What's good? Varien here to answer any of your questions. Maybe you've heard my music in trailers for 300: Rise of an Empire, The Purge: Anarchy, The Loft, or Planetside 2. Perhaps you heard my work in Furious 7, or in TV shows like Face Off and The Walking Dead. I have also worked with people like Skrillex, Celldweller, and Two Steps from Hell on original music. In 2010, I made a silly remix of Justin Bieber that was a viral sensation, and Reddit played an integral part of that. There's a lot more stuff that I've done, but that's just a small taste.

My debut album, "The Ancient & Arcane" comes out next Wednesday, August 5th. It combines traditional cultural music with modern electronic music, hence the title of the album! You can expect to hear all sorts of stuff, ranging from traditional Japanese-infused future bass to Peruvian electro swing and bluegrass house. The lead single, "Supercell" is out now. You can listen to it here or watch the official music video here. I've also begun to post previews of all the tracks on my Instagram.

Here is a Reddit AMA Exclusive preview of my next single off the album, "Hypnotique" with vocals by Charlotte Haining:

Besides my career, I enjoy gaming a lot, fitness, tattoos and piercings, as well as anything with vintage gothic aesthetic. I’m also an avid book reader; I love to learn about the world around us.

You can ask me anything about my upcoming LP, as well as projects past, present, and future. Personal stuff is fine as well.

I'll be back at 3PM PST to answer as much as I can.

Shoutout to the Monstercat family! Thank you.


EDIT: Done for the night. Thank you guys for a fun time! Let's do this again, yeah?

Comments: 202 • Responses: 26  • Date: 

monst3rkitty49 karma

What ever happened to Valkyrie 3? Also, I'm really hyped to see you at GameCon! :D

varienscissorhands47 karma

I get this question almost daily, actually. Let it be known that I am going to make Valkyrie III within the next few weeks. I have the main melody, and I know who I want to work with on vocals, it just all needs to come together. There was a plan for a big-scale audio-video production but ultimately realized that the music would paint that picture on it’s own.

Noob2Pro25 karma

Are you ever going to make another Cyberpunk-NeoTokyo style track?

I really love Neo-Seoul

varienscissorhands28 karma

Absolutely. I plan on revisiting Cyberpunk and Industrial type tracks later this year.

BigCballer22 karma

Hello nick, cool to see you doing AMA, here's a few question I had on my mind:

  1. Would you ever use the alias "halo nova" again?

  2. Will there be physical copies of The album (CD and/or Vinyl)?

  3. What was it like working with "Two steps from hell"

  4. What tracks did you mention that were used in fast and furious 7?

  5. Producer question, is it better to pay someone to do mastering for your tracks or to do them yourself?

Thanks for reading and I'm looking forward to the album!

varienscissorhands29 karma

  1. Nope, that chapter is long closed.

  2. Not this time around!

  3. Working with Two Steps from Hell was wonderful, and I have to say that Thomas Bergersen and Nick Phoenix are masterminds. The music is still getting licensed all the time too.

  4. I don’t know how they titled the cues, but I did a little bit of this, and a little bit of that with the orchestral scoring and score programming. If you know my music, and listen to the soundtrack, you can probably pick out my parts. ;)

  5. Pay an engineer for your master. Make sure your mix is top notch and then ship it off to someone whose entire career is mastering with analog gear. I highly recommend Huntley Miller; he does fantastic work. Tell him Varien sent ya.

CalebJayvee16 karma

Nick, I've been a giant fan of your work for years now! My one question is: what's an advanced tip(s) you could give to musicians, music theory-wise? Thank you!

varienscissorhands22 karma

Simplify. Some of the best melodies out there are three, maybe four notes, and quite repetitive. If you’re too knee-deep in thinking about music theory, you’ll overcomplicate things, and that’s never fun. Keep music fun.

Wyndmusic16 karma

I have 3 questions

  1. what kind of music did you listen to before you started producing?

  2. what is the message that you are trying to bring across through your own music?

  3. what is your favorite tv show?

love you varien :)

varienscissorhands24 karma

  1. Everything, man. My high school mixtapes were insane. John Coltrane right into Pig Destroyer. Girls loved it, haha. I grew up listening to so much stuff, and even moreso now. I will say that I am a huge metalhead, and have been for most of my life. That side of me will never fade.

