Category Archives: Interviews




Can I start by asking what would you say inspired you to become a composer?

I was inspired very early by the music of cinema because one of my aunts had a cinema in the south of France. From an early age I went into this huge room and I watched the same movie several times. I was seven years old. When I went home, the music of the film went through my head, I went to the piano and played it. Very quickly, I felt the need to imagine another music, the desire to compose began at that time.


Was film music always a career you wanted to pursue or were you just wanting a career in music and film music became part of this?

Music was everything that mattered to me. I wanted to live this art and could not imagine doing anything else. I only thought about it and spent most of my time working on my piano, doing scales like everything else. Whole hours. I worked my instrument up to ten hours a day. After having taught, I decided to compose because I felt the need to be creative and not just to remain an interpreter.




What musical education did you have and did you focus upon one area or areas of music whilst training?

I had a very classical education. I studied piano and harmony with Jeanne Vidal who was a pupil of daisy Long then returned to the conservatory in Toulouse and finally in Paris with Aldo Ciccolini. There were, of course, classes of harmony, that of chamber music. But the piano remained the essence of my concerns.

Were any of your family musical at all?


Unfortunately I was the only one to make music. My father was a regular soldier and I think he’s always been disappointed that I’m not following his path. I was basically encouraged by my mother, besides, my father never came to support me when I was competing and was not going to see the films for which I composed the music. The strangest thing about all this is that as far back as I can remember I’ve always heard music in my head.

Would you say that contemporary film music is less melodic or not as theme based as movie scores from the 1970’s and back to the 1960’s?

Contemporary film music may be less thematic than that of the 70s or even the 60s. That said, I think there are styles of music that go with the times. Nowadays it can be less or more minimalist. I think for example of the beautiful music written by Michel Legrand. As beautiful as they are, they are representative of a cinema of another era.


Are there any film music composers or indeed musical artists that you find particularly interesting and for what reasons?

There are many yes! It is always a delicate question because to name names is also to forget. But I find for example the work of Ennio Morricone exemplary. He is an immense composer, one of whom immediately recognizes his style, although he has evolved and adapted throughout his career. There is also Gabriel Yared who still signs remarkable orchestrations, Philippe Glass who was the first to introduce a repetitive structure. Iglesias who works a lot with Pedro Almodovar is a very good writing technician in that he really has the orchestration skills. Its invoice is always elegant and efficient and fits perfectly to the image. I also really like the melodic potential of Georges Delerue. Moreover, shortly after composing the music of Yvonne’s perfume, Colette Delerue phoned me spontaneously in the middle of the night (she called me from Los Angeles) to tell me how much my musical writing reminded her of her Husbands music. It had touched me so much that the companion of such a musician calls me to tell me that. It’s a nice memory


When you begin to work on a movie, what is the first order of practise for you, by this I mean do you like to develop a central theme or do you work on smaller cues before creating the main core theme?

When I’m working on a film I’m not necessarily trying to establish a main theme or secondary themes. I do not have a method or recipe for that. The music imposes itself suddenly and completely. I do not hear a melody that I will harmonize but the whole in its total structure. This is a pretty difficult process because it can happen for hours without anything coming as it can come right away.


How much time do you like to be given to write a score for a movie, or is every project different?

Mostly we have five to six weeks to complete the score, but this kind of exercise is rare. I think that all the composers wish to have a maximum of time but this is far from being the case in France. Often we only get five or six weeks to write the music and carry out the orchestration. This may be sufficient depending on the content of the orchestral score. For example, writing the score of Confidences too intimate took me three weeks. But being in a state of emergency is good. I wrote my first music for the feature film in three weeks as well. I did not have any more delays because the music had to be written originally by Michael Nyman and the studio recording date being fixed, I had to work day and night to deliver 40 minutes of orchestrated music with several themes and music styles. I happened to have more time, to be part of the project when the film was not yet shot as for THE Widow of Saint Peter. This allowed me to start writing on the screenplay,


I think your first scoring assignment was in 1991 when you wrote the music for a short entitled DE L’AUTRE COTE DU PARC how did you become involved on the movie?

DE L’AUTRE COTE DU PARC , was not my first short film. At the time I was taking drama lessons and a student of the course told me that one of his friends had just finished his film and was looking for a composer. We met and then reworked another project for which I had asked Ivry Gitlis to perform the score of the solo violin. A kind of rapsodie.

THE WIDOW OF SAINT PIERRE was I think an interesting movie and your music helped it so much, what size orchestra did have for the movie and where did you record the score?

For the widow of Saint Peter the orchestra was quite important. A hundred musicians. It was an ambitious film with beautiful actors but the score should not in any way look like a Wagnerian orchestra. What counts is the way we write the orchestration and not the number of musicians. To give an example that everyone will be able to understand, in the second concerto of Rachmaninov the composer has shown economy of means. Apart from thirty strings, he uses wood and brass by two apart from horns and timpani. That’s all ! And it’s one of the most beautiful scores for piano and orchestra that has a phenomenal scale. Another example in his famous requiem, Mozart takes only thirty performers. It’s just wonderful because it’s remarkably well written. The main thing is that the music sounds great and that is the orchestration that gives this feeling of uniqueness and consistency. We can therefore obtain a certain power with a minimum number of performers

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You have worked with director Patrice Leconte on more than one movie, does he have a hands on approach when it comes to the music in his films or does he allow you a certain amount of freedom to things? the score before maybe suggesting?

We worked four times together. Patrice Leconte attaches great importance to music. Very soon he listens to music before shooting and sets the film with a temporary music as do a lot of directors. For him, music is essential to the narrative process of the film. Patrice gives indications and leaves free the composer, he is not elsewhere musician but simple music lover and knows how to stay in his place. That said it is very easy and pleasant enough to collaborate with a guy like him because he has a very precise idea of ​​what he wants. This avoids going in all directions. I remember working with a director who after three weeks of writing had phoned me in the middle of the night to ask me if the style of writing that he had asked me was finally a good choice!

