Category Archives: Interviews

TALKING TO COMPOSER ROBERT FOLK.

ROBERT FOLK. Can I just say, I’m really happy to be interviewing with movie music international today.

Many thanks to the composer for taking the time to talk to MMI.

Did you start out wanting to be or at least thinking that you might become a composer of music for films?

Well, I was studying at Julliard for ten years working on my bachelor’s master’s doctorate and also teaching school. During the last couple of years that I was there, which was the late 1970s, I had a student whose father was a film director, and he would often come to my concerts that I was giving around New York City, These were mostly of orchestral and chamber music, and it was at one of these that he told me about the movie, it transpired that the film he was working on had quite a big budget which included a lot of resources for musicians. After he told me this I became very interested in the prospect of maybe writing the score for the film . He mentioned that they were going to hire the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of London to record the music. So, that certainly caught my attention and I signed up. So really it was quite by accident that I did my first film, and I ended up having so much fun on it, with the added bonus of it being good business arrangement for me compared with what I was used to doing in terms of teaching and whatnot, that I decided to move to Los Angeles to see if I had any luck trying to score additional films having done this one project. I had only been in Los Angeles for about six weeks when very fortunately for me I was introduced to the great Lionel Newman, the composer, conductor and at that time president of music for Fox Studios. So, I went in to meet with Lionel and the same morning that I arrived at the music department I was introduced to John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith, who were two of his very favourite composers, and worked on so many things at the studio that they actually had offices at the Fox Music Department on the studios lot. Lionel had been listening to some of my music that I had recorded in New York and in our first practice meeting he said look I have a small film for you.  It was a Fox picture a thriller/action piece called SAVAGE HARVEST, he arranged for me to record the score with the National Philharmonic Orchestra of London, which happened to be Jerry Goldsmith’s favourite recording orchestra. During that period.

Another early project for me was a horror thriller called THE SLAYER. Which I scored around about the same time as SAVAGE HARVEST. Then after that I got another one of my first studio films with Warner Brothers, called PURPLE HEARTS. So, these three films which were recorded in Los Angeles were kind of the movies that got my career started on the West Coast.

Were any of your family musical or were you conscious of music at home when you were young?

 As a kid, I was listening to music that my parents would have playing around the house. We had some musicians in the family, not professional musicians, but nevertheless they had talent. My father was a violinist my brother was a violinist and my sister studied piano for some years, but it was the music of the British invasion. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones. The Kinks, The Animals, Cream, you know all these bands that you know we’re having such great success in the early 1960’s, I guess beginning around 1963 or so. This was the sound that actually got me very inspired and very motivated to go into music to begin with and at the beginning I really wanted to be a rock star or a songwriter with the intention of emulating these heroes of mine that were all in the Great British bands. Initially I was studying, mostly guitar and some light keyboards, but mostly guitar. I had several bands up in the Boston area where I was living in the suburb of Lexington, Massachusetts.  I was involved with a few bands from the time that I was about 14/15 years old, which I continued with for around five maybe six years. We went on tour all over the East Coast and about as far West as, Ohio and we had some real success with a couple of these bands and actually we recorded quite a bit of music with a very prominent producer of the day by the name of Tom King, who mostly worked with Capitol Records. After focusing on the rock genre for about five years. I decided to move to New York City to get an education. I had my sights set on the Juilliard School and I began studying with some of the Juilliard professors, on a private basis, so that I could prepare myself for the entrance exam for the school, which I guess I spent a couple of  years really working very hard on in preparation for trying to get a place there. My main focus was to enter the school as a composition major, but I also wanted to emphasise some work as a conductor as well.  I took the entrance exams and I was very happy to hear that I was admitted to the composer department my major teacher was an internationally renowned composer conductor pianist by the name of Vincent Persichetti. This began an affiliation with the Juilliard School, that would last for the next 10 years, up until the time that I decided to move out to explore Hollywood in 1980. At this point, I left the academic world behind, and began to work on the first handful of films that I mentioned. SAVAGE HARVEST, THE SLAYER and PURPLE HEARTS.

How did you become involved on the POLICE ACADEMY movies?

I had heard about a film called POLICE ACADEMY and I decided to start exploring the possibility of writing music for it, I set about finding out who was involved with that film. I learned very quickly that they were about to sign Elmer Bernstein. My first thought was, well Elmer certainly would be perfect for that movie. I guess it’s probably not a film that I’m going to do.

But, a few weeks later I got a call from the Ladd company this was a company that was based on the Warner Brothers lot.It was run by Alan Ladd Jr, who had been the head of Fox at one time and had moved to form his own company over to the Warner Brothers lot. So, I got this call from the Ladd company. And they mentioned that suddenly Elmer’s schedule had changed as he was working on another couple of movies and he was too busy to work on POLICE ACADEMY.  So, I set up a meeting with the director and the producer of the movie. which was at the same time that I was finishing the score for PURPLE HEARTS. Warner’s were very happy with what I had done on the picture, which helped because they gave a little push to POLICE ACADEMY producer Paul Maslansky and to the Director Hugh Wilson and they both came to the recording sessions of PURPLE HEARTS where we had our first meeting. I am pleased to say this went really well. After this they listened to some of my music which I had submitted to them. I think the first thing they asked was could I write a good memorable solid march?  What I did then was to see the movie and I listened to some of the temp music which included a lot of Bernstein, and also had in it Jerry Goldsmith and a few other composers, after which I set out to write what would eventually become the POLICE ACADEMY march. I played it to both the producer and the director and they both loved it. The march became the foundation of the score and also was the cornerstone piece for the rest of the scores I did in that series. It was the first time I had scored a comedy, but I very quickly learned that writing music for a comedy was probably the hardest thing that I had ever done. It was quite a challenge because I was learning as I went going.  

You know that there’s a lot of event making a lot of hits a lot of very sectional writing a lot of very specific to picture phrasing, that takes a lot of planning and detailed work. So I learned very quickly that comedies, may be the hardest genre. When scoring movies. And with the success of POLICE ACADEMY of course I was then asked to work on quite a few comedies, these included animated films as well, after which I think probably animation is definitely the hardest music to write when scoring for film.

You worked on THERE BE DRAGONS for director Roland Joffe, how dd you become involved on this as I understand there was another composer working on the film?  

THERE BE DRAGONS is one of my favourite scores over the past few years, now Roland Joffe is one of my favourite directors, and I was lucky enough to be introduced to him by a mutual friend a producer who was working with Roland to re-do  the editorial as well as entire score for there be dragons. He had an earlier version. And I guess he was influenced a lot by the producers on the earlier version, and he really wanted a director’s cut, something that was much more indicative of the way that he saw the film in a finished forum. And his directive was. He wanted really an epic thematic powerful, emotional, and action-based score to support his Director’s Cut. So, I got to theme writing right away, and Rowan was very pleased with the themes that I wrote, along with the producers that were still involved on the project. And we made plans to record with Seattle symphony orchestra members, up in this old church where they often record, where the acoustics were absolutely wonderful. Working with Roland was really a thrill. I was a big fan of the mission. This film with Robert De Niro, and as well as many of his other films so city of joy. The Scarlet Letter. The Killing fields. He’s just an incredible director, and sometimes script writer. He has incredible taste as well. He loves history and he also loves the religious influence on culture.

So, with there be dragons you have a lot of history involved with the Spanish revolution. You have a lot of Catholicism. And it’s set the tone fora very emotional rather deep and intensive musical experience, along with quite a bit of action writing as well. I was fortunate to have a wonderful choir, along with an orchestra of about, 98, players. So, we had lots of resources, and the recording was really turned out to be quite fantastic up in Seattle, I was very pleased with it. Robert Townsend became a fan of the score and arranged for it to be released on Varese Sarabande records which was certainly another bonus of working on this fantastic movie.

When working on a film series such as POLICE ACADEMY, do you recycle any themes from earlier movies into the current release?

There were seven police academy films for this franchise all of them, produced by Warner Brothers. And there was a certain challenge with each new version of the film that came out for creating additional themes, know they covered quite a bit of ground in those seven films. Of course, I always had the police academy March as the musical backbone for each of the scores.

But it was fun to have to come up with new signatures for different characters that would come into play, or different locations that where you need a certain sense of style in the music to represent where you were in the storyline. And it was kind of fun in the very last film the film that was set in Moscow. Of course, I got to bring in a few Russian influences here and there, but unfortunately on that last film the budget had been trimmed way back so I did not have the orchestral resources that I had for the first six films. Most of the scoring for that last film was recorded in my own recording studio. But nevertheless, it was fun to work on all these all these different styles throughout that series.

Would you say that there are a lot of differences between writing for TV and scoring feature films?

