Composer Vito Lo Re, is probably a name in film music that you maybe not have yet encountered, his recent score for L’UOMO DEL LABIRINTO, is a work that every self respecting film music collector should own. The rich and dark musicl colours and textures ooze suspence and forebodding, and his lighter more melodic themes are affecting and haunting. The composer has created a soundtrack that is filled with innovative and striking musical compositions, and I am confident that we will be seeing his name a lot more in the coming years. My thanks to the composer for taking the time to answer my questions. And thank you for the glorious music Maestro. JM.
One of your recent film scores is for L’UOMO DEL LABIRINTO, how did you become involved on the project?
I’ve been working with the director Donato Carrisi since the very beginning of both our careers. We did many works together: theatre, musicals, radio, TV shows, songs and eventually cinema. The plot for the movie has been taken from an international best seller Donato wrote a couple of years ago. So, when the movie took its first steps it was natural for him to ask that I write the score.
What would you say is the purpose of music in film?
Music is supposed the take the audience’s hand and to bring them where the director wants them to be. Donato specifically asked me to let the music permeate the whole movie. My scoring is – I hope – always very tied with images. I follow every single frame and I always try to get the music to follow any even slight change on the screen. I think that each composer would like to play his music loud to scream to the world “Listen how good I am!” but in my opinion this is not the role of score music. Someone says the perfect score for a movie is the one the audience is not aware of. It’s a matter of ego and balance to know when it’s necessary to remain subtle, as the time to make the orchestra explode will always come and it would be a shame to waste the effect if you write invasive music during the whole movie.
The soundtrack from L’UOMO DEL LABIRINTO is released on compact disc on Plaza Mayor, when a score is released in any format are you involved in the process of compiling what cues will be used on the album?
Absolutely. I always follow each step of the process and I always have the last word on it. But this doesn’t mean I’m a dictator. I always listen to the people working with me on the project.
As you have said, you have worked and collaborated with director Donato Carrisi on a number of varying projects, does he have a hands on approach when it comes to the music in his films, or does he explain what he thinks the film needs and leave it to you?
I just said I am in no way a dictator; well, Donato is! But that’s definitively a compliment to him. He perfectly knows the effect he wants to arrive at, and I write again and again the cues, until he’s satisfied. In our first movie I wrote the very first cue 14 times; I’m not talking of 14 version of the same cue: I’m talking of 14 different cues! Luckily, I compose very fast and probably this is one of the skills a movie score composer is supposed to have.
How many times do you like to see a movie before you begin to formulate ideas as to what style of music you will compose and where to place the music to serve the movie beat?
A rough idea comes in my mind the very first time I see the movie, but it is only after many and many views that this rough idea becomes something the director can listen to. The placing of the music is always something that is a collaborative task, you deal with the director and the editor during the spotting sessions. The question of the style, that is simple: scoring music is supposed to have the same aesthetic vision that movie has.
Using L’UOMO DEL LABIRINTO as an example. how much time were you allowed to work on the score and how much music did you write for the film?
After choosing the main themes, I had about six weeks to compose, synchronize, orchestrate, record, edit and mix 86 minutes of music for full orchestra.
What would you say were you musical influences, or what composers and artists would you say have interested or inspired you the most?
I think no movie composer on Earth could claim not to be influenced by the two greatest composers, in my opinion: Ennio Morricone and John Williams. That being said, there are so many wonderful musicians: James Newton-Howard, Thomas Newman, Jerry Goldsmith, Howard Shore and James Horner all of whom are definitely important milestones in the art of film scoring.
Even though L’UOMO DEL LABIRINTO is a drama and calls for darker music at times, it still contains rich melodies and thematic pieces, do you think it is important for film music to remain thematic or for a film to have a central theme for the audience to identify with?
Each new film I score I swear to myself I’ll use only one main theme in the whole movie but in the end, I always commit perjury! That’s because I always feel the need to give a different theme to each situation or character. So eventually my scores are always very thematic, even if I do not disdain follow the scene with isolate notes or sounds. Many times, I used to decompose themes in a way that only a very careful listener could recognize them. I like definitively doing this sort of subliminal use of my themes.
You worked with the Bulgarian National Radio Orchestra, is this an orchestra that you have a preference for?
