Paragon vs Ragnaros music - interview with Matti Paalanen

Since Icecrown Citadel and our Lich King video, we have always paid special attention to the music choices in our videos. Our goal is to make the fights we show to everyone feel truly epic - just like we are feeling when we are learning the fights for the first time, and then closing in on a boss kill.

This tier we decided to try something new, and work together with a finnish artist with Ragnaros soundtrack. After getting the kill, we encoded a one pov video and sent it to Matti Paalanen and asked him to prepare music for the fight. It was a wonderful experience to work together with such a talented artist, and we hope we'll be able to improve together in the future to make our videos as good as they can ever be. So a big thanks to Matti for all the hard work you did for the video! Below are the links to all the material we used in the kill video and also Mr. Paalanen's other work, and of course an interview with the artist.


Ragnaros Soundtrack


Please introduce yourself to our readers

Greetings everyone! My name is Matti Paalanen and I am 29 years old hobbyist composer from Finland. I played World of Warcraft for a few years during TBC era and actually raided T5 and T6 content until Lady Shahraz on my warlock main, so I have some understanding what the end game raiding is. Last thing I tried to achieve before quitting the game was to solo Thunderfury on my death knight alt. I got binding from Garr after two runs, but Geddon never dropped his one... :( Music is something I thought of making into a career back in the days, but then decided that it feels more natural to keep it as a hobby with no strings attached. So I have been releasing my music under Creative Commons on the internet and just keep producing new material in my home studio whenever I feel like it. Officially I'm a mathematics teacher/programmer.


How did you end up in the Ragnaros video project?

A friend of mine works in the same place with Xenophics and he mentioned that Paragon might be interested in custom music for their videos, so I contacted the  guild and we thought it would be an interesting prospect. I was definitely excited when I realized that this might actually happen.


How long have you been making music?

I played classical piano when I was little, but switched to guitar when I was ten and haven't really studied music officially. I started building a computer based home studio in 2000 or 2001 and things have just sort of escalated from there. Bit by bit I have bought more and more sound libraries and learned to work with virtual orchestras better. It has been sort of an analytic listening and learning process. I listen to soundtrack music a lot and try to figure out how are the tunes built - what instruments are used and how the layers are structured. Then I try to copy the sound I enjoy and find out through trial and error what seems to work and what doesn't.


What kind of music do you listen to, and where do you get your inspiration from?

I have quite broad musical taste ranging from mathcore to ambient. 80s new wave and the beginning of the goth rock scene still hold a special place in my heart and certain kind of melancholy always works for me. But as my guitar playing has progressed I have also started to enjoy jazz more and more, and also heavier stuff. Electronic music is also something I enjoy a lot, and of course soundtrack music. I have to say that for some reason the most basic, in a way overproduced pop music rarely gives me strong feelings, but it is not set in stone. Otherwise the ocean is vast and uncharted! If can mention a few artists, I'd pick Pat Metheny, Fields of the Nephilim, Animals As Leaders, Biosphere, Vangelis, Jeremy Soule and Jon Hopkins.

Inspiration is a tough one. It can come from almost anything ranging from music to conversations, from nature to dreams... Only thing that is important for me is the sense of freedom and lack of stress. When I have too much stress and stuff I have to work on, it is hard for me to tap into creativity.


What other projects have you had?

I mainly publish under project names Celestial Aeon Project, Project Divinity and Frozen Silence, but I haven't really had any official bands or live  groups so far. These projects mainly revolve around soundtrack, ambient and acoustic minimalism. In addition to Paragon video I have produced a few soundtrack tunes for various commercials and as I publish under Creative Commons, most of my tunes have ended up in hundreds and hundreds of videos, games and whatnot. I really enjoy the way internet works with free licencing systems! You can never know where you run into your productions...


What was it like to make music for Ragnaros video?

It really was an intense and enjoyable experience, but also challenging. It is always tricky to find out what kind of atmosphere we are looking for and you have to start from somewhere. As you know, at first I proposed soundscapes that didn't feel "just right", but then I went back to the drawing board and got a more accurate view on what it was we wanted and second time I struck closer to the goal. It was nice to get feedback from you guys and get information on the fight itself. The visuals and the actual feel of the fight gave a lot of inspiration and when the right sound was found, it was just straight flow from there. I actually produced the tunes that were eventually used in just 3-4 hours. That's the way I usually produce music - not too much dabbling around with intricate settings, just smash the layers together and that's it.


The artist's character in Sunwell


Which song of the ones you made for the project you like the best?

Tough one! I'd have to say either Rain of Blood or Battle Against Time. Rain of Blood because I enjoy uncommon rhythmic metrics and in that tune the 7/4 just seems to groove quite well. Battle Against Time because I tried to make into sort of a climax tune where things just heat up and I think it worked out quite well. There are also a few string patterns that had interesting rhythms I always find enjoyable to listen to.


Will we be hearing your work in the future Paragon videos?

I sincerely hope so! I know epic music is something that divides people - it seems that a big group is always looking for trance / electronic music in WoW videos, but for me it feels natural to combine fantasy battles into epic orchestral fantasy music. I guess it comes from the film industry. For me watching a fantasy game video is more like watching a fantasy movie scene and hence the orchestral soundtrack music feels more natural.


Any tips for people who'd like to start making "epic" music?

Nowadays music technology itself has progressed into a point where it is quite simple and not too expensive to build a home studio. You only need a decent computer, a midi-keyboard and a sequencer program + sound library. For example the East/West Quantum Leap Orchestra Platinum I am using (the library that was produced by the Two Steps From Hell guy) is quite cheap when you think that you actually don't need anything else.

I'd say that when you have the setup ready it is mostly about listening to soundtrack tunes and analyzing how are they structured. Then try to copy that sound you enjoy and find out what works and what doesn't. It's a process, you can't really make too many shortcuts. Then after trial and error and enough time spent in studio you just realize that you are getting there. It was weird feeling for me when I suddenly realized that the sound I'm producing is actually not too far from Two Steps From Hell sound anymore, because I remember the time when I was listening to their tunes in awe and with feeling "How the hell do they do that?".


Is there anything you'd like to add?

I'd like to thank Paragon for the co-operation and fun, it has been a blast working with you guys on the Ragnaros video and also all of you guys who have given me feedback and compliments for the music! It is really the only thing that matters - to know that there are some people out there who enjoy the music and get a kick out of it. You can't please everyone, but it is enough to know that some people like what you are doing.


Animals as leaders best band ever :DD nice influence

Agreed, Tosin Abasi is pure genius! They are coming to Helsinki this autumn, going to see them live.

Is that the tour together with Btbam ? if so sick.


I still hum the tunes from the raggy vid, very epic indeed, nice job!