by Dan Goldwasser
You heard their music on many trailers, including Planet of the Apes and Spider-Man. One of their tracks ended up becoming the main title theme for the television show "Cold Case". With their heralded album release Unearthed, E.S. Posthumus (comprised of brothers Helmut & Franz Vonlichten) has remained shrouded in mystery since their album came screaming out in 2002. Now the album is getting a re-issue, with much larger distribution, and SoundtrackNet had a chance to talk with half the band (the very witty Franz) about their background and their future plans for the band.
How did you guys first come up with the concept of E.S. Posthumus?
We grew up in a very musical household. Our mother was a classical pianist and teacher, and when we weren't practicing, we were jamming to records in our bedrooms. Helmut was into cranking Wagner, Mahler and Shostakovich, which I blared Zeppelin, AC/DC, and Pink Floyd. I would yell at Helmut to turn it down, which would make him turn it up, then I would turn it up, and so on and so forth. I think the band was inevitable.
What is your musical background? Were you formally trained, or self-taught?
From the time we were three years old, our mother smacked our knuckles with a ruler when we played the piano incorrectly, and still does now on occasion. Helmut's into a lot of cool stuff like Pythagorean Theory and numerology, but music has been our number one love since day uno. We both were taught to read music, and were encouraged by our mom to compose as well. There was always a wealth of scores around the house to study, and Helmut tore into these and has been an orchestration junkie since as far back as I can remember. But if you're asking if we went to an east coast conservatory or Berklee, then the answer is negative.
What had you done prior to the Unearthed CD? How did you secure funding to record with an orchestra and choir?
I did everything from bagging groceries, to mixing record. My brother actually got a degree in archaeology from UCLA. There's huge bucks to be made digging holes in the sand in the middle of nowhere. To secure funding, we beat up little kids for their milk money and saved our cash for years! I don't think anyone in their right mind would have given us the money to make Unearthed. I can't imagine Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson are out scouring the San Fernando Valley for two brothers that want to spend a fortune making a record combining hard beats and an orchestra!
So Helmut got a degree in archaeology, but what did you get your degree in?
My first job out of high school was at a recording studio. I got a taste of the low life and never looked back.
Writing music for a band is one thing - but you wrote music for a large orchestra! Did you have to learn orchestration on the fly, or did you work with others to help you out a bit there?
You have to realize this was a dream project for us. We really wanted to take these ideas we'd been kicking around in our brain since we were kids, and make them a reality. We had faith in our abilities enough to write and orchestrate everything on our own, especially Helmut. To have farmed out anything besides the copying would have wrecked all the fun! Before we ever laid down a single beat on the record, we went in and recorded the orchestra first. We had no idea what the thing was going to sound like when it was finished, but whatever we did, we wanted the chance to blow an ungodly sum of cash working with a big orchestra.
Was it intentional that the mystique behind E.S. Posthumus has kept your real identities from being in the spotlight?
I think every artist would love to make a kick-ass record that speaks for itself. I think we've done a pretty good job of that without having to put ourselves out there too much.
What do you think of all the "knock-offs" you hear from other production libraries, that are intentionally trying to capitalize on the tracks you wrote for Unearthed?
I think anytime anyone comes out with anything original, be it Pokemon cards or chewing gun, their vibe will get pinched. That's just the way the world rolls.
Is Helmut's archaeological background the reason for the track titles in Unearthed being comprised of ancient cities? (What's the unifying factor with all of the cities listed?)
Absolutely. There's really no unifying theme to the geography, other than all the cities are ancient.
Will you continue this naming scheme with your next album?
That's a good question! I think as we get a clearer picture on album two, we'll make a decision on that one.
How did trailer houses get a hold of your music, and were you surprised at how frequently it's been used for marketing purposes?
Moby and bands like The Crystal Method and Chemical Brothers pretty much set the gold standard. Getting your songs in commercials, trailers or whatever is a great way to get music heard that is not typical Top 40 radio fodder, therefore helping sell records - not to mention whatever product the tunes are pushing.
How did "Cold Case" end up using your track as their main title?
Our law firm got a call from Warner Brothers, who produces the show. They said they had a new Jerry Bruchheimer drama, and were considering using "Nara" as the theme. They asked if we were interested, and we said "yes". Jerry Bruckheimer is cool.
Would you consider scoring a film or television show?
For now, making records is sufficient.
When is your next album coming out, and what can you tell me about the music on it?
We've been writing for the last couple of years, and aren't in a real hurry to just whack something out. Hopefully we'll record later this summer. We want to do the orchestra in Rome, and go to Liberia to work with a cool percussionist we met in Spain last year.
Who do you consider your biggest musical influences?
The Angry Samoans and Perry Como. Seriously though, we've been inspired by life just as much as any artist or classical composer, whether it be a great surf session, doing some heavy reading, watching a brutal lacrosse match, or curing up by a fire with our wahines.
You had a special "remix" of your track "Tikal" on your website - do you plan on doing more of these remixes to offer to your fans?
No definite word on that, but it's a good idea.
What are you working on now?
We're doing interviews and getting ready to hit the road on a radio press tour across the east coast and the mid-west.
Unearthed is now available in stores nationwide. Special thanks to Scott Andersen at DBaron Media Relations.