Category: Interviews


TALKING TO COMPOSER JAMES GRIFFITHS.

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Where and when were you born. Were any of your family musical in any way?

I was born in Swindon, UK, 17th January 1984, I moved to Norfolk when I was 3 and stayed there until I moved to London. I would say that my father was musical, and passionate about music, he certainly loved to listen to music. He later decided to pick the guitar up after I did, and for a few years he just enjoyed the casual hobby and playing AC/DC riffs.

Movie score Media released THE DRIFT last year, how did you become involved with this project, how much music did you compose for the movie and did you have a hand in the selection of the music tracks for the MSM release?

I spoke with Mikael Carlsson of Movie Score Media for a while on what the best way was to release this album. Amazingly with a Soundtrack Geek award win for Best Surprise, also nominated with Hans Zimmer and Max Richter for Best Sci-fi and an additional nomination for Best Feature Film Score for Music and Sound Awards, I was taken back so much that I had to release it with a great and strong label, which MSM is. Interestingly we released the second movie Darkwave: Edge of The Storm on the same record. It’s the second part in a series of movies from the makers of THE DRIFT. It’s a short score so it made an interesting double score album. We worked together on creating the track order and it turned out great. All in all THE DRIFT full score is about 84 minutes.

 

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You were for many years Principal Saxophonist and al Guitarist for THE BAND OF THE COLDSTREAM GUARDS, and you performed with artists such as Catherine Jenkins, Jools Holland and Sir Rod Stewart, when did you decide to make the transition from performing musician to composer?

I worked in that performance aspect for about 13 years. I learnt a great deal working with so many amazing musicians and diverse ensembles, touring the world and making great Number 1 records. We performed a huge amount of repertoire daily, which included film music, not just classical, modern wind band or marches. I always loved the diversity and I was very lucky. It helped me understand what instruments were doing within the ensemble, which part they were playing, and section they were complimenting. I used to listen to and ask my colleagues what can they do, and can they do this? In turn I got to know more about the instruments. This helped greatly with my writing and whilst I was writing music for MTV, I thought I would take the leap of faith and go from performing to full time composer.

 

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Had you always been attracted to the idea of writing music for film? When you were working on THE DRIFT were you given any specific instructions by the director, Darren Scales as to the style or the sound of the musical score he wanted?

I love film music, I always have from a young age, E.T. being my favourite score of all time as it’s a wonderful bridge between score and classical music, it gets me every time watching it on screen. I think writing scores came more natural to me after performing them for so long and when I studied my Masters in Music Performance and Psychology, I learnt more about how music reacts with the individual. I try to focus more to combine this into my writing, and to really channel the emotive response that the picture is explaining. Darren is very specific with his temp placements, it can be a great help but also a big ask when such famous scores that he is in love with are the direction to go in. When the director has often sat on the temp for probably about a year, getting away from it is tough, but ultimately once the score has its voice the temp can be used for a quick reference of emotion or pace and that’s it.

 

 

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You also conduct, did you conduct THE DRIFT and do you like to conduct all your music for film and TV, or are there times when it is just not possible for you to do this?

I love conducting, I always have, even back in my former career, rehearsing ensembles and playing under great conductors including the LSO and RPO. It’s something that I always enjoyed learning as everyone has his or her own style. If I get the opportunity to wag the stick I leap at the chance, but then also in the session I am keen to sit in the booth and hear the recorded aspect so it’s a balance. Trusting the team in the studio is the big thing, so if you have a great team then it’s more of an enjoyable process to conduct the ensemble and leave the rest to do what they do best. I didn’t conduct THE DRIFT as it was a clever tech process we will no doubt chat about.

Orchestration is an important part of the composing process, do you orchestrate all your music, or are there at times (when deadlines are looming etc.) when you use an orchestrator?

Orchestration is a big job, especially if it’s a large ensemble. If I have the time I definitely like to do it, but if deadlines are tough like now, I call in the team to help and work on it. Currently I am sharing the orchestration with my great assistant and composer in Vienna, Christoph Allerstorfer to get the job done. It’s like a well – tuned machine, when the cue’s written and signed off then off it goes!

You are at times involved with fellow composer Frank Ilfman, what are you responsible for when collaborating with him?

I was working for and with Frank for about 2 years as his assistant. I had many great experiences learning his style and how he manages his movies. He is such a wonderful composer and mentor. I would work on anything he needed, from cue sheet and Pro Tools prep, to streamers and additional music or source. I’ve just finished working for him as my schedule is quite busy and we actually just scored a feature together called 68 Kill. It’s a great movie that we decided to give a double team approach to.

 

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You went to Abu Dhabi in 2015 to conduct music from THE DRIFT what was this for? DARKWAVE EDGE OF THE STORM is also included on the release by Movie Score Media, this is a short film which runs for approx. 20 mins, how does working on a short or a television series differ from working on a full-length movie?

The NSO Symphony orchestra invited me to provide them with a suite of THE DRIFT. It was a great honour to have it performed by such a wonderful symphony orchestra and bring new film music to the country. It was even better to go back the following year with a new suite, involving Darkwave EOTS and an additional 30-piece Chorus. It sounded amazing and we have a wonderful relationship I’m sure will continue.

It is great working on shorts and I feel sometimes you have a bit more weight to really throw the themes hard into the movie as the movie is often edited in a fast pace fashion. Working on a feature however is a completely different beast. Not only the amount of music but making sure that the handful of themes are continued throughout, reintroducing the points of story and emotion. I love it; I am very much a composer that wants my music heard and not just provide an underscore. It’s down to me to make it work well in that case.

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When scoring, a project do you have a set routine or a fixed way in which you approach it, do you begin with the main title and work through to the end credits or do you create a central theme and then develop the remainder of the score around this or from it, or is every project different?