In Italy there are many wonderful orchestras, such the Roma Sinfonietta but I’ve been working with BNRO for several years and I do like their sound and their ability to always follow your wishes.
What percentage of the score for L’UOMO DEL LABIRNTO was performed via synthesizers?
I’d say about 30% but I never use synthesizers alone. I always add at least one real instrument to get a hint of “life” in the cue.
Do you conduct your film scores, or do you like other composer/conductors prefer to supervise the recording of the score from the recording booth?
I’m also a professional conductor – having the right feeling with the orchestra it’s absolutely important. I would rather say vital. Especially with the clock running, but I think one day I’ll give myself the luxury of giving the baton to a colleague. That will happen, I’m sure.
Do you orchestrate your own music, and is orchestration an important part of the composing process?
I always orchestrate music since orchestration is for me a founding part of the composition process. Nevertheless, I know there are so many skilled orchestrators and, in the future,, I think I’ll hire one of them. Not because of laziness but for learning new secrets of this wonderful art.
When you are working on music for film or indeed any medium, how do you work out your ideas, by this I mean do you write them straight to manuscript, or do you compose at the piano or maybe utilise a more contemporary method as in synths or computers?
The piano is certainly the first approach. After writing the main melody and harmony I immediately orchestrate, using my inseparable Mac.
What musical education did you receive, and whilst studying did you focus upon any one thing more than others?
I trained as a classical musician at the Conservatory but certainly score music is something different from classical composition and follows different rules. That’s why I attended several courses.
Was writing music something that was always something you knew you wanted to do as a career?
Absolutely. Writing music for me it’s more than natural. I began as a guitar player and I remember I wrote my very first compositions a couple of weeks after I started playing guitar. Even with no technical skill or musical knowledge I immediately felt the need to compose my own music.
Italian film music has always held a special place in my heart, I grew up with composers such as Morricone, Alessandroni, Lavagnino, Rota, Ferrio, Ciprani, Nicolai etc, do you listen to other composer’s film scores at all?
I have no problem to say I listen to many soundtracks from the past and from nowadays. This never-ending process is what music is based upon and has been forever. A composer listens to a musical idea and then develops it into something more personal. No composer has ever invented something really and genuinely new. That always starts from a spark someone else has generated. That’s why I don’t trust composers saying they never listen to what their colleagues write.
What is your opinion of contemporary film music as opposed to the style and sound that was created in the 1960’s?
It’s a completely different situation. Until a very few decades ago there were more movies released and definitively fewer composers. Computers help us so much I almost can’t figure out how it was possible in the past creating so many masterpieces as they did this without them! Until few years ago musical software and hardware was so expensive that only a very few composers could afford them. Now there is more democratization of the technological instrumentations; this process along with the developing of musical software has allowed more and more composers to do this job. That’s why I said today is a completely different situation. I think in recent years there are many talents but very few that can be referred to as being a genius, if this word today still makes a sense.
Were any of your family musical at all, and at what age did you begin to take an interest in music of any kind?
My grandfather was a trumpet soloist who did a wonderful career and three cousins of mine are professional musicians but I’m the only composer. So, I grew up in a family where music has always been played and listened too. Nevertheless, I started to study “seriously” music only in high school.
Have you experienced the use of the TEMP track, if so what is your opinion of this?
Sometimes these are useful for they can let you understand what a director has in his mind regarding the music. Problems come when he or she becomes so accustomed to listening to the temp that it is impossible to see past the scene or sequence without it and also cannot allow a new cue to work. That irremediably brings the composer to write a new one that can be so similar to the temp that sometimes it can brush against plagiarism. This is not the natural flowing of musical ideas I spoke about before; this is the end of music.
Have you any preferences when it comes to a recording studio?
No, no preference.
When you begin work on a film score, do you prefer to develop a core theme and then build the remainder of the score around this, or do you focus on smaller themes first?
That depends on the narrative trend. Generally, I let the images suggest me the best way to tackle the score.
Robin Coudert is a songwriter, producer and film and television composer, his style is melodic and innovative and as well as being popular for his work in film he is also well known as a versatile and gifted arranger, to his fans and also within the indie pop community he is known as Rob. His music style is sophisticated and incorporates various genres of music, including symphonic, chamber music, electro pop, rock and acoustic. He began to play piano as a child, he released his debut album in 2001 which was a 1960’s inspired project entitled DON’T KILL. He began his film scoring career in 2005 and has been in demand ever since. When did you begin to take an interest in music?