  2. I was never into “messages” until recently. I was more interested in storytelling. But right now, I’m working on quite the art piece (song+video) that’s brutal, raw, and disturbing. My biggest life message is to create exactly the life you want and take it with great ferver, as long as no one is harmed. Embrace your demons. Take control of your emotions. If you only get one shot in this life, then you better make it 100% true to yourself and your needs/desires.

  3. My favorite TV show is Game of Thrones. My buddy Sam (Trivecta) and I could talk about it for hours on end, theorizing, etc. We're book readers above all though. A close second favorite TV show would be House of Cards.

Charybdis_13 karma

Hi Nick, huge fan of your music here. I have two questions. My first is, why did choose Monstercat over other labels to distribute your music? (Not hating on Monstercat as its a fantastic platform, just curious as since you first joined you've grown tremendously and could really move on to bigger endeavors IMO). Second question is about your track Reflection. This is one of your best works in my opinion, and personally one of my favorite garage tracks. What inspired you to take a step into that dark, Burial sort of direction? Will we ever hear anything similar from you in the future? Thanks for taking the time to do this AMA, good luck in the future and much love <3

Edit: another question came to my mind; what happened to that psy-trance you were working on? I was excited to hear that.

varienscissorhands10 karma

I was sort of grandfathered into Monstercat from its inception. I had been on a lot of labels as my past alias and hated how music was distributed. It made no sense, and I needed an alternative. My friend Jon Winter (Going Quantum) introduced me to his friend Mike (Darlington) via Skype one day to talk about this new label idea they had. The rest is history.

Good track man! Yeah, a lot of the stuff I’m working on at the moment is really minimal, dark kind of stuff. Nothing garage-y, but definitely the same colours as “Reflection”

That “psy-trance” thing ended up becoming the entire album idea for The Ancient & Arcane

DakavesKaves12 karma

  • How was work on the F7 soundtrack? Anything crazy happen or any cool stories to tell?
  • Who is your dream collab? (1 Monstercat, 1 Non)

silentedge928 karma

Varien x Madeon would be an interesting collab!

varienscissorhands11 karma

Working on F7 was the most intense experience I’ve had musically. I respect Brian Tyler and his team, and seeing what really goes into making a Hollywood score was insane.

My dream collab kind of happened (Celldweller and Two Steps from Hell). Right now, I’d love to work with Fractal (Monstercat) and Chelsea Wolfe (Non-Monstercat)

ZephyruSOfficial12 karma

A while back you asked for four vocalists and I recommended Augustus Ghost. You really seemed to like her voice! Will that thing with the four vocalists be released soon?

I'm really hyped for your album, you've been killing it lately! Aether & Light is one of my top 5 favorite songs atm!

varienscissorhands23 karma

The thing with four vocalists is the album, man!

Charlotte Haining, Veela, Miyoki, Laura Brehm.

Augustus Ghost is great. Chance of us working together in the future is very high.

JEEntertainment8911 karma

Which track took you the longest to make?

(Asking this on all AMAs for Fij it was Cynical-54 hours)

varienscissorhands10 karma

Hard question. I usually don't like to put in more than 10 hours into a track in total; When I have a spark of imagination, there's a time limit before the spark runs out and I forget where I was going with the idea. Kind of like a dream; you wanna write it down, fast! Most tracks that are released take me 5-6 hours in total.

sonicbash2069 karma

Hey Nick! I just love Aether and Light. One of my favourites from the Contact Album!

I have 2 questions:

What is your favourite track off of the LP?


Which of your tattoos means the most to you?

varienscissorhands9 karma

"Ghost Spores". It hits all the marks for me. It’s so organic and feels like a balmy morning on the bayou. Really fantastic colours I've never played with besides on "Whispers in the Mist". Laura Brehm absolutely nailed the vocal for it, and the second “drop” of the tune is what ties together the entire album, I feel.

My Nintendo sleeve of course. Nintendo played, and still plays, such a big role in creating amazing worlds I can dive into. Without them, I don’t think I would be doing music.