While I’ve concentrated mostly on writing for feature films during my career in Hollywood.  I’ve also scored quite a bit of music for television. and I guess the main difference when writing for television is that your resources are a lot less as in fewer musicians are usually involved. And probably the most important difference is the element of time. You know, for an average episode on television you generally have to turn each episode around in about five days, because they’re usually coming out every week. So that is probably the biggest element that you’re challenged with. So, a lot of the work I’ve recorded in my own recording studio. Over the years, there have been certain occasions where I was able to get a small orchestra together for a television project. But normally especially with episodic television. I would record them in my own studio. But I certainly enjoyed working on many different shows for television over the years. When I first got to Los Angeles. I had a manager, who also managed the great composer, Mark snow. And Mark became an early advocate for me. And when he was working on certain episodic series, and he needed a break or he was too busy.

He would often just call up our mutual manager and say hey, see if Rob has time if he has interest in taking care of this or that episode for me. So, I really have to thank Mark a lot for giving me so many opportunities to work in television.

You scored THE NEVER ENDING STORY ll, did you utilise any of the themes from the original score, just for continuity and also when working on other sequels such as LAWN MOWER MAN ll do you again for continuity incorporate themes from the original movie?

I think I’ve scored about a dozen or maybe more films for Warner Brothers, the studio was sort of a nice home for me over the years. One of my favourite projects at that studio was scoring the first sequel for THE NEVER ENDING STORY.  I really loved the first film and I was very excited to be able to work on this tremendous franchise. I was introduced to George Miller, the director by Carey La Mille the president of music at Warner Brothers. He had a meeting at my studio. He went in very well. And he said, Look, I’ve loved to have a really epic orchestral score with choir, and some beautiful themes. So, I set off to write and gather my materials together and he was mostly in Europe during that time. So, I would send him recordings of each theme as I developed them. I had a chance to take a trip to Munich, where a lot of the filming was going on Houston while I was beginning to write. And that was a great inspiration to see all the characters. And, you know, the clay-mation style that George Miller was also utilising for this film. So, I returned to Los Angeles back to my studio and kept writing themes for George. And, of course, they were also being referenced over to the producers to make sure everybody was on board. And I began building this very epic, very lush fantasy action score.

Other than a few sequences, using a Giorgio Moroder scoring from the first initial THE NEVER ENDING STORY. As I remember there was not much temp music in the film, which didn’t give me quite a bit of freedom. I think I referenced Giorgio’s theme, maybe once or twice in the film, but mostly I was working from my own materials that I created for this first sequel.  We hired a great orchestra in Munich, where most of the score was recorded. And I believe that we had an orchestra of 95 players and we also had an all-female choir, I think it was around 30 to 35.

Later, there was some re-editing of the film, so we had to go back and record additional music, which was recorded in Berlin, the recordings in Berlin. Were also done with an exceptionally fine orchestra, luckily, we were able to match the sound pretty well even though we had different players in different studios. But because I was using the same engineering team for both recordings, it all, it all sounded pretty well matched together the entire score, but certainly the never ending story it was one of my favourite projects of everything that I’ve scored so far. And I really have fond memories of working on that project, along with all of the, the great creative team that was also attached. THE NEVER ENDING STORY of course was a sequel for me.

And I’ve done other sequels, including a score for THE BEASTMASTER ll and for THE LAWNMOWER MAN ll, and, you know, I love working on these sequels. It’s almost as good as working on the original films. But to be honest, whenever I can. I tried to create a fresh score, rather than utilising. Let’s say themes and other materials from the original instalment of these franchises, where there are sequels. So, in both of those films I did write completely original scores with little or no reference at all to the past scores.

Do you think that the main theme or themes for movies are in the decline, or is the current trend of soundscapes and drone like passages just a passing thing?

My idea of a great and rewarding film score is one that is built around really strong memorable themes. And for almost every film that I’ve written the score for. I’ve tried as best I can to come up with themes that are memorable. And that serve the film and the characters in the best possible way. You know this is certainly a long-standing tradition in Hollywood and elsewhere internationally in many countries and cities where films are made and has been that way for decades and decades. However, in recent years. We all must agree that there are many scores that are coming out, that are not particularly thematic or memorable. They really are mostly textural scores. And, you know, they can function very well in the movies that they are utilised for. And there are some great composers out there that are very very skilled at working through an hour or a couple of hours of music, with no real strong memorable themes or components from which they are basing their writing upon. And it’s just a matter of choice.

I really believe that young filmmakers are mostly the creative people that are driving this style of film scoring. And my own opinion is that it’s sort of a phase. I think that we will come back to hearing more thematic writing in films. As we continue.

Certainly, there are genres, anything historical period, those particular films tend to have still strong thematic materials for the most part, and I just I just happen to be of the opinion that we will come back to seeing more and more films that utilise strong thematic material because after all you want to remember a film, not only by its content and its performances, but also by the fantastic musical scores that accompanies it and when you have themes that are so memorable that they just come to mind immediately when you think of certain character or films. I think that’s just something that’s so important in filmmaking. And I do think we’ll see a lot more of it. Once this phase, gradually comes to an end.

Do you have a set routine when working on a project, as in main theme first and then moving on to smaller cues or maybe the big action cues if they are required?

Whenever I am asked to score a film. For me, the first thing I want to do is to get my materials created. Most of the time, this means strong melodies strong themes, or at least motivic work for characters or events or incidents that may be coming up in the film. I want those building blocks in place before I sit down to score a specific theme. I would liken it to an architect, having his blueprints. Absolutely, as strong as he can get them for the building of a house, or a property begins. Once I have those building blocks. I typically will score a couple of small incidental scenes. Just as a warm-up, and to start establishing the orchestral style the electronic style, or the acoustic small chamber ensemble whatever the elements of that score are going to be. I do like to try and set the tone. In a couple of smaller scenes from there, I usually like to work in the order that the film unfolds.

That is assuming that the filmmakers can deliver locked picture or mostly locked picture in film order. I really do like to work in the order of the way the film comes to life from beginning to end. It just helps me with continuity. And with developing a strategy for where the score is headed.

Are there any composers or artists that you have found particularly inspiring or have influenced you?

A lot of people ask me this or maybe say what composers do I feel have had some kind of an impression on what my music sounds like, and it’s hard for me to answer. I know who I like and I know who I love to listen to. I’ve done a lot of listening and studying, of course. To  all the classical and Romantic Period composers, let’s say, starting with a Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, etc. and a little bit later, I listened to to a lot of Berlioz, Chopin, Wagner, Bruckner, Ricard Strauss and I do love Tchaikovsky Rachmaninoff and also Sergei Prokofiev In terms of the Russian composers and film composers. I guess I’d have to say my favourites have always been John Williams. Jerry Goldsmith Elmer Bernstein and I love Morricone and of course, the great John Barry. I really love some of Maurice Jarre’s work, and earlier material such as Korngold. As for composers working now, well there is working today. I really love James Newton Howard, Tommy Newman and Dave Grusin, there’s just there’s so many places to find such great music to listen to and I do believe that eventually all that listening and studying in some way, it impacts the work that each composer does, including myself,

Temp tracks I think it’s a case of love them or hate them, what do you feel about the temp track?

I would say ideally it would be great if we lived in a world where there were no temp tracks, because I think it would give, we composers a lot more freedom in our creative process. But in a practical sense, they are here to stay and I feel at this point that you might as well take advantage of them in respect to the fact that they represent music that the director feels , is working properly in his movie,  this I think as composers we can learn a lot from. There is nothing more specific than listening to music, that a director has approved, and sometimes has helped to choose. In a specific musical language and if you can be influenced by that with the music that you are writing, without trying to copy it, or get too close to it, but just influenced from the tempo the mood and maybe some of the rhythmic and stylistic elements. It’s not that you’re quoting it or trying to get too close to it. It’s just that you want your score to say similar things in the end. For the director, whose film it is. And I do think that the temp track is one of the best ways for a filmmaker to communicate with a composer.   

Is orchestration as important as composition, do they go hand in hand, and do you like to orchestrate your own film scores if this is possible and do you conduct all the time or only when you are not required to supervise from the recording booth?

Certainly, I think orchestration is one of the most important aspects of a musical score for a film. The writing can be great. The themes can be great, but you need to have that orchestra sounding absolutely as perfect as you can get it in terms of the arrangement of the musical components, and the orchestration of all the ideas and the score. I prefer whenever possible to orchestrate as much of a score by myself as I can.  But sometimes that’s just not possible because of recording schedules release schedules for theatres, etc etc and in those cases, one needs to reach out to supporting orchestrators to sometimes get through a show on time. I’m not really into the whole concept of having 20 or 30 people working on the musical score for a film.

