client projects, the process is different. Here, you have to work on specific requirements and serve them up. If the client brings you a commercial film, for example, you have to consider which music or composition or soundtrack, the tempo, and the possible instruments. Only after deliberating about these and having a head start, do I create a cue. And when I think, ‘that could work’, I get in touch with the client and inform him of my ideas to make sure that we are on the same page.

PM: So you are always in touch with your client?

Heiko: Oh, definitely! Communication with the client is key to ensuring that you are fulfilling his wishes and needs. You have to use your time effectively in order to reach the goal. You must work concretely in order to save time and meet the deadlines.

PM: Has there been a time when you have made a suggestion because in your opinion it was better than what the client requested?

Heiko: Yes, it has happened that I have thought, ‘I really think this would work better.’ And there are times, if somebody asks my opinion about something, I will gladly offer it.

PM: What advice would you give somebody who is thinking about becoming a composer?

Heiko: I would tell him two things. Firstly, if he is planning on doing it full time, he should. Secondly, he has to be ready to move forward against all resistance to his personal vision. This is the deal: When you work in a creative field, there are times when you are intrinsic, when you may suffer a setback, and you have to be able to really want to work in the field to overcome them. In other words, it takes a great deal of time and energy. When you earn your living from music, it is very different from writing music as a hobby. And I am not saying that a hobby cannot become a job. It is also important to be able to work creatively under pressure, because this job requires you to work under pressure. Independently from whether you are in a good mood or not, sometimes there is no time to be creative. You have to be able to put something workable together quickly, so it is possible to get 80-85% of your creativity into a project. But it is a business. If you are somebody who composes over time and cannot work under pressure, this is not the job for you. Notwithstanding, composing for Proud Music Library is advantageous because library music has become a major component of modern entertainment production.

PM: Are you saying you cannot be a perfectionist at this job?

Heiko: Oh, it is good to be a perfectionist! Nevertheless, there are tight deadlines, and you have to remember that you create on demand. When the client says, ‘no’, you have to be able to make changes. If you cannot deliver, there is no profit. In the end, you should never be afraid of the unknown because you can learn anything if you want to. It all comes with time, and you learn to deal with the demands. It is like a race: it becomes more interesting the longer you live. Music is a field you can work in for as long as you live. Similar to philosophy (laughs).

PM: What would you say is the hardest thing about what you do?

Heiko: I try not to go to bed with an unfinished task. I am very ambitious, and at the end of the evening, I want to know that I finished the job. Otherwise, everything is doable, but it has to be completed within a certain time.

PM: Do you consider that it makes a difference where you live when you are a composer?

Heiko: It is definitely beneficial to live in a media metropolis like Frankfurt, but I live in the country and, thanks to the Internet, I am able to produce considerably and overcome distances. I live with my girlfriend in town. She works here, and it was easier for me to move here. True, you could probably land interesting accounts in the city, but I can cope here, too. The greatest advantage is that costs are lower here than in the city. Working by myself, there is a certain amount of work you can produce and not more. What I need is not 400 clients, but rather a number of them that know to respect what I can do. The quality of life and the air in the country are incomparable. I spent a week in Berlin and I had fun, but I came back and told the neighbors, “Now I am going to do my ‘air cure’”. You know, there are people who can work in a variety of settings. Take Frank Herrlinger, for example. The other day, he was doing his work at the pool. I cannot. Of course, in the city people know what my job is about and they say, “How cool!”. Here, people often ask, “Can you live from that?”

PM: Thank you very much for your time. It has been a pleasure getting to know you.

Heiko: The pleasure was mine!

After the interview, we continue to chat briefly, and we finally part. I am very happy to have had the chance to interview Heiko, since before this day, I had very little idea of what it entails to write and produce electronic music, and I now have gained an appreciation for it.

Production Music - Proud Music Library


Interview with Frank Herrlinger

Recently, we had the pleasure to interview Proud Music’s exclusive composer Frank Herrlinger. He spoke with ease and excitement about himself and his work without even once stuttering or doubting, he exhibited a confidence uncommon for a young man his age (Frank is 30 years old).

PM: Thank you for agreeing to this interview, Frank!