Dependant on time I obviously watch the movie through once after reading the script. I like to come on board early if possible so I can really get to know the directors vision of score and start to play with ideas for themes and characters. I do like to start from the beginning in general. I just think it helps develop the story telling in my writing and I can see everything grow throughout.

When playing around with my theme ideas in the sketch stage I have them ready for when I get to the scenes in question. Our Shining Sword for instance, they haven’t finished filming yet but I have been receiving rushes and edits to start mapping ideas out throughout the production phase.

 

 

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THE DRIFT a very grand and powerful sounding score, which for me evoked memories of Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams, what size orchestra did you use for this assignment and where did you record it?

That’s really kind and generous of you to compare me to these legends, thank you! THE DRIFT was a really interesting project as the whole ethos of the movie was; could the production team create a Hollywood size movie including all VFX and music on a shoestring micro budget. I loved the opportunity to see what I could do, and it paid off. No live musicians and just clever technology gave it the 100-piece orchestra size. Of course, I would have loved the live orchestra but it wasn’t possible under the project. I think it worked out great though under the circumstances. Everything was programmed and mixed here at Riff Studios.

Staying with recording studios and facilities, do you have a preference for any studio when it comes to recording your film scores?

I’m lucky enough to have recorded and played myself in the best studios in the world including Abbey Road, Air Studios and The Synchron Stage, Vienna. If anything, I love Air Lyndhurst in the UK. It has such a massive sound and great team working there with rich History. Abbey Road obviously has its charm and history, which I do enjoy but I think Air has a bigger fuller sound for my taste.

The Synchron Stage in Vienna, which is newly opened is wonderful, and a really big sound. I’m looking forward to recording there in the near future. The team are fabulous and technology is second to none.

 

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What composers, artists etc. would you say have influenced your style of composition or in the way that you approach the scoring of a movie?

I am a massive love of composers who have their own unique voice and style. Elliot Goldenthal, Mr Williams, John Powell, Frank of course an Johann Johansson are definitely composers who I love and respect their voice and work. Anyone who is brave enough to do something different gets my vote!

How do you work out your musical ideas, piano, or computerised method? What are your earliest memories of any kind of music?

I do work from a computer setup with the usual big libraries etc. but I do tend to use the piano to write the melodies. I just think it flows better and then I will translate that into the voice I need. Any kind of music.. gosh. Film score: E.T, Classical: Wagner’s Elsa’s procession to The Cathedral and no doubt Metallica Black album.

What are you working on now? What in your opinion is the purpose of music in film?

I have just wrapped up “68 Kill” a comedy thriller feature with Director Trent Haaga, Snowfort Pictures and I co-wrote this with Frank. It has its world premiere at the midnight screeners in March at SXSW. Currently I’m just in thick of scoring Director Richard Rowntree’s Folk Horror feature “Dogged” which will be released in the spring, It will be wrapped up in a few weeks then I will move onto the next one! Music in film is incredibly important, it’s all about emphasis of the story telling, contributing to the movie environment, emotion or character description. Watching a movie without any music is a strange experience, but also as a film score it has to work with everything else, the dialogue and Sound FX, so there also has to be a partnership between all the elements and allow for space. As a composer you have to not be afraid of silence within the score. If it’s just non-stop full on music, often it doesn’t work so well.

 

 

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How many times do you like to watch a movie before you begin to get ideas about what type of music the film needs and where music should be placed to best serve the picture, do you prefer to see a movie in its rough-cut stage or do you sometimes like to see a script?

If I have the time to watch more than once then great, often the case it’s just once, but I will have spotting sessions with the production team to go over everything before I start work officially so it still becomes a good base to get to know what’s going on.

I do like to see rough edits and working reels but I try not to do too much sketching over the working edits, as often things change adding more work to cues that now may not work at all. Also, the style and the sound of the score may need to be completely different from the original idea so it’s best to just keep informed of changes and talk to everyone involved. Of course, you also need to know what the budget can afford regarding musicians as this will play a big factor of who you write for and what sound the movie needs.

Do you perform on any of your film scores?

I love having the NSO in Abu Dhabi perform my scores and I hope there will be many more opportunities abroad and at home to bring my scores to the live audience. I always want to write scores that can be performed live, either as a small ensemble or full symphony.

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As far as I can see you have scored two motion pictures, both of which contain very powerful soundtracks. How did you become involved on these projects?

 

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These projects were both communicated to film maker Pablo Moreno, who was contacted by Goya Prod. SA. He then contacted me as part of his team, I am very grateful to him for giving me this very big opportunity.

 

 

 

 

You were first clarinet in the Youth Symphonic Orchestra of Valladolid, was it here that you decided that you wanted to become a composer?

 

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Well, I learnt a lot listening the tone and the colours of the orchestra playing my clarinet with my musical partners, and it was an enriching experience, but really the thought to become a composer was earlier, when I was fifteen I wrote my first composition and from that day, to become a composer was on my mind, and whilst I was studying clarinet all the time the idea of becoming a composer was growing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You are in fact studying music at the Royal High Conservatory of music in Madrid, but have been writing music since 2013, as well as composition what other musical studies are you undertaking?

I started my studies in 1996 when I was 7 years old, and from that year (except four years that I stopped my music studies) I was studying music, in total four years of elementary level and a further six years of middle level with specialized concentration in clarinet, and then four years of high studies (degree in Composition) which will be completed this May 2017. At the same time, during these past years, I´ve done several courses on film scoring, conducting, and I´ve composed different small pieces, but the biggest piece was the youth mass for orchestra and choir from the WYD in 2011 “Hoy y siempre, Señor”

 

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POVEDA is a wonderful score, in which you create so many themes that are both delicate and haunting, how much time were you given to score the picture and what size orchestra did you employ for this project, and what percentage of the score was performed on conventional instruments and what percentage was created using synthetic instrumentation, and was it the same orchestra on LUZ DE SOLEDAD?