I have very blurry memories from my young age: playing records on my parents hi-fi system, I remember quite well the feel of the vinyl, the needle , the arm of the turntable… though I don’t remember the music itself, i still have the feeling of the gear, the system.
What was your first encounter with film or TV music as in when did you first take notice that it existed?
I used to spend a lot of time watching tv as a kid, and during the 80’s we had a lot of French/Japanese cartoon productions. I was (and still am) a huge fan of the music from those ones. « Les Mystérieuses Cités d’or was my favourite, Albator or Goldorak… the music was a big part of it, with a beautiful use of synth. That, was some kind of spaced electronic music… Very inspiring and tripping. I think all my generation has been inspired by these programmes, look at daft punk’s interstellar 555!! It comes straight from there!
I also have deep memories from watching The Mission and Morricone’s score was really something I did notice. I asked my parents to buy the score. I loved it. The same with Michael Nyman’s draughtman’s contract. I was obsessed with this music, that was a hit for me. I was probably 8-9 years old then. Polanski’s fearless vampire killers was also of my favs and I’m still in love with the music.
You use many ways to score pictures etc, do you feel that maybe in recent years film music has altered and become more soundscape rather than symphonic score?
There’s certainly a trend in using textures in scores rather than melodies. But I really don’t want to separate symphonic and electronic. Symphonic can be textured as well (cf Johansson)! There are so many ways to inject emotions in a movie. Every project calls for some different approach for me.
You have collaborated with filmmaker Rebecca Zlotowskia few times now, does she have fixed ideas on what style or sound that she wants for her movies or give you specific instructions, or do you have a free rein?
We started our careers together. We didn’t really know what we were doing on BELLE EPINE, it felt very experimental, as it was my first experience on a long feature. I think we try to stay in the same spirit now. Find new ways, new ideas, new concept. The trust she has for me allows me to explore new territories and push back the limits of my production. You have worked on documentaries, do these projects demand more music or music to run in a more continuous way as opposed to a score in a motion picture?
I like to approach a documentary the same way as with features. I try to inject drama just like in a fiction.
TV music has become more popular in recent years, is the working schedule on a TV series very different from working in feature films?
Yes it’s very different !! Considering that Cinema is an industry, then T.V. is even bigger.
There are so many projects running right now, especially on platforms and networks.Basically, it’s like, less money, less time, more music!!
But it’s such a big thing, it’s very exciting! You can tell the producers are very creative and some would take more risk than in the cinema prods. There’s a kind of gambling vibe, because the networks are craving for content, they’re giving a lot of money to different kind of project, sci-fi, horror, historical, documentary…
We just opened a gold mine, and everyone takes a chance.
I think PINK COWBOY BOOTS was one of the first films you worked on in 2005, how did you become involved on the film?
My wife Maria LARREA was studying at the prestigious FEMIS the French cinema school. Pink Cowboy Boots was her first short movie. Many directors come from there: Rebecca Zlotowski and Teddy Modeste, Céline Sciamma but also Eric Rochant or Deplechins.
Your scores always have attractive and haunting melodies, do you think it is important for a film soundtrack to have themes rather than just sounds to support and enhance the images and scenarios?
I’m a great defender of the melodies. It is of course a fantasy for the composer to provide a theme for a movie. Something that will remain. But it’s crucial to understand that not every movie can have it. It has a huge impact on a film to stand a melody, and its huge artistic move. Not all the directors dare to do this. It’s risky and not trendy. That’s why I want to do it!!
How long is it after seeing movie that you begin to develop your ideas and thoughts into themes?
I often start the creative process before seeing any picture.
Just by reading the script or even talking with the director.
The ideas come first from abstract concepts, from an ideal of the film and not from the film itself.
A while ago the composer relied on seeing the script of a movie to get an idea of where he would place music etc, at what stage of production do you prefer to become involved on a film or documentary and do you have a set routine for the way you work on a project, ie start to finish or maybe larger cues first or establish a central theme and work from this?
I begin with some free composition process. As if I was composing for a record. Some themes and moods. Then I send it to the Director, and we start from there. It’s crucial to create a communication channel, to build a language we would both understand to be able to communicate artistically.
