#083 Hector Vs The Future – Odinn Orn Hilmarsson – Theme From Hector Vs The Future


Join composer Odinn Orn Hilmarsson of audio drama Hector Vs The Future as we take a trip into a chiptune vs steampunk comedy story. An immersive listening experience. Headphones recommended.
The piece of music we’re listening to in the background is the theme tune to Hector Vs The Future, a comedy podcast about a cantankerous museum owner’s battle against technology and obsolescence. Today, we’ll break it down and get into why and how it was made. 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 share some of the musical insights into how it was made. My name is Óðinn Örn Hilmarsson. I’m a composer and sound designer living in London, and this is How I Make Music.
Welcome back to How I Make Music episode number 83. Hector Vs The Future by me, Óðinn Örn Hilmarsson. Now, this episode of How I Make Music features some stronger than usual language and our tech overlords demand that we label it explicit. You have been warned. Enjoy. Hector Vs The Future mostly follows Hector, a cranky old curmudgeon who curates a museum called the Obsoleteum, where all obsolete technology is collected for pointless posterity. Across the road is another museum in many ways its exact opposite the Uptodateum, run by Biz and her half-robot half-hologram assistant Phil. The show is about Hector’s struggle to keep old tech alive in a world that is constantly updating itself. He himself has a clockwork pacemaker, that he constantly has to wind up with a turnkey sticking out of his chest. And we have planned obsolescence in the tech that we use. Even though Hector is this sort of kook, it’s absolutely something that feels very real to now.
I was definitely deeply influenced by what the 70s and 80s thought the future would sound like. In particular, old game sound generators, Commodore computers, SID chips. Arguably for Hector, even that is too modern for him. There’s one synth, which is specifically a chiptune sound. And I knew that that would translate the tensions of old versus new in a musical way for the audience listening in. Hector is this bitter and combative character. He’s always in conflict with the modern age. And it’s Hector versus the future. So I knew that I wanted to approach the theme tune with this sort of battle music. Giving a boss battle where Hector is the unlikely hero.
So the time signature of the piece I felt had to be in an odd time signature. For me that has a lot of urgency. That was sort of my first building block and I built up from there. We have two drum layers. One sounds quite static and is mostly hitting all the straight notes. And then there’s another track which has a more traditional modern action drum feel to it. And that was meant to sort of give a lot of power and a lot of oomph to the whole proceedings. And underpinning the rhythm section the sort of more traditional drum sounds is the rhythm of Hector’s windup pacemaker. The pacemaker actually starts the piece as well it winds up and starts the whole episode. And I knew that once we were into the main section of the piece, the pacemaker should be there as a rhythmic element as well. I added a little noise gate to just add a bit of stuttering effect to actually make it feel like the ratchet was quite creaky and a bit worn
Funnily enough, Rick and Morty was very popular at the time and I do think there are quite a few similarities between the sort of dramaticness of Hector Vs The Future and the Rick and Morty one. Feels like it’s aping Doctor Who a little bit. Doctor Who has that sort of theremin sound with the gliding synth
The kalimba is a sort of very old tech instrument in terms of music making. It’s just metal prongs stuck to a resonant wooden box. It feels like a an old tech instrument. Hector would be very admirable of or admiring of. It’s a musical Abacus. Yeah, exactly.
So Hector VsThe Future is quite unique in that it was all recorded live in the upstairs Theatre of, of a pub in London. But quite often, when Andy the producer was editing the episodes, he’d messaged me, you know, about a day before. It was very frantic, I sort of remember every Friday setting apart some time knowing that Andy would message me and I’d sort of be on call essentially. And it was challenging, but it was fun. It was great. It was very energetic and made you feel alive, I felt a little bit like we were working like the guys in South Park. This sort of slightly rough around the edges approach, you know, it was all recorded live and had this live feel. You’re allowed to see the strings a little bit, you’re allowed to sort of feel that you’re involved in the making process as well. And so we were absolutely fine with the fact that it was such a short turnaround, because that was sort of part of the charm of the whole piece.
For the show, I had to write quite a wide range of music, there was a theme tune then there were a lot of transition sounds that are peppered throughout the show. Here’s one where you can hear that ratchet sound that I mentioned earlier. And then this one sounds a bit more chiptuney. Here you have quite a dirty digital bass mixed with a ratchet as well. And another one – this is very quick and cheerful.
So what we’re hearing now is a piece from the series called ‘What’s That?’ And I should probably say I can neither confirm nor deny that I wrote this song as sort of it’s meant to be aping ‘What’s This’ from A Nightmare Before Christmas by Danny Elfman.
So in the world of Hector VsThe Future, there is a massive tech company such as Apple, Google or Facebook. I had the task of writing quite a lot of you know, corporate music maybe being pumped through speakers in the background whilst everyone was hot seating. Here take a listen and see how much you hate it. It was definitely part of the brief to make it kind of annoying and hateable and a bit cheesy. Right enough of that.
There’s an episode in the show where the half-hologram half-robot assistant Phil is given emotions. The chord progression is very simple, it’s just ascending in a major scale. And then you have some bras and I think is one of the only instances where I actually busted on one microphone and recorded a guitar part. A little bit outside of the very tech-heavy sound palette of the rest of the pieces.

One episode has two raps in it. The writers James Hamilton and James Huntrod, neither of them would say that the rappers. One funny thing that did come out of it was that they sent me the lyrics and I had the task of trying to make it work. I performed vocal tracks on all of those demos to give to the actors. Take a lesson. See what you think. There is this concept of flow in rap. The rhythm it’s the fluidity is the flexibility. And people have an ear for it. People have a gift and a talent for presenting an idea with very complicated but elegant flow. I’m not sure that I got it completely right. Maybe I didn’t do as elegant a job as I could have done.

* Listen to audio drama Hector Vs The Future www.hectorvsthefuture.com/
* Check out other work by Óðinn Örn Hilmarsson odinnoh.com/


* Danny Elfman – What’s This 
* Ryan Elder – Rick And Morty Theme 


* Arcade Game Over Scream Studio freesound.org/people/ScreamStudio/sounds/412168/ CC0
* Medium sized crowd (around 100 people) chatting in a small hall.wav arpeggio1980 freesound.org/people/arpeggio1980/sounds/523395/ CC0
* atmosphere.wav 13F_Panska_Tlolkova_Matilda freesound.org/people/13F_Panska_Tlolkova_Matilda/sounds/378322/ CC0
* Applause 2.aif lchapman1980 freesound.org/people/lchapman1980/sounds/439895/ CC0


How I Make Music is where audio drama composers get to tell their own stories. In a dramatically edited sound experience, we challenge composers to break apart a song, soundtrack or composition and get into why and how it was made.

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