Well, because of the low budget of the film, it was impossible to contract any musician, so all the music in Poveda is digital, in Luz de Soledad it was extremely necessary to record a violinist a violist and a soprano, because the digital sounds for soloist aren´t so good to be put into a film.

The main themes were created two months before the film was completed. In mid – October the final cut of the film was sent to me, and because of I was attending classes in Madrid, I had to plan my time the most way I can; In total composing the film score took five weeks, but these weeks were alternated, one week attending classes in Madrid, the following week working on the film, the next in classes again, and for two months it was like this. Regarding the size orchestra, although it was digital, I composed the music in a template of a big orchestra, with soloist of wood winds, powerful metals, and a big string section. Careful equalization was necessary to get the sound the best way. This was also the way with Luz de Soledad, with the same digital orchestra, except the real soloist being recorded.

 

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The director of POVEDA and your other assignment LUZ DE SOLEDAD is Pablo Moreno, did he have any set ideas about what direction you should take when it came to the score, and was he involved in the final decision of where the music should be placed etc. within the movie and had he or the producers of the movies installed a temp track, if so did you find this helpful or distracting?

From the beginning, Pablo Moreno had a clear concept of the film, and he explained this to me in detail, but he did not employ a temp track. I am very grateful to Pablo Moreno, although he showed me the concept of the two films, he trusted my judgment, so as I was creating the score, I was showing him my work, so if something didn´t work, he was able to tell me and we could change it.

What is your opinion of the increased use of electronic support, samples etc. within film music today?

I think that if used correctly, all of them are a very powerful tool, because it composers to make a realistic mock-up, on the other hand, composers like Steve Price or Zimmer, etc. Make very intelligent use of the synths and electroacoustic tools in order to create new sounds and atmospheres and I think that combining them with the power of the “classic” sound of the orchestra, can give us a very wonderful result.

 

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Do you think that orchestration is an important part of the composing process and although the scores were both digital, do you conduct at all?

As I said, digital sounds created the music. But if it was necessary I´d conduct the orchestra, and it´ll be a very exciting experience, I have conducted in the past. The orchestration is a very difficult part of the composition, because a very good theme can be lost with a bad orchestration with bad results, and a bad theme can be made better with a good orchestration. Orchestration is a craft an art form very much like, counterpoint for example.

Who was the guitar soloist on POVEDA?

The guitar solos were played by myself, but with the use of digital libraries.

The scores have been released for collectors, did you have an active role in selecting what music would go onto these releases?

Yes, I did. When the producers told me that a compact disc of the films soundtracks were to be released. I selected the different parts of the soundtrack that I thought would be interesting to be released for collectors of film music and people who saw the movies and liked the music.

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What composers would you say have influenced you or inspired you when it comes to scoring motion pictures?

Well, I like a lot the style of James Newton Howard, for example, but I am also attracted to the music of John Powell and Hans Zimmer, obviously, John Williams is a big influence for myself and many other composers, and the Spanish composers Oscar Navarro and Fernando Velazquez are also high on my list. But little by little I’m strengthening my own style and developing my own techniques, although there are several composers whose style I am very attracted too.

Is writing music for movies something that you have always wanted to do?

I can say yes to that question straight away, because from when I was a child I liked the movies and the music from them very much, I also loved to experiment composing music, so when I got the opportunity to study film music and work on films it was for me a dream come true.

 

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Did you perform on either of the scores?

Yes, all the notes and interpretation of the music that sounds (although it was digital) was recorded and mixed by me.

Who performed solo violin on LUZ DE SOLEDAD, the sections which feature the violin are so emotive?

The violin was played by the excellent violinist Cristina Baquero Rejón. Who Is a friend from my childhood, who I spent many years studying in Palencia Clarinet. Now she has finished her studies in violin in the High Conservatoire of music of Oviedo.

 

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What are you working on now?

At this moment, I am working on the ideas for the next film of Pablo Moreno “Red de Libertad”. Which should start production in early March, and I think it´ll be an amazing work! I will compose the music next July (I think) and for this project fortunately, I will have enough money to record the score with an orchestra.

 

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Austrian born composer Gerrit Wunder studied classical composition, jazz composition, music technology and film music at the University of Music in Vienna and holds a masters degree in composition. As a freelance and award-winning film- and TV composer, he writes and produces music for major European and American film productions, TV stations and commercials.
 

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Both KISS THE DEVIL IN THE DARK and
CREATURES OF WHITECHAPEL are shorts less than 30 mins in
duration, you however wrote quite a lot of music, so is the
music continuous in both movies and is it more of a
difficult task scoring films that have a short running time
as opposed to say a full-length feature?


Exactly, both movies are scored wall to wall and because of that they felt like full length features to me while working on them. Also the production value is relatively high on both films and they really felt and looked like full length features. Let me put it this way – I have scored movies with running times of over 100 minutes with shorter scores and less thematic material.

What size orchestra did you use for
KISS THE DEVIL IN THE DARK, I ask this because it sounds
quite large at times, with choir in places, some wonderful
brass passages and I love the way you utilise harpsichord
effect and create an atmosphere that is not unlike the music
that we associate with Hammer horror films from years ago,
and at times it is quite Omen like in its style and
sound?

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Thank you very much, I love Jerry Goldsmith’s scores for „The Omen“ movies. The music budget on both films was relatively high for short films but of course not enough for getting a full sized orchestra. That is why we recorded in sections, meaning we added a group of string players (violins, violas, cellos, basses) and a group of brass players (horns, trombones) to my programmed orchestra. The choir, the percussion and all the rest is just me in my studio. We recorded at Megatrax Studios in North Hollywood with recording engineer Preston Shepard. It is a great location for recording smaller sized orchestras.