I was looking at you credits and I noticed that you more or less stopped scoring movies in 2008, have you ceased working in film or are you focusing upon other genres of music at this time?

It’s an embarrassing question. Writing for cinema requires total availability and phenomenal energy. My mother is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and I took care of my recently deceased godmother, who was also affected by this same disease. Today I finally recover my life.

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

It depends on the film and the director but generally the music is the perfume of the film, the inside of the characters. In the image a comedian can say a sentence and think something else. The music can at that moment reveal what the character has in the head. It plunges us from the opening credits in the flesh of the film, it remains an essential element even if one can think that everything remains important in the cinematographic process. The music remains the inseparable couple image / sound. I think it’s because the music was in the days when the cinema was silent, the voice, the reflection but also the emotional actors.



Were any of your films tracked with a temp music track, if so do you think that this is helpful to the composer or do you think it is distracting?

I’m not bothered by this kind of exercise. To give you an idea, when you have a first feature film projected with the music of Michael Nyman who just had an Oscar for ‘the piano lesson’ and you have to rewrite the whole score, it is seasoned with fear. Temporary music, on the other hand, can help to give an indication, a color, an artistic direction. It gives the general mood, a kind of idea of ​​what might be appropriate. But be careful, you watch twice a sequence with a good temporary music, this is not a problem. But if you watch five or six times this sequence working perfectly, it will be very difficult to get used to other music for the editing team and sometimes for the director. This is the problem of some filmmakers or editors who can not get away from a temporary music. After a while, when the composer delivers the music written for the film, it can be perceived as a kind of lie … Fortunately I never had this kind of problem.



MAN ON A TRAIN is such an atmospheric score, I think I am right if I say you fused both symphonic and synthetic elements in the score, what is your opinion on the increased use of samples and synthesised sounds within scores?

For the score of Man on a Train I wanted to approach the composition in a completely different way. I did not want to start from a narrative idea to compose the music of this film even if in the end, there is a melody and a narration. I started from the idea that there is in this story, the meeting of two worlds totally opposed to each other. Two worlds that we find in the main characters. So I recorded Dobro guitar sequences that I cut and then glued as a puzzle while mixing them with a symphony orchestra. A bit like mixing the life of Johnny Hallyday and that of Jean Rochefort in the film. This is imposed on me from the reading of the scenario and it was validated by Patrice Leconte. Writing a totally “classical” score would have served the film. The tandem music image is extremely powerful. The same musical passage used on a different sequence will express an entirely different thing. Some images of staggered on the setting of the music give a different intention. What is needed above all is to stay right. Generally the sound design gives a lot of body to the score. It may be too much used systematically to “save” or to give a force that was not able to give the composer to the writing of the orchestra.

What is your principal instrument for working out your musical ideas?

My main instrument is my body. My emotional, my hyper sensitivity. I do not create music by putting my fingers on the keyboard. it is built from within, the paper, the keyboard are only the expression of the internal phenomenon of which I do not know the nature and which always surprises me.




Do you orchestrate all of the music that you write, or are there times when you may use an orchestrator?

I never used an orchestrator and I do not know if I’ll be able to do that one day. I know that many do it to take more projects and earn more money also by subcontracting or even having musicians who write in their no. But it’s an important part of the creation that escapes them. I often see for scores released in the USA, three sometimes four orchestrators. The result is often good because they are great technicians of orchestral writing but one can wonder who is the father of the work? Who can really say who wrote The_Dark_Knight_This is a bit like asking Picasso to sketch out a drawing and Pissaro to put some color on it … Then there’s the overwhelming command and the the way to answer it is to delegate, it’s a kind of outsourcing. I do not understand how you can sign a job while using the work of others …



Have you a preferred studio where you record your music?

I really like to record in the Guillaume Tell studios, this former cinema turned into recording studios. In addition, it has a huge room that can accommodate large formations. There is a special atmosphere in this place.

There has been a lot of discussion amongst collectors about the use of the DRONE sound in film scores recently, is it music or is it sound design, and is it just a trend do you think?

This is a trend, I am sure.



How much of an impact on the score does the budget have?

Harmful. The film music budget remains the poor child of cinema in France. Producers really think about it once the film is found and if there have been significant overruns they are cutting back on the music budget. Many recognize how important music is, but they give little consideration to this position.

At what stage of the production do you like to become involved, does it help to have a script or is it better to become involved at the rough cut stage and how many times do you go over a movie before you begin to decide where music would be best placed?

We obviously can not know where the music will be placed on the image when reading a script. Generally this is chosen with the director. But editing a temporary music can also be put to the image for several reasons. On too intimate confidences Patrice Leconte and his editor had placed the music most often when the characters spoke of their past or their emotions. Very quickly I found that it did not really work and I took on me, placing the music when the actors were in their reflection. This was immediately validated by the director.



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

Currently I have just finished writing a book, a first novel which I also wrote adaptation for the cinema. I would be very happy to present this project to a young American director… I have just finished writing a play. I also wrote the music of a ballet. The cinema is starting to miss me a bit but I want to come back with a nice project!




We are also missing Maestro Esteve, and I for one look forward to his return to scoring motion pictures, let us hope that a worthy project is waiting in the wings for him, so we can one again hear is eloquent and haunting themes and his emotive and atmospheric musical tones.






Can I start by asking what would you say inspired you to become a composer and what are your earliest memories of any kind of music?

Not sure about my earliest memories. But I do remember the first record I really listened too again and again was Prokofiev’s “Peter and the wolf”. Later on at the age of 8 I started playing the recorder in the local music school. We had an ambitious teacher, so soon we formed a quartet playing Bach’s “Die kunst der fugue” (the first 4 fugas). Almost at the same time I started playing Tuba in a local brass band. It was so big I had to be seated on three phone books in order to reach the mouth piece! at the age of 12 I picked up the guitar, and that became my main instrument. It was also about that time I started composing.