Frank Herrlinger, Composer
Frank Herrlinger, Composer

Frank: The pleasure is mine. It is so nice to finally meet you! I have always loved music, and I like to talk about music! I guess that I grew up with music. Both of my parents had musical education, so they naturally introduced me to it and offered me the opportunity to learn to play different instruments. This might sound dumbfounding, but the first instrument I picked up was the accordion….Yes, I know. It does not sound like the instrument a young child would want to learn to play, but I actually did. And I stuck to it for three years. Then, an appeal to pop music diverged my interest to church organ and keyboard. I was attracted to the bombastic sound of the instruments and what you could do with them, and I ended up playing both of those for five years. But as a teenager…these are instruments that a teenager does not consider “stylistically right”, so I turned to electric guitar because at the time, I preferred metal and pop rock. It seemed natural to form a band at that age, and some friends and I did. The band existed for ten years, and I played solo guitarist.

PM: Do you have a favorite composer or a composer that you admire?

Frank: Well, that is actually a difficult question because I do not have just one composer that I like, but many.

PM: Really?

Frank: Yes, and they are actually from the film music field. I admire them all for different reasons. One example is Thomas Newman, the composer of American Beauty. He uses many rhythmical and stimulating elements in his music, and he accomplishes it without a loud melody. Now that is admirable! There is also John Powell. He composed the music for How To Train Your Dragon and Ice Age. He is completely different. His melodies are loud and catchy, and you find yourself whistling them. When one of his songs starts, that happens often. It is the kind of music that is written for children because it is repetitive. Another one is Hans Zimmer, who has composed soundtracks for movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean. He has the ability to convey emotions in movies outstandingly well.

PM: And what about musicians?

Frank: Musicians? Not really.

PM: No singer or instrument player…

Frank: No, because I don’t really see myself as a musician, rather as a composer. I have paid more attention to composers. In fact, Frank has enjoyed learning from well-known arrangers in the past, submitting his pieces to them, and asking for their advice. They include David Bloomberg (Jackson 5 and Stevie Wonder), and Glenn Jordan.

PM: When did you start composing?

Frank: I actually started composing while I was still studying, around 2003-2004. I started writing music because I like music, and not because I thought I would be making a living from it. Now, I didn’t follow the classic path, because truth be told, a director and a composer don’t speak the same language. I like composing and I think it is important and good to share what you know. For that matter, I have a blog about music production ( Whenever something finally dawns on me, I feel the need to share it with others. It might not offer others an answer, but it might help them find a solution to their particular problem. A person has to be able to modify ideas.

PM: Yes, I know what you mean. There is a great deal of information out there, and yet, there are times when the information we are looking for cannot be found. Luckily, blogs are not only becoming a trend, but also a means of finding that information. Nevertheless, there are cultural differences that keep people from sharing information. Do you think this obstacle could be overcome?

Frank: Of course! As I mentioned, sharing information as a composer does not mean that anybody can plagiarize me. In fact, I work and rework my pieces experimenting also with virtual tones, so I know that my style cannot be imitated. Sharing information is intended to help others find a solution to problems they might encounter when composing themselves.

PM: I have been listening to your work on the Proud Music Library and on YouTube. Your style is often described as “epic”. How would you yourself describe your style?

Frank: Yeah, “epic” is fun, but I would not describe it as “the Frank Herrlinger style”. If I were to play my style, I think that more rock and romantic ballads where you would hear a more emotional devotion with an acoustic guitar would transpire, and not epic music. It is good to have many sides and try different styles, not just one, because music is a craft. Creative phases are always different. It changes constantly, and in this business, it also depends on the client, from the style he requests. Still, it is important to be true to yourself and others. I guess you could say that my style is what I enjoy listening to, what I like right now. And I am certain that it will change in five years, and that is okay.

PM: Do you write, play, and produce all your work?

Frank: I am not always a “one-man show”. I compose my pieces myself, and I often mix and polish them myself, as well, but it also depends on a deadline and how fast I have to produce my work. I sometimes engage the support of other composers who are ready to help. I cannot play every instrument myself, even though I play the guitar and the drums, and program tones on the computer. But live professionals play instruments such as contrabass and ethnic flutes for a fee, of course, and how they play… the sounds that emanate from those instruments! And cooperation is fun! I never work on paid contracts by myself. I always enlist the help of others. The song turns out better when you engage other tone engineers and musicians. And there is never a budget issue. Nobody works for free. May I add something?

PM: Surely!

