Coming soon to a digital platform near you is Andrew Morgan Smith’s action packed and intensely atmospheric score for the horror movie Bunker. The film which will be released soon is directed by Adrian Langley, this is a claustrophobic and affecting thriller/horror, which can be described as being like something out of the Twilight Zone, but instead of the story being condensed into a short sequence it is feature length with plenty of shocks, jumps and edgy moments. Set in WW1 it focuses upon a group of soldiers that are trapped in a Bunker. It does not take long for them to discover that they are not the only ones in that bunker, with a virulent and menacing presence making itself felt. In time the evil presence begins to turn the occupants against each other, fear and paranoia taking over each one of them. The film does have its highlights and also its moments of inventive originality, but it also has flashes within the storyline that are gleamed from previous horror tales, most notably The Thing.

The musical score aids the storyline greatly, with the composer creating searing and slicing string pieces that are spiteful and shocking, these frantic stabs elevate the action on screen adding depth, atmosphere and real sense of horror to each moment of violence or the build up to it. From the offset the score is filled with a vibrancy and a chilling and pulsating ambience, the opening track Bunker Overture is a brilliant and attention-grabbing piece which is richly dark and oozes tension and drama, the composition for brass and strings moves at pace establishing itself swiftly, and conveying powerful and compulsive sounding thematic properties that set the scene perfectly for what is to follow.

This pace and style is expanded upon throughout the score and in track number two and three Into the Bunker and He’s Alive there is maybe even a gentle nod to the music of Hammer films? (but this is just a personal opinion). It is an accomplished score, at times being complex in its orchestration, with flyaway sounding woods that are carried on windswept strings, that for me did at times evoke the dark brooding style of Jerry Goldsmith as displayed in Vomitus Mass which does have an Omen-esque quality about it.


The score at times echoes the brilliance achieved by the likes of Bernard Herrmann and Woljeich Kilar, which can be heard in tracks such as Lewis and the Grenade-The Radio Bleeds and Gas Cannister. The composer employs mainly symphonic elements throughout which are supported and embellished via synthetic instrumentation, both mediums bringing their own personas and qualities to the score. The music becomes sinewy and sinister at various stages of the score, and thus purveys an even more effective presence of drama and desperation, it etches an apprehensive, foreboding, and fearful mood into the proceedings, that is harrowing and ominous.

Thundering percussive elements make their mark with martial sounding timpani racing alongside these and dominant and rasping brass flourishes that are given support and a relentless drive by frenzied strings, this can be heard in cues such as Swashbuckling, and Escaping the Bunker, both of which are filled with a sense of urgency and terror. This is not a score for the feint hearted, but it is a great horror score, which fuses atonal and thematic properties to bring to fruition a work filled with many colours and textures that I know will be admired by many. Released by Movie Score Media digitally on the likes of Spotify etc on Friday 24th February. the score will also be released onto compact disc in the future date TBA. Do not miss this one.


photo by Barbara Wadach

You started your music career as a session musician and soon started to write music for film. Was being a session musician and maybe performing on film soundtracks the reason that you decided to become a composer?  

Music has always been a very important part of my life. I think that as a child I unconsciously absorbed melodies that I heard on radio, on TV or finally Elvis Presley, with which my dad tortured the family over and over again. But seriously, it all started with Guns’n Roses. When I first heard Slash, I felt that this was exactly what I wanted to do with my life. The problem was that I never had such curly hair, I couldn’t find a place where I could sew a tasteful top hat and additionally in Poland in the early 90’s it was hard to buy a Gibson Les Paul. Especially since I was 14.

photo by Robert Słuszniak

Anyway, the guitar became my passion and listening to very different music I was always impressed by instrumentalists who can move smoothly in many musical styles. That’s how I found Steve Lukather, whose guitar playing absolutely dazzled me. It impressed me that this guy recorded hundreds of records and songs that I listened to as a child. That while developing his career with Toto, he played fusion, recorded solo albums, worked with Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson and other giants of the music market. So I worked on the development of my playing in many directions, getting to know jazz harmonies, playing in rock, fusion and folk bands. I was looking for inspiration in basically every style of music. Answering the question, it is true that before I started my adventure with film music, I was a popular side man hired by bands and stars of the Polish scene. My work has focused on both studio recordings and live performances.

photo by Robert Słuszniak

At that time, however, I did not have the pleasure of recording film music. I set up a recording studio and after a relatively short time we got a contract to handle several talent shows. We’ve produced hundreds of background music for the people on these shows. At the same time, I performed on stage all the time and actively accompanied many performers in studio recordings. However, I felt that despite the successes, I was missing something. Something more personal. Something that is a fuller way of expressing yourself but also taking full responsibility for creating a musical piece of art. I think that this inner need to share something very fleeting and delicate made me decide to compose film music.