Was writing film music always a career you wanted to pursue or were you just wanting a career in music and film music became part of this as your career progressed?

As a teenager I began playing guitar in rock and funk bands, and was very focused on becoming a good guitarist, but at the same time I continued to compose music that wasn’t really songs for my bands. I had a guitar teacher, Jacob Groth, who had just begun writing film music, and I think that inspired me as well.
When I was 23 I put down a demo tape with my music and sent it to some students at the National Film School of Denmark. This gave me my first experience of writing to picture, and I immediately fell in love with how music and image can blend together. And very quickly I decided to go that direction. And I haven’t really done anything else in music since then.



What musical education did you have and did you focus upon one area or areas of music whilst training?
I have no formal musical training. It has been learning by doing.


Do you come from a background that was musical. Were any of your family involved in music as a career?

No. My father plays the piano, but never on a professional level.




WILDWITCH is one of your recent assignments, what size orchestra did you utilise for the soundtrack, and how much time were you given to write the score?

I got involved very early in the process, approximately. 2 month before the shooting of the film. When I read the script, I immediately knew that the music should be very organic, free, round, hazy, misty… I didn’t get any melodies in my head, but more soundscapes and instruments scrubbing against each other.  I met with  Kaspar Munk, the director, and Peter Albrechtsen, the sound designer. We have all worked together before, and I told them my ideas and that I could not imagine doing any computer mock-ups. It would be impossible, so I said that I would like to just write on paper and go ahead and record. Since I wanted a very free floating music, it made sense for me to write and record different material with different groups of musicians and then put it together in the computer later.  Luckily we all agreed and I spent first some weeks writing, then I went recording first with a singer, then a duo of Cello and Bass, then a duo of Clarinet and Alto Flute, and finally I recorded a suite with a 30 pieces string orchestra. I also did some percussion at this stage.

Gerda Langkilde Lie Kaas som Clara. Vildheks.

So during the shooting Kaspar Munk, the director, already had a lot of music ready. And most of those first musical themes and harmonic landscapes are used a lot in the final film. I continued to write and record during the editing of the film. All in all, I worked over a period of almost 18 months! That’s my record!!:-)



Would you say that contemporary film music is less melodic or not as theme based as movie scores from other decades by this I mean the main theme as we knew it seems to be a thing of the past, is this a good thing or negative?

I think it is so in general, and I think there are several reasons for this. The sound on film has become so rich and detailed, that there’s no  longer the same need for a very melodic score. But it’s also because the way we make film has evolved, and a very melodic, orchestral score might seem too nostalgic. Personally I always work with melodies – but it’s true that many directors are trying to avoid them. I also think that the way many film composers work today plays a role:  It’s very easy and quick to do orchestrations with samples and create soundscapes and rhythmic loops etc., and this does really not help focusing on melodic material . You can actually score a film ,without having any really strong melodic concept.
Are there any film music composers or musical artists outside of film music that you find particularly interesting and for what reasons?



Oh, there are many! I do love the works of Toru Takemitsu very much. I can listen to his work again and again, and it continues to reveal new depths on each listen. When I’m stressed, I listen to “I Hear Water Dreaming”. It heals me! I also really love the works of Bent Sørensen, who I have been so lucky to have experienced as a coach and teacher on a few seminars. His work is so emotional and it truly moves me.
From the world of film music I especially admire Alberto Iglesias, but i also find great inspiration in the works of more modern composers like Jon Brion or Johann Johannsson. And I cannot answer a question like this without mentioning Björk! Always reinventing herself, always surprises me.  And since I’m a guitarist, I have of course a guitar hero: David Gilmour.



When you begin to work on a movie, what is the first order of practise for you, by this I mean do you like to develop a central theme or do you work on smaller cues before creating the main core theme?

I always work out a central theme first. It can be more or less melodic, but it’s clearly a theme, and the melodic structure comes first. I work on paper and mostly piano. I’m really a bad piano player, and have a hard time playing with two hands at the same time, so I merely use the piano to hear my ideas, and fool around with harmonies and alterations. I would never start composing in front of the film. It’s important to me to dig out the musical core of the film before dealing with specific scenes.



WILDWITCH is I think a special score it has so much melody and also contains a number of solo instruments and vocalists, did the director of the movie have a particular vision or idea about what type of music they thought the movie needed?

When we met after I read the script we were completely in sync about what we thought the film needed. The idea of using voice in the score, was really given to us, since the “Wildwitch” books uses a “Wildsong” in order to make magic. So actually on our first meeting, Katinka Fogh Vindelev, our singer, was there! She was hired very early in the process as a vocal coach for the young actors.  I was originally heading for a less melodic driven score, with the exception of an idea to create a Hymn (Clara’s Hymn) that would evolve alongside the main character.


Later in the process, during editing, the need for more melodies were clear, and I wrote a more emotional theme, mainly for bells and piano.  It was also during the editing I developed the more rhythmic parts of the score using lot’s off different kinds of bells. An idea that came from Peter Albrechtsen, our sound designer.
I think your first scoring assignment was in 1998 which was for a documentary, how did you become involved on the project?

Besides all my projects at the National Film School, I do not recall which professional assignment was my first. But it’s clear that almost all my projects in the beginning, was coming my way, because of my strong network at the school.



You have worked on shorts, TV series and movies as well as documentaries, are there a great many differences between scoring a short and writing for feature film?

I don’t think that it’s very different. My approach remains the same: I still have to figure out a main theme first. But of course you have to make sure that your ground material can cover 8 hours of character development, when your working on TV-series!



When working on a TV series which is spread over a number of episodes, do you ever re-use cues from episodes in other parts of the series?

Yes, we do re-use a lot of cues. Actually when working on a series, I always work out different themes and textures before the editing starts, so the editor from day one can use the original music. Then during the editing of the first episodes, I write more, always in close collaboration with the editor, and quickly we have large library of music.
On the later episodes some music from the library will be used as it is, some will need some re-writing – and of course there will also be needed some new music.


