After listening to THE ROPE AND THE GUN,I contacted the composer to congratulate them on the soundtrack, he was very kind and agreed to talk to MMI, about this work, his background and his methods of working on film music projects.
My thanks to the composer for his time, patience and also the quick response to my questions.
Where and when were you born and what would you say are your earliest memories of music of any kind?
I was born in 1988 in a tiny little village in the North of France, in Normandy. I’m the youngest of 4.5 children who all played music taking piano lessons from an old lady who used to hit your fingers or kick her piano when you played a wrong note! My father listened to Opera or to Blues having done a PhD on the relationships between men and women in America through the history of Blues. My mother came from the USA and grew up in working class Irish neighbourhood with little money always jealous of her friends who played any music. She knew that she would have musical children whatever happened. SO my earliest memories of music are probably just hearing my father play some Robert Johnson or my mother blasting Bruce Springsteen in the house!
What musical training or education have you had?
I learned to read and write music with this old lady before I could read and write words. And then, once the basis of music theory was acquired, I learned to play the piano with her. Starting from very simple tunes going on to more difficult and technical pieces of classical music. When I was 11 or 12, I discovered I wanted to play the drums and so took classes at the local music school. Quickly after that, I also took trumpet lessons, but never went very far with them. In middle school or high school, I started taking composition classes and a little more advanced music theory and so learned harmony and structure and so on.
I know you write for shorts and also have been involved in scoring of smaller productions, how did you become involved in writing for film?
The first thing I scored was for a friend of the families who built a website to promote his comic book about kings of Israel. He made a little flash animation and wanted music to accompany it and so I wrote a little piece of music which I clumsily produced on my mother’s work computer. After that, I tried a lot to copy soundtracks of movies I liked and focused on the composition a lot before trying to produce the sounds, you know what I mean? It’s only much later that I focused on the production and how to create the sounds.
THE ROPE AND THE GUN is a soundtrack of sorts, by this I mean that there is no film, it’s a project you undertook because you wanted to write a more grandiose score is that correct?
Yes, in a way. The small films and projects I usually score are much simpler and are fitted better with minimalist music and atmospheres and ambiances. I could wait around until I get a project that warrants a gigantic orchestra and powerful and complex composition, but I don’t have patience and when I want to write something I just go for it. Similarly, I wanted to write an orchestral soundtrack and came up with a simple story for an action filled movie called Operation Moonrise:
How long did it take to write the soundtrack for THE ROPE AND THE GUN?
I started in September 2016 and really took my time. The official release of The Rope & The Gun was August 4th, 2017. I finished composing everything 3-4 months before the released date and then spent the rest of the time mixing everything, rerecording all the live tracks and mastering.
You were obviously inspired by the music of the Italian western when working on this project, what composers or artists would you say have influenced you in the way that you write music or indeed the way in which you approach a project?
When I’m not working on music, I listen all day to soundtracks from modern movies or older ones. I think what interests me most about soundtracks is story. Hearing how a theme evolves from start to finish in a movie. I love everything John WIlliams for example and since he tends to write very long themes going through hundreds of key changes, his range of themes and how they change is just fascinating to me. Of course, I could add Hans ZImmer to my influences because he is, in a way, the direct opposite to John Williams. He focused on the sound, on new sounds on new instruments and different arrangements while using very simple themes.
I usually just start soundtrack radios on Google Play Music and then mark the ones I want to listen to more. Then I usually focus on one composer and listen to everything. For example, this week, I was focused all on Michael Giacchino. A few weeks ago, I was listening to everything Marco Beltrami! I believe that if I listen to these master soundtracks constantly, some of their genius will slip into my mind! But it may just be like a student sleeping on their text books hoping that the knowledge magically comes through!
The score for THE ROPE AND THE GUN was I think mainly an electronic/samples work, but the guitar solo I think was the actual instrument, did you perform on the soundtrack and what percentage of the score was electronic/samples and what parts were performed on instruments?
Anything that is Guitar, Banjo, Mandolin, Harmonica, slide guitar, resonator guitar, electric guitars, 12 string guitar, fiddle (in a small amount), some percussion and so on was recorded by me with my own instruments and my own microphones. The Rope & The Gun, for the most part, is those instruments. I wanted them to be the front row of the music and sounds of this soundtrack. If I had to but a number on it, it would be 60% real recorded instruments. 30% Orchestra Samples and 10% Synths.
Are you planning another recording like THE ROPE AND THE GUN, Maybe a Giallo themed work, or another western?
I’d love to, but I’m trying to broaden my range. Right now, I’m working on a couple of films that people have asked me to score. Very small things. And at the same time, I’m making another fake Soundtrack that’s going to be much more focused on Synths and percussion. There will be a string section and I still have a lot of composition to do to figure out how much I want to use Sampled sounds and how much I want to record live with a String Section. Also, I need to evaluate how much of a budget I have to play with. Orchestras are expensive!
THE ROPE AND THE GUN is available in digital form on SPOTIFY etc, will there be a compact disc release?
There won’t. At the level at which I distribute things, hard copies are just not worth it and distributing digitally is so much simpler and less costly.
Have you worked with an orchestra or a small ensemble of players?
For The Rope & The Gun, no. Anything recorded live was done by me. In the past, yes, I’ve worked with a lot of bands and ensembles composing, recording and arranging a lot. I’m working for the next fake soundtrack to hire an orchestra to record key moments or the whole thing depending on budget and timing.
Are there any genres in film, that you are attracted to or favour and what was the first movie you ever saw?
I must go in with the conviction that I can write any kind of music. Whether it’s true or not is another problem. When I talk to directors and filmmakers, they usually use a lot of temp music for editing and get attached to it. At times, I end up having to copy things without them being too close to the original music to avoid copyrights and so on. But I usually try to make two different tracks so that I can suggest something different and we work from there. I think I’d be really into writing one of those big Pirate movie scores, not really in the style of Pirates of the Caribbean, but you know. Also, I always wanted to write music like John Powell. I think in the end he is the one I admire the most. Scores like How to Train your Dragon are just incredible to me and I really look up to John Powell. I also have a Noire detective movie idea I want to score almost in cliche you know?
But whether I can write any style or not, once I start, I’m really faced with the blank page, the empty staves and no idea what the hell I’m going to do. That’s a drive as much as it is extremely stressful.
When working on a movie project it is probably quite restricting because of the timing and the sequences that you are writing for, with THE ROPE AND THE GUN, did the fact that there were no timings or set durations of sequences make it easier to be able to develop the themes within the soundtrack?
No, on the contrary I think. As much as hitting frames perfectly and dealing with unhappy directors and having precise queues can sound restrictive, frustrating and boring, these are great restrictions that make you find ways and tricks to manage them. The advantage of having a movie to score as opposed to doing a fake soundtrack, is that story really takes over the score. For these Fake Soundtracks I make, I need to write down some elements of plot to force myself to see some pictures and then can score with something happening in each piece!
The restrictions you get on films are helpful to get your inspiration going.