Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Anthony Chue is best known for his music scores for films such as Bodies at Rest (directed by Renny Harlin), Divergence (directed by Benny Chan), and his recognizable themes in his scores for the Storm series (Z-Storm, S-Storm, L-Storm etc ) directed by David Lam.
He is known for his high energy adrenaline driven action scores that make good use of low brass, strings, and electronic sounds.
His Best Score nominations include The Golden Horse – Men Suddenly in Black (2003), Divergence (2005), and Invisible Target (2007), and one at the Asian Film Awards, for Reign of Assassins (2010).
He divides his time between Hong Kong, and Los Angeles, where he is represented by The Kaufman Agency.
“One of your recent scores Flashover has just been released on digital platforms, via Plaza Mayor, you scored the movie in 2022 I think? How did you become involved on the movie and did you have any specific requests of instructions regarding the music from the director? Was there a temp track on the movie when you first saw it?”
It is interesting how things sometimes come about – I got the gig from producer Alvin Lam (of Universe Pictures), and we hadn’t been in touch in ten years! He texted me “out of the blue” in 2020 and said he’d like me onboard for this film. I was extremely delighted of course. I scored this in 2021. The director had a temp track, yes, and was quite specific with regards to the feel and energy of the music. He had all the “in and out” points outlined with the temp track, and instructed me to follow the “ups and downs” and contour of the temp track.
“The movie is very exhilarating, and your score supports the action all the way through, at what stage of the production did you become involved on the project, did you see the rough cut for the purpose of spotting, or did you have a script before seeing the movie?”
Thank you for your compliments.
I was involved after they had a rough cut, and I began composing after they sent me the final cut (which of course is never really final, but that’s another topic!).
No, I did not have have a script, and even if they had given me one, it would’ve been in Chinese and my Chinese isn’t good enough to read it (and that’s another topic too!).
“The score is a fusion of symphonic and electronic elements, what size orchestra did you have for the project?”
Twenty-four string players, a nine piece brass section, and a flute and an oboe. That’s 35 musicians but I hesitate to say “a 36-piece orchestra” because the strings and woodwinds were recorded in Beijing, and the brass was recorded in Vancouver (where I live)! I do wonder if the music would sound different if the whole “orchestra” was recorded in one room in single passes.
I chose to record brass in Vancouver perhaps because I am a trombone player and I am picky with brass, and wanted to oversee the session in person! (I did not attend the strings and woodwind recording sessions in Beijing).
“The score for Flashover as I have said is brimming with action cues, but you remain thematic throughout, do you think it is important to have themes or musical phrases for certain characters or even locations?”
Yes, it is important to have musical phrases for certain characters, and also for situations.
For example, the short two-phrase French horn call (which can be heard in the beginning of the track “Flashover Suite”) is the “emergency” or “urgency” theme for the firefighters. I also have a softer strings theme for the firefighters, to accent the brotherhood, and friendship among them. So, I have more than one theme for the same characters, depending on the situation in the story.
Do you orchestrate all your music for film, or is this sometimes not always possible because of schedules?”
I am quite particular with the voicings and instrumentations of my music, so I make these orchestration decisions as I compose. However, I outsource the music notation work, not only because of the limited schedule, but also because I am not familiar enough with music notation software, so why torment myself!
Do you conduct or do you think it is better for you to have a conductor and supervise the sessions from the recording booth to listen to how the music is working?
In Beijing, recording sessions are often done without a conductor; they follow a click track. The brass (in Vancouver) was recorded with a conductor. I originally thought of conducting myself, but the contractor offered to conduct, and I am glad he did, because I was able to concentrate better on the recording.
What would you say is the purpose of job of music in film?
The purpose of film music is the tell the story using music, which includes telling the audience the mood of the characters, how they feel, or what they are thinking.
When you read a novel, unlike watching a film, we have written words that tell the reader what the protagonist is thinking as he walks into an alley with a gun. Is he scared? Is he confident? Is he thinking of his kidnapped daughter? Are he and his daughter on good terms? Is there imminent threat?
The music can be very different for each situation.
What composers either from the world of film music or classical music would you say have maybe influenced or inspired you?
John Williams, Hans Zimmer, James Horner, Charlie Clouser, Tchaikovsky, Bruckner, and James Swearingen.
Are there any pieces of music or particular songs that you would say had a role in you becoming a composer, what musical education did you have, and was writing for film something that you set your sights on early in your career?
“Majestia”, by James Swearingen was a school band piece that inspired me a lot when I was in high school. And I remember one year listening to Tchaikovsky all summer, including the 1812 Overture, and the Slavonic March.
I started piano lessons when I was 6, and played the clarinet and trombone in high school (odd combination, I know). I began experimenting with arranging and composition by writing for the school band, and orchestra. I’d transcribe film pieces such as Danny Elfman’s Batman suite for the school band. This is pre-MIDI, so… I didn’t hear what I actually wrote until the band played it. It’s daunting, but… you have to start somewhere, sometime! And why not “now”!
When “normal” kids were playing basketball or soccer after school, I was at the library looking at Mozart scores. (I am not athletic at all!). After high school, I studied music at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, majoring in composition.
And Yes, I had always wanted to become a film composer.
Is there a set routine you follow when scoring a movie, for example do you like to have a central theme first and build the remainder of the score around this?
No, I don’t have a routine. I tackle it headfirst and see what happens!
Do you perform on any of your scores?
All the synth and keyboard programming (into my sequencer) is done by me, if that counts. I have played the grand piano a few times. And… I enjoy faking some jazz on my bass trumpet for restaurant music scenes!
Flashover has over an hour of music included on the soundtrack release, is this the complete score?
I omitted all the cues that consisted of mostly long pads with not much musical movement. But there wasn’t much of that.
“What is next for you?”
I am now working on Alvin Lam and Oxide Pang’s next cinematic creation, “High Forces”, a plane hijack thriller starring super star Andy Lau.