What musical education and training
did you receive, and what instrument did you concentrate
upon whilst training?

I studied classical composition, film music, jazz piano and arrangement at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, Austria and hold a masters degree in composition. My instruments are piano, violin and the viola. Although I began studying music fairly early in my life, I personally don’t think that it is important to have a profound musical or classical education in order to become a good composer. Education definitely has pros and cons. The more one studies the more one tends to compose with the brain – but the most important thing is writing music with your heart and soul. Music is emotion. It took me a few years after earning my degrees to re-learn how to compose with my gut again not so much with my brain and knowledge.

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Was writing for movies always
something that you wanted to do and what would you say was
your earliest recollection of any kind of music?

My father, who is a music teacher, tells me that at age four I’d be climbing on the kitchen table, pretending to conduct whenever he was playing Strauss’ „Also Sprach Zarathustra“ on his sound system in the living room.
I was fourteen or fifteen when I first wanted to become a film-composer. But it took me quite a few years to finally end up in Los Angeles, where I reside since five years. Austria’s film business is very small and there are not many opportunities.

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How much time were you given to score
CREATURES OF WHITECHAPEL, and how many times did you watch
the movie before you began to get a fixed idea about what
music you would compose and where the music would be
placed?

I think I had a few weeks for each of the movies. Maybe 2-3 weeks to compose the score and do mockups (computer versions of the score for the filmmakers to listen to) and then another week to produce the score, which means doing the orchestral recordings and the mixes.

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Rupert Gregson Williams was credited
for writing the score for POSTMAN PAT THE MOVIE, what was
your involvement on the soundtrack?

I have worked with Rupert a few times so far and am very thankful for that. He is an excellent and experienced composer and great human being. On „Postman Pat – You’re The One“ I contributed some cues to the score, mostly the chase music. My credit was „additional music composer“.

You have worked on many documentaries,
what would you say were the main differences between scoring
a documentary as opposed to working on a motion picture?

Well, that definitely depends on the documentary. I don’t really make a huge difference between those genres myself while writing and treat everything pretty much on a case by case basis. For some documentaries I worked on, especially on some nature documentaries, I sometimes got the opportunity to compose orchestral hybrid tracks that did not differ much from typical feature film scores. Then, on other documentaries, the music was supposed to be more sparse and not so „emotional“ or tense – but really, it totally depends on the films. It varies greatly.

You were also involved on shows such
as Dancing stars, were you musical director and arranger on
this?

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Yes, I spent the first few years of my career as the music arranger for the Austrian version of „Dancing With The Stars“. We had a 30 piece live orchestra on the show every week and I arranged well known songs in all different kinds of dance-styles . It was a lot of fun.

Are there any composers in film music
or indeed classical music that you think have inspired you
or influenced the way in which you might approach a
project?

Yes of course. I’ve always been a huge fan of Sergej Prokofiev, Elliot Goldenthal, Ennio Morricone and of course John Williams, just to name a few. I love many works by Hans Zimmer and most admire his ability to reinvent himself and always stay fresh and cutting edge sounding. This is for sure one big principle of mine. One can not always achieve it – depending on the filmmaker’s needs and wishes – but that’s definitely a „leitmotif“ in my own work.

When working on a movie how do you
bring your musical ideas to fruition, by this I mean do you
use piano, write straight to manuscript, or use a more up to
date method or maybe a mix of all three?

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Well, I tend to compose all the main thematic materials and musical motifs on the piano and write it down using pencil and paper. Then I usually type the material into „Sibelius“, a music notation software program and print out those pages full of ideas. Once completed, I sit down in my studio in front of all my computers and use this material to compose, orchestrate and mockup the whole score directly in my DAW (digital audio workstation), so I can properly play all the cues for the director to give feedback.

 

 

I am glad to say that both KISS THE
DEVIL IN THE DARK and CREATURES OF WHITECHAPEL are available
for collectors, did you have any involvement in the
compilation of the music tracks for both releases?

Yes, I sent Mikael Carlsson, the album producer, my suggestions. He then brought in a few of his ideas and that was it. But since there was only 30 minutes of score in each of the films, we ended up using almost every cue.

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Johnathan Martin directed both KISS
THE DEVIL IN THE DARK and CREATURES OF WHITECHAPEL, did he
have any specific instructions as to what style or sound
that he wanted for his movies and was there a temp track on
either of the movies to act as a guide?

Well, Jonathan doesn’t use temp music, which is a great choice. But he of course had his ideas in terms of style and sound. He loves it „big“ and loves Richard Wagner. Of course we did not want to sound „dated” and so I tried to create my own modern sounding hybrid horror movie score for each of the films.

Do you conduct at all, or do you
prefer to supervise the recording of a score from the
control box also do you or have you performed on any of your
scores?

Yes, I always perform on my own scores – mostly keyobards, piano, harpsichord and violins/volas or electric violins. I know how to conduct and have done it before but am not very good at it, nor do I like it very much. I definitely prefer sitting in the booth supervising the recording whenever the situation and budget allows. Thank goodness my good friend and collaborator on certain projects, William T. Stromberg, is a fantastic (grammy nominated) conductor.

Do you orchestrate all your music for
film, or at times is there no time for this because of
deadlines etc. And you use an orchestrator?

Yes, I have composed and orchestrated all of my scores by myself so far.

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What are you working on now?

I just finished a pilot for MGM as well as a series of three nature documentaries for Red Bull Media and BBC. A Swiss show and some US commercials are also happening right now and a few projects, including a next feature film and a mini series are supposed to come in soon. However, I refrain from talking too much about not completed or not yet released projects because anything can happen at any given time in this crazy and most adventurous business we are working in. At the end of the day no one ever knows what tomorrow will bring.