I like the way that john Williams works where he usually has one orchestrator working with him. In the case of POLICE ACADEMY, the very first film. I wrote and arranged and orchestrated the entire score by myself. As I got busier and busier in the 80s 90s into the 2000, s. There were times when I simply didn’t have the luxury of orchestrating everything on my own. One big example of that was working on the rescore of the film TREMORS for Universal Pictures. In that case, they had theatres, you know, very firm dates.

They were replacing almost all the original score. And I ended up having about three and a half weeks to get through everything. I think that was a film where I used the most orchestrators of any film that I have worked on. There were probably about six orchestrators, as well as me on TREMORS. As far as conducting goes, I really love to conduct my own music whenever I can. It is the most fun part of scoring a movie is to interact with a great orchestra like the London Symphony Orchestra, or the Royal Philharmonic, or the amazing musicians in Los Angeles, which are largely comprised of the LA Philharmonic. However, in some cases, it really is better to be in the mixing room with the director so that you can discuss elements with him right away upon playback and really understand his point of view, in a very specific way and it’s hard to do that when you’re out in the recording room with the musicians.

You have written for the concert hall, is writing music for performance as  music in the concert hall, less restricting than composing for film and TV with timings special effects explosions etc going off?

I have written quite a bit of concert music over the years. But I don’t have that much time on my current track for that form of expression as much as I enjoy writing it, building and sustaining a film music composing career is consuming. It takes a lot of your time, even between projects. You are always setting up for future projects. So really, you’re never in a place where you’re resting up unless you’re intentionally on a vacation.

But it’s the same token pursuing a career as a composer of concert music that’s also another full-time job. So, I have basically chosen to stay in the film, television, and visual media end of the spectrum for quite a few decades now, and I’m very content there, perhaps, at a future time. I’ll focus more on song writing and composing concert music, chamber music, these sort of endeavours, but not right now.

How many times do you like to see a movie before getting any fixed ideas about where the music should go or what style of music you will compose?

When I first start working on a movie. I like to watch the film, several times, including at least one time with the director, then get back to my studio and start playing around with some initial ideas. I usually begin by improvising very freely to picture, just looking for a mood, looking for a tone, a sound an idea a scene. Setting the right tone is really the most important first step I think in creating any film score. I will usually begin this process, playing on an acoustic grand piano, like a real piano and sometimes, bringing up this sort of instrument in my studio. Based on samples so that it is interfaced with my computer system. And I can record as I go every single phrase and manipulate it as I move on.

And once I feel that I’ve found an approach, a sound, a style a tone. Then I will develop my themes. Again, mostly writing to picture using my computer system. Once I have these materials really developed and I’m happy with them, and the director signs off on them we’re all in agreement that we have the basis for the score. Then I will begin writing specific scenes, in today’s world I tend to do that also working on my computer system. Whereas years ago, it was all done with pencil and paper. Now I prefer to perform all of the parts into my digital recording system. So, I’m composing and orchestrating and building a mock-up of each scene which is fully recorded and mixed, as I go. The advantage of working this way, of course is to be able to play something for the filmmaker that really closely resembles what the finished orchestral sequence will sound like once it’s recorded with a major orchestra now working this way.

There is a certain level of artistry, that perhaps is lost a little bit when compared with writing pencil and paper detail into an orchestral score. Sometimes, particularly if it’s a big film with large orchestral resources. I will take the entire score all my mock-ups, you know everything, fully recorded and I will send that over to an orchestrator who works with pencil and paper, and let him go through and follow notations that I’ve made to implement another level of that fine detail that you can really only reach, when you’re working. Writing a score by hand with pencil and paper the old-fashioned way.

Are there any preferences as to where you like to record your film scores as in studios etc?

When I consider what location, I’m going to be recording in my favourite places are always Los Angeles and London. They are by far the best musicians’ and best studios in the world. When recording in Los Angeles I prefer the Fox Studios stage, this would be my number one request for recording large orchestra. Also right up there with that stage would be the recording stage at Sony Pictures in Culver City, and of course the Warner Brothers stage in Burbank in London over most I often recorded at Abbey Road, which is a phenomenal studio, and of course there’s also Air studios, those are my two favourites in London. As well as Los Angeles and London. I think I’ve been happiest in Dublin, Ireland, and also working with the Seattle Symphony, the pandemic of course has affected production bringing it to a standstill, for the last six months.

So, the marketplace is pretty slow, but it’s a time for working on developing future projects, and the one that I’m most excited about is called PLANET X. Now this is a big budget feature film that I’ve been working on as an executive producer, as well as a composer. We’re in the earliest of stages, got a long way to go, but it’s something really exciting for me.  It’s a modern day, Star Wars, space fantasy, so of course that’s going to allow for a lot of big orchestral thematic adventure and fantasy writing. And I guess I’d have to say that’s one of my very favourite genres, along with PLANET X, I’m also interfacing with several of my directors that I’ve worked with in the past, to see what’s upcoming for them and once production gets ramped up again we’re all hoping to have a lot of new material too work on and to talk about.

So, I just wanted to thank you once again for the chance to do an interview with you, and movie music International. That’s the place for all the greatest latest film music news and it’s been a pleasure talking with you. Have a great day. 

SPEAKING TO COMPOSER JERMAINE STEGALL.

I sometimes get frustrated with film music collectors saying there is no new up and coming talent in movie music, many seem to see a new name and dismiss them before even listening to their music, Composer Jermaine Stegall, is in my opinion going to be a name that we will be seeing a lot of on credits for big movies in the not too distant future, he is talented, inventive and also most certainly able to create scores that range from intimate and electronic to full on driving lush and epic sounding symphonic. Which is displayed in one of his most recent projects PROXIMITY. The project has taken four years to come to fruition,  and whilst watching the movie, one can hear and also see just how a film score should work, it supports enhances and punctuates, but also it is a soundtrack that one can listen to without watching the film. My thanks to the composer for agreeing to speak to Movie Music International. JM. ©2020.

 

 

OIP (17)

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

 

For me, I would say the purpose is to help tell the story. It’s to become the musical voice, and soul of the film.  Melodic, harmonic, however done, turn into another actor that is on the same page is the entire vision of the story and spirit of the film.

 

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In 2011 you worked on GREETINGS TO THE DEVIL, which was a film produced in Colombia, how did you become involved on this project?

I met the director, Juan Orozco online and we started talking.  He has a great sense of visual storytelling and I felt like he would be someone that would create an amazing canvas for music with visuals and I was totally right!  After the film happened, he even helped finance an opportunity to do a concert of live film music from the film in Colombia at the Museum of Modern Art in Medellín, Colombia in 2011.  An amazing end to the journey which happened I believe the opening weekend of the film.

 

OIP (18)

 

I noticed you are credited with providing additional music on some TV series such as, SUPERNATURAL, LIV AND MADDIE, SUPERGIRL and STRETCH ARMSTRONG, when it says additional music is this the music that the producers decide that they need after the main score is done, or is it cues that they think will complement the series further and the composer of the main score maybe is not available?

Yes, those are basically cases where I was asked to supplement the composer’s original score and further the vision as well as be an extra set of hands creatively.

STEG

Is your family background a musical one, by this I mean are any of your family musical?

My mother did her fair share of singing, but my father was a bass player in the 70s and played in various bands and to my knowledge while my mother was pregnant she was around his music so that may have influenced me, but he stopped playing bass not too long after I was born and for my dad, it became more of a passion project to play live music.

 

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Can you recall what your first encounter was with any kind of music and can you remember the first record or piece of music that you took notice of?

I made a not so serious attempt at learning violin in 3rd grade when I was 8-9 years old but quit after about 3 weeks.  In 5th grade I started playing saxophone (1988) and I was say a year later I remember hearing a song which I later learned was called “billie’s bounce” featuring Charlie Parker.  When I heard this, I was so into the sound and the vibe that I put my radio Walkman headphones up to another speaker to record the sound so I wouldn’t lose the radio station.  Then I listened to that cassette recording for years. 

 

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PROXIMITY is a good film, I was kind of engrossed, but I was even more impressed with the score, it’s like a vintage soundtrack as in nods to  John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith and John Barry, but it’s a new movie. The music really caught my attention, it is so powerful and drives the action in the storyline relentlessly. Were you asked or given any specific instructions regarding the style and sound of the score by the director?

 

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Thanks so much for the listen!  This was an important one for me and really, fun.  The director had a lot of ideas about music but, wanted a highly stylized score and initially thought he might want one with a John Carpenter-influenced sound.  We talked about electronics and orchestral elements and a reference to the 80s, then I pitched the idea of a more John Williams-influenced sound as the orchestral backdrop, however the electronics stayed as an idea to incorporate, but not necessarily John Carpenter-based.