GamerHaste8 karma

What is a good orchestral VST for FL? What do you think of FL12?

varienscissorhands9 karma

Kontakt 5 is the only VST you really need for orchestral stuff. It hosts sample libraries, which is what I think you really want to ask. 8dio are the pioneers of sample libraries, and the reason I mention them so often is I see first hand how much work goes into their products. Even though their instruments are virtual, they nail realism in such cutting edge ways.

FL12 looks great and plays great.

Da_Truth14008 karma

What is your favorite collab you've done, and do you have any planned? Like Mirai Sekai, and the everlasting Toothless Hawkins.

varienscissorhands10 karma

Very, very proud of Mirai Sekai. It was more than just me and Alex (7MD); the art tied everything together. The promo video by petriep, the album art, and the merch run made it such a fun experience.

silentedge928 karma

Also, question #2:

Seeing you produce a full length album is just great, can't wait to hear it! But what happened to the Thunder Falcon EP? :D

Maybe I'm the only one who remembers that announcement!

varienscissorhands15 karma

It became Mirai Sekai when I brought on Alex to the project. :)

ryanrealm8 karma

There seems to be a lot of hatred in the EDM community right now about true talent, ghost producers, DJing (Deadmau5 and Avicii, for example), etc. From the standpoint of a producer, what are your views on this?

varienscissorhands23 karma

I am working on music too much to really have an opinion on this, man.

JamesRN37 karma

Love your music taste man! Are there any relatively unknown producers out there that you would recommend to check out?

varienscissorhands9 karma

I love what these kids are doing.

Besides that, check out my best friend and fellow studio-dweller storyteller Trivecta.

PieceOfJake7 karma

What has working with monstercat been like and what is the #1 thing that you like about them?

varienscissorhands14 karma

Monstercat is family to me. Since day one they have let me roam free and explore so many avenues that on other labels, wouldn’t have even been entertained, let alone supported. What other electronic label would release tracks like L’esprit Noir and The Scarlet Dawn? For that reason, I love ‘em.

heety97 karma

Hey Nick, what's up? I have a quick question - I've enjoyed a lot of your music over the years and even though it's mostly electronically produced, you have a knack for incorporating a lot of elements that aren't usually seen in electronic music, such as guitars. How much do non-"EDM" genres influence your creative process when making a song?

varienscissorhands9 karma

A lot. I do listen to electronic music a good amount, however, that is met with a plethora of other types of music. I might hear a great idea in a Chick Corea or a H.I.M tune that I want to translate into my own style, and I think that gives me an upper hand into what my brain feels "is allowed in the creative process of making electronic music."

The_Leedle6 karma

Hey Varien, I've been a big fan of your work since Cloak and Dagger. What keeps you motivated and "fresh"?

varienscissorhands6 karma

There’s always potential for cool ideas. I don’t believe that everything has been done; I believe that there so many possibilities and ways to capture images and stories with music, and that keeps me fresh. Not to mention, I get bored of my own music very quickly!

Never being 100% content with my music is what keeps me motivated. I curse the day I sit back in a chair comfortably and say, “Yep. I did it.”

Electro_DGX6 karma

I have a lot of questions from a big fan of yours :D

  1. What is your biggest fuel for creativity?
  2. What is the most important aspect of a song
  3. I'm working on being a producer myself, so would you collab with me sometime? :D
  4. What is your current favorite track that you've created?
  5. What else do you enjoy doing besides music?

Thanks in advance Varien! You're awesome :D <3

varienscissorhands12 karma

  1. /r/imaginarylandscapes
  2. Having a face that's easily identifiable.
  3. Brah, cmon now...
  4. "Ghost Spores", "Whispers in the Mist", "Valkyrie I+II", "Gunmetal Black", and "Kamisama"
  5. Playing video games, watching movies, reading books, cooking, etc. I really like lifting too. My favorite thing in the world is hanging out with good friends, smoking, and jamming on ideas, both music and non-music.

GammonBlaze5 karma

What is your favourite video game to play?

varienscissorhands8 karma

Hardest question in the AMA, folks!

