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Life & Work with Mathieu Karsenti

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mathieu Karsenti.

Hi Mathieu, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I grew up in Montpellier, south of France and picked up a guitar at 15yo whilst studying Applied Arts there (Graphic design, Architecture, product design, etc). I then moved to London at 17yo to further my Design studies with a BA in Furniture Design and started recording songs and fronting my own band in the Acid Jazz era of the 90s. Over the years, I studied music production, music theory at Berklee and orchestration with Hollywood orchestrator Conrad Pope and ran my own companies; Soulem productions for producing UK Soul artists and Intricuts Music catering for UK TV networks. I started scoring films in 2012 and around 2017 I decided to release my music projects to showcase my composing voice independently from projects to screen. I am now on my 13th solo release with more in the pipeline. For these independent releases, I compose everything, write scores, hire musicians, record them, mix/master, design covers and promote it all myself. Overall, I’ve scored anything from Entertainment, drama, comedy, children’s TV, documentary shows to independent short and feature films, episodic podcasts and more. And in March 2022, I successfully relocated to Los Angeles to further my composing career.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Freelancing is never a smooth road and there are always ups and downs. I’ve been self-employed since early 2010 and some years you have more work and more success and other years, you have less. That is the nature of the job. But you keep everything in perspective with the idea of always moving forward, learning new skills and meeting new creative people along the way. A while back things shifted in the UK TV landscape with less shows being commissioned and less need for a dedicated composer on these shows. But I never considered lack of work there as struggling though because I kept working solidly at my craft. So in 2017 when things went a little quiet, I decided to explore what it meant to me to be a composer. Did I have a ‘composing voice’, a specific sound? I rediscovered myself as an artist and it felt liberating. I don’t look back much in general but things became more aligned since then, with the right type of work coming to me at the right time and more exciting personal projects/adventures to focus on!

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I am a music artist and music composer of applied music for film, TV and more. Over the years, my work has branched out in two strands. My work for specific projects takes narrative, images, character developments, scripts, etc into consideration, creating music and arrangements that fit a specific brief, and my music releases (E.Ps, singles, albums, suites) where I give myself the freedom to explore, to go on musical adventures with other musicians. Overall, my sound and approach are the same but they have two very distinct outcomes and purposes. In both cases, I try to keep an open mind. When I work on a specific brief, the material informs my work: the instrumentation needed to convey the emotion, the pace, the meaning, etc. When I compose an album, I am compelled to look for new musical adventures.

I am very grateful for everything I have achieved so far, it’s been challenging, fun and inspiring. I’ve worked tirelessly and continuously, with the same dedication throughout and working on BBC shows such as ‘The Ministry of Curious Stuff’, ‘Ludus’ and ‘Eastenders’ were some of the highlights of my UK TV work. I’ve also had a fantastic time scoring films such as ‘Kathmandude’, ‘Violator’, ‘Drastic Measures’ and scoring the podcast ‘Birds of Empire’ for Qcode media.

I only work on projects I feel I can give my best to, projects that inspire me to push myself because there is so little time! Yes, it might mean less paid work sometimes but it’s work that is better aligned with my needs and interests. Professionally, I don’t know what sets me apart from others as we are all on our own journeys at different stages of our careers. My work focuses on creating atmospheres with musical textures, ‘painterly’ moments that try to emulate how we perceive sound in real life. I don’t know if that’s any different to what anyone else is doing because I rarely have time to converse with other composers about any of this! Lastly, I am also a visual artist (I studied art and design in France) and this informs a lot of what I do. Filmic work is very inspiring to me and with my design background, I understand how music as an art form is tailored to a brief. In my solo releases, I specialize in giving my audience an overall artistic experience of my internal world; abstract images or musical paintings I am compelled to convey.

Any advice for finding a mentor or networking in general?
I have no idea how you find a mentor as I never had one. I guess you don’t look for one specifically; these things happen naturally. If you are aligned and truthful with your creative self, you find the right people come naturally to you. The same goes for finding creative work partners. The best thing is to be recommended by someone you have already worked with or have an artistic relationship with. In the past, each time I tried to ‘network’ for the sake of networking, it never worked out. The ‘networking’ environment is too contrived and not real enough for artistic types. Things have to develop naturally, through word-of-mouth, via recommendation, being mutually genuinely interested in each other’s work.

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Image Credits
Portrait image: George Eyo photography Studio shots: Vins Blake

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