 

 

PROXIMITY is a grand sounding work, what size orchestra did you utilise for the score and what percentage of the musical line up was made up of synthetic support, also was it recorded at Skywalker studios?

Thanks yes it was a pretty grand type of a sound that I was striving for and surprisingly since we had the time, I took years to produce the final result.  We had 17 brass players and we recorded at Skywalker Scoring stage and engineered by Grammy-award-winning Leslie Ann-Jones.  I also processed a Tuba player where we recorded 3 hours of samples and Tuba-based loops beforehand.  Most other elements were synthetic. 

 

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Do you carry out all your own orchestrations on your film scores, or are there times when this is not possible, and you have an orchestrator?

When possible, I use an orchestrator, so I can continue to concentrate on all the last-minute expectations of preparing for recording as well as things that need to happen quickly after the recording session to deliver.  To be orchestrating would, require much more time than is generally allowed.

 

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Similar kind of question but this time regarding conducting your scores, do you conduct all of the time or are there certain projects where you prefer to supervise from the booth and have a conductor?

I love to conduct my own scores.  I will ask for help in the booth from someone I trust always, but to that point, I will go into the booth if I think someone can get the job done faster and we would split the responsibility of conducting. 

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PROXIMITY also contains a few vocal tracks, do you have any involvement with the placing of the songs at all, and when you first saw the movie, had the director installed a temp track of any sort, and do you find the temp process helpful as in it gives you an idea of what the director maybe looking for, or is it something you find counterproductive?

 I enjoy the idea of temp music and it’s a conversation-starter for most directors.  It really does not have to be the final thing (to me).  As far as songs, it was always a plan to have original songs written by a songwriter for the film and I loved that idea as well!

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JAMESY BOY is a film you scored in 2014, it’s dramatic but also I thought it was intimate and quite personal, how long were you given to write and record the score, and do you perform on any of your soundtracks?

Very intimate much more personal vibe.  Much more of a purposely indie feel and true to life Biopic about an actual person James Burns who I’ve come to know.  He overcame lots of tragedy and obstacles in his life and a beautiful artist emerged at the end of it all. Yes, I tend to perform most piano passages on my scores, as was the case with that film.  

 

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Your scores are filled with themes, even the action cues have a great thematic presence, what do you think of the use of the drone sound or soundscape approach that is being used in more recent movies, is it music or is it sounds that fill a place in a score to underline certain scenes?

I think drones and soundscapes can be fun to create, and when used as a story-telling tool, are quite effective.  It can also be very effective to use a musical or evolving drone or soundscape whenever picture lends itself to that possibility.  

 

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What artists or composers would you say have influenced you in your approach to scoring films?

Lots of influence from John Williams as well as Marco Beltrami who I was able to intern with back in 2004.  I also grew up listening to and also buying scores by Danny Elfman. These have been my biggest score influences over the years for sure and probably in that order.

 

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You are working on COMING TO AMERICA ll, Does Eddie Murphy have specific ideas about what route the music should be taking?

 

Actually, as we speak, this weekend I’m told that Eddie Murphy is watching the film for the first time and will weigh in with his ideas.  Possibly music ideas, we will see.  It would be awesome if he likes the direction it is headed in.

  

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Are there many differences between working on a TV project and scoring a feature film?

 

 

I think mostly time frame.  Once T.V. shows get going, the expectation is that turn-around time is cranking away whereas sometimes a film can be going on in the background for a year or more.

 

JS

 

How do you work out your musical ideas, do you sit at the piano and develop you ides that way or do you prefer to utilise a more technical and contemporary method as in computer etc?

Mainly piano sketch for me as well as saving midi ideas in different ways that I can save and review later or adapt.  Also singing out ideas can be a quick and visceral way of getting an idea out.

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What musical education did you have and were there any areas of music that you focused upon more than others?

A Bachelor of music in saxophone performance from NIU (Northern Illinois University) Master of music from UNT (the University of North Texas) and from USC the Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television program certificate.

 

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Going back to PROXIMITY, how many times did you look at the movie before you began to formulate any ideas about the music and where it should be placed to best serve the picture?

To be honest many times over the course of 4 years.  I even got to visit set while they were shooting, but I never read a script.  Only saw storyboards beforehand which for me was plenty.

 

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Is it important for a score to have core theme, and do you work this out first and then develop the remainder of the score around it or does this vary from project to project?

 

I think a main theme is a great starting point and any additional themes that can be woven in for the most important characters and or anything that can only be explained through music or a feeling that is unspoken. 

 

 

STAWA

 

COMING TO AMERICA ll, is next on your agenda, but after that what will you be moving onto?

 I’m jumping back into the digital series “Our Star Wars Stories” for Lucasfilm which stopped production at the beginning of the Covid shutdowns. 

 

 

 

 

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TALKING TO COMPOSER SID DE LA CRUZ.

Sid De La Cruz, is a composer who I think we will be hearing a lot of in the come years.  His score for HELL ON THE BORDER is excellent and one that everyone should own, it brings together the styles of the more traditional western score and has to it hints of the Italian western sound as well as the composers own individual musical fingerprint. My thanks to the composer for taking time to answer my questions.  

 

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What are your earliest memories of any kind of music, were any of your family musically inclined and at what age did you start to think that music would be a career for you?

 

Music was always around me at a young age. My parents used to play music all the time, in every situation. Family gathering or just simply being in the house relaxing. My older brother was a DJ and my uncle used to be in a band with Carlos Santana before Santana became famous.  The thought of music being a career came late for me. It was during college when I decided to change my focus from becoming a doctor to becoming a composer.

 

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Your first assignment was according to IMDB, SMILE which was a short released in 2011, how did you become involved on this?

 

I met the director through a mutual friend. We discussed our passion for film and told me that he was working on a film. Several months later I get a message from the director asking if I would be interested in scoring the film.

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What musical education did you receive, and when did you decide that writing music for film was what you wanted to do?

 

I received my bachelor’s degree in music composition from San Jose State University. After graduating, I was offered a fellowship to get my master’s degree in composition at Claremont Graduate University. During my last semester at Claremont, I simultaneously attended the UCLA Extension Film Scoring program, where I was fortunate to have received the BMI Jerry Goldsmith Film Scoring Scholarship. I believe the scholarship is awarded to 1 student every year.

 It was during my time at San Jose State University, when I knew I wanted to writing music for film. In fact, we had a composition teacher who was a film composer but school didn’t offer a film scoring classes. I asked the composition teacher, if he would be willing to teach a course. He said, if the school offered the class, then yes. I went out and petitioned for a film scoring class. I got enough signatures and the next semester; film scoring was offered.
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PRAYER NEVER FAILS I like a lot there is a great atmosphere within the music that is pure tension, but you still maintain a rich thematic presence that purveys hope.  What size orchestra or ensemble did you use for this, and how long were you given to work on the project?

 

I had about a month and a half to work on the score. For this film, the director wanted me to specifically use strings and piano for the score. He didn’t mind me using woodwinds, brass and percussion for support but really wanted the score to feature strings and piano. The score also has songs, which I also produced myself.

 

You have worked on a number of shorts, compared with a feature film are these short movies more difficult to score, as you have less time to establish a sound or style?

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I think so. I think they are a bit more difficult because there is less time to develop an idea. Also, it becomes more obvious when there is a slight change in style or approach. With a feature, you can slowly change the style over the course of several scenes. With the short, not so much.

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I loved HELL ON THE BORDER, how many times do you like to see a movie before getting any fixed ideas about the score as in style or where music should be placed to best serve the movie?

 

Thank you so much. Thank makes me happy to hear that you enjoyed the music. I liked to see the film just once in its entirety. I start to think of ideas as I am watching the film. I also make notes on my sequencer in specific spots to help remind me of my ideas

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Was HELL ON THE BORDER temp tracked with anything and did you receive any specific instructions regarding the score from the director?

 

Hell On The Border did not have a temp track. Well, it had maybe about 3 scene that did have temp music but a good 95% of the film did not have a temp track; however, I did get very specific instructions from the director, Wes Miller. He wanted the score to have a western sound. I composed something similar to, The Magnificent Seven. He liked the music but he didn’t feel the character of the music fit well with the film. So, I made another piece of music. This time, it was more along the lines of, The Good, The Bad & The Ugly. He also liked it but still did not feel that it was the right choice. He then sent me a piece of music that had western music mixed with hip-hop. It was a very cool and fresh sound to the western genre. I made something along the same lines and he loved it. Even though the score is not all western and hip-hop, Wes wanted to make sure that I was able to do something like that for specific scenes in the film. The mixture of orchestra and hip-hop reminded me a lot of the Black Panther score.

