Driven by passion from early childhood, composer & sound designer Jonas Wikstrand is constantly inspired to evoke emotion through unique sounds and original music. Jonas started playing the violin at age of 3 and started composing music at 6, and has since then been working in tons of musical directions. From working with large symphonies to producing Grammy winning rock bands, Jonas has created a very diverse discography throughout the years. In the last years Jonas has been concentrating on developing an original voice in the big white noise of music & sounds for visual media, with the objective to tailor art that stands today and in the future to come.

Jonas Wikstrand.

Your first scoring assignment was in 2010 for a short film entitled Serenade, how did you break into writing music for film? 

I guess ‘The Serenade’ was technically my first paid film I worked on, but I worked on several student projects before that. My thought in the beginning, when I was still a student, was not to approach established filmmakers but to approach people that were also film students at the time. That was a great way to learn the craft of scoring properly and to get a bunch of projects on my resume for a showcase. One of the students I worked with got hired to direct and produce a short film and he asked me to do the music. That was ‘The Serenade’. A lot of the students I approached I still work with today. Now 15 years later we’re all being established professionals. 

Was this a career that you set out to do or did you initially have another path in mind?

After I decided to not become a professional ice hockey player when I was 10-11, I knew I wanted to work with music. I worked in so many fields of music before I was scoring films. I ran a recording studio, I played in a piano bar, I was a drum and band teacher and I toured the world with a heavy metal band. During my youth I composed a lot of concert music with visual context but no pictures. When I scored my first film I instantly felt I could use all my knowledge from all fields in one profession. I’ve been hooked ever since!

You began to play violin aged three and started to compose at 6, what formal musical education did you receive?

I started playing at the local music school where I grew up. Even at a very young age my dad had my practice the violin every day. But it wasn’t until I started to create my own music in the mid 90s that I felt the meaning of it all. When I was 6 years old people migrated from 2D video games to computer powered 3D video games. I felt so dizzy playing those games so instead I found a software called Fasttracker 2. This was an early version of a MIDI-programming based software that you could write and program music in. That’s how I started working with music production. Other than that, I’ve studied music and composition in high school, and then I’ve got a bachelor’s degree at The Royal College of Music in Stockholm.

As well as a composer you are a multi-instrumentalist, how many instruments do you play?

I love playing instruments and I love creating tracks of me layering myself. So It’s more that I have a sound in mind and I keep working until I get there even if it takes a lot of practicing. It’s helpful to both be playing both strings and woodwinds however. It helps me create organic sounding music without having to rely on samples. 

You are also credited as a sound designer, is this basically scoring a film but with sounds, fx and dialogue, etc? 

Yes that is correct, I worked as a sound designer for multiple TV shows, feature films, trailers and commercials.

When scoring a film do you have a set routine in the way that you approach it, by this I mean do you like to create a central theme and build the remainder of the score around this, or maybe you write the smaller cues first and then move onto to bigger pieces?

I like to read the script, take a look at the mood board, read the character descriptions etc. and then just move away from it all to compose freely. It often starts with me jamming for hours on an instrument. When ideas start to come I go to references and listen to get inspired from other music. After that I create a conceptual suite with themes, ideas, sounds and what not. It’s not until I have the concept down that I start composing to pictures. 

 When creating music for a commercial is it harder establishing a musical identity or sound because of the short duration of the project?

The most success I had with commercials have been from sync licensing where the music I’ve done is being placed in the spot by an editor. However, the times I’ve scored commercials I approached it the same way as I would with longer projects. I feel like for any duration the tone and the concept is just as important.

How many times do you watch a film or project before you start to put together ideas for the score? 

Usually just one or two times. Then I move away from the visuals and compose freely before jamming to the pictures. If I would start scoring and working on a sequence with, let’s say 30 seconds of music for an opening cue, I want to know what that music is going to develop into at the end of the film. I need to have the basic dramaturgy down, like how the screenwriter works. That’s why I need the thematic DNA written before I can start with pictures.

A recent score of yours is for the TV series, Kronprisen Som Forsvann, which had 18 episodes I think, do you score these in the order that the episodes are to be shown, and as it is a series do you ever re-cycle any music from earlier episodes into later ones?

It was 24 episodes! 🙂 I worked with a handful of themes that kept returning and developed throughout the duration of the series. Even though a lot of similar music reappeared in the series all scenes were specifically scored and tweaked to the pictures. But again, I knew where I wanted to land in the last episode so I kept hinting and revealing more and more of the music as the series progressed. 

Staying with the series and your score, how many live players as well as yourself did you have for the project and what electronic elements did you have?

I played all the parts myself for that series. Instrumentation for most music was violin, nyckelharpa, viola, cello, recorder, clarinet, mandolin, bouzouki, guitar & double bass. 

Are there any composers, bands or artists that have inspired you or influenced the sound and style that you employ in your film scores?

I probably get inspired from everything I see and hear. What to do and what not to do! haha. I watch a lot of animated movies these days with my daughter. Those films often have so much elaborate and fun music which is really inspiring. Often, it’s composed in certain genres. I love composing in genres!

Have you encountered the temp track, and is this a tool that you find useful when working on a project? 

I don’t mind temp tracks. If the director is very specific about the tempo of the scene it could save many feedback rounds to just have a temp track to show general direction. I don’t mind not having a temp track either. I enjoy the mix of different approaches for different projects.

What would you say is the job of music in film?

Listen. Communicate. Collaborate. Understanding story. Translating story into music. You’re just as much of a filmmaker and storyteller as a composer. Use your identity and uniqueness and don’t listen to much how other composers are working

 Håkan Bråkan is a great score filled with energy and its so much fun, with references to a few scores by the likes of Grusin and Williams etc, did the producers have specific ideas about what route the music should take in the movie?

Oh thank you so much! I think your review of the score captured the whole discussion I initially had with the director, (ha ha). We wanted homages from a bunch of classics but with a unique identity that felt like our film.

What is coming up for you?

I just started working on an animated feature which really excites me at the moment! Then I’ll be working on a sequel to Håkan Bråkan this year. And then there’s a lot of other projects under NDA right now, I’ll keep you updated! 🙂

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