What musical education did you receive?

I graduated from the Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music in Katowice where I studied guitar in the Department of Jazz and PopularMusic.

One of your first scoring assignments was a film entitled State Witness, how did you become involved on the project and was it difficult for you to break into film scoring early in your career?

As I mentioned, after setting up a recording studio, we worked a lot for TV stations. One of them announced a competition for the music to a film that had just been shot. I applied and was asked to prepare some musical examples. After around two weeks, I was invited to a meeting and informed that the director and producers liked my work the most.

photo by Robert Słuszniak

I remember being thrilled to finally be able to work with the motion picture. And that’s not all! I was hired to write the music for a cinema film with a star cast. And in addition, it was an action movie telling the story of the mafia in Poland. And right after the cinema premiere, a series will be produced based on the same story. What more could you want from life as a rookie? At the time, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. To this day, I remember those moments of breakdown. Those up and downs.

photo by Robert Słuszniak

I learned a lot then. Consistency and peace, but also self-criticism. I learned how an organic part of a film work is music. But I’ve also experienced how ruthless picture can be to music.

One of your recent scores is for the comedy drama Niebezpieczni dzentelmeni,  (English title Dangerous Gentlemen). This has a great score, and its one of those soundtracks that whenever you listen to it you find something fresh and vibrant within it. Did the director have any specific requests regarding the style of music for the movie, or were you allowed freedom to write and express yourself on the movie?

Maciek Kawalski, who is the director of the film, has been my friend for many years or since three of his projects. We met when he was studying at the film school. He was looking for a composer for his short film, and I was looking for contacts among directors.

Maciek sent me the script at a very early stage. I had the opportunity not only to propose a musical style but also participated in the development of the final version of the script. The action of the film takes place at the beginning of the previous century in Zakopane, a special place for Polish culture and art. A place where the intellectual and artistic bohemians converged. Poets, sculptors, composers, writers, actresses, bandits, crooks, lunatics and.. Lenin. With such an explosive mix of personalities, I had the pleasure of working and the more I value the absolute freedom and trust that the director and producers have given me.

In fact, I was not limited by anything except the initial assumption that we were making a turn-of-the-century entertainment film and that it would be good to include elements of highlander folk.

What size orchestra did you have for the score and did you source any specialist soloists for the soundtrack, did you perform on the score and where was it recorded?

When it comes to orchestral recordings, I recorded a large string ensemble. If I remember correctly it was 16, 14, 12, 10, 8. These recordings were made in a fantastic concert hall of one of the music schools in Warsaw. The acoustics of the facility are a bit like those of AIR Studio in London. The hall is connected to a recording studio whose permanent resident is Tadeusz Mieczkowski, one of the most experienced sound engineers in Poland. I invited the virtuoso Marta Maślanka to perform the solo dulcimer part. The solo violin was recorded by Michał Ostrowski, who was also the first violinist during the recordings. The orchestra was conducted by Jacek Tarkowski. Both have been my friends for many years. The rest of the instruments, i.e. the woodwind, brass, dulcimer and percussion sections, were recorded in the Spot Music Production Studio, of which I am a co-founder.

It’s great that you ask if I left my mark on this path myself. The answer is yes! I recorded all the pianos, mandolins, balalaikas, guitars, tambourines, percussion instruments and a whole lot of other instruments. 

The soundtrack is released digitally, do you think there will be a CD release, and were you involved in selecting what music would be on the release to represent the score?

photo by Robert Słuszniak

Unfortunately, I haven’t heard of a plan to release a CD or vinyl. I think it would be a great idea and I would definitely participate in the selection of tracks for the soundtrack.

photo by Robert Słuszniak

Is conducting a task that you undertake for your film scores or is this not always possible, and do you think that orchestration is an important element in composition?

Usually, during the recordings, I stay in the recording room, where I listen to the performed parts, deciding which ones are the best. Delegating responsibility to a trusted conductor while composer is in the recording room accelerates the speed of work in the studio, which has a significant impact on the amount of recorded music.

Individual sound is the greatest goal and treasure of every composer. The key to it is orchestration. I believe that beyond melody, orchestration is one of the most important elements in writing music.

What would you say is the purpose or the job of music in film?

Well… This is one of the questions that has been with me for years. And I think there are as many answers as there are movies. Music works wonders, but it can also tire out a movie. So we can assume that it shouldn’t be tiring. But what if that’s what the director wants to achieve? I don’t think there is a definite answer to this question. I think that music is the most universal carrier of human emotions. It entertains, moves, makes you cry. In a word, it evokes a whole range of emotions in us. The image enriched with music gains this additional emotional layer.