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

Music is emotion. And it can really help bringing out feelings from the film. While the narrative of a film often is very based on words and by that has a very concrete narrative, the music stays abstract, and can tell you things on an emotional plan, that might be difficult, or even impossible, to bring out without the music.



Were any of your films tracked with a temp music track, if so do you think that this is helpful to the composer or do you think it is distracting?

Like everyone else in the game of scoring for picture, I have been sent films with temp tracks. As I prefer to begin writing very early in the process, it’s rare that the editors have to use temp tracks.  When accepting a film where the editing has been done with a temp track, I do find it difficult to just “forget” about it. Often because the director is getting attached to the temp.  On the other hand, once I have figured out my musical base, it does not bother me that an editor uses a temp track on a scene, in order to “push” me some where else. Then it can be inspiring, and I do not have to “copy” the temp, but simply rework my material in that direction.

Returning to WILDWITCH, did you work with the record label to select what cues would make it onto the CD release?

I sent all my cues to the label, and they proposed me the edits and the selection. I think they did a great job, and we only made few changes before the release.
What is your principal instrument for working out your musical ideas?

Paper and pen. And piano. Or guitar…



Do you orchestrate all of the music that you write, or are there times when you may use an orchestrator?

For me, orchestration is integrated in the way i compose. I rarely think about harmonies as a vertical thing, but writes everything as lines. Horizontally.
Sometimes, when I do not have enough time to write the scores and parts myself, I work with an orchestrator, who will also do some last polishing and suggestions on the orchestration.

Have you a proffered studio where you record your music?
No…not at all.


Do you conduct at all, or do you find it better to supervise during a recording and have a conductor?
I do not conduct. I think it’s best – as a general rule – that I listen to the produced sound while recording. Sometimes when working with soloists or smaller groups, I stay in the recording stage with them, to have an immediate and more intimate work flow.

There has been a lot of discussion amongst collectors about the use of the DRONE sound in film scores recently, is it music or is it sound design, and is it just a trend do you think?

Drones has been used in music before harmonies were invented!  a lot of good film music is actually modal, so I don’t think it’s just a trend. Personally I think a good drone should have a lot of life in it, like instruments coming and going, small macro rhythms or micro-tonality. Of course there’s an open border between sound design and music. Personally I would not call a steady drone with no movements or musical elements coming out of it for music.

How much of an impact on the score does the budget have?

Low budget – less musicians! But sometimes you then have to be creative and find a way to express what ever is needed, with just a few instruments.
At what stage of the production do you like to become involved, does it help to have a script or is it better to become involved at the rough cut stage and how many times do you go over a movie before you begin to decide where music would be best placed?

As I already mentioned, I much prefer to start writing very early, often before the shooting or at least begin at the same time as the editor.
Sometimes I will do a lecture of the script together with the director to try to imagine what music can do and where. This also helps the director making decisions about tempo and feelings while shooting.
It also means that when we have a locked picture, a lot of the music will be placed where it should. I would the go over the film with the director and often the sound designer, to discuss where we are missing music, what should be changed, are there places where we should avoid music etc.


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

At the moment I’m working on a Brazilian feature film called “Shine your Eyes”, a really interesting art house movie. I’m writing music somewhere in between moody guitar, jazzy saxophones and very contemporary “classical” chamber music. I really love that in film music: Everything is possible!

I have also started writing for two French TV-series and I still have some episodes left on a Danish TV-series I have been working on for about a year.
All projects are quite different from each other, and so is the music.







Can I begin by asking you about one of your latest assignments,
EQUUS-STORY OF THE HORSE, how different is it scoring a documentary as opposed to a feature film are there things that one must consider on a documentary that differ greatly from scoring a motion picture?

I’m not too sure if I approach a documentary any differently than I do a feature film. My approach to any sort of film scoring is to understand the emotion and the drama behind the picture, understanding the characters, understanding the story arc and then adapting your writing to that. There are certain things that you do only in documentary, like sometimes putting music underneath an interview, in which you must push the pacing of the interview along, but still maintain the integrity of the interview — sometimes that means being not too musically interesting but providing enough motion in the music to help with pacing.


How much time were given to score EQUUS?

We had started work and initial spotting early along with creating some thematic material a few months before the real work came. Once we dug our heels in and had picture lock, we really had seven weeks to write the music for recording, and then another week or two to do all our post production mixing and editing.
What size orchestra did you use on the projects and how much music did
you write for it?

Equus is scored for a 45-piece orchestra, and a 24-person choir. We also had some fun additions like organ, taiko drums, cimbalom, and even a hurdy-gurdy in one cue! There was about 96 minutes of music of actual underscore, but when you add together all the trailers, bumpers and stings, and everything, we recorded over 100 minutes of music.



The score is available digitally on Spotify etc, will there be a
compact disc released, and do you have an active role when it comes to compiling a recording of one of your soundtracks?

Yes! Once the show premieres in the US, we will release a physical album in January or February. One of the hardest things I had to do was to choose how many tracks to bring it down to a 50-minute album. But the fun thing about having so much music, is that we are going to release a “bonus” digital album of some of the cues that didn’t make it. There’s some great stuff in there that didn’t fit into the “soundtrack arc” that I had crafted, but I’m super pleased that the music that didn’t make the first cut will make it out.


What musical education did you have, and did you focus on any one
instrument whilst studying?

Like all good Chinese boys, I started playing piano when I was three! I also am a decent saxophone player (although I haven’t picked up my horn in ages!). I have a bachelor’s degree in music composition from McGill University in Montreal, but a lot of my education in film music has been through experience or working with other composers.

Do you always conduct your film and tv scores, or have there been
times when you have handed over the baton to someone else so that you can monitor the recording from the control box?
Really the only time I hand over the baton to someone else to conduct is when I’m doing a source connect and can’t physically be there. I really treasure and enjoy conducting, and I feel like since I know the score best, I have the ability to get the score recorded faster from the podium than I can in the booth. But it also means having people you trust in the booth to hear things that you might miss otherwise.