Frank: One more thing I do and I actually enjoy doing is marketing myself. You attend school and learn about music, about composing, and what nobody tells you is that you will be unemployed after you are finished with your studies. How do you market yourself? Nobody teaches you how to. In my case, I see myself as somewhat of a businessman. It is a game to me, a game where you need to know the rules, where sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. But that is not bad, since there is always a new game to play. Part of the game is finding out what is marketable. Even with licensed music, you have to find a market for it. Nobody tells you what to write; you have to have a feel for it. What is mainstream is fun because it is what sells, and what is not or is too innovative will only be known after one’s death. Those who see themselves as mainstream musicians do what they like, and also what sells. I see myself as a mainstream composer; I am not interested in becoming famous after my death.

PM: Some artists like Hopper kept records of their work. Do you know how many pieces you have composed?

Frank: Let me see… (counts quietly in his head). Licensed pieces about 400 and projects…I would say some 600-700 pieces. Wait: Did I just say 600-700?

PM: Yes, you did.

Frank: It is hard to believe that it has been that many! And now that I think about it, I also keep an Excel table –only for licensed pieces- of how successful or unsuccessful one of my pieces has been. I also know if the piece had edits or loops, in which quarter, and for which license it was sold. So I know exactly which styles do not work. (Laughs) I guess that is the business side of me.

PM: What is a normal day like for you?

Frank: This is a funny question because I think people expect to hear that it’s all party and rock’ n’ roll, and that would be rubbish. I actually sit in front of the computer some ten to fourteen hours a day and compose. I also have office work to do for Proud Music’s A&R, but that occupies me for a couple of hours.

PM: It sounds like a lonely job.

Frank: Yes, it is. Happily, I am self-employed, and I actually have the power to change the situation. To sit alone in a room for the next 20 years, I don’t want that for myself. I am a sociable person and I enjoy interacting with others. How can I change that? I have this idea of furnishing a house and turning it into a composers’ house. It would be a 3-4 room house, and I could sit there and work, and rent the other rooms to other composers. Then we could take breaks and visit each other and exchange ideas and benefit from each other.

PM: What a wonderful idea!

Frank: Yes, it is. I consider Hans Zimmer my paragon. He established a company based on this concept, and he works there and rents rooms to other composers. That is my goal, my career dream.

PM: Best of luck bringing it to fruition.

Frank: Thank you.

PM: My next question is if you follow a ritual when you write your music.

Frank: An actual ritual…no, I do not. I have a short deadline for most work and need to produce music in a couple of days. It’s creativity under pressure. My inspiration comes when I go for a walk. People would probably stare if I took a pen and pad, so I take an MP3 player, and I sing melodies into it (I do not sing very well, by the way), and that way, ideas flow faster. If I sit in front of the computer and wait for ideas to come, it doesn’t work that way. If the weather doesn’t allow me to go outside, I find that walking for 10-15 minutes around my 88m² apartment works as well.

PM: What would you say is the hardest thing about what you do?

Frank: The hardest thing: ending a project. I am always looking for ways to improve a song, but you have to be able to say, “Okay. Enough,” and end the song. The good thing is, that there is a deadline so you are forced to make a decision.

PM: If you were not a composer, what other path would you have taken?

Frank: Hmmm. I cannot imagine my life without music because it has always been a part of it, but I think I can narrow it down to a couple of
possibilities. Are you ready? Ok. The first one is a martial arts teacher.

PM: Really?

Frank: Yes. While I lived in Cologne and Munich, I was practicing Wing Tsjun, a Chinese type of martial arts. Now that I live in Vienna, I couldn’t find a place where they practice the technique, so I am doing Arnis, which is a Philippine type. The second path: a physicist.

PM: You’re not the first person I hear of who relates music to physics.

Frank: Well, I believe that physics and music are connected. Physics can help you determine why something sounds good and something else doesn’t.

PM: Interesting! Now, to end our interview, I was wondering what advice you would give someone who is considering becoming a composer.
Frank: I have thought long and hard about this subject, and I have summarized it as follows: First, learn to support the project (the visions) of others. It is never about the music and the composer being in the limelight. What is important is the project manager’s vision. Second, the hired composer writes music, and this music never stands alone, as is the case with a band or a singer. Therefore, you must be nice and cooperative, and be able to work in a team. That’s it.

PM: Frank, thank you very much for your time. It has been a treat getting to know you.

Frank: Thank you!

The interview ended, and Frank returned to his work on that day: finding tones and sounds to add to a database that already comprises some 8000 30-second audio bits, which in due time will be improved and re-worked.

Royalty-free Music for Airports
Royalty-free Music for Airports