 

Staying with HELL ON THE BORDER, there are a handful of solo performances, which bring the score to life, do you perform on any of your film scores at all?

 

I try to perform when possible. I feel that a live performance brings so much more emotion to the music than just a digital version of a performance. The imperfections of the human touch elevates the music.

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What is your opinion of the use of soundscape in film scores nowadays rather than composers writing themes?

Ahhh, soundscapes. I think they all have a place in film. Creating soundscapes has become a bit easier because of technology. With the press of a key, a beautiful sound is made. I prefer themes but maybe that is because I grew up learning to write music with manuscript paper and a pencil. For me, a theme is far more memorable, sing-able and more enjoyable. On the flip side, I do understand the requests from the directors and the “less is more” approach.

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ATONE is an interesting score, its powerful and quite full on, what percentage of the soundtrack was realised via electronic or synthetic instrumentation?

 

Atone had a good amount of electronic instruments. I think it 60% orchestra 40% electronic or something very close that. The director wanted to have a hybrid score.

 

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Going back to the Temp track, is this something that you find helpful or is it a tool that filmmakers use that can be counter-productive?

 

I know most composer do not like temp music. I actually do like it. It helps me get into the mind of the director and see the vision they have for the film. The good thing is that, most of the films that I have worked on with temp music, the temp music was just a guide and never a, “Okay Sid, make me something exactly like this”. For the most part, I’ve had creative freedom.

 

What is the normal routine that you employ when working on a movie, by this I mean do you tackle the smaller cues first or do you like to develop a core or central theme first so that you can then build the remainder of the score around this?

 

I actually like to work linear. I know most composers, either do the climax scene or smaller scenes first. Some even compose a collection of music pieces even before getting the film. I like to compose linear. My inspiration comes from the film, the acting, the visuals, etc

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What composers or artists would you say have had an influence upon you or maybe have inspired you?

There are many and not just from the concert and film world but from mainstream as well. Let’s see, where should I start. I know I won’t be able to list all of them but here are some that I can remember at the moment

Concert

Tchaikovsky

Brahms

Copland

Debussy

Ravel

Chopin

 

Film

John Williams

Hans Zimmer

John Powell

Trevor Morris

Michael Abels

Junkie XL

Michael Giacchino

 

Mainstream

Pharrell Williams & Chad Hugo (The Neptunes)

Timbaland

Dr. Dre

 

I think it is safe to say that all of these composer sound very different. They all bring something different to the table. I really enjoy their music and have been inspired and influenced

 

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How do you bring your musical ideas to life, keyboard, pc or straight to manuscript?

 

Because of tight deadlines, I typically start on the computer. I use my keyboard and or guitar to come up with my ideas.

 

Do you think that orchestration is an important part of composing music, and do you conduct at all?

 

Oh yea, orchestration is very important. Orchestration can provide different colours to your music. It can help from preventing the music sounding repetitive, it can help provide a certain mood, colours, emotions. For example, if there is a piece of music composed for solo piano but orchestrated for the pipe organ, the music will have a very Gothic and perhaps even sinister feel.

Orchestration is not only for adding colour, mood, and overall feel to a piece of music, but it will also help balance the sound of the orchestra or any ensemble. For example, let’s say the string section wants to play very very quietly. Without orchestration, someone might just decide to make the string section smaller, so the overall volume is quieter. By doing that, you lose the size of the sound. What should happen is, increase the size of the string section and have them all play even quieter. This way, you get the dynamics of a very quiet string section and not lose the size of the sound. Also, overlapping, interlocking, instruments brings a very different sound than just instruments layered on top of each other.

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To be honest, I don’t do a lot of conducting but I have and will, if need be.

 

HELL ON THE BORDER is one of the best scores this year so far, it has everything I heard a Goldsmith vibe and this was also mixed with a nod to Morricone.  Did you set out to do this or did it just develop as you created the score?

Thank you so much. That really means a lot to me. It makes me happy to know that you enjoy it. Once I knew that the director wanted a western score, I set out to create that type of sound. Aaron Copland is probably the composer responsible for creating that Americana sound. The sound that when we hear his music, we think of western music. Because I champion his music, I have studied several of his scores in the past. I also looked at popular Western film music and studied that as well. When I began to compose the music, I composed 2 different western styles, one being like Elmer Bernstein, The Magnificent Seven and the other being Ennio Morricone, The Good, The Bad & The Ugly. The director settled on the 3rd version I made but all 3 versions were very much a western sound. So, I had a good idea of what I wanted the music to sound like.

 

 

 

What is next for you, and do you see film scoring being affected by Covid in the future?

 

I think I might have another western film coming up, a drama, maybe a documentary, I just started to get into commercials / ads so I might be doing some of those. When will I start to work on these projects, I am not sure? Are these projects a sure thing? No not really.

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I do see film scoring being affected by Covid. I do not think it will be good or bad but different. Because many musicians were not able to go into the scoring stages and record, they must figure out a way to get work done and still be safe doing it. Many of them learned how to record at home. Yes, it’ not the same and the recordings will not have the same sound because people were recording in their living rooms, instead of a giant scoring stage but the musicians did learn a new skill, home recording. With recording at home, the sound of the orchestra has / will change. A big part of the orchestra sound is the room. Yes, we can try to simulate the reverberation of a room with digital effects, but it is not the same.

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TALKING TO JOHN YAP.

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If you were around a few years ago when labels such as Silva Screen and THATS ENTERTAINMENT RECORDS started to become more and more visible in shops, then you would certainly recall the name of John Yap, its thanks to people such as John that we can be thankful that a number of scores from movies and shows were released at first onto LP record and then onto Compact Disc. I always recall seeing the TER releases, many being film scores that had been issued in the States on Varese Sarabande and TER ensuring that collectors in the UK and Europe did not miss out. 

I caught up with John recently, who also runs Jay records and he was gracious enough to answer my questions. 

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JOHN YAP.

I can remember TER starting up, I think the first soundtracks I added to my collection on the label were COMPANY OF WOLVES and 84 CHARRING CROSS ROAD both by George Fenton. The label however was more devoted to theatre and show recordings, was it your own interest in these that led you to establish the label?

 

 

 

YES. MY PASSIONS ARE THEATRE AND MUSIC. IT STARTED WITH MUSICALS AND GRADUATED TO OPERA. HOWEVER, I HAVE ALWAYS LOVED AND APPRECIATED THE MUSIC SCORES IN THE MOVIES. BEING A COLLECTOR (STAMPS, DC COMICS, BOOKS, LPS etc.) I NATURALLY COLLECTED AND AMASSED A LARGE COLLECTION OF FILMS AND SHOWS LPS. WHEN MY INTERESTS IN OPERA BEGAN TO GROW, I STARTED TO COLLECT OPERA LPS. THAT SOON GREW TO BEYOND WHAT SPACE MY FLAT COULD ACCOMMODATE. SINCE I WAS ALMOST EXCLUSIVELY LISTENING TO THE OPERA RECORDINGS, MY FILM AND SHOWS COLLECTION BECAME ALMOST REDUNDANT. I DECIDED TO SELL MY FILMS AND SHOWS COLLECTION. KNOWING THAT THERE IS AN INTERNATIONAL COLLECTORS MARKET OUT THERE, RATHER THAN SELLING THEM (THOUSANDS) TO A SECOND HAND DEALER FOR PITTANCE, I ADVERTISED MY COLLECTION FOR SALE IN A COUPLE OF SMALL ADS IN “FILMS AND FILMING” AND THE GRAMOPHONE MAGAZINE.