Were you always intent on pursuing music as a career, or did you
begin in another career, also were any of your family musical?
I think it was pretty clear from high school that music was going to be my chosen career path, although I thought about being a pilot (I actually have my pilot’s license) and very much enjoy the public policy advocacy work that I do. I’m super grateful for the fact that I get to write music every day of my life and someone pays me to do it! My brother works with music from a more holistic approach and uses music as a conduit for communication and healing, but it’s very different than what I do.



You have worked on several movies, and scored shorts, is it more difficult to work on something that is of a shorter duration, does
it being brief make it difficult to develop any themes or stamp a style of any kind upon the film?

Because short films tend to be conduits into feature length or television projects, the creative teams tend to be less experienced, and have less resources to work with. So, there are those challenges. I think in short films, you have a longer “days to minute” ratio, because it still takes you the same amount of time to develop thematic material. Once you get on a roll, it’s much easier to churn out music when you have your themes written and developed. I don’t think it’s more difficult, the nature of the short film medium doesn’t allow you to be as productive as say a feature or a mini-series.


Going back to EQUUS STORY OF THE HORSE, did the director of the
documentary have set ideas as to what style music was required for the project, and did they have a hands-on involvement?

Niobe was very hands-on, with very detailed spotting notes and every cue was approved in MIDI mock-up format before we went to record. One of the biggest challenges for us on Equus was making sure we didn’t try to repeat the score to The Great Human Odyssey, which had similar parameters and resources. Another thing that Niobe insisted on was avoiding the “western” idiom — despite in several scenes seeing epic green landscapes with horses and cowboys, he wanted to really avoid those stereotypes. Other than that, I think the cinematography and the stories on screen are so epic and grand, that it really requires an epic and grand score to match.

When you begin to work on a film, do you like to watch it over and
over before getting any ideas about music, or is it better to watch the film just once and maybe return to certain sequences later?
I tend to watch the film once all the way through, and then I’ll focus in on certain segments when I’m working on a cue. There’s usually not enough time to continually watch the film repeatedly. What is important though, is to watch the film all the way through with my music, to ensure timing and pacing is correct. And if I do get stuck on a cue (it’s not being approved after 4 or 5 versions) I’ll come back to it at the end after I’ve given myself a little bit of creative space.


You worked on the miniseries documentary, THE GREAT HUMAN
ODDYSSEY, when you are doing a series such as this do you score each part separately or do you watch the entire thing and score it in the same way as a feature film?
Like Human, Equus was also a three-part miniseries. I generally score chronologically, from start to finish. The same thematic material comes back in all three episodes, so I’m certainly not re-inventing the wheel each time.
Orchestration and temp tracks, do you orchestrate all your music and
what is your opinion of the use of the temp track by directors and

I wish I could orchestrate all my music but there’s no time! My assistant and orchestrator, Vincent Pratte, is an incredible composer and musician in his own right, but it took a fair bit for him to completely gain my trust as an orchestrator. Because I’m so particular about my orchestration, my MIDI mock-ups tend to be very specific and there’s not a lot of room for creativity in the orchestration stage, it’s clear what I would like.


Temp tracks are great and horrible. I think Niobe would agree that he can suffer from temp love, and it can be frustrating to try and exert new ideas on a director who has fallen in love with his/her temp track (I will say though, that Niobe is amiable to discussion and debate!) That being said, I think nothing communicates a director’s intent better than a temp track. So, it’s a double-edged sword.
Can you tell us what you are working on next?

I am doing some work on a video game (can’t talk about that) and have another doc and some feature films coming up soon. Also doing some pop tune orchestral arrangements, which I find very fun to do!


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Talking to Bruce Kimmel.





I remember seeing your name on the Bay Cities releases of soundtracks, you certainly released some great film music on that label, how did BAY CITIES come about?

I’ll try to give you the Reader’s Digest version – but I helped get Varese Sarabande started back when they began, got them into soundtracks (their first soundtrack release was to my film, The First Nudie Musical, had a chance to own a third of the company for something like $2500 and passed because at the time they were only doing obscure classical releases. I knew I’d made a mistake when I got them into soundtracks but by then it was too late to get involved financially. When they got their Universal distribution deal they went into a whole other world and somewhere in the late 80s I knew that had I invested I would probably be a millionaire. Out of that was born Bay Cities – I found two people, we each put up a small amount of dough, and like Varese we began with classical albums and soon thereafter graduated to show and then soundtrack reissues.

BAY CITIES issued a lot of classical music but always seemed to release not obscure, but shall we say more interesting film soundtracks, such as CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT by Daniel Licht etc, as well as items such as THE THREE MUSKETEERS by Legrand was releasing lesser known scores something that set out to do rather than sticking with the mainstream material?

Bay Cities was designed to be eclectic. And we right off the bat wanted to support new film composers like Daniel and Randy Miller, but we were also able to get some great reissues like 1941 and Musketeers. Us getting 1941 was such an annoyance to Varese – it made me laugh. I mean – they were ANNOYED. And us getting the soundtrack to Misery annoyed them even more and led to what was ultimately an offer that I couldn’t really refuse given the problems Bay Cities was having.



Sadly, Bay Cities ceased production, why was this as the label seemed to have a solid following?

What killed most small labels back then – distribution. We went through three or four with the common theme being they were so slow in paying what was owed to us that it was difficult to keep up and it got worse with our final distributor, where we couldn’t even get them to pay at all. During all that drama, Chris Kuchler at Varese called me and said I could come there, start my own line, earn a good living, and do whatever I wanted without interference – so given we would have gone under anyway thanks to corrupt distributors, I grabbed that opportunity. It was a difficult decision but, in the end, it turned out to be a good thing for all of us.


Your Kritzerland label also has a catalogue that is filled with some wonderful soundtracks and musicals etc, how do decide on what soundtracks that you will release?