ADRIAN KONARSKI AN INTERVIEW WITH THE COMPOSER.

Adrian Konarski is for me one of the great discoveries within film music, after hearing his score for the movie THE WELTS I was for want of a better word smitten totally by his gift for melody and his haunting and tuneful music. I would like to thank the composer for agreeing to do this interview and also to thank him for his patience and his great effort in bringing it to fruition.

 

 

 

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Your score for THE WELTS which I have to say I cannot stop playing, has just been released on CALDERA records were you involved in the compilation of the album, because it also contains music from two other scores which you composed, CITIZEN and DROWSINESS as well as a handful of cues from various theatrical projects and short films?

Thank you very much – I am glad you liked it and because you said this I feel that maybe this score must have something fresh – thank you! Because this was my big screen debut – I noticed that I had some freshness of debut in the meaning that I knew that apart from telling the story, and score serving the movie, it must have been musically very good and fresh material, otherwise nobody would notice it and therefore I might not have had the chance to write for a movie again. So sometimes my intuition was saying to tilt the scales a little from letting the film tell its story to allowing the music to tell the story, to construct musical themes that are interesting to listen to away from the movie and also to write music that would hopefully be remembered and appreciated in the future. We had to do additional editing and cuts as I was scoring the film, later syncing this music with the movie but I think it was a good idea to just follow my heart. Generally, it is my golden rule that no matter how much music serves a movie it must be interesting by itself, when you want to release a CD after even 10 years, which I hope watermarks me from other composers – I write MY nice melodies and MY harmonies or my dark or not nice melodies (if a movie tells me to write darker or maybe more sinister music) however music I think should always act as servant to any movie I score. As for selecting the music for release yes I was involved in this, it was my dream to add some more music, because I loved the idea of Caldera to produce so beautiful CD with a beautiful booklet inside. I appreciate their work. I simply told them that you do so nice work, that it would be a sin to not to add some more… But the selection was based on a key of emotionality of this music…

 

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THE WELTS is a highly lyrical score, which you perform the piano solos on, do you also work out your musical ideas at the piano, or do you use more contemporary tools such as samples, computers etc.?

I am always performing piano on all my music unless something is so technically difficult that I am not able to play it. I used to play Liszt Piano concerto with Philharmonic Orchestra when I was finishing my secondary school, then I started more to compose rather than practise the piano, so I am not technically as good as before… But maybe because of the composing I learned to play simpler phrases… But this is mostly about feeling and emotions this is more important for me than an ability of playing fast passages. I am not composing for an effect or for things to be difficult but to underline the emotions within the film, so I am writing from the heart. There were no samples at all in music for THE WELTS as I worked on the movie in 2004 and the use of samples was not that common at this time, but NOWADYS there are more possibilities and samples sound more beautiful than many years ago. I listen to a lot of film music and I feel that I do not want to sound the same, and what I like in music the most – is something imperfect in performances that has a value. Sample libraries sometimes sound too perfect and too clear. European cinema music is more chamber and because of this I think you have more of a chance to be yourself and not become a part of an industry as much as it happens at times in the United States. Nowadays though I do use more samples, and I achieve things which just a few years ago, one would not have believed to be possible. Sometimes I even compose on a sampled piano not on a real one because it is simply more comfortable with all cabling in a studio etc. Now the business requires everyone to do things so quickly and the way that you compose the music exactly to a timeframe – to not to use any faders on a final sync mix. I think now there is no place for a composer who is able only to write with a pen, paper and candle… Although it is so romantic…

 

 

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THE WELTS is your debut score, was it something of a daunting task for you, was it difficult to work on the movie or was it a film that inspired you from the first time that you saw it?

I felt so much that I was ready for my debut, I was very confident and knew I could handle everything – I felt an extra power within. I knew that even if I make errors there will be a lot of heart within the score and music is all about heart. And yes, the movie inspired me from the first time I saw it.

Staying with THE WELTS, as I say it’s a highly lyrical work, and contains some beautiful themes, do you think that film music has altered in recent years so we hear less thematic material on soundtracks and there is a more atonal or sound design approach?

I am glad you asked me this question because I am constantly thinking of how people receive music and understand music nowadays. Also, about musical education of listeners. I do not think there is less thematic material on soundtracks – maybe – but I also think – maybe because in my heart there is something between a song and classical music and my music aims West but it always has an eastern European feeling, some roots. I have also a feeling that many composers do not have so much need of melody in their heads. I am always winning with my melodies although because of an around world constantly altering it is not always easy to persuade that melody still has a value. Sometimes people simply believe that the best is strange, people need stories that this music is so original because a moment before composing composer ate a bouquet of green daffodils… For me music it is all about heart, sensitivity and not being able to stop composing.

 

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Magdalena Piekorz, made her directorial debut with THE WELTS, did She have specific ideas about how the music should sound and what style of music should be utilised?

Sincerely I started to score this movie from a scene about Windmills which constructed the father and the son. I felt it and it was my trampoline. Magdalena only wanted a theme that I wrote one summer – CONFESSION OF LOVE, I wrote it when I was thinking of one girl cello player, she went somewhere to Japan for holidays and did not even know I was thinking about her.

What size orchestra did you employ for THE WELTS and how much time did you have to compose and record the score?

There was an orchestra like 30 people and among this me playing the piano, bass player, and djembe player…

You have recorded mainly in Poland, what studios do you like to use when you are recording a score for a movie?

Such story does not happen to often but I had recordings twice.
I wanted to debut but producers did not want to give me any orchestra.
I had to gather an orchestra myself – of musicians of Academy of Music in Krakow. My desire to debut and write music in a shape that I really wanted caused that there were no impossible things for me. Then when they realised that the film had power and that my music was good enough, they hired a Polish Radio Orchestra to record more music – and we were recording this in Warsaw in a Polish TV studio.