 

 

THE RESPONSE FROM COLLECTORS ALL OVER THE WORLD WAS PHENOMENAL, IN SPITE OF MY ASKING HIGH PREMIUM PRICES FOR THE RARE TITLES. THERE WERE SOME TITLES THAT I COULD NOT SUPPLY BUT I KEPT A RECORD OF THE COLLECTORS’ DETAILS IN MY “WANTS LIST”. THE REASON IS THAT SOME OTHER COLLECTORS WHO COULD NOT AFFORD MY ASKING PRICES FOR THE RARE TITLES, WOULD OFFER SEVERAL OTHER TITLES PLUS CASH SUPPLEMENTS IN EXCHANGE FOR THEM. I NOTICED THAT IF I TOOK THOSE OFFERS, I WOULD BE ABLE TO OFFER THEM TO THE COLLECTORS IN THE “WANTS LIST” AND IN EFFECT, I WOULD BE GETTING A MUCH HIGHER AMOUNT FOR THE ORIGINAL TITLE. I STARTED TO GO TO SECONDHAND RECORDS SHOPS AND BUY UP WHAT I KNEW TO BE SOUGHT AFTER TITLES. WHAT STARTED OFF AS A “SELLING OFF” OF MY COLLECTION FROM A COUPLE OF SMALL ADS RAPIDLY TURNED INTO A MAIL ORDER BUSINESS. I HAVE A BSC DEGREE IN GRAPHIC DESIGN (WHICH PROVED TO BE TREMENDOUSLY HANDY) AND I WAS WORKING IN AN ADVERTISING AND DESIGN AGENCY AT THE TIME. I HAD JUST SECURED A MAJOR BRITISH AIRWAYS INTERNATIONAL ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN WITH MY DESIGN AND CONCEPT FOR THE AGENCY. I WAS THEIR RISING STAR. I WAS MAKING A GOOD LIVING AS A GRAPHIC DESIGNER, BUT I NOTICED THAT I WAS EARNING MUCH MORE FROM REPLYING A FEW LETTERS IN THE EVENING THAN MY DAYTIME JOB. IN SPITE OF MY RISING STATUS IN THE DESIGN AND ADVERTISING AGENCY, I TOOK THE PLUNGE AND GAVE UP THE JOB AND CONCENTRATED ON THE MAIL ORDER. THIS GAVE ME MORE TIME TO SCOUR SECOND-HAND RECORDS SHOPS OUTSIDE LONDON AND AROUND THE COUNTRY TO FIND MORE COLLECTORS TITLES. THE MAIL ORDER OPERATION TOOK OFF.

WHEN IT GREW TO A SIZE BEYOND WHAT MY FLAT COULD ACCOMMODATE (OVER-FLOWING WITH SECOND HAND LPS) I DECIDED TO OPEN A SPECIALIST FILM AND SHOWS RECORDS SHOP, IN DRURY LANE. MINE WAS THE FIRST SUCH SHOP ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD. BOLSTERED BY MY LARGE MAIL ORDER CUSTOMERS LIST, MY SHOP WAS AN INSTANT SUCCESS, WE WERE IN PROFIT FROM DAY ONE. THE SUCCESS WAS DUE IN PART TO MY PERSONAL INTERACTIONS WITH OTHER COLLECTORS/CUSTOMERS WITH OUR SHARED KNOWLEDGE AND INTERESTS. IT WAS NO ORDINARY SHOP. I SERVED COFFEE AND WINE WHILST CONVERSING WITH THE CUSTOMERS WHO WOULD INEVITABLY ENDED UP LEAVING THE SHOP WITH A HANDFUL OF LPS, HAPPY AND SATISFIED. WHEN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE COVENT GARDEN MARKET INVITED APPLICATIONS FOR THE 49 UNITS FROM INTERESTING SHOPS/BUSINESSES, THERE WERE OVER 10,000 APPLICATIONS AND WE WERE ONE OF THE SUCCESSFUL ONES. WHEN WE MOVED INTO THE PREMISES IN THE COVENT GARDEN MARKET, THE PASSING TRADE (IN ADDITION TO THE COLLECTORS) GAVE US A TEN-FOLD INCREASE IN OUR BUSINESS. AS WITH EVERY BUSINESSES, AFTER A CERTAIN GROWTH, INSTEAD OF OPENING ANOTHER BRANCH OF THE SHOP, I DECIDED TO START A LABEL SPECIALISING IN FILMS AND SHOWS. THAT’S HOW TER/JAY RECORDS WAS BORN.

 

 

Some of the film scores you released were from major movies at the time, RAMBO, DON’T LOOK NOW etc, were you careful in what film music you selected to release, and did you gauge it via the composers reputation or by how well the film was doing?

 

 

I WAS FORTUNATE IN THAT WHEN I DECIDED TO START RELEASING FILM SOUNDTRACKS, THE MAJOR RECORD LABELS WERE NOT ACTIVELY RELEASING FILM SOUNDTRACKS. THE MAJOR FILM STUDIOS NEEDED SOUNDTRACK ALBUMS TO HELP PROMOTE THEIR MOVIES AND SO THEY WERE HAPPY TO JUST GIVE THE SOUNDTRACK ALBUMS TO REPUTABLE LABELS TO RELEASE WITHOUT HEFTY FEES. MY COMPANY JOINED FORCES WITH VARESE SARABANDE TO PICK UP SOUNDTRACKS FROM BOTH THE UK AND THE USA. AT THE TIME, I WAS VERY FORTUNATE IN THAT I BECAME CLOSE FRIENDS WITH THE MAN WHO WAS IN CHARGE OF THE TOWER RECORDS SHOP THAT FACED PICCADILLY CIRCUS.

THAT FRIENDSHIP GAVE ME THE USE OF ONE OF THE TWO LARGE FRONT WINDOWS OF THE SHOP FOR PROMOTION OF ANY OF MY RELEASES WHENEVER I WANTED, WITHOUT HAVING TO PAY THEM THOUSANDS OF RENTAL FEES. THIS WAS A GREAT ATTRACTION FOR THE FILM COMPANIES IN THE PROMOTION OF THEIR FILMS. THEY WERE VERY KEEN FOR ME TO RELEASE THE SOUNDTRACKS OF THEIR FILMS. I USED TO ARRANGE WITH THE FILM COMPANIES FOR TOWER RECORDS TO HAVE SPECIAL EXCLUSIVE PREVIEWS OF THE FILMS (USUALLY IN THE ODEON LEICESTER SQUARE) FOR THEIR CUSTOMERS WHO PURCHASED THE RELEVANT SOUNDTRACKS DURING EACH CAMPAIGN. THIS WAS A WIN, WIN SITUATION FOR THE FILM COMPANIES, TOWER RECORDS AND US.

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TOWER RECORDS WOULD PROMOTE THE SOUNDTRACK ALBUMS AND THE FILMS WITH MAJOR DISPLAYS IN THE SHOP AND RACKED THE ALBUMS AROUND THE SHOP. WE LITERALLY SOLD THOUSANDS OF THOSE SOUNDTRACK ALBUMS THERE. AT THE SAME TIME, I ALSO BECAME GREAT FRIENDS WITH THE MANAGER OF THE FILMS AND SHOWS DEPARTMENT OF THE HMV FLAGSHIP SHOP ON OXFORD STREET. I WAS GIVEN MORE OR LESS THE SAME PRIVILEGES FOR ONE OF THEIR WINDOWS AND IN STORE PROMOTIONS.

 

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WITH HMV, I CONCENTRATED ON THE ORIGINAL CAST MUSICAL ALBUMS. IT WAS A FABULOUS TIME FOR ME AND MY COMPANY. WITH REGARDS TO WHAT I DECIDED TO RELEASE, THERE WAS NO FAST RULES. SOMETIMES ITS THE COMPOSERS, SOMETIMES ITS THE GENRE AND SOMETIMES ITS THE ACTORS. I REMEMBER SITTING ALL BY MYSELF, ALONE IN A PREVIEW CINEMA WATCHING “MAD MAX 2” THAT WARNER BROS. LAID ON FOR ME. THIS WAS BEFORE ANYONE HAD ANY IDEA OF THE FILM. I WAS VERY EXCITED BY THE IMAGES OF A YOUNG MEL GIBSON IN THE MAD MAX LEATHER SUIT. I DECIDED TO RELEASE THE SOUNDTRACK ALBUM EVEN THOUGH THE ALBUM CONSISTED MOSTLY OF SOUND EFFECTS. I MADE SURE THAT THE COVER OF THE SOUNDTRACK ALBUM HAD THE IMAGE OF MEL GIBSON IN HIS MAD MAX LEATHER SUIT. I WAS PROVEN RIGHT IN THAT WE SOLD THOUSANDS OF THAT ALBUM.

 

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“WITNESS” WAS ANOTHER SOUNDTRACK ALBUM THAT SOLD THOUSANDS BY THE COVER IMAGE (AND HELPED BY MAURICE JARRE’S WONDERFUL SYNTHESISED SCORE OF COURSE). I WAS CONFIDENT THAT HARRISON FORD’S PERFORMANCE AND FACE WERE SO COMPELLING IN THE MOVIE, THAT I JUST HAD HIS FACE ON THE FRONT COVER. NO TITLE AND NO COMPOSER. AND IT WORKED. I BELIEVE THAT SOME PEOPLE FRAMED THE LP SLEEVE BECAUSE THOSE EMPTY SLEEVES KEPT BEING STOLEN FROM THE STORES. THOSE HALCYON DAYS CAME TO AN END WHEN THE MOVIES STARTED USING POP SONGS FOR THEIR SOUNDTRACKS AND I REMEMBER VIRGIN RECORDS STARTED TO OFFER HUGH ADVANCES OF THOUSANDS OF POUNDS FOR THEIR SOUNDTRACKS. WHEN THE FILM COMPANIES STARTED TO ASK FOR HEFTY ADVANCES FOR THE SOUNDTRACK RIGHTS, I DECIDED THAT IT WAS NOT WORTH THE RISKS AND STOPPED RELEASING FILM SOUNDTRACKS GENERALLY.