Mostly it’s a simple thing with me, because I’m the company – I must like the music. Yes, there are maybe two releases I could point to that I did because I knew they’d sell well that I didn’t love, but even then, I didn’t hate them and made them into good albums. So, it’s really my taste in things. I wouldn’t release all that 80s and 90s and now 2000s stuff that everyone lives for – other than a handful of scores, that doesn’t interest me. I do understand that financially we perhaps should have looked at least more to the 80s but that crazy nostalgia thing for people who grew up then was and is like nothing I’ve ever seen (although it’s about to be surpassed by the 90s and then 2000s in terms of crazy nostalgia) and I just couldn’t bring myself to grab those titles, not that most of them were gettable because other labels were fighting over them. So, I just went about my business and got the stuff I liked.


I was really pleased when you released JULES VERNE’S ROCKET TO THE MOON, this I think is a very good early score by John Scott, do you have contact with the composer when you are going to release one of their soundtracks, if so do you involve them in maybe selecting the cues that you will include on the release and do you think there could be more Scott soundtracks in the pipeline, THE LONG DUEL for example?


In the case of Rocket to the Moon, we were just releasing the LP program. I was in touch with John because he’s a good friend, but he didn’t have anything extra on the film. I’ve always loved the score, so it was a treat to do it. I have The Long Duel on a list at Rhino – we’ll get to it at some point, I’m sure.



What would you say has been the most difficult soundtrack to produce and for what reasons?

I don’t know if difficult is the word I’d use, but the one that took the longest, because both James Nelson and I were maniacal about it, was Poltergeist 2. All those other releases I’d not liked in terms of sound, and I knew that was partially due to the digital tapes being used – so for the first time ever, I pulled the analogue tapes that were done at the same time and there was all the loveliness, space, and air that I wanted. We must have worked for three solid weeks on that getting it to sound as great as we could get it. And there was a lot of drama about it, but in the end once people heard it they knew that sound-wise there would never be better and even with yet another reissue last year, that has proven to be the case. Otherwise, there really hasn’t been anything difficult other than getting a project, which can, of course, be daunting.

Before KRITZERLAND you were at Varese in the labels early years, how did you become involved with the label and why did they suddenly stop releasing Broadway show recordings?
I was at Varese from March of 1993 to the end of December 1999. By then, the entire vibe there had become so irritating and kind of sickening. There was a year when Bob Townson and Chris Kuchler weren’t even speaking to each other, that’s how crazy it was. They’d gone down this rabbit hole by hiring a marketing person, and he, IMO, hurt us terribly. Yes, he helped with certain titles, but suddenly it all became about marketing – not the albums, but how do we sell this. Well, for the first five years there everything sold well in my division – and certainly the huge winners took care of anything that may have lost a little money. But that’s because we had the market pretty much to ourselves and I was doing nineteen original albums a year, which was insane but fun. Then all the majors got back into the game because they saw how well we were doing. And suddenly nothing was selling as well – all labels go through patches like that, but Chris was, well, not smart about it, kept complaining, and ultimately came to me and said, “We’re out of the Broadway business.” It was a) stupid, and b) negated what he’d told me when I’d shut down Bay Cities – that I had a job for life. So, there was nothing for me to do but leave. And to show you how stupid his decision was if he’d been patient another three years, the entire business model of doing cast albums changed to the show producers paying for their own albums – I helped spearhead that even though I didn’t have a label at the time. Impatience breeds stupid decisions. But also, I really couldn’t stomach what had turn into art by committee, with endless, painful meetings about what would sell and what wouldn’t.



I’ll give you one anecdote that will sum all of that up in a nutshell. When Titanic came out and immediately turned into an all-time box-office winner, the soundtrack was selling millions of units and every label was doing whatever knock-off they could – Music They Should Have Played on the Titanic, Music They Might Have Played on the Titanic, Music They Would Have Played on the Titanic If the Ship Hadn’t Sunk – it was crazy and they were all doing well even though they were all crap.
And I got a brainstorm – to do a Titanic album – with lots of score cues from the Horner, but also music from other movies about the Titanic and even from the Broadway musical – and because the soundtrack album had left off the single piece that everyone wanted – the piano-only version of the Rose theme, I included that. I went in to Chris and pitched it. His response? “Who would buy it?” I tried to explain the phenomenon and he’d just look at me and furrow his brow and repeat, “Who would buy it?”


Then he called in our marketing “expert” who was, as he always was, wishy-washy, agreeing with Chris because that’s who paid his salary. This went on for two weeks, and finally I walked into Chris’s office and said, “You know what, I’m doing this, and you can thank me later.” He looked up, bemused, and said, “Well, if you feel that strongly about it…” And I said, “I not only feel that strongly about it, I’ve had an orchestrator working on it for two weeks, and we’re going into the studio to record in a week-and-a-half as I’ve hired the band and the conductor.” End of the story – it comes out, enters the Billboard Classical Crossover Chart at number two and remains on the chart for forty-nine weeks or something. It sold over 100,000 copies. I was never thanked. He never acknowledged his initial hesitance, and the marketing guy tried to take all the credit.



Do you have a personal preference or a favourite recording that you have produced?

Of the ones I’ve produced that are original, there are several I’m very proud of during the Varese days, but they’re all my children so I don’t single them out. Of the Kritzerland reissues, the favourite would have to be not a soundtrack but the original Broadway cast album of Follies. The LP and mix of that show was legendary and not in a good way – one of the worst-sounding cast albums ever – and it didn’t help they’d truncated the score. Everyone always blamed the recording itself, the engineering.
I got it into my head to see if that was true – it took me a year to convince EMI to license it to me (it’s never been out of print on CD) for a limited edition. I pulled the original eight-track tapes and completely remixed it from scratch – and voila – it suddenly sounded like a gloriously recorded album because it was only the original mix that was horrible – done in a day. We released it and I heard from every living member of the original production and the response from them, starting with Mr. Sondheim, who called it a miracle, was overwhelming as was the response from the buyers. It’s one of my proudest moments. Soundtrack reissues, I’d have to say there were several I was thrilled to finally bring to CD, including Two for the Seesaw, Heaven Can Wait, and most importantly, One-Eyed Jacks.