 

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I understand you began to play piano at the age of just four, did you come from a family background that was musical?

My twin sister also plays the piano, she plays Chopin so beautifully, it is the same Sister who is singing on the CD… My mother she is a professor of Psychology but she plays the piano…I remember before primary school I was able to make a replacement for a teacher of music and to play songs on the piano when she was not there…

What musical education did you receive?

I finished Academy of Music in Kraków, Poland – department of Composition, Conducting and Theory of Music, and before Primary and Secondary School on a piano.

 

 

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I think your music is so haunting and has a beguiling and enchanting effect upon the listener, do you orchestrate all of your own scores for film and do you conduct at all or do you prefer to monitor the proceedings from the recording booth?

Thank you very much for this. Yes I do orchestrate myself. I do not conduct, I understand that whatever I do I need some distance while recording and quickly switch from being a composer to the point of view of a film director, I am always at the recoding booth… But whatever I am telling about music and heart, and no matter how much a composer „loves” the music himself – it is always necessary in film music to remember that what is really important is the film and story not your music. And conductor for me is a necessary link that allows me have some distance….

 

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THE COMPOSER WITH VIOLINIST Michał Chytrzyński

Your music is for me personally like a breath of fresh air within the world of film music, it is not only wonderfully melodious and emotive but also has a lingering and affecting aura about it, what composers would you say may have influenced the way in which you write or approach a film score, or inspired you?

Thank you for this: Zygmunt Konieczny, Pat Metheny, Ennio Morricone, Philip Glass…

When working on a movie, do you like to see the film once before getting any ideas about the score, or do you return to the movie on a number of occasions before you make any decisions about what type of music you will write and where it will be placed to best serve the film?

I am always surprised how much power a picture has. I have so many ideas at the beginning when a movie impresses me that I would like to write very quickly, most of those first ideas are often the ones that are the best solution for the score. But I am always trying to slow down the spontaneous way of working because film is more about understanding what, why and first of all where not to write music at all, to remember about silence. But there is an opposite thing, film is almost always holding off your musical madness, because there are time frames. When improvise to a picture for a long time and do not know where to go sometimes I make a break and set my sequencer prompt where there is no picture at all and try to play what I am thinking ABOUT the movie. This restores a voice to my music and is sometimes a great idea.

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Do you find when scoring a documentary or a short that the process varies a great deal from when you are working on a feature film, or is it mainly the budgets that are different, so you cannot do as much on TV as you can for a motion picture?

Usually you cannot write huge music to something that is documentary because who believes the story then…It is as an oversized suit.

If you are working on a TV series which is more than six episodes in duration and the schedules are beginning to get more demanding, do you ever re-cycle themes or sections of the score from for example episode one and re-use it in episode seven?

I do not have a big experience with TV series, but you know in each story there is something that happens spontaneously, hopefully a composer has a great power of doing different tempos, this makes a different music. Recently I was at a gathering where five composers did a Q and A session with fans of music from the movies, I was wondering how do you see the role of a film music composer, do you think that writing music for films is an art or a craft or maybe a combination of the two and in your opinion what is the purpose of music in film?I was telling before about heart necessary for music, and that you generally need to be inspired to do something good and know how to find this inspiration. For me it is a combination of those two and first of all it is about ability of having very quickly a distance to what you wrote a moment ago and an ability of understanding a film director’s way of story telling

You use female voice on a number of your scores to great effect, I was reminded when listening to the music contained on THE WELTS compact disc of a number of composers, Morricone, Preisner and also Komeda, when you write a score and decide that a voice will be used do you write with a particular performer or soloist in mind?

Yes, I am most of the time thinking about particular voice or vocalist, I like female voices, voices are special kind of instruments for me.

 

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Do you have a set way of working when scoring a movie, by this I mean do you like to write and develop a central theme and then base the remainder of the score upon it, or do you compose various themes and then develop the central theme from these, additionally do you start with the larger cues first and then when these are written concentrate on the smaller sections of the score?

It is difficult to say, each score is a big adventure, this is why I like it so much. No rules here. But there is something in it that usually some small scenes make so big impact on me that I treat them as a starting point. And what is maybe very mine I love giving my musical fragment titles myself, like Windmills and Holy Figures or Cooking of Hallucinogenic Herbs – and I usually need only a few seconds to invent titles based on a story that I am scoring. It helps me being creative. Maybe because poetry and literature song is so important for me…

Have you ever given any concerts or performances of your film music?

Sometimes but I think I should do much more. I improvise playing to silent movies with my ensemble SemiInvented Trio.

 

 

Is there any genre of film that you feel more comfortable working in, or do you adapt easily to most genres?

I adapt early to most genres but people put thoughts into drawers – although I am constantly getting psychological dramas I am dreaming about a crime story now. I would not feel comfortable with hip-hop music.

Can you tell us what you are working on at the moment?

Now I am recording some Christmas Songs to a Polish poetry, which I am going to release on a CD – very artistic and non-commercial work. Apart from that I am writing some orchestral music to lyrics of a famous Polish lyricist Jacek Cygan. But my dream is to write a film musical. and music for a crime series – but for someone who does not need green daffodils and trust me. I am also open to help young directors with their debuts. Listen to my music – thanks to Caldera Records – I would like more people and film and theatre directors discover my work. And my melodies.

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AN INTERVIEW WITH JAMES FITZPATRICK.

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You have quite rightly so received a number of awards for your work in the production of reconstructed and re-recorded film scores, was setting up Tadlow music something that you had thought long and hard about before initiating it.