Most of the directors don’t know the words to describe their expectations. My job is to translate it into music. This process should start as soon as possible to make sure i wouldn’t go amiss n a wrong direction. Once we have this, if I feel trustworthy, everything should be fine.
Many thanks for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions.
You have worked in feature film, documentaries and written for the theatre, what would you say are the main differences if any between the three mediums?
Musically there isn’t necessarily a big difference. The direction of the music is determined by the vision of the director in collaboration with the composer, in both film and theatre productions. But the working methods are different. In a theatre performance, you don’t have a “locked” timeline like in a movie, so you don’t normally use the same amount of macro-timing like you might do when scoring a complex film sequence with a lot of different cue points. Since theatre is a living and breathing medium, the timing of the actors also might vary a bit from performance to performance. So the structure of the music needs to be a bit more “flexible” since the scenes might play out a bit different from day to day. That said, for theatre productions I often like to work around this, by splitting the musical cues into different parts that can indeed be triggered by certain dialogue lines or other cue points – so that you get a seamless effect of a wholly composed thing that just magically fits together! It’s a semi-interactive approach to the music, a bit like in modern video games when the music continues to play in the background, morphing to a different part of the music when something specific happens in the action.
What is clearly also different in the theatre, is that the actors are often already working with the music while they are rehearsing the play. So there might be more cases of the music actively influencing the stage direction and the rhythm of certain sequences. That rarely happens with music for film, unless you are filming musical numbers which of course requires that music to be ready before filming. But in general the composer comes in a little bit later in the filmmaking process, often after filming has wrapped. So in films, the rhythm and structure of the music cues are more often determined by the editing, than vice versa.
There is approx. 30 mins of music in Mio, min Mio, when you have written the score is the music played live with the performance or is it recorded and played when the performance is on stage?
On both “Mio, min Mio” and “Ingenting” (both directed by the amazing Hilde Brinchmann) the music was pre-recorded and played back by the stage sound engineer through a piece of software called QLab. This way the musical cues can be split into different parts like I mentioned before, and glued together on-stage during the final weeks of rehearsals, fine-tuning the whole performance and the structure of the music on location. It is a very creative and fun process between director, composer and sound engineer.
However, on another recent project, a modern adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s “Peer Gynt” which was staged the last three summer seasons as an outdoor play in Oslo, we needed to do the same kinds of seamless live transitions between cues, but with a 40 piece live orchestra (actually the Staff Band of the Norwegian Armed Forces) instead of pre-recorded files. Which means that the conductor (the magnificent Bjarte Engeset) had to keep track of a very long list of micro-cues throughout, carefully listening to every line of dialogue by the actors, at the same time as conducting the orchestra, being prepared to skip a certain amount of bars or even skipping to a different piece of music at any point in time! At certain points we had different players in the orchestra purposely playing two different pieces of music simultaneously, to create optimal “crossfading” effects! Total madness, but when you work with amazing people, it can be done!
What is your principal instrument when you are writing a score for a play or film?
The piano is my composing tool, for getting the ideas down (although the drums are what I regard as my main instrument). I never get my best ideas when I am in the studio, surrounded by all the software synths and sounds with their limitless possibilities, like they are almost a distraction from the ideas themselves. I find that an acoustic piano delivers another kind of feedback, it’s almost like it’s talking back to you instead of just making the sounds. So I might have working days when I purposely stay away from the studio, to have more peace for just getting the ideas down first, recording rough piano sketches into my phone or iPad. Or just taking a walk in the forest while having the phone ready to record me singing, when an idea appears. I think I read somewhere that the brain is more efficient at producing new ideas when you’re walking than when you’re sitting still – it certainly seems that way to me! As soon as I have the idea for a track, I more or less know where I want to go with it, in terms of instrumentation and arrangement. That’s when I go back to my studio and get to work. What percentage of the instrumentation was symphonic on Mio, min Mio?