Stepping away from production, do you think that contemporary film scores do lack a thematic identity, by this I mean do you feel that the opening credits title theme is something that is now in the past?

Sadly, yes – that is until some brave sole writes a main title with an actual tune and that film becomes a hit – then everyone will jump right back on that bandwagon. All the scores today pretty much sound the same, even from the talented composers and that’s because they keep temp-tracking with scores from the hit films of the last decade or so and insisting that the composer follow that to the letter – there’s no art there at all. You can’t have a score like To Kill a Mockingbird or Psycho today – those were original because the directors didn’t temp their film and the composers could do their job and understood the function of what a film score should do. Today it’s all committee, from the director and the producer down to the studio heads – everyone’s got an opinion, and if a film isn’t “working” the first place they look is the score, which should probably be the last place they look.


How have things altered over the years in the production and release of soundtracks, film music has always been a somewhat limited market, is this made even more difficult these days with the likes of Spotify and I Tunes around and what some call the dreaded download?

Yes, some love their downloads – I don’t do that. I like physical media, I’m afraid, but then I’m not twenty. I like things I can hold and look at and play. But I’m not at all sure soundtrack downloads are such a deal in terms of scores – maybe the soundtracks with a lot of songs – but not scores. The reissue market was very lucrative for many years until the market got glutted with so many releases that no one could afford to keep up anymore. I warned everyone about it and not only would no one listen, I was derided for it. Except I was right and pretty much every label has felt it and if you look at the way releases happen now you will see that that’s the case.
Soundtracks such as THE MOLLY MAGUIRES, CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT and THE JERRY FIELDING FILM MUSIC compilations, I don’t think have been re-issued, would this be something that you would consider as a future project for Kritzerland?

We sold our 1500 Molly Maguires, and that took a year – I’m not sure there’d be enough sales left to justify it – Children of the Night – no one would care, although it’s a terrific score – and the volumes of Fielding I think have all been reissued multiple times by now. I’m not so interested in revisiting things – I know some labels love to do things that have been out two, three, four times but I like new stuff. I’ve cut back in the last two years. Much saner that way.


At what age did you begin to take an interest in music of any kind, and what are your memories of the first song or piece of music that you can remember?

I loved music from the time I could process thought. We had a nice record player that played 78s, 10-inch, 45s, and LPs and we had all of those. We had the usual cast albums – South Pacific, etc. some Danny Kaye records. The first movie theme I remember being obsessed with was a 78 of The High and the Mighty. My father was in the restaurant business but also owned several bars in LA that had juke boxes. So, I would get all the 78s and then 45s that were discarded, and that’s how I learned about music. And I remember all of it. As the years went on I was insatiably curious and took chances on all kinds of music. I was an odd child.

Is there anything, soundtrack or musical that you have tried to release but have not been able too?

There was a time we were looking at Li’l Abner, the movie soundtrack. I was given all the pre-records but then Sony did a CD-R release of the soundtrack through Arkiv and that was the end of that. I’d love to do a proper The Court Jester, but that doesn’t seem possible. And there are a handful of soundtracks that I’ve tried for and am still trying for – stuff that no one else would care about but that I love.


Do soundtracks sell because of certain composers or is it a genre thing do you think?

Certain genres seem to do well – horror, sci-fi – just the same as in-home video. Anything with the name Goldsmith seems to sell, no matter whether it’s not great or is from a horrible film or if it’s the twelfth reissue of a reissue of a reissue. It’s funny to watch. John Williams sells. Hugo Friedhofer, one of the greatest film composers in history, not so much. And certain films hold great nostalgia value for people – stuff like The Goonies – and so those do well, I suppose.

A few of the other soundtrack labels have started to do a very limited run on some of their soundtracks, one I know just does 300 per soundtrack, when you are planning a release is it economic for you to maybe press a lower number and wait and see what the reaction is to the initial run before re-pressing?

We’ve been doing 500 runs this year and it’s served us very well – anything under that number is pointless. But any major soundtrack release will automatically get 1000 – Advise and Consent being the latest of those.

If you decide to release a soundtrack and the tapes are not in very good shape, what can you do to try and improve the situation or is it a case of tapes are bad, so we don’t proceed?

Up until three or four years ago, certain scores just were in such bad repair that there was no way to do them. That all changed with A Place in the Sun and It’s a Wonderful Life. I had those tapes forever and they were just so bad you couldn’t even think about it. Then along came Chris Malone. On a whim, I sent him the three worst tracks of A Place in the Sun and said, “Is there any way, anything that can be done here?” A few days later he sent me the three tracks back and whatever he’d done blew me away – it was astonishing. Sent him the rest and finally we had that soundtrack in listenable sound. Wonderful Life was even worse – all acetates, every cue in pieces with multiple pick-ups – it gave me a migraine just thinking about it. I sent him a few of those tracks and asked if he could make sense out of them (thankfully everything was slated) – after hearing the incredible result I sent it all to him, and he somehow figured it all out and again the result was astonishing. He’s kind of a genius at this stuff and I can’t say enough about him. But I also must give equally strong kudos to James Nelson, who’s done amazing work on most of our projects.


What is on the Horizon for Kritzerland?
More stuff from Sony and Rhino, more from Fox, and then who knows? That’s the beauty part – you never know what will magically appear.





What does film music mean to you, tell us what your feelings, emotions and passions are when it comes to film music or indeed any kind of music?
Film music is very often the main element that keeps me sitting down and not fidgeting around when I m watching a film. If the score fails to please me I rarely am entertained by the film. Good film music has to work with the picture, and ideally also work out on its own as well on record. All music regardless of genre has to evoke feelings, if it fails to do so than it’s not good music.


