A photo of Dimitris Mann

Meet Your Creator: Dimitris Mann

24 Feb 2023

a photo of Dimitris Mann using his modular synth setup

By Ted Reyes

In January, APM released a brand new trailer album from Red Matter simply called Vox. But after listening to it, it's anything but. The massive 140-track album sounds gigantic, cinematic, and epic, which, according to APM's music director Keiko McTingley, is perfect for horror trailers and intriguing dramas, thrillers, and mysteries.

This incredible release is the brainchild of Dimitris Mann, one of the most prolific music and sound design composers/producers in the game today. Originally from Mykonos, Greece, the LA-based artist has created a body of work that has been featured in high-profile TV shows, films, advertising, and games, including the Starz original series True CrimeCall of Duty: Black Ops, and Sylvester Stallone's Rambo: Last Blood.

We had a conversation with Dimitris about the Vox album and learned so much about his creative process, specifically for this project.

What was the concept behind Vox?

Dimitris: The concept behind this Red Matter album revolved around the human voice. We wanted to feature voice in non-traditional and unconventional ways, experimenting with vocal effects in abstract, not particularly melodic, and often discordant ways. One of the ideas behind the album was to insert a human, innocent element into music that is darker to create enigmatic, unsettling, or even disturbing vibes. We infused those vocal effects into our sound-design-based trailer music, covering moods spanning from suspense and thriller to sci-fi and horror, all while maintaining the interchangeable and modular characteristics that the catalog became known for.

Did you have a particular film or TV series in mind while writing the music?

Dimitris: Some films I used as inspiration were "American Psycho," "The Menu," "Parasite" and "The Black Phone."

Did you target a specific theme?

Dimitris: We wanted to include a variety of styles and moods under a main concept. On the one hand, this album features tracks like "Hypnosis," which uses a very organic and earthy sonic environment to introduce uneasy feelings. On the other side, we have tracks like "Technophobia" that clearly takes place in a tech, sci-fi world, with lots of analog and modular synth sounds and heavily processed vocals. As with every Red Matter album, it's very important to us that clients can easily mix and match not only elements from different tracks but also stems and whole sections. We design each album in a way that can happen easily, and clients can effortlessly put together their own edits or even come up with their own compositions!

How do you precisely compose trailer music in general - does it have a formula? If so, can you elaborate?

Dimitris: The way I got involved with trailer music in the first place was because I love to design original sounds from scratch for my compositions. Someone from the trailer world listened to some of my music that featured original sound effects and asked me to work on trailers. I always start by making new sounds for a project, whether that's trailer music or scripted material. 

In my opinion, the best trailer composers have a good understanding of theme, development, and form but don't necessarily use a formula. The music must sound commercial and be marketable, but we are always looking for new ways to convey emotions and essentially make the audience excited to watch the film or TV series from the trailer.

What separates trailer music from other kinds of music?

Dimitris: For me, it's the level of intensity that's expected, the high level of production value that is required (and that's something a lot of people don't realize), and the ability to give your best under extremely tight deadlines, all while knowing that the competition is fierce.


Who produced the album? 

Dimitris: I did!

Where did you record the album?

Dimitris: We have a very diverse composers team. We worked with people from several different countries for the album. I think we had composers from 3 continents for this one! All vocal recording sessions were done remotely as well. Our vocalists were located in LA, Joshua Tree, and Hawaii. I was in Mykonos, Greece, at the time, so I began working on the album from my studio there. I was back in my LA space for the last half of production.

Can you talk about your studio setup - favorite VST and hardware instruments?

Dimitris: I own some of the Kontakt libraries geared towards trailer music from companies like Keepforest, Heavyocity, Audio Imperia, Orchestral Tools, etc. Some of my favorite VSTs are Zebra, Diva, Reaktor, Omnisphere, and Serum. However, I generally prefer working with hardware synths and real instruments, even if I don't really know how to traditionally play the instruments. I use them for sound design. It just feels more hands-on and that I'm really interacting with the synth or instrument. I also like that this way, I end up with stuff that doesn't exist in any commercial libraries and can essentially define my own unique sound. I have several drums and percussion, a cello and a violin that I like to "torture," guitars, a bouzouki, hardware synths like the Oberheim OB-X8, Pro-3, and Moog Matriarch, as well as two modular cases. I use the modular the most for trailer sound design.

How about the vocal tracks - what was your signal chain?

Dimitris: There was an interesting signal chain for the vocals on a couple of occasions where I wanted to generate new, mutated instances of themselves, so I routed them through a number of auxiliary tracks and inserted different Impulse Responses to the aux tracks. These are not supposed to work like Reverb but to color the sound according to what you're using as the IR (for example, a metal bowl or a delay loop). Then, I used plugins like Output's Thermal and Portal, Izotope's Trash, Soundtoys Echoboy and Valhalla Delay, VintageVerb and SuperMassive (and a lot of automation!) to further sculpt the sound.

Did you mix in the box? If so, which DAW? 

Dimitris: Logic Pro

The album sounds huge! How did you achieve that?

Dimitris: Thank you! From a composition/production perspective, it's mostly using layers to make things sound big but, at the same time, not cluttering the mix with too many different ideas or elements that have clashing frequencies. It's important to curve space in the mix for all the elements and make creative decisions that keep things simple but exciting. Then, of course, I sent everything to our mixing engineer, Ben Krause, who's amazing. Usually, once I share the files, I'll give him my thoughts about how I imagine the album should sound like. We might do a little back and forth with 1-2 tracks if we need to iron out any of the details, but that's it. He did a great job with this one. Really knocked it out of the park.

How important is music to trailers or films in general?

Dimitris: Extremely important. It's a necessary part of the audiovisual puzzle that a filmmaker or trailer editor is called to put together.

What's your dream film or TV series to write music for, and why?

Dimitris: I'm excited about any project that shows a strong creative vision. But I'm also a huge sci-fi and horror fan, so I guess that. I love both mediums. I find a TV series' longer form of the score fascinating (an arc that spans over a number of episodes that take several hours within a season versus approximately 2 hours in the film).

What's the biggest misconception about the life of a composer/producer?

Dimitris: When I was 17, I told my father, "I'm going to be a rockstar." I now have my smartwatch remind me to get off my chair to take a walk or eat!

Any advice for aspiring composers/producers? 

Dimitris: Be excellent to each other!

Album cover of Red Matter Vox

Listen to Red Matter's Vox HERE.