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082 Grimwell County – Ben Valdmets – Riders In The Night – How I Make Music

082 Grimwell County – Ben Valdmets – Riders In The Night


Join composer Ben Valdmets of audio drama Grimwell County as we take a trip into the music of a sci-fi western fantasy story. An immersive listening experience. Headphones recommended.



The piece of music we’re listening to in the background is called Riders In The Night. It’s an Ennio Morricone fever dream from the supernatural cowboy show Grimwell County. Today we’ll break it down and get into why and how it was made. If you’re listening to How I Make Music, where behind-the-scenes musicians get to tell their own stories. Every Wednesday, we break apart a song, soundtrack or composition and investigate the insights into how it was made. My name is Ben Valdmets. I’m a composer, musician and voice actor from Austin, Texas, and this is How I Make Music. Welcome back to How I Make Music Episode number 82, Riders In the Night by me. Ben Valdmets. Thanks for listening in.


This audio drama’s called Grimwell County. It’s a story about a bounty hunter and a vigilante who get roped into hunting supernatural threats in the old American West. Sort of X-Files meets cowboys. It’s meant to give the listener strong cinematic vibes. If you close your eyes, maybe you can visualize, you know, not only just the characters in the situation, but the style too. It’s awesome. I’m very excited. I’m excited for it to come out. Yeah. I work with Gabe Alvarez, who created Starcalled, a show where I do one of the voices, Captain Landris.


This piece – Riders In The Night – is meant to be kind of a modern spin on a classic Ennio Morricone sound. Dry, cinematic Western. I always have enjoyed that kind of spaghetti western sound. And what he was describing sounded like that would fit but it also needed kind of another angle. Recently, I played a game called Disco Elysium. It’s almost less like a video game and more like a Choose Your Own Adventure book or something. It’s a lot of reading. It’s all about this world-building. And as you’re walking around in this world, one of the ambient pieces is a very stark just sort of lone trumpet to start. So I wanted to take that idea and run with it on my own track. I was inspired.


I studied trumpet in school. So it’s not like a high bright trumpet. It’s naturally sort of dark. You know, I knew that I just wanted to reflect the melody from the whistling and I ended up just going crazy putting effects on it. It’s got a chorus effect on it. Full of reverb with echo. It sounds very cool. It’s like lonely but psychedelic in a way. Once I got kind of bored with that aesthetic, I thought, you know, I just sort of jumped ahead and said, Okay, I’m going to keep the key. I’m going to keep the tempo. Let me try to just take this harmonic concept and do it completely stylistically different. The more classic cinematic track grows and grows until we hit this apex We completely take the left turn, and that’s when I got out the trumpet to keep the energy up. I got out the guitars and bass and wrote this sort of groovy drum track to go with it. And I thought, well, that sounded good, too. They both sound good. They’re very different. So then the work, the real work was stitching them together. This track also includes a lot of instruments that you might not expect to hear on a spaghetti western, really anachronistic sounds. A cowboy would be shocked to hear an arpeggiated synthesizer! You’re supposed to hear that and immediately be thinking like grainy film quality, like…I don’t want to say cheesy, but maybe over the top cowboy action. You know, blood, six shooters, bullets whizzing everywhere, horses going crazy. Things like that. I wanted to move beyond those typical tropes and push it into some weirder direction.


There were some challenges. I tried re-miking and redoing some parts. And I took it back to Gabe, the show’s creator. And he said, You know, I liked the old one better. I tend to put a lot of trust into just, you know, did it work or not, rather than that take was on the hundred dollar guitar and the other take was on the $2,000. guitar. I mean, just go with what sounds better.

I didn’t finish University with a degree in music, but I started one. So I have some music theory background and stuff. And like a 2-5-1 is a very common chord progression, right? And I realized, I have a flat 2-5-1. Which in classical music theory, I think they call it a “Sicilian flat 2” and I thought Sicilian, that’s where they filmed all the spaghetti westerns,. I did that subconsciously! Anyways.


I think it’s important when using a software version of an instrument, that you’re doing it in a way that the instrument could actually be performed live. If you haven’t done your homework, and you don’t really know what would be going through a drummer’s head at all, you might write a drum part on an acoustic drum software kit. The actual sounds sound fine, but you spawned a third hand somehow. Even a listener that doesn’t know anything about drums, they’re going to hear that and think that’s too weird. You know what I mean? Like that’s, that’s an easy thing to accidentally do with a sequencer.

I wrote this other piece of music called devil horse that’s used as the outro sort of a sinister take on the psychedelic cowboy vibe. Take a listen.


* Listen to audio drama Grimwell County
* Check out other work by Ben Valdmets;
* Check out audio drama Starcalled by Grimwell County show creator Gabriel Alvarez


British Sea Power – “Red Rock Riviera” (from Disco Elysium)
Ben Valdmets – “Devil Horse”


Maxheadroom’s Galloping Horse
Horse and chariot 30 sec.mp3
Authentic Spurs.mp3
Five seveN gun shot and silenced.wav
Ruth Glacier 20190603_113443 skiiers laugh and whoop.wav
Silenced Gunshot.wav


Discover new fiction podcasts in an immersive, sound-designed listening experience with their music composers. In this show, we challenge audio drama music makers to break apart a song, soundtrack or composition and get into why and how it was made. Immersive listening. Headphones recommended.

* Follow How I Make Music in your favorite app
* Show notes, transcript and credits
* How I Make Music is created by John Bartmann


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