When I started Silva Screen Records 30 years ago with Reynold DaSilva I always wanted to try and work towards making new recordings of classic scores. I was first able to achieve this with THE BIG COUNTRY and then LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, but we soon found out how expensive it was to record in London and that you did not totally own each master recording. So I looked around Europe to find an orchestra who could perform classic film scores of Hollywood in the same style as 1940 and 1950 orchestras and came across, after the recommendation of Carl Davis, the Prague musicians.

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So, my first venture into recording in Prague was on Feb 6th 1989 with an album of Music from the Fellini Films by Nino Rota. It was such a joyful experience that I kept going to Prague to do more collections and some complete scores like THE LION IN WINTER, ROBIN AND MARIAN, RAISE THE TITANIC etc.… Silva Screen then decided to concentrate more on recording individual themes for collections rather than complete scores. So, that is when I decided to leave Silva Screen, about 14 years ago, and set up Tadlow Music Ltd. The initial aim was not to have a record label at all, but just produce and contract orchestras for recordings for other labels and for original film, TV and video game soundtracks. But after 2 years of success I did what I vowed not to do, I set up my own new label, Tadlow Music, devoted to making new, complete recordings of some of my favourite scores.

 

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After initially doing THE GUNS OF NAVARONE, TRUE GRIT, THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOMES, my dear friend Luc Van de Ven of Prometheus Records wanted to get involved in the same kind of projects. So, for his label I started with titles like THE ALAMO, CONAN THE BARBARIAN, FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE etc.… Luc is fantastic to work for…I give him a budget for each album, he green lights it and just lets me get on with the recording, of which I have total charge, and just awaits the final master. He has never even been to one of my Prague sessions…although he has listened over the internet to sessions.

We first met a number of years ago when you were behind the counter at the much missed 58 DEAN STREET RECORDS where you guided me to buying some wonderful soundtracks on LP, was moving into the business of actually releasing soundtracks even at that time something you were thinking of?

I had always contemplated starting my own record label but never had the funds… but teaming up with Reynold da Silva solved this. So, that by the time I started Tadlow Music I had some finance but more importantly a long list of clients, composers, producers who wanted to work with me on recordings.

 

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I understand that your original career choice was law, so how did you end up being the prolific producer that you are?

I maybe should have gone to University to read law, as my father was a solicitor (famous for having The Moors Murderers as clients!) and my sister is a solicitor. But, after A levels I took a year off exams to work in a record store in Stockport, Cheshire….I enjoyed it so much I moved to a larger record shop in Manchester; Rare Records Ltd of John Dalton Street….and then was “poached” by Derek Braeger of 58 Dean Street Records to run this shop as he knew of my passion for film music.

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You started at Silva screen releasing re-recordings of classic scores such as LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, THE BIG COUNTRY etc., these were all recorded in London I think by the Philharmonia, what made you look outside of the UK for an orchestra?
As answered above: initially mainly cost and the London recordings not be a 100% total buyout…it is essential for any record label to own their own masters so that they can be easily licensed for commercials, film trailers etc.… As CD sales alone do not cover recording costs. But after a few years of building up a great pool of musicians with The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra I realised that for many forms of music these musicians are world class and now I would not want to record with anyone else.

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SILVA were I think very brave to release the Hammer compilation and the other horror film music collections such as HORROR and THE JAMES BERNARD compilation, would these be scores that you might revisit and re-record on TADLOW or are they probably not so popular as say EL CID, CONAN etc.?

I do not believe I would ever re-visit scores I have ever recorded with the exception of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA whose London sessions did not go well, and maybe THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN as I was urged by others at Silva to record with the amateur orchestra The Westminster Philharmonic and I still regret this decision as while being a good amateur orchestra they cannot compete with the quality of a fully professional unit. In fact some of the Hammer scores that David Wishart recorded with them had to be re-done or completed by me with The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.

You said recently that composer Maurice Jarre once said when asked if he ever composed any “SERIOUS” music as in concert music he replied that all of his music was serious music, do you think that in many ways film music is the new classical music or at least will be looked upon in this way in years to come?

You only have to look at the amount of film music concerts there are now to realise that, yes, film music is the popular orchestral music for the public and the best of those scores will be long remembered after the more avant-garde and contemporary compositions of our generation. There is no doubt in my mind that if Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert were alive today, they would all be making a healthy living by composing film scores!

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How do you decide on which score you will re-record, there are so many real classic works that are crying out for a fresh lease of life, is it personal preference to a certain extent?

For Tadlow Music I only ever record scores that I like personally … after all it is my own money I am spending, so choices are my own favourite scores. Commercially it is madness to do a new recording of IS PARIS BURNING? But I love that music….and no one else is going to do it. For Prometheus Records and Luc it is slightly different. I give him a list of various ideas and he chooses titles he either likes or thinks might sell. Before recording for Luc I was not a huge fan of Dimitri Tiomkin….but Luc wanted to record THE ALAMO, FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE and DUEL IN THE SUN. Having worked on all of those and always being 100% committed to ever recording project even if not so keen on the music, I have grown to love and adore Tiomkin’s music even though it is by far the most difficult type of score to record and perform. I did manage to persuade Luc to do QBVII, as another favourite score, and then he added onto those sessions HOUR OF THE GUN and THE SALAMANDER….so recording anything by Goldsmith is both a challenge but very rewarding even though they would not have been my own choices. Luc also wanted to record some are John Barry, so we did MISTER MOSES and THE BETSY, the music being the opposite of Tiomkin, much easier to record and perform but still needing the full commitment of the musicians and Nic Raine to perform with elegance and grace of the scores. We have often spoken about doing Antheil’s THE PRIDE AND THE PASSION, as we both love that score, but it might be financial suicide….so that is on the back burner, unless funding can be found?