The composer with performer Tina Guo who played on his score for Broad Peak.
photo by Robert Słuszniak

You have scored animation such as Moomins and the winter wonderland, is the scoring process any different for you when you are asked to score an animated project?

I love animation! It gives you so much freedom! Usually the music is written before the sound effects are done. Therefore, when working on an animated film, you have a whole wealth of means of expression at your disposal. I was transported back to my childhood in each of them. Dragons, Bears, Moomins, Big Birds! Love it!

You scored My Neighbour Adolph in 2022 I think, I loved the score, is it more involved or any more difficult scoring comedy than other genres of film?

Comedy is an extremely demanding genre for a composer. Especially when it deals with serious matters. When you write a comedy like My Neighbour Adolph, the story of a Polish Jew discovering that Hitler lives just beyond the fence, you have to follow very thin red line. It’s a bit like a sapper’s job. One wrong move and you’re out of the right mood of the movie.

If you’re trying to play comedy, you can become unbearably pushy, making the movie’s plot devoid of drama. On the other hand, if you do drama, you may lose comedy. This balancing act between the two can be difficult, but finding the right tone gives a lot of satisfaction. Actually, I would apply this principle to every comedy I’ve had the pleasure of writing.

When you sit with the director looking at a project for the first time, how many times do you like to see it before the work of composing begins?

Good question! It varies. I usually watch a movie once and take notes on my own emotions, reactions, and possible ideas. Then, during the meeting with the director, I listen to the concept of how music should works in specific scenes. I also try to share my feelings and spread ideas.

The second way is even more interesting. I mean the situation when I watch the film for the first time in the company of the director. There is an emotional rollercoaster, but if you don’t like amusement park visits, don’t go into this industry.

Are you also conscious of certain scenes in films not needing music? 

Lao Tzu, a Chinese philosopher, said that silence is a source of great strength. I can subscribe to this statement with both hands. The balance between silence and music in the film is crucial. I think that the awareness of the use of pauses comes from understanding the film, the composer’s taste and aesthetics, and comes with experience. The balance of music and scenes without it enhances both the dramatic layer of the film and also works on the meaning of the music. Music works wonders/Music makes wonders.

photo by Barbara Wadach

Poland has given us so many great film composers, Wojciech Kilar, Bronislaw Kaper, Krzysztof Komeda, Jan A.P. Kaczmarek, Zbigniew Preisner, Abel Korzeniowski to name but a few, are there any composers or artists that have either influenced or inspired you in the way you approach a film score?

I have always admired Johann Johannsson. His sensitivity emanates from every single composition he has written. I had the great fortune to meet him during the Krakow Film Music Festival. All the more so that apart from his music, the repertoire of the concert included two suites from films that I had the pleasure of writing. I really appreciate and love Alexander Desplat. Among the composers I listen to, you will find Olafur Arnalds, Trent Reznor, Thomas Newman, Alan Silvestri, John Powell, Danny Elfman and Alberto Iglesias. I am still fascinated by the madness of jazz and the compact structure of classical music.

Are you from a family background that is musical?

No. I come from a medical family in which the profession has been passed down for generations. At first, I was a bit of a family black sheep, but I got my way and instead of being a heart surgeon, I try to heal hearts with music.

Many of your scores are for films produced in Poland, does the scoring process differ greatly between Poland and other countries?

Among over 80 original soundtracks I composed, there are several co-productions and projects written for the needs of foreign cinema. From my perspective, the scoring process in Poland and abroad is basically exactly the same. What’s more, both creative meetings and the approval process look identical.

What is next for you if you can tell us that is?

The end of the year and the beginning of 2023 were a bit crazy. Since November, four feature movies to which I wrote music have been premiered. The coming time looks even more interesting. On February 20, during the Berlinale International Film Festival, the HBO series Spy/Master will premiere. This is a 1960s spy story from British director Chris Smith.

I’m also in the process of writing music for a very interesting project for Netflix. I can’t say too much but the project is very multicultural and touches on important topics of coexistence of ethnic groups in Europe. In the summer I return to Thaw, the second season of the HBO series, which was successful not only in Poland but also in Europe.

There will also be an animation! A moving story of a boy’s friendship with an extraterrestrial by Antia Haikala, Team Auersalo, Miella Malkkula and Ilja Rautsi, directed by Jens Møller. In the meantime, I will be finishing the music for the cult polish gangster comedy “Fuks 2” and cheering for Poland in the Euro qualifiers.

Many thanks to the composer for his time and patience. 

photo by Barbara Wadach