What would you say were your earliest memories of any kind of music and were your family musically inclined?
One of my strongest memory is of an audio tape my parents used to listen in the car. It was a music sampler including Apache by the Shadows, Good vibrations by The Beach boys and an excerpt from Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Belles (an album I would rediscover many years later and still adore now). I just loved to listen to these songs. My parents like music, they listen to Jazz and French pop but that’s about it. There is no known musician in the family.
A lot of your music is realized via syhnths etc, but the sound you achieve sounds like it is being performed by conventional instruments with live performances, what software etc do you use, and what percentage of the scores are performed by live players?
I have not had the opportunity to work with live players yet on documentaries projects. I use synths and sound samples libraries: Vienna libraries, Native Instruments, East West softwares, Cine-samples softwares… I use a lot of these, and some are really wonderful.
You wrote the score for a documentary on Hammer films, did you do a great deal of research before starting work on the score?
I didn’t need to do much research: I was already familiar with the works of James Bernard, Harry Robinson etc… I particularly love Twins of Evil by Robinson (wonderful main title!). I also had seen many of those movies and knew the kind of sound they used.
I loved the score for PEPLUM, the sound you managed to create was in many ways so much like the original scores for many of these movies, were you familiar with the genre and its music before you were asked to write the score?
Oh yes, I had seen a lot of Peplum’s and loved their scores (Alfred Newman’s The Robe is one of my favourites, as well as many Rozsa…) and of course I knew the more recent of them (Gladiator, Troy…)
The classic peplum genre has such a distinctive sound, brassy, masculine and thematic. I love it. And at the same time, PEPLUM was an opportunity to give it a synthy spin, mating it with 70’s and 80’s electronica – A shared taste with director and long time collaborator and friend Jérôme Korkikian.
When you are asked to write the music for a project, what is your starting point, do you look at a script or do you spot the film with the director and then decide what musical route you will follow?
The starting point is always to discuss the film with the director, to get as much information as possible about his point of view, his needs and how he sees the film.
Often, at this stage, the film is not edited at all and I get to see some rushes to have a first feel of the story. Then I compose while the film is being edited, working on ideas and specific scenes the director mentioned. After that, when some sequences are edited, I get to work on them more specifically. But the bulk of the work is done during the editing.
You did a series of documentary films about NAPOLEON, great music, how did you become involved on these scores?
Director and producer Jean-Louis Molho contacted me after having heard and liked some of my work. I did some demo and easily got the job – a dream job: Napoleon’s life gave me the opportunity to score exciting elements: battles, romance, more battles, victory… and defeats! The score blends traditional orchestral elements, world music and electronics. It was a real pleasure as I love to work with these elements!
What musical education did you receive?
I’m musically self-taught: I learned slowly but always with pleasure. A great deal of my musical education consisted in listening to music, all kind of music, but more importantly soundtracks. I’m a big collector of soundtracks and, as they are themselves linked to all kinds of musical genres, it made me discover many kinds of music.
Do you think that it is still important for a film score to have thematic direction and a central theme that the audience can identify with?
Yes, I love thematic scoring. It represents and help identify and empathize with characters or situations. But all scores don’t have to be necessarily thematic, depending on the movie or the intent of the director. A main theme is the identity of the film and, when done well, it summarize the intents of the film, its heart. It’s an anchor for the audience.
On average how long does it take to work on a score and record it, maybe use PEPLUM as an example?
It varies, as I work in parallel with the editing. If they have some time to edit, I have the same time to compose. Of course, at this point I rarely have all the elements of the film, and sometime must wait to have the sequences to score them. I must keep a global feeling of the film while working on it in disorder. For Peplum, I think the all process took one month.
The rare times were I had all the film already edited and completed (for the documentaries AU NOM DU FILS and BEN LADEN, LES RATES D’UNE TRAQUE), it took me two weeks to do the score.
Working on documentaries, I would imagine requires that you write a lot of music, probably a lot more than a feature film, do you get much input from producers or directors, or maybe requests that you compose something that sounds like Morricone, Goldsmith or Williams?
You are right, I compose sometimes way more music than is needed in the film. It’s because of the process of working during editing: first you submit many tracks to the director, and some of them are not used. Then, as the sequences get re edited, you have to re-score or adapt your material. And end up with many versions of the same music. Sometimes, the director gives me references of music he wants the score to sound like. It’s merely indication and is often useful to find the right tone he desires. Temp tracking happens, for certain sequences, but not that often as I work during editing.
You released a series of recordings which contained some wonderful music entitled THE SILENT MOVIE COLLECTION, could you tell us what this is?
In 2003, I was asked to rescore silent movies as part of a collection for French DVD reissue. Once more a very exciting project. Yet I had very few time to score them: one week for the 60 – 70 minutes ones (THE SHOCK, SHADOWS, BLIND HUSBANDS), two weeks for the 100 minutes WAY DOWN EAST and, thankfully, four weeks for my favourite: 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS. This one I recall more fondly as I had a very great time scoring it.
Do you score a movie in any set way, as in main titles through to end credits, or is every project different?
Every project is different. In the rare occasion when the film is already entirely completed, I like to work from beginning to end: it helps the music to grow and develop as the story goes.
But when working while editing, I usually begin with main themes for the different aspects of the story. Then the sequences and ideas the director needs first. It’s impossible in these conditions to work chronologically.
What artists or composers have been your inspiration?
There are obviously movie music composers: James Horner, Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams, Elmer Bernstein, Christopher Young, Basil Poledouris, Alan Silvestri, John Carpenter, Hans Zimmer, Graeme Revell, James Bernard, Miklos Rozsa, to quote but a few….Outside of the soundtrack genre, I am inspired by Tangerine Dream, Klaus Shultz, Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis and Mike Oldfield… amongst others!!
What for you is the purpose of music in film?
Film music should enhance the movie, tell the audience what the others mediums don’t: the emotions, the feelings, the unsaid thoughts of the characters. It can also be a commentary on the film, the thoughts and ideas of the filmmakers.
What is next for you?
I just finished the score for a feature length film, HAPPY NIGHT, directed by Mustapha Ozgun that should be released in 2021. It’s a crime story and a drama that demanded a synthetic score. I really enjoyed scoring it! I am now working on a historical documentary for French TV about the Vicking Rollo, directed by Alban Vian. An extremely exciting project, once more!