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Did Maurice Jarre ever express an interest in recording a complete soundtrack for LAWRENCE OF ARABIA?

After the London debacle of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA we did talk a few times of recording it as how we both wanted it…especially as I had all the original Gerard Schurmann orchestrations. I was just waiting for a time when I had a finances for such a venture… unfortunately Maurice did not live to hear the final results but I am sure he would have been please as he approved other recording I had done of his music.(I was approached at one time by Robert Townson of Vareae about letting him have the original score for a possible recording in Scotland….but I declined his request as I knew from the first time around how difficult LAWRENCE OF ARABIA was to get right and much more session time would be needed than for the average film score! And I did want another shot at it myself as it is the score that ignited my passion for film music.

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EL CID is a wonderful recording on TADLOW was it hard to obtain the funding to bring this project and indeed any of the projects you have undertaken to fruition?

EL CID was a very expensive project. I never get any outside funding, all Tadlow Music CDs are totally funded by me from profits made on the contracting and producing side. As it was such a long score we did have to divide recording sessions over 2 different weeks in a 6 month period (as I had to do with Taras Bulba). It would be lovely to have funding … but no one has ever stepped forward with this. It does really annoy me how after fans will say “Why don’t you record such and such…why did you bother with THE BLUE MAX” etc… My stock answer now is,” I will send you my bank account details if you want to make a £50,000 deposit…I will record any score you want”. So far no one has ever taken me up on this!

After LAWRENCE OF ARABIA I told my long-suffering wife, Janet, “that’s it…no more recordings and using up any spare cash we might have! Let’s go into retirement with something in the bank”. But after a few months I got the bug again to spend money we didn’t really have and do OBSESSION, THE BLUE MAX, VILLA RIDES and others.

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You utilise the talents of Nic Raine as a conductor but you also conduct yourself. Is it sometimes better for you not to take to the podium because you are better placed monitoring the recording?

I am not really a musician and certainly would rather not conduct…I leave that to the experts like Nic and Paul Bateman as well as my Czech conductor friends like Adam Klemens, Richard Hein and Miriam Nemcova. You have much, much more control over the performance of the orchestra, the balance of an orchestra, the recorded sound etc. by producing from the booth rather than waving your arms around with headphones on and the annoyance of the click track. Conducting is a separate art, and even though most fans do not believe me, very, very few film composers were and are particularly good at conducting unless they had a world class American or British session orchestra to help them and the tempo guide of a click track. Of all the composers I have worked with Elmer Bernstein was probably the most naturally gifted and technically correct of conductors. I just do not understand why some of the younger composers I work with want to put themselves through the hell of standing before 70 plus hardened, professional musicians unless they have the right technique and know how to “train” and rehearse an orchestra section. Leave it to the professional conductors…you can have far more fun in the control room … plus you can also interact with the director of the film or the producer and know what their feelings are as the music is being recorded. (This might save a few scores being “rejected” after all the hard work).

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IS PARIS BURNING is one of your recent releases, which is a stunning recording, how long does it take to complete a project such as this, from beginning to end?

IS PARIS BURNING? compared to some other projects was relatively easy to do as Paramount Pictures had kept in storage all of Maurice’s original handwritten scores. So once I got copies of these scores I passed them onto one of my Prague music copyists, Tony Mikulka, to input all the music onto the Sibelius music software programme to produce computer-generated new scores and parts. I received the scores from Paramount in February 2015 and told Tony to start work on the music even though I had not any recording date planned. I was just waiting for a time when I might have the funds. Tony probably took about 3 months to get the music ready….as I told him “no hurry”. Other projects can take an awful lot longer especially if only a few scores survive, or if only sketches, or if nothing exists at all and my orchestrators (someone like Leigh Phillips or Aaron Purvis) must do a “take down” by either listening to the original audio release or the film DVD. This happened with SODOM AND GOMORRAH, so I think I gave Leigh about 7 to 8 months of music prep, and when we knew he was in the final stages I would then set the recording date. For IS PARIS BURNING? I did not expect to record it until late 2016 or 2017 … but dates with the orchestra became available in December 2015 as DUEL IN THE SUN had to be postponed because the music prep on that was taking forever….

FANS OF MUSIC FROM THE MOVIES held its first gathering in London on September 24th (2016). What was your involvement in this and hopefully there will be more?

Tim Smith approached me with the idea. I instantly agreed to sponsor (pay for) the event without realising how expensive it might become as we all got a bit too ambitious! But the first one worked out well, so the second already planned and 5 fantastic composer friends have already agreed to take part.

Are there any scores that have been particularly difficult to re-record and for what reasons?

Tiomkin, Tiomkin, Tiomkin and Tiomkin !

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Do you prefer to concentrate on full scores when re-recording or do you like to produce compilations with various composers involved

Mostly full scores but I loved doing the NOTRE DAME DE PARIS: MAURICE JARRE double CD so that I could record some of my favourite Jarre themes that would never need a full score.

At the FANS OF MUSIC FROM THE MOVIES q and a session, you asked the composers present if they thought film music was an art or a craft, what are your views on this?

As most of them said, a bit of both. If you are a craftsman with the right training the “Art” will then come…. But when it doesn’t there is still the craft to fall back on.

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You have completed the score from THE THIEF OF BAGDAD by Miklos Rozsa, when do you think this will be released and can you give us an insight of what might be to follow on TADLOW? Is there any one score that you would like to record but have not been able too?

THIEF will be released in November. Then DUEL IN THE SUN in Spring 2017. About to record on November 10th and 11th a Jerry Goldsmith CD. With, hopefully!!!, BEN-HUR recording sessions in Spring or Summer next year. After that I have no more projects to hand…so maybe I can finally retire disgracefully, as will be 61 later in December

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