Man, I could listen 100 possible candidates, so I'll only do 5. Chrono Trigger, Persona 4, World of Warcraft, Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, and Final Fantasy VII. I just beat Final Fantasy X last weekend and am moving on to XII next.

I've put about 700 hours into TF2, although it's almost been a year since I last played!

rule_of_two5 karma

Varien, are you ever able to do breakdowns or tutorials again? Also can you explain the basic makeup of the main sound in the drop of Aether and Light please? I need to know what it is ;-;

varienscissorhands15 karma

The main sound of Aether and Light? Here, have it. It's a Massive patch. Make sure you have the latest version!

As far as breakdowns and tutorials, I don’t have time to do things like that anymore. Thankfully there are a ton of fantastic producers on YouTube who do.

2ndKeeper5 karma

I just want to say thank you for creating this album. Every preview I hear only makes me more and more excited/amazed/blown away.

Not to be negative or anything, but was there ever a point that you wanted to give up on anything you loved?

Also, how was the process of working with all the vocalists? You have some great people on that album. :)

Edit: In addition, what do you believe defines a "style"? And what would make it so that it's recognizable but not seeming like almost a copy of tracks you've made before?

And what do visuals bring to music, in your opinion?

varienscissorhands8 karma

Bro, I see your name everywhere promoting me - thanks for being a killer fan.

Yes, I have given up on stuff I loved before. I found something I loved even more when I did, though.

Working with the vocalists, all of who are my friends, was such an easy process. This album wouldn't be the same without them.

JetStreakMusic4 karma

Really excited for the album, Varien. Any interesting collabs in the works?

varienscissorhands9 karma

Yes, Noah Bradley and I are working on a behemoth of a project together.

manint713 karma

Hey Varien! I'm a huge fan of you! Supercell, Aether & Light and The Scarlet Dawn are my favorite songs that you've made.

So, here are some questions:

Will Valkyrie III be made?

You have such a diverse style. Why? It's not a bad thing, but most artists tend to stick to 2 or 3 subgenres but you are just all over the place and everything still sounds awesome.

If you were to remake a song you made when you were called Halo Nova, which one would you remake?

Please make more song breakdowns on your channel. I love watching them.

varienscissorhands4 karma

  1. See Top Comment - soon!

  2. Just the thought of sticking to 2 or 3 genres scares me. That's so limiting. There's so much fun to be had exploring other types of music. I grow bored of my own style sometimes, so I switch it up. I don't look at it as if I'm "reinventing myself" like a lot of blogs do, but rather, experimenting and having a blast making cool noises.

  3. If you held a gun to my head and told me to remake a HN tune, it'd be this old fellow.

silentedge923 karma

What is a great non-music related advice that you could give to a musician with a strong will but way less expertise than you?

varienscissorhands9 karma

Don't buy into distractions. The gossip, the drama of the world, the news, your friends' latest car, your Facebook feed. These are all distractions, and while sometimes fun and rewarding, most of the time it just puts bullshit in our head that we don't need. Stay focused.

Anphelion3 karma

Hey Nick ! Great that you're doing AmA, I have been waiting for your album for year and it finally happens. I have couple questions over here:

1) I am not really a producer but Im interested into it. Im able to come up with cool chords and melodies in my mind but music theory seems pretty hard for me. People say that private lessons are much better than reading/watching internet databases, what should I do as a poor student?

2) I really dig your "electric symphonic metal stuff" such as most of your releases last year and I'm huge fan of symphonic metal (going tomorrow to watch Nightwish & Sonata Arctica arena concert !) Did you abandon that direction completely or are just always doing random things and experimenting?

3) What is your ultimate, yet realistic dream when it comes to you as an artist?

4) What are your recommendations for sources of inspir ation, what works for you?

( 5) What is your favourite food? )

Thank you in advance, only one week left !

varienscissorhands3 karma

  1. Teach yourself via YouTube for free. There's hundreds of videos just on compressing drums, let alone everything else you should know as a producer. Best of luck bro!

  2. Nightwish & Sonata Arctica sounds like a fun time, love both of those bands! I did not abandon my metal stuff, I just got bored of it and wanted to try other stuff. I'll revisit it again.