Aptøsrs talks about his upcoming album, emotional soundscapes, and his love of dinosaurs

  • 6 min read

The new instrumental project from Independent Music Award-nominated composer and songwriter Paul Terry, Aptøsrs recently made its mark with debut single 'Rust Mountain', a glistening synthwave anthem that hinted at things to come. An expansive project, Aptøsrs hit the ground running with his debut, but also teased a full album to come later this month.

To get the inside track on the album, and to learn a bit more about Aptøsrs project, Paul was kind enough to sit down with us and answer a few questions about where the project began, his creative process, and some of the upcoming scores he's working on.

It’s so great to be able to catch up with you, thanks for taking the time to answer some of our questions. Let’s dig right into things, when did you first start making music?

"When I was eleven, I told my parents I wanted to learn the drums. Then, like so many music-artists-in-the-making, the magnetic pull towards making my own music began at high school when I formed a rock band with my best friends. After learning covers, we started writing our own songs. All of my spare time was spent listening to, discovering, sharing, and falling in love with music – everything across the lighter-to-heavy spectrum, including: Crash Test Dummies, Strapping Young Lad, Tori Amos, Roachford, Machine Head, PJ Harvey, The KLF, Soundgarden, Subcircus, Korn, The Sundays, and far too many more to list. I was obsessed with any band or song that inspired an idea in some way."

What first inspired you to start your journey into music?

"I've always loved being creative. And like anything creative, the way that music ideas come to you is utterly strange and unknowable. But you kind of have this feeling when an idea takes hold and leads you down a certain path."

"As a teen, even though I was the drummer of our band, I really loved contributing to the songwriting, mainly with lyrics and vocal melodies. As the years went by, and my desire to write music grew, I realized I needed to learn another instrument – one that actually played musical notes and chords. So, when I headed off to college, I bought an acoustic guitar and some tab books and taught myself guitar. 'Fake Plastic Trees' by Radiohead was the first song I fully figured out how to simultaneously play on the guitar and sing."

Are there certain influences that have helped define your music?

"What I particularly like about this new instrumental project of mine, Aptøsrs – pronounced like the 'apatosaurus' dinosaur, which is my favourite dino – is there are no rules. No strict collection of influences. No genres to adhere to. Over the years, I've written a lot of songs with vocals – mainly under the alias of Cellarscape. So this Aptøsrs project feels incredibly freeing. With the absence of vocals and lyrics to guide the listener, the music on its own has to do that. It's both more challenging to create an emotionally engaging experience, but also completely freeing from a creative perspective. It means influences from artists I love, however eclectic that range is – from Clint Mansell to Norah Jones to Periphery to Godspeed You! Black Emperor – can all inspire musical ideas for Aptøsrs. And many of my influences come from other areas of the creative arts too, including comics, novels, TV shows, and films."

"I adore composing film scores because each soundtrack demands a unique musical palette to be in lock-step with the visual storytelling. So, in many ways, being a composer means your job description is to come up all kinds of genre mash-ups. Wandering in and out of different tones and vibes should feel natural and effortless. I actually think that specific sensibility is the biggest influence on Aptøsrs: to figure out what instruments/parts correctly tell the song-story that's in my head. Be that something heavy, or something ethereal, or something more pop."

Aptøsrs has such an expansive and diverse style. How would you describe your sound on the new project? 

"When writing the debut album 'Elders', a guiding thought in my head developed into something like: What music would come out of jam session if the participants were: a string ensemble, a progressive metal drummer, a pianist, an electronic artist who loves synthwave, industrial, and downtempo, and a lead bass guitarist who likes writing pop hooks as much as they like writing devastating riffs?”

The release of 'Elders' isn't too far away now. Can you tell us a little more about some of the songs behind it?

"I wanted 'Rust Mountain' to be my debut Aptøsrs single because it's an overture for the forthcoming album. It introduces the concept I was just describing – of all these different, seemingly incongruous ingredients that, to me, make perfect sense to blend together."

