Who knew that an argument between two guys on an internet forum could be the start of something beautiful? That’s how Nick Phoenix and Thomas Bergersen first met, on a blog where they were debating the qualities of an orchestral software called EWQLSO. These two musicians found common ground in their taste of music, and they took reconciling a step further by forming their own musical company, Two Steps from Hell.
Thomas Bergersen and Nick Phoenix (left to right)
Despite how it sounds, their group name was not designed with religious implications in mind. They wanted a name that would grab attention by catching people off guard, and after drawing inspiration from a nightclub that Bergersen encountered in Norway the name Two Steps from Hell was born.
Before they teamed up, they were both working uninspiring jobs, Phoenix working on the standard movie trailer music for the time and Bergersen writing commercial jingles. Figuring they did not have much to lose, they decided to score their own vision of music together.
Bergersen and Phoenix formed Two Steps From Hell to write orchestral music for movie trailers. You heard that right, the music is not for the actual movies, just the trailers. They are part of a relatively new business called trailer music libraries, which write music for movie advertising. Their music, which is able to excite listeners standing on its own, is also meant to enhance the trailer or commercial with which it is paired. The music can take the form of a gradual buildup in intensity to the end or a striking composition at the beginning, but whatever form the music takes, the goal in the end, according to Bergersen, is to "hopefully leaves people stunned" (Rome).
(Interstellar trailer featuring Thomas Bergersen’s “Final Frontier”)
When writing their music, Bergersen and Phoenix have the advantage of not only writing music on a computer, but playing it on there as well. Through orchestral software such as EWQLSO, they can play the melodies they write in various instruments with the click of a mouse. Unlike their composing forefathers, they are not dependent on a conductor and an orchestra to play their pieces precisely to their vision. Csikszentmihalyi lists one of the qualities necessary for great creatives as “access to a domain” and “access to a field.” Bergersen and Phoenix have new and enhanced access to their domain and field of music through this inventive software.
Phoenix stated that often when he is writing music, he has visuals in the back of his mind that correlate with the melody he is developing. Bergersen, however, does not rely on visuals, but rather focuses solely on the music, with no thought of the medium with which it could eventually be paired.
When asked where they draw their inspiration, Bergersen gave an elaborate response about seeking an undiscovered melody that is already there. It excites him to think that the perfect melody is still out there, and that if he keeps searching it may one day grace his fingertips, and then his life would be complete. Phoenix’s answer for his inspiration was a little more direct: “Pain, failure, the desire for beauty, and testosterone” (Tsouroupidou).
Bergersen, Thomas, and Nick Phoenix. "About." Two Steps from Hell. Two Steps from Hell, 2014. Web. 08 Apr. 2015.
Csikszentmihalyi: Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). The creative personality. In M. Csikszentmihalyi, Creativity: Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. New York: Harper/Collins
Rome, Emily. "Their Movie Trailer Music Is Proudly Commercial." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 08 Apr. 2012. Web. 08 Apr. 2015.
Rosenbloom, Etan. "On the Charts: Two Steps from Hell." Interview. Web log post. We Create Music Blog. ASCAP, 24 Jan. 2013. Web. 8 Apr. 2015.Tsouroupidou, Kalliope. "Two Steps from Hell, an Interview." Burst Magazine. Issuu, Aug. 2013. Web. 08 Apr. 2015.