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The Work That Made Me: Steph Altman



Mophonic's songwriter, composer and creative boss on '80s British ads, the project that nearly changed his career and the great story of 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'

The Work That Made Me: Steph Altman

Steph is a songwriter, composer, and creative boss of bi-coastal music production company Mophonics. His songs and scores have been used in movies, by artists, and by almost every brand in these United States and beyond.

Born and raised in 80s London suburbia, Steph absorbed the atmospheres of his mother’s French mediterranean, and his father’s gritty industrial Manchester. As a kid he taught himself piano, and learned classical guitar, cello and saxophone; as a teen he began writing and producing music.

Arriving in the boho beach enclave of Venice CA in 2001, he founded music production shop Mophonics, with the aim of making records for brands. While writing songs and scores for feature films and advertisers, Steph built a Mophonics talent pool of composers and creatives who would go on to become household names in their own rights, as artists and songwriters.

He still lives in Venice, CA with his wife and three kids.

The ad/music video from my childhood that stays with me...

Steph> '80s British ads were impeccably funny and cool and memorable. It’s so hard to pick out one. ReadyBrek were classic but Um Bongo was a work of art. And Green Cross Code was just an undeniable banger.

The ad/music video/game/web platform that made me want to get into the industry...

Steph> My buddy (director) Fernando Villena was a huge influence on me getting into the industry. Everything he worked on was just cool. Around then there was this Busta Rhymes video that I loved. The first 30 seconds are perfectly surreal and funny. Plus I always loved the use of the Hitchcock sample.

The creative work that I keep revisiting...

Steph> I keep coming back to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, great story that makes you work a bit to catch what's going on, visually compelling, emotional.. And with my favourite Jon Brion score. He just did bittersweet like nobody else

My first professional project...

Steph> My first few months in the biz was freebies and favours, then I wrote music for Saturn 'Sleep On It' with Goodby in 2003. It was my first decent payday, and I was like “Ok I can actually make a living from this”. I went and bought an engagement ring and became a grown up.

The creative project that changed my career...

Steph> I can say the project that nearly changed my career: I once did all the music for the release of one of the Mac OS’s in the 2000s and I was like Yes! This is going to put me on the map. But, just before it all launched, Steve Jobs was like, Nah lets not do the whole broadcast campaign! And they just went with print.

The work that I’m proudest of...

Steph> Any creative will say the same thing : my best work never aired. So much music I love ended up unused.

Back in 2005 I scored this very cute Pepsi One campaign. It was done by a small group of Chiat Day creatives that later started MAL, and created the most iconic Apple mac vs pc / iPhone ads of the 2000s, and became legit industry titans. This campaign was super quirky and fun and original and still totally stands the test of time!

The Tile Panda spot was great experience: it was a piece of music I loved making, for a film that was beautifully shot and produced, and all for a product that I use.

Also there was a song I wrote for a UK motorcycle safety PSA that I always loved. The brief was to write a song that encourages car drivers to think about the motorcyclists as friends and neighbours. The song was cute, the spot was visually pretty awesome, and it was a rare piece of work that played in my homeland, so it gave my parents some nachas.

I was involved in this and it makes me cringe...

Steph> I couldn’t possibly say!

The recent project I was involved in that excited me the most...

Steph> Amazon’s 2022 holiday campaign was a great experience. We got to write and produce songs for a comedic retro choir to sing, and the challenge of packing very specific Amazon-centric lyrics into pithy little tunes really caught the imagination of all our writers. The whole process - writing tons of content, recording the talent, translating to Spanish and Quebec French (!), and then seeing it all come to fruition - was a thrill.

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Mophonics, Thu, 26 Jan 2023 11:51:07 GMT