With over 100 bespoke tracks to his name – played to thousands in arenas globally – he is no stranger to the industry. Joining us today is Matt Attard, founder of Hot Tag Media Works, shedding light on all things music and wrestling!
Wrestling theme music is a fascinating area for composers. Themes often end up defining a wrestler and can propel them into popular culture. How did you end up drawn to this area of writing?
My friend and bandmate Mark Andrews is a professional wrestler, and I’d regularly go to his shows in the Cardiff area. I’d watched some wrestling growing up, but I’d never seen anything like this! It had the same raw energy of a punk rock show, and fans who were equally as invested.
During this time, Mark and I were in the early stages of our band’s career, and I felt like I was starting to come into my own as a songwriter. He explained to me how crucial an entrance theme is for a performer’s persona, but is sometimes overlooked amongst the other facets of a character. On his recommendation, I started reaching out to promotions and individuals asking if I could make their entrance music for them. One of my earliest supporters was a Bristol based promotion called ‘Chaos Pro Wrestling’, who tasked me with putting together 10 themes for an upcoming show. From there it just started to take on a life of its own, some days being tasked with writing & recording 2 tracks per day!
How does this process work?
I try to keep things very personable and relaxed with whoever I’m working with, so the first step is to ask the wrestler what music they like and if they have any ideas of their own. Once I’ve got the basic vibe of what they’re after, I do some research on any reference tracks and start putting together a rough sample of an idea. If they like the direction it’s going, I start fleshing it out and making it full length, adding changes along the way. If they’re not feeling it, I’ll just keep putting ideas together until something sticks.
I think that initial connection with a song is really important, and the only person who can determine whether that connection is there is the wrestler. So for me, it’s vital they hear that sample and can instantly envision themselves walking to the ring with it playing.
You’ve created swaggering custom entrance themes for some of the most renowned wrestlers; Pete Dunne and Meiko Satomura included. What’s your secret to creating energised tracks that have that crowd popping flavour? How do you emulate the essence of a wrestler in their entrance track?
You have to project yourself as both the wrestler and the audience member, just like when you’re writing an album with a band and you picture a fan hearing it for the first time at a live show. There’s definitely songwriting structures you can build to work in your favour, but I don’t think there’s just one way to get an emotional response. You can just tell when it’s there. I try to think back to some of my favourite high energy gigs I’ve attended and invoke that same emotion. One of my favourite examples was watching Death Grips at the Roundhouse in London. It was such a raw, primal experience, the audience went nuts the moment they started playing.
In your experience, what is the core ingredient(s) for a superb grand entrance tune?
Themes in that style require a lot of space. I use some recording trickery to emulate a grand scale like Reverb and layered instruments, but just like the high energy tracks a lot of it comes down to an emotional response. You can mess around with settings and EQs all day, but until you feel like you’re on top of a mountain with an army of gods behind you, it’s not there yet! It may seem silly, but I’d much rather spend time experimenting with a song’s structure and how to build up the textures to invoke that feeling, than worry about what makes sense from a music engineering perspective. I also feel like you have to make sure you have a great melody at the core. It’s so much easier to build on top of a strong melodic foundation, everything just seems to fall into place a lot easier.
You’ve mentioned before that your guitar is part of your songwriting arsenal. Can you tell us more about how this has helped you create tracks? What is it in particular about the guitar that helps you get started?
My guitar is always my go to instrument to start a track. I can play little bits on a couple of different instruments (which is handy when I’m putting a song’s structure together), but I’m definitely most comfortable on guitar. When you’re trying to build something from scratch, you should approach it with as few obstacles as possible. I feel like this really helps you get in the zone, especially as a guitar is so sonically versatile – with the ability to alter the sound, so drastically with effects and pedals. It definitely feels like the least restrictive of the instruments I play, and allows me to experiment and start building textures from the get go.
Your tracks are smashing records outside of the ring too! Congratulations reaching over 391k streams last year on Spotify’s Wrapped 2019. It must be incredible to see the reach Hot Tag has – where have listeners been tuning in from? Were there any surprises there you could share with us?
Thank you! I can’t believe it. It’s such a weird feeling to see where people are listening to the music, especially as I feel like I’ve made no conscious decision to appeal to one particular place. There’s a really strong audience in both America and Japan, mainly due to promotions ‘Ring of Honor’ and ‘New Japan Pro Wrestling’ respectively, where a couple of wrestlers I’ve worked for perform.
A lot of it has been very surreal. When I started Hot Tag, I never would have imagined I would have a song charting in the top 200 dance tracks in Switzerland, but here we are!
Wow, what an incredible achievement! Now, this really is the ultimate question… If Hot Tag was a wrestling move, what move would it be and why?
Great Question! From my perspective, I would probably have to say a shooting Star Press probably represents Hot Tag the most. It might look like a leap of faith to some, but actually takes lots of time and patience to perfect, and you can only pull it off if you give it everything you have!
It’s no secret COVID has had a huge impact on the wrestling industry, what is the best way for fans and wrestling enthusiasts to continue to support wrestlers and composing musicians alike?
If you want to have an immediate impact, picking up a T-shirt or any other merch from a Wrestler’s online store can make a massive difference to their life during these difficult times. Personally, I think the most important thing you can do to support the wrestling industry as a whole is to keep the enthusiasm and hunger for Wrestling alive for when this is all over. Just like the music industry and live shows, we need to always keep wrestling shows as the light at the end of the tunnel, something to get excited about and look forward to. It’s so easy to feel lost during these times, but things will get better, and when they do, it’ll be so gratifying to see all the amazing performers back to where they belong.
To hear more of Hot Tag Media Works astounding catalogue, dive straight in here.