He was only in fifth grade, and Ian Hultquist was already zeroing in on a career in composing music for movies, even if he didn’t quite know it yet. “I was playing alto sax back then,” the California-based artist recalls, “and all I would ever play was the Jurassic Park theme. I literally wouldn’t play anything else but that na-na-na-na-na part, over and over again. I'm not sure, but that might be what got the wheels turning.” Those wheels eventually carried him to Boston, where he attended Berklee College of Music to study film scoring. But it was while attending that prestigious school that another, more
common, aspiration took over: living the rock & roll dream. In 2007, the multi-instrumentalist became one of the founding members of the electronic-pop combo Passion Pit, for which he eventually served as music director.
“Well, that’s the title that they gave me,” Hultquist admits. “Really, all that really meant was that when we would go to rehearsals, I’d be the one who actually was enthusiastic about learning the songs [laughs].”
His film-score dream may have been deferred, but it never dried up. “In 2011, when Passion Pit took a break from touring from Manners—which was our first big record—I realized I still wanted to do scoring,” Hultquist says. “I slowly started to find any job that I possibly could, doing commercial writing and some short films here or there. I was keeping up with scoring that way, and when Passion Pit got back on the road, I’d still be scoring on my laptop while I was in the dressing room, the bunk, a hotel room…wherever I could. Then finally, at the end of 2013, I got hired on both my first feature-length documentary and my first feature-length film.”
That documentary was the well-received Ivory Tower; the film Animals, written by and starring David Dastmalchian, who Hultquist had met when working on the video for Passion Pit’s “Constant Conversations.” “He was cast in the video,” Hultquist says and I recognized him from being in The Dark Knight, because I’m such a big Batman nerd. [Dastmalchian played Joker henchman Thomas Schiff]. David basically kick-started my career.”
And Hultquist hasn’t looked back. He quit Passion Pit in October of 2014 and has been toiling full time as a composer for films, commercials and multimedia ever since, having lent his sonic skills to The Diabolical, Thought Crimes, Memoria and Burning Bodhi along the way, as well as composing commercial work for brands like Samsung and Honda. (The ever-busy artist also runs the indie-soundtrack–oriented label Little Twig Records.) His home studio has burgeoned in tandem with his career. “A few years ago, my wife [fellow composer Sofia Hultquist] and I moved into a house
with a detached garage,” he says, “and that became the first proper set-up that I’ve had. It’s really grown since we first moved in here.” Focusrite’s now a big facet of his studio’s growth. Hultquist’s recently added the Red 4Pre, from the brand’s premier Red range of dual-Thunderbolt 2 audio interfaces, to his arsenal. “I got the Red 4Pre literally three weeks ago.” he confides, “and it’s already been amazing. It’s fully replaced my Apogee Symphony system, which I actually really liked. But the Apogee Symphony is now gone; I’ve already sold it [laughs].
The first attribute of the 4Pre that sold him was perhaps the most obvious: its sound. “I can really hear things more clearly than I ever had before. I was listening to “Sound & Color” by Alabama Shakes, which I’ve listened to a hundred times—and I realized that there was a synth in there that I had never heard before. It’s really interesting—when the Apogees came out, they were supposed to be the best of the best. But with the 4Pre, there’s a very noticeable improvement. It’s really a huge difference.” And he gives the thumb’s up on the unit’s Air effect, which emulates the sound of Focusrite’s classic transformer-based ISA preamps, as well. “Just yesterday, I was recording sleigh bells for something that I’m working on, and I had Air on—it sounded so open and clear. It’s really crazy!”
But for Hultquist, the appeal lies deeper than the 4Pre’s aural appeal. “Another thing that attracted me to Focusrite is that I’ve been really interested in trying out Dante [media networking technology]. With the Apogee, I was using 64 virtual channels; I have an application called Video Slave to run my video, and I would output that to those virtual channels and then into my DAW, which is usually Cubase,” he explains. “I was a little worried about losing that if I switched to the Red. But after getting in touch with Focusrite—they’ve been really responsive with any questions, by the way— I realized I could route the Dante output back into the Red with the Thunderbolt, and that would open up the Dante channels. Once I figured that out, I was like, okay, I’m 100 percent sold on this. It’s really adaptable and versatile.”
And that means Focusrite’s Red 4Pre will likely be a mainstay of Hultquist’s studio for a long, long time. “I now have something that’s more future-proof, that has more flexibility,” he believes. “Really, the 4Pre is the answer to my entire checklist.
Portrait Photo Credit: Kirsty Benjamin