I think its true to say that thousands if not more people are already familiar with your music because of the success of the Great British Bake-Off series, how did you become involved with the series, and when you are working on the series do you recycle any of the cues that you may have used previously because I would imagine it’s a very tight schedule?
I had worked with the director, Andy Devonshire, recently on a documentary and he asked me if I was up for getting involved. Neither of us realised how successful the show would become! The first season Andy came round to my studio with coffee and donuts and literally sat with me as I wrote the music, so I had instant feedback. A particularly useful way of working when you are trying to find a sound. He is incredibly easy going and let me just get on with it, but when I did something, he liked he would comment and then I would move further in that direction. As I move through each season I have more and more music to play with. I now have music for each moment, so I write less original material each year, but I reuse themes and ideas in new pieces.
What size orchestra or ensemble do you use when working on the series?
I made the decision to keep the music more chamber size and not over do anything. I didn’t have budget for orchestral sessions and the music in the early seasons was made up of my samples, myself on clarinet, guitar, piano and percussion. As the seasons moved on, so did the quality of orchestral samples (companies like Spitfire Audio and Cinesamples came to the foreground when they hadn’t existed before) and so I was able to develop the palette into a larger sound when needed using the samples. I still lean heavily in guitar and clarinet. I think that each episode is an hour in duration and as far as I can hear the music is continuous is the score for the series more or less a wall to wall score as in continuous? Pretty much! You have also scored several feature films, is there a great deal of difference working on a TV series and scoring a motion picture? I am always trying to acheive the same things whether it’s film or tv, find the emotional beat/score the action etc.., but when a TV show runs and runs as the Bake Off has it is a total delight. Each time I start a new project I have the pressure of having to find “the sound”, whether that’s sonically or thematically, but in the case of Bake Off each new season feels familiar and I know exactly what I need to do. I work with the same editor (Simon Evans) each time and we have a real rapport and short hand, which takes time to establish, but after 11 years it’s innate!
Most of your scores have been for TV series, with some of these running for many episodes, when you are scoring a series with numerous episodes do you get to score these in the order that they will be screened, and do you think that a catchy theme or something that is melodic can help viewers identify with the series?
This varies each time. Often the episodes are out of order, but not by that much. So you might have 2 or 3 edits running at the same time so I might score 1 and 3 then do 2 and 4 or something like that. If it’s a drama series I have read the scripts and had conversations with the right people to know what the arc and overall story are so I can get a sense of what the music needs to do over a season arc. I absolutely think that a catchy theme or sonic motif can help the viewers identity with a series. You think of all those shows from things like Knight Rider to Game Of Thrones and how those musical nuggets become so important. What musical education did you receive, and were there any areas of music that you focused upon more than others? Musical family, Instruments from young, choir school, studied at school and further education too. I focused on guitar heavily and wanted to be in a band for a long period. I did a lot of session work and pushed that, but education wise the most useful thing I learnt and continue to try and constantly get better at is orchestration.
Were you always conscious of music even as a child, and were any of your family musical at all?
Yes always. My Dad played drums, guitar piano and organ (in church) and my parents sung in the church choir. My Dad used to always buy records on the weekend and then we’d turn it up loud and listen through.
Do you work on your own orchestrations and do you feel that orchestration is an important part of the process of composition?
I do and my demos are always fully detailed with the information I want (see your question in Upside Down Magic) and it is part of the process for me, but I know there are all kinds of methods. There is no right or wrong way, but when I write a melody or line I naturally have an inclination to break it across different instruments or change the colours as I move along. I suppose that’s a taste thing, not sure, but I know plenty of brilliant composers who start with a sound or something else and achieve what they are looking for.
Professor Marston and the Wonder Woman is a wonderfully thematic score, do you think in recent years there has been a trend for films to be scored with soundscapes as opposed to music, with the old fashion main title theme being abandoned, is this just a trend and do you think the themes will return?
I really enjoyed working on that. Angela was a great director and was keen to hear melodies in her film, which as you say can be rare. A lot of films nowdays are soundscapey. I don’t know if it’s a trend thing. Sometimes soundscapes and more textural things are the right tool for the job, but it does seem to be the current default. When you are scoring a project, how many times do you like to see a movie before starting work on ideas for the score and where music should be placed etc? I watch it on loop until I know every tick of every character. Every film has a natural tempo and the more I watch it the more I get into that and know where the music should be placed. I get into where people are breathing or blinking, the lot. It’s a little crazy!
If a soundtrack of yours is to get a release either as a CD or on digital platforms, are you involved in the content or in the selection of what will actually go onto the recording?
Usually I am involved, but not always. It’s tough deciding what to put on! I also view the soundtrack as different to the film, in that I don’t want every cue on there. I want the soundtrack to be the best listening experience I can make whereas the score in the film is there to support the film.
Shaun the Sheep Farmageddon is a great score and so much fun too, it seems to parody so many sci-fi movie scores and has a grand sound in places, how much time did you have to write and record the score and do animated films require more music than say live action films?
I was on this film for around 18 months, which is very unusual. The reason I was is that there is no dialogue, so long before they animated I was scoring to story board to try and help people decipher what was going on during playbacks. This meant I got all my themes sorted out before I actually scored the film properly nearer the end. It was a monumental amount of work though. In the end I think I wrote around 4-5 hours of music which in the end became 85 minutes. There is always a lot of music in animations and you often start earlier so it is usually takes up more time.
What composers or artists would you Say have influenced you in the way you score a movie or the style of music that you write?
David Bowie, Beatles, George Butterworth, Elgar, Stravinsky and from film: John Williams, Bernard Hermann, Harry Gregson-Williams.
Up Side Down Magic is a fantastic score, its filled with some brilliant themes and also contains haunting melodies and robust action cues. What size orchestra did you have for and what percentage of the work was realized via electronic instrumentation?
This was a very interesting challenging project due to where the world went at that time. I had a lot of fun on it writing themes and using different colours for different characters. I started scoring just as the world locked down and at that point there was no way to record anything. Studios were shut and I had to deliver. After some back and forth with Disney about the best way forward we decided to use my demos. The score you hear is straight from my computer with my samples. I had them mixed by the fantastic Forest Christenson to make them 5.1 and movie ready, but what you hear is what I created on my computer and comes back to my earlier point of what I aim for in my demos detail and orchestration wise.
What is coming next for you?
A BBC nature series, Ted Lasso 2 and more Aardman,