I was once told that as collectors we are music addicts and we can’t stop listening and discovering film music old and new, would you say this pretty much describes a film music collector or at least some of us?
I think this a common trait to a good number of collectors, not sure how many but it is a common trait in many collectors of whatever they collect, from music to miniature scale models. I love discovering new stuff, be it old or new and it is always very exciting. I would not say I’m on a quest to discover new stuff, it just happens all the time though.


Are you in favour of all these so-called definitive releases of scores that have already received a release, sometimes the definitive editions containing seconds of extra music, or do you think that less is more when we are used to a certain release?
I’m usually the “only more is more” kind of guy however all these definitive editions, as you correctly put it that have nothing more than a cue or 2 than the 14thousand previous editions of that album, in that case I honestly believe that is taking advantage of the collectors’ compulsive need to own yet another version of X or Y. Sometimes there is editions that really are worth doing again but that is not the case most of the times.


What was your first soundtrack purchase?


Star Wars by John Williams.



KRONOS records has in the past few years grown its catalogue of soundtracks, adding a number of superb soundtracks that would ordinarily would not get a release, do you think it is important to release both popular and obscure titles?



I always was, still am and very likely will be the underdog and underdog fan till the day I croak so give me obscure titles anytime. Nothing wrong with popular titles don’t get me wrong, cause very often I pick an obscure title and end up giving it a sort of second life and a hint at “popularity” it never had but what I care for is not popularity but acknowledgment. There are so many outstanding recordings that never saw a release and for as long as I can I will keep working on releasing these obscure gems that deserve to be known and appreciated by more people who care for good music, not for popular music…

Are there any soundtracks that you have wanted to release and have not been able to for whatever reason?
Oh yes there have been a few, some because the sources were gone, others because the publisher could not be tracked, but yes like other labels I have my titles that never were.



The Italian soundtrack market never ceases to amaze me, there is always it seems a title coming out that has never been released, do you find that Italian film music creates more of an interest than movie scores from other countries?
I would not know that for sure, however I have released many Italian scores and there is really a gold mine that still yields a lot of musical wealth! Some Italian names are amongst the most known in the film music. Let us not forget that not every country had its Cinecitta, its Golden Age like Italy who has titles big enough to be known by both connoisseurs and the everyday chap.


What made you take the decision to establish KRONOS?


The fact that so many gems I cared for and no other label seemed interested to do, at least back then would be the main reason.



You have released a number of Italian scores, the Italian western is always popular, but I guess that that particular area of the market is pretty much exhausted as far as new titles or unreleased titles are concerned, titles such as GODS GUN, A MAN CALLED SLEDGE etc wont ever see a release will they?

Never and ever are not two words I often use so my friend never say never but for various reasons some titles are more likely to make it than others.





Is the process of re-mastering and re-storing a difficult one?
Depends on the state of the masters, if they are in good to fairly good condition it is yes time consuming but still standard procedure however is the state of the master was not a good one than it’s a completely different story!


How do select the titles that you release, is there a catalogue of titles available, or does it involve tracking down each one via film or music companies?
I prefer to do previously unreleased scores, occasionally I also do reissues of long sold out scores, and when possible adding as much previously unreleased good music to them as possible. In most cases you have to track them down one by one but some publishers also have lists of what they have.


Do composers have a say in what tracks that you release, or is it a case of they have finished the project and the music is then the property of the film company?

It depends on the projects really. When I deal directly with the composers I give them a lot of say, we discuss and together decide what to put in the finished record. When dealing with the production or publisher it’s a different story however even there, there is often the chance to discuss what will work best.


The Peplum is a genre that must be popular as you have released several of these, what would you say is the most popular genre of film soundtrack?


I love doing Peplum because I grew up watching Peplum (along Spaghetti Westerns) and there are still lots of peplum scores I watched that don’t have a score release on CD so you already know I ll be doing more of that. Every title is a different beast, with a different target audience, there are fans of peplum, fans of drama, fans of horror, spaghetti westerns, erotic movies, animated, comedy…I have covered a lot of genres along peplum, they all sell well in their specific niche but perhaps drama is the most popular.



How long does it take to release a soundtrack from start to finish and is the art work owned by the film company or by the artist etc?

It takes more than many people would think and less than others would imagine but at least in my case it always takes a few weeks from the very early stages; from acquiring the rights and licenses, work on the master, the artwork. It’s not a short process really.
Artwork often is owned by the film company but there are also agencies who own various items of artwork, so again every title is a different beast.



You normally do limited editions of 300, do these always sell out and have you ever ad to do a re-press?

Yes because the market is what it is nowadays. Sometimes they sell out, sometimes they don’t. So far I have repressed only 2 titles and only because there was a lot of demand. Once the run is out, it is out and I will not do a repress.


Would you consider entering into the market to release scores from the new movies such as blockbusters like STAR WARS or are you happy to release music from older movies, and concentrate on these?

Definitely happier to work with the older more obscure titles, even though STAR WARS is no teenager anymore now, however it is not obscure enough, is it?



Who is your own personal favourite composer or composers?




When you look at a score to release what do you take into account?
I have to like it, if it gives nothing to me than it’s a no go. Than if Ideally I can manage to sell it to other fellow film music lovers even better so Ideally I can break even and make some profit to fund future releases, it’s that simple for me.


British movie music from the 1960’s I think is not represented that well, music from the films of AMICUS and TYBURN for example should be released, as it is just so good, do you think this is something that KRONOS might consider for future projects?
As you know I m always in to do some good music but it is never easy to get things going, from personal experience I know that certain titles are sadly bound to keep piling up dust until they turn to dust themselves, either thanks to someone forgetting about them or to someone who asks an unrealistic amount to license it. However Kronos has done already a good couple of titles many deemed impossible and as I said before, never and ever are not words I use often or even like!



The Gold series is a popular one, can you tell us if there is anything being added to this in the near future?
Yes a good bunch of titles are in the pipeline and all will be revealed in due time, but I can say there is something for everyone, or almost so hang on in there and keep your ears on the ground and await the tremors.