 

What was the quantity run on a soundtrack compared to a popular show that was doing well in the west end?

 

ONCE UPON A TIME WE WOULD CONFIDENTLY PRESS 5,000 UNITS, NOW WE ARE HAPPY TO SELL MORE THAN 500. WHEN WE LICENSED OUR RECORDINGS TO POLYDOR, SONY OR BMG FOR THE USA MARKET, THEY WOULD SHIP OUT 60,000 TO 100,000 UNITS ON EACH RELEASE. THAT USED TO BE WHEN THERE WERE RECORD SHOPS EVERYWHERE. NOW IT IS MOSTLY STREAMING AND DOWNLOADS. HAVING SAID THAT WE HAVE RETAINED A CORE OF LOYAL COLLECTORS WHO ARE ARDENT SUPPORTERS OF OUR PHYSICAL RELEASES. SOUNDTRACKS VS ORIGINAL CASTS? IN OUR CASE, WE CONTINUE TO SELL OUR ORIGINAL CASTS MUSICAL CDS IN MORE MEANINGFUL NUMBERS.

 

Did you distribute your own releases or was this handled by another company?

 

WE USED TO HAVE DISTRIBUTORS IN VARIOUS PARTS OF THE WORLD. AS THE DEMISE OF THE BRICKS AND MORTAR SHOPS STARTED, WE DISPENSED WITH THE DISTRIBUTORS EXCEPTING FOR OUR AMERICAN DISTRIBUTOR, ALLEGRO CORP. HOWEVER, ABOUT THREE YEARS AGO, WE TOOK LEGAL ACTIONS TO BANKRUPT THEM TO PREVENT THEM FROM THEIR ATTEMPTED ILLEGAL SEIZURE OF THE PROPERTIES BELONGING TO ALL THEIR DISTRIBUTED LABELS. THEY THOUGHT THAT THEY COULD JUST SEIZE OUR STOCK ON A FALSE NARRATIVE AND LIQUIDATE THEM CHEAPLY FOR THEIR SOLE BENEFITS. WE SUCCEEDED IN OUR PETITION TO BANKRUPT THEM AND WE ALL RETRIEVED OUR PROPERTY. NOW WE SELL MAINLY ON AMAZON, DIRECTLY THROUGH OUR OWN WEBSITE AND DOWNLOADS ON ITUNES. WE HAVE CREATED SHORTER (HIGHLIGHTS) VERSIONS OF OUR MAIN ALBUMS SPECIFICALLY FOR STREAMING. SO, ANYONE WANTING TO LISTEN TO THE FULL ALBUMS WILL STILL HAVE TO PAY FOR THEM.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Because of COVID 19, live shows have ground to a halt, and they are saying they won’t return until 2021, Have sales slumped for you or have you found people are buying more because they cannot go to the theatre?

 

 

INTERESTINGLY ENOUGH, WE HAVE SOLD MORE CDS THAN EVER SINCE THE LOCKDOWN BEGAN. SO, WE ARE VERY HAPPY.

 

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JAY RECORDS LOGO.

 

What release have you found to be continuingly popular and has sold steadily over the years?

 

THE BEAUTY AND ADVANTAGE WITH THE MUSICAL THEATRE CATALOGUE IS THAT THE SHOWS THEMSELVES ARE PERENNIALS. THEY ARE CONSTANTLY REVIVED AROUND THE WORLD AND SO THERE IS ALWAYS DEMAND FOR OUR RECORDINGS ACROSS THE ENTIRE CATALOGUE. OUR MOST SUCCESSFUL RECORDING, ONE THAT RECOUPED BEFORE WE EVEN RELEASED IT OFFICIALLY, IS “WEST SIDE STORY”. WE HAD A DEAL WITH A MAGAZINE PUBLISHING COMPANY TO PROVIDE 75 RECORDINGS OF MUSICALS (12 TRACKS EACH) FOR THEIR PARTWORKS PUBLICATION. “WEST SIDE STORY” WAS THE FIRST RELEASE AND IT SOLD 1.8 MILLION COPIES. WE WERE ON A FEE AND ROYALTY DEAL.

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If a show is doing well and is becoming popular, how do you go about releasing an album, who do you contact, the composer, theatre company or a mix of both and how does the process work from the initial contact to the release of the recording?

 

IF A SHOW IS RUNNING ON BROADWAY OR THE WEST END, THE FIRST PORT OF CALL IS WITH THE PRODUCERS. THEY WOULD THEN OBTAIN THE RIGHTS FROM THE AUTHORS. THEN THEY OR WE WOULD ENGAGE THE CAST AND MUSICIANS VIA EQUITY. AFTER THAT THE ONUS IS ON US TO TAKE CARE OF EVERYTHING, STUDIOS, MANUFACTURING, PROMOTION AND DISTRIBUTION.

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Where did your love of theatre and musicals come from and is your collection of music mainly from shows?

 

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WHEN I WAS A CHILD GROWING UP IN KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA MY MOTHER WOULD TAKE ME TO SEE ALL THOSE WONDERFUL MGM MUSICAL FILMS. I CAN REMEMBER SEEING “PAGAN LOVE SONG” AND “KISMET” THAT’S WHERE MY LOVE FOR MUSICALS WAS BORN. AS FOR MY LP COLLECTION, THE MAJORITY OF THE COLLECTION WAS MUSICAL CAST AND SOUNDTRACK RECORDINGS, BUT I HAD A SIZEABLE COLLECTION OF NON-MUSICAL FILM SOUNDTRACKS AS WELL AS PERSONALITIES OF THE STAGE AND SCREEN.

 

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The soundtrack market is a small one, and seems to be becoming more and more specialist, would you consider releasing soundtracks from newer movies or do you think that the market is too specialist now?

 

OUR DAYS OF RELEASING FILM SOUNDTRACKS ARE MORE OR LESS OVER. THERE ARE MORE SUITABLE AND EXPERIENCED COMPANIES RELEASING THEM NOWADAYS.

 

Is there more online purchasing nowadays, and do you find that most people prefer to download or stream recordings?

THERE ARE THREE DIFFERENT TYPES OF MARKETS INVOLVED HERE. ONE: THE COLLECTORS, THEY WILL BUY THE PHYSICAL CDS. TWO: THE MUSIC LOVERS, THEY WILL DOWNLOAD TO KEEP, FOR CONVENIENCE SAKE. THREE: THE CASUAL LISTENERS, THEY STREAM. BECAUSE STREAMING IS FREE, IT IS THE MOST POPULAR. FOR US, DOWNLOAD IS STILL THE MOST PROFITABLE.

 

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Staying with buying online or streaming, do you think that this has somewhat taken the fun out of collecting, because back in the 70’s and 80’s one had to go out and find the recordings, now it’s a case of click and next day delivery?

 

DEFINITELY. THE FUN AND EXCITEMENT OF FLICKING THROUGH RECORDS IN THE SHOPS CANNOT BE MEASURED OR EXPLAINED. THE SHEER ECSTASY OF COMING ACROSS A LONG SOUGHT-AFTER LP IS BEYOND DESCRIPTION.

 

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There is a real interest in buying records once again, do you buy LP records for your collection, and are you producing LPS of recordings on your labels?

 

 

NO AND NO.

Knowing what you know now, would you do it all again the same as you did or maybe a little different?

 

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YES, BUT NOT UNDER THE PRESENT CONDITION AND SITUATION. I WAS VERY LUCKY AND BLESSED TO BE ABLE TO JUST START A RECORD LABEL AND PROSPER FROM DAY ONE WITHOUT MUCH FINANCIAL INJECTION AND RISKS, AT THE TIME WHEN I DID.

TALKING TO DIRECTOR,WRITER, COMPOSER THOMAS CLAY.

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Director Thomas Clay with Actor Freddie Fox.

 

Recently here on MMI we reviewed FANNY LYE DELIVER’D. which contains a brilliant score by the films director Thomas Clay. The movie evoked many memories of movies that are referred to as Folk or rural movies, I personally compared the film to A FIELD IN ENGLAND and also examples such as WITCHFINDER GENERAL, BLOOD ON SATANS CLAW and to a degree films such as CAPTAIN CLEGG. My thanks to the director for taking time to answer my questions. JM. 

