We had the good fortune of connecting with Justin Ecklond and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Justin, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
When I demo for projects, I usually send two or three things related to what the client asks for and then something a little more obscure, but still in the same vein. Sometimes the client doesn’t really know what they want or just doesn’t know a certain style of music, especially with movie scenes. Sometimes we get so caught up with sounding like others and trying to get a certain sound that we lose our own traits and oddities in that process. Our decisions and what we do are what make us sound like us. If five hundred people are trying out for the same gig, odds are the one that has something special is the one that is going to be picked. I found a good marker for me is if the composition makes me smile or makes me feel something, it’s pretty good. Granted you always have to give the client what they want, but it doesn’t hurt to put out feelers on other things. The worst thing they can do is say ‘no’, and that is still valid information for the project. Sometimes just finding what people don’t want is half the battle.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My style is a bit more eccentric as I enjoy things that are created from odd sounds via sampling or other means. I started getting into the classical style of composition, taking more of my style from symphonic writings as I want to create more music that marries synthetic and organic sounds. My favorite piece I had the pleasure of making was my thesis project. I poured a lot of time and love into making it and got to record it at the Fox Newman scoring stage. The whole process was really fun because I was able to write something wholly unique at the zenith of my schooling. It was refreshing and enjoyable as I was able to receive input from an industry professional while writing it. I started writing music for films in school and for outside projects by meeting up with directors and producers from the film department. I also received a lot of gigs from friends, usually excess work from gigs they were already working on or ones they didn’t have time for. I started doing game jams and learning audio implementation, which was something I eventually became passionate about. I don’t think it’s an easy path. Sometimes you get projects, and other times you just get outright rejected. Most of my current work is overseas as I have partnered with some of my friends to write music for video games. Understanding different cultures’ processes has been enjoyable. Currently I am facing new challenges due to the pandemic. Many people have lost employees due to the virus or places have just completely shut down. Having to work from home or in smaller studios slows down the rate of production and what we can do, but we have adapted. We have meetings through apps and work remotely trying to find work arounds for not meeting in person to complete projects. Because of prior work overseas, we have established a way of communicating and doing work efficiently through messaging. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned along the way is trying not to be someone else with your writing because they’re going to do it much better than you all the time. Pick and choose what you like about someone’s style and absorb that instead of trying to mirror them. Also if you keep getting gigs that ask you to copy something to the point where you may face litigation, just save yourself the headache and tell them that you can’t because the legal fallout is not worth the pay they will end up giving you for it. I want to venture out and try new things as well as continuing the things I’m doing now. I helped with an art exhibit project in Chicago that I thought was really cool. The music reacted to people and created an immersive experience immediately in the world, which is something I had only previously experienced in video games. I believe VR will continue to be a big thing in the future as it already is today, and I want to get more into that as the technology becomes more easily accessible. My love, besides music, is in the video games that I play when I’m not working on projects, and I want to bring them to the world to make them a less isolated experience that I can share with others.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
El Capitan Theater is an amazing place to go see Disney movies as you get a really cool live pre-show performance before the movie itself. We wanted to find a few places for kids to hang out in case the nieces and nephews came to visit that adults would enjoy as well. Oo-kook is probably our favorite restaurant to go visit. You pay a fee for the time you spend there and they keep rolling out food you cook yourself on a grill. Drinking soju and hanging out with friends is a fun time. The staff are also extremely helpful if you need assistance. The Griffith Observatory is a great place to go be a tourist, and my first month here we went to check it out. You can also see the Hollywood sign from there. One of my favorite places to drink is the San Antonio Winery. We bring family there to learn about wine and usually do wine tastings as the quality is great while still being affordable. It is great to just hang out and meet and learn about the family that has been making wine for years. The Grove is an outdoor mall like I used to go to all the time. We usually go to the farmers market located near the back to try all the food vendors there. Little Tokyo is the closest we’ll get to an Akihabara type town here as it has retro game consoles and figurines tucked away in shops as well as all sorts of interesting things. The restaurants near the entrance are great as well.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My teachers and my friends I made along the way were my biggest support after my partner. I started seriously contemplating writing music as a career after a pretty nasty break up. Feeling pretty useless, I was mostly just playing jazz gigs in Florida. One of my teachers asked me why I was becoming a teacher because I just seemed unhappy doing it. My response was mostly that it “felt like the thing to do.” My counselor at the time asked me what I would like to do, and I told them “I don’t really know. The only thing that makes me happy is writing music.” The next day I swapped my major to commercial music with an emphasis in composition and started getting into synthesizers as well as electronics. I met one of my professors, Micheal Zager, who pushed me to be much better than I was and start writing more frequently outside of class. I lacked the classical composition training that others had. However, because I was a gigging musician in many different ensembles, all of those gigging experiences really helped me find my composition style and made me who I am. Later on when I went for my masters degree at Columbia College Chicago, I met up with the professors there and refined my craft even more. I learned how to write and compose to picture quickly and efficiently under the fearless leadership of Kubilay Uner. You should appreciate everyone that helps you and try not to burn bridges.
John Manning Photography for the Headshots, Otherwise most the other images were from my phone.