My first week’s work was completely rejected, in retrospect not at all surprising. By the time I’d finished I wasn’t really any the wiser but at least I had an idea of the enormity of working on film scores.
More than anything Hans was extremely specific about the internal dynamics of each cue, the ebb and flow of the orchestra. That and bowel moving low end. Listening back once I’d finished the score and was busy structuring the soundtrack, I heard it as music for the first time and was completely blown away, not only by how good it was, but also by the massive amount of work that had gone into it, and the enormous talent of all the people involved.
My second invitation was for the Ron Howard movie Rush, well worth watching if you haven’t seen it. This proved to be the most amazing experience for me. Hans gave me a bunch of rough demos and told me to do whatever I wanted. Not only did I have pretty much a free hand but Ron’s long time editor, Dan Hanley, was working in the room next to me. I’d pop in most mornings to watch what he was up to. A master at work. He’d show me what CGI effects they were incorporating, he’d listen to what I was doing, and generally the whole process became totally inclusive and interactive.
The movie was based in the 70s and, on listening to the demos, I came up with the idea of a hyper rock Fleetwood Mac type sound. Close to hand were some amazing musicians, Bryce Jacobs: guitar, Martin Tillman: cello, and Satnam Ramgotra: drummer, all part of the Remote Control family. I played the bass and some guitar and between us we created the score. I told Hans that I thought the bass should sound like the Stranglers so within a matter of hours the most glorious vintage Rickenbacker bass appeared which, played through a Diezel amplifier, became a big part of the sound.
Lorne Balfe had been brought in as an additional composer and, while working on one of his cues, Hans wandered in for a listen. Whilst walking out he turned round and suggested that we make the rhythm half time for the start of the cue. It seemed like a really odd idea but Lorne, a self professed frustrated drummer, said he’d try it. Of course it sounded amazing, and even better when watching the scene. Hans knows his onions.
Film composers are on a completely different level to songwriters. Their task is so much more complex. They have to begin by determining a specific sound pallet for the score. They then have to create several memorable themes which are in character. This alone is the equivalent of an album. Having nailed the sonics and the themes they then have to create endless iterations of these themes whilst matching the timing to the picture. Finally they need to be able to instantly accept rejection of a piece of music they’ve painstakingly created. To me scoring is an unfathomable task and one I’m totally in awe of.
I’ve just finished working on a score for Lorne. Not only is the score amazing but even more so is his ability to point out a fleeting counter melody I might have missed in one of 80 pieces of music. I can’t even remember what I ate for dinner last night. I worked on Lorne’s superb score for Mission Impossible Fallout which is a perfect example of creating an iteration from an existing (well known) theme.
Composers are masters of their craft, often ignored yet utterly crucial to the success of the film. I feel honoured to be have been given the opportunity to play a small part in the process. Also grateful to be able to straddle both song and score, very different disciplines.