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What do you consider to be the purpose of music in film?
Whilst music can support the story and the emotions of a scene, I feel it should be much more than that. The music should be integral to the film’s fabric, a key part of its identity. Ideally, the performances, the mis-en-scene and the music should all be in balance. I’m not so keen on the idea of underscore, of the music hiding away and not drawing attention to itself, just as I’m not so keen on the idea that the camera should be invisible. These are two sides of the same coin it seems to me. Which is not to say a televisual style can’t work – I’m as big a fan of Mad Men or Breaking Bad as anyone – but, you know, other brands are available.

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Normally when writing music for a movie a composer spots the film with the director. Is it easier when you write music for your own movies?
I spotted it in the sense of adding temp cues to the rough cut. There was a lot of Riz Ortolani’s Addio Zio Tom, and Luis Bacalov’s Quién sabe? which freaked people out to say the least! Since I was performing both roles, feedback from producers and execs became crucial.

 

 

I did get some push back over spotting music into dialogue scenes, which is considered in extremely poor taste these days, and yet you can’t achieve an authentic retro feel without it. At one point it was even suggested to drop the score altogether and replace it with atmospheres and sound design… To be fair though, this did push me to do better, and as we got closer to the recording sessions, everyone really started to get behind it. I did also carry on cutting and editing both the film and the music after recording, trimming it back further. I think we found about the right balance in the end.

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MAXINE PEAKE.

In terms of internal process, it was quite interesting to discover the conflicts that sometimes arise between the director’s agenda and the composer’s. In my case, the director always wins, of course, without the need for a fight! But this did then make things tougher for Anthony (Weeden, conductor), Geoff Foster,(engineer) and the musicians – I’m thinking particularly of the click tracks. Morricone talks in his book about conflicts with Leone on Once Upon a Time in America, Leone insisting the cues hit a variety of precise sync points. And all of our clicks tracks were of this nature, constantly shifting tempo. Geoff said – with humour, of course! – that, in over 250 scores, it was the worst click track he’d ever seen…

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Freddie Fox on set.

What size orchestra excluding soloists did you have for Fanny Lye?

We had a 40-piece string orchestra that plays on most of the cues, and our choir I Fagiolini were 40 in number as well, they appear on 7 tracks of the CD. Then there was a background grouping of approximately 20 historical musicians, sackbuts, dulcian, anaconda, serpent, natural trumpets, etc, who appear in various configurations, with the lead musicians sometimes soloing and sometimes supporting each other as well. For example, Jakob Lindberg has more ornate lute passages in tracks like Dressing Up and A Story – that’s a cue that’s only in the film – but he is also playing a Theorbo ground on a number of other tracks.

To make sure the recording had a live feel, engineer Geoff Foster gave everyone their own seat within the hall, however we did then track many of the historical instruments separately or in small groups. This was unavoidable, given the dynamic ranges and tuning challenges presented by some of these instruments. The largest grouping on the CD is Old Soldiers. That was recorded with everyone together in the room, the strings, the choir, the percussionists and Jörgen van Rijen braving it out on his sackbut, so 85 players in total including conductor Anthony Weeden and choirmaster Robert Hollingworth. It caused some headaches in the mix to be honest, but it has an energy to it that hopefully compensates.

 

How long did it take you to write the score and when shooting the film do you play music on set?
I was fortunate to have quite a free reign with regards to the schedule. It took me about a year to compose the entire score. I was learning as I was going along, and also being very fussy about the DAW mock-ups – the latter being the reason I originally gave up writing and producing music 20 years ago. I just can’t help tweaking every note ad infinitum.  We played music on set for my last two films, but not on this one oddly.

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What composers and filmmakers would you say have influenced you?

 

I would say I’ve been inspired by Riz Ortolani, Vangelis, Morricone, Luis Bacalov, Philip Glass, also by Beethoven, Schubert, Mahler, Wagner, Bartok, Ligeti, Stockhausen. In your review, you mention John Barry. I wouldn’t necessarily have made the connection, but as a 12-year-old I was quite obsessed with Dances with Wolves, so that’s quite possibly a formative inspiration. Around the same time, in the early 90s, I discovered Vangelis and early Hans Zimmer – I remember borrowing his K2 score from the library and becoming quite obsessed with that too.

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My love of the Italian maestros came a few years later.  Some filmic inspirations for Fanny Lye would be Once Upon a Time in the West, Heaven’s Gate, Days of Heaven, Ride in the Whirlwind, McCabe & Mrs Miller, The Searchers, Man of the West, Barry Lyndon, Satantango and Andrei Rublev.

 

In the movie and also within the score there are references to Morricone with a nod to his spaghetti western sound. Do you collect or buy soundtracks? If so what are your favourite scores to listen to?
The first CD I bought, when I was ten, was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I go through phases of collecting soundtracks, although I guess not so often in recent years as there are fewer modern scores that have really caught my ear. Favourite scores would be The Mission, Once Upon a Time in the West, Once Upon a Time in America, Addio Zio Tom, Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, The Thin Red Line (the full version), Alien, Aliens and Alien 3 as well. And musicals: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Meet Me In St. Louis.

 

 

Your music for Fanny Lye is very thematic. What is your opinion of the use of drone or soundscape sounds within scores for movies now. And do you think that actual themes are now a thing of the past in big movies?

 

Not every film requires a prominent score. My favourite filmmaker is Michelangelo Antonioni, whose use of music was extremely pared back. That said, it’s striking to me how many of my favourite and formative films are defined by their music, from Leone’s work to Kubrick to Coppola’s use of The Doors in Apocalypse Now, or indeed hearing the Indiana Jones theme for the first time when I was seven years old. So I do feel it’s a shame that music so often takes a back seat and that themes are less in demand. The way the musicians tell it, it is producers and directors driving this because they don’t want the music to be ‘distracting’.
That said, there have been some good musicals lately – Moana and The Greatest Showman are family favourites that get frequent play in our car! In terms of actual scores, I thought Cliff Martinez’s music for The Neon Demon was pretty excellent. And Ludwig Göransson has been doing interesting things with Black Panther and The Mandalorian. Perhaps he will encourage the theme to make a comeback – one can hope.

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TANYA REYNOLDS and FREDDIE FOX.

Is all of the music from the movie included on the CD release?

 

There’s about half an hour of music that didn’t make it onto the CD – and a couple of cues that didn’t make it into the film either. I feel the CD needs to work as its own thing, you don’t want it to be too repetitive, and it’s not necessary to be strictly chronological. On the other hand, you mustn’t be too stingy and end up with something like the original release of The Thin Red Line. Hopefully the balance is about right.

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Freddie Fox in Fanny Lye Deliver’d

You must have researched the instruments that you used in the score. Was it difficult finding the specialist soloists who perform on the soundtrack?

 

Certainly, there are fewer musicians playing those instruments, especially up to the standard we required. Casting the soloists was a little like casting the film, with each lead instrument representing a character in the movie. Anthony Weeden, our bookers Isobel Griffiths and Susie Gillis and myself put our heads together and ended up bringing in performers not just from around the UK but from Europe as well. Jörgen van Rijen flew in from Holland, Miguel Henry from France. Their interpretations are fantastic. And then there was cornett player Andrea Inghisciano, from Italy, who is really special. The cornett is a fiendish thing, somewhat like a trumpet but much harder to master, and he brings to it this swooning romantic lyricism. I actually don’t think there’s another cornett player alive who could have pulled off the most challenging passages – the ostinatos in Fanny’s Choice and The Ceremony and some of the atonal phrases in Retribution – the trumpet players often had their mouths open. That incredibly long note in Retribution is Andrea circular breathing, it hasn’t been edited.

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The renaissance cittern however was the monster. During the original recording sessions, we just couldn’t find a renaissance cittern player able to take it on. The part must have passed through 20 hands, most just saying it was impossible. One guy did muster the courage to come in and give it a bash, but we had to give up after about half an hour. We ended up coming back to Air eight months later and splitting the part between two musicians. Miguel Henry is generally regarded as the world’s best renaissance cittern player. We found a gap in his schedule, booked him onto a Eurostar and he took on the quasi-improvisatory passages in The Ceremony and Medlars with aplomb. However, there were still the ‘three finger’ sections to deal with, in March to Joy and Medlars, requiring the instrument to be played in a folk style, like a banjo. In the end, we dry hired a renaissance cittern and gave it to banjo player John Dowling, who learned to play the instrument in 6 months. A sixth and final day with John, Miguel and Geoff and the job was done! Though we did have to restrain John to prevent him from burning the cittern afterwards. 

What is next for you?

 

I really have no idea. Each time I get a film made it feels like a minor miracle. One hopes another will follow, but who knows. I have a TV series about the slave trade in 18th century West Africa that I’d love to get made, and another about the Apache-Mexican-American wars in 1830s New Mexico. We have full pilot scripts for both of those, but they’re not cheap. I’d also love to make a musical, something the children can watch.

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Many thanks to Thomas Clay for his time and patience.