"Another 'true north', which I talked a lot about with mixer Adam Noble, was this idea that there are always co-lead “vocalists” in each song. Except, of course, it's instruments taking on the melodic leadership role of “singing” the toplines."

What was your songwriting process for the album? How did it all come together?

"Aptøsrs is all Rick Rubin's fault! Seriously. It was March 2023. And I'd just gotten through a really exhausting one-two punch of a really gratifying but also very intense composer project (Dave Stevens: Drawn to Perfection) that overlapped with writing a huge chunk of my next X-Files book. So I desperately needed a holiday."

"My wife bought me Rick Rubin's book 'The Creative Act: A Way of Being'. During a short birthday break away, I read that book cover to cover in no time at all, and felt completely creatively re-energized and inspired by it. I decided that, once we got back home, because I had some time off between work projects, I would write a new album. Just for me. Just for fun. With no objective. Other than it had to be a brand new instrumental project – rather than the next Cellarscape album. The only “rule” was that it had to push my songwriting into new territories. It was a pretty fast process. In about 6-8 weeks I'd pretty much finished writing and recording the album."

"Later that summer, I reached out to Adam Noble to see if he had any interest in mixing what I think I pitched as “a weird synthy, orchestral, post-rock, instrumental thingy.” Thankfully, he did! Because Adam did absolutely incredible work on this album. It's the most energizing and inspiring mixing collaboration I've ever had."

"Whilst looking through the liner notes of Biffy Clyro albums that Adam produced/mixed, I'd made a note of the fact that Robin Schmidt had mastered those albums. I was blown away by what their creative union achieved. I'm so grateful that Robin came on board to master Elders. I couldn't be happier with how this album sounds and feels."

What’s the most important thing for you when you’re writing a song?

"Just that it feels emotionally interesting, honest, and hopefully, in some way, pulls you in – makes you sit further forward in your chair, like you're being drawn in by a great story, rather than making you slouch backwards and take a nap."

"I love to write song-stories that traverse a lot of different emotions. I often say to clients for my composing work that I'm not really being hired to write 'music' for your film, because the musical notes and chords I choose are irrelevant. I'm really being hired to write emotions – emotional soundscapes that help tell the story being conveyed with the visuals."

I know the album is still a little while away, but what’s next for you as an artist?

"I'm already working on the second Aptøsrs album which I'm very excited to record later this year. On the composing side, I've also got a horror-thriller called Kilter (directed by Bartley Taylor) I'm scoring in the Autumn. When I'm not busy writing music, I'm busy writing books. I'm currently finishing The X-Files: The Official Archives – Volume II: Extraterrestrial Activity and the Syndicate which I can't wait for X-Files fans to have in their hands this October. I've also got Marvel Studios: The Art of Ryan Meinerding, co-authored with Tara Bennett, coming out the same month, which we're really proud of."

Do you have anything you would like to say to our audience?

"Thank you for checking out the Aptøsrs single 'Rust Mountain'. I'm very excited for you to hear the Elders album at the end of March. And if, like me, you love dinosaurs, I designed some brand new Aptøsrs merchandise for my online store. Everyone tells me they love the baby apatosaurus logo of this music project, which makes me very happy. Who doesn't love a baby dinosaur?!"

Aptøsrs's debut album 'Elders' is set for release on the 29th of March this year, and is mixed by Adam Noble (Biffy Clyro, Nothing But Thieves, Don Broco), and mastered by Robin Schmidt (Pixies, Royal Blood, Wolf Alice).

Aptøsrs blends synthwave with cinematic orchestrations, lead bass guitar, piano, and drums that glitch between downtempo, breakbeat, and rock. The person behind Aptøsrs, Paul Terry, has composed and produced more than thirty soundtracks. These include the award-winning film Dave Stevens: Drawn to Perfection (the authorized feature documentary about The Rocketeer creator/artist), NBCUniversal docu-series Behind the Panel, and the multi-award-winning feature documentary Sidney & Friends.

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