I would say 1%! The only live element are some of the drums (which I played myself). The rest is all sample libraries, played on keyboards and edited and mixed in my sequencer. The budget is really what determines what you can do. For good and bad, sample libraries are sounding better and better, and are making it easier than ever to produce decent sounding results in quite a short amount of time – but they can’t in any way replace the real thing, and they shouldn’t. It’s a difficult balance, because I always want to use as many live musicians as possible, and I also want to support and give jobs to all the great musicians around! But the way things are now, only the big budget films in Norway makes it possible to hire a full orchestra. And the way you might utilize a blend of real players and sample libraries are also determined by what kind of sound you are attempting to create. On my first two feature films “Rafiki” (2009) and “The Tough Guys” (2013) I used studio musicians to cover up the shortcomings of the symphonic sample libraries and to make it breathe. On later projects I have sometimes opted for more of a chamber music sound rather than a full symphonic one, like in “The Brothers Lionheart” (2014) which is largely based on a string quintet with added percussion and keyboards, and “Los Bando” (2018) which is more of an indie pop score with strings and woodwinds, drums and keyboards. Going the “chamber” route gives you the privilege of basing the whole thing on a group of 5 or 6 real musicians and not just use them to “cover up” the samples. “Mio” was a more minimalistic production with a tighter schedule, but still needed this big symphonic kind of sound, which led me to just embracing the sample libraries fully this time – but I would love to rework some of the music for a symphonic suite or something at a later date. On “Ingenting” this was a much easier creative choice since the music isn’t even supposed to sound symphonic – it’s all based on retro synth sounds, inspired by the likes of Wendy Carlos. And “Secret of the Catacomb” is sort of a blend between the symphonic and synthetic aesthetics and had to be composed and produced in a very short time, so that’s all sample based too.
You have not released your latest three scores on CD, will they get a compact disc release do you think?
In Norway, music streaming has completely taken over the market. CDs are given away for free by the bucket loads, people just want to get rid of them here. Not me though – I love CDs! Ideally, I would like to release every album on CD, so it’s really just a question of time and money. But I have noted that the soundtrack fan community seems to still hold the CD in high regard, like I do. That’s awesome! And I think there’s a fair chance we will see a CD version of “Mio” sometime in 2020.
What would you say are your musical influences, or which composers and artists have inspired you?
That’s a big one! Everything I have ever listened to and loved, I guess! When I was young, I listened to a lot of Genesis, Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel (still do), and in my teenage years I loved Norwegian alternative 90s rock bands Motorpsycho and Seigmen. I played a lot of computer games and totally absorbed the music of all those classic Lucas-Arts games of the 90s, with composers like Michael Z. Land, Peter McConnell and Clint Bajakian. I also discovered John Williams, listening to those Star Wars Special Edition double CD albums and reading the analytic liner notes with great care. That was a big eye-opener into the world of film music, I guess I was 14 when those albums came out. Today, Williams’ more modern work with those beautiful and more experimental scores like “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” has a special place in my heart. I also identify greatly with Danny Elfman in terms of his journey from rock musician to reluctant film composer and have a soft spot for some of his more mature and minimalist work like “The Unknown Known”. In the pop/rock realm I am a big fan of Ben Folds, every one of his albums and all of his crazy ideas. Other piano-oriented songwriters like Tori Amos and Fiona Apple and genre-defining, ground-breaking artists like Björk and Radiohead were also a big part of my musical coming-of-age period. Last but not least: My three all-time favourite classical composers are probably Edvard Grieg, Antonin Dvorak and Maurice Ravel. I go absolutely nuts over Grieg – and that’s not just because I am a Norwegian! His catalogue is simply an endless treasure trove of beautiful music (not just the “hits!). SECRET OF THE CATACOMB I think is a very atmospheric score, the music is very expressive and dark, how much time did you have to write the music for this radio production, and at what stage of production do you become involved and is it harder to write for a radio production as opposed to a feature film?
Glad you enjoyed it! I think I used just over six weeks of composing and sequencing/recording and mixing simultaneously. Working with radio dramas is a lot of fun, and another quite different process from both film and theatre! Since you don’t have pictures, both the sound design and the music can get quite “descriptive”. That’s why you tend to go for those gut instinct things like dark Gregorian drones, to make the listener immediately aware that we are inside a dark cavern, and a scary monk-type creature is staring at us!
The series consists of eight episodes, each clocking at around 30 minutes. Obviously, scoring four hours of content in six weeks is… not recommended, to say the least. So this again is a creative process between me, director Guri Skeie and sound designer Hilde Rolfsnes. The first step is reading the script and partaking in an early script reading with the cast and crew. Then Guri and Hilde will give me a “wishlist” of different themes and cues that they need for placing around the episodes – they have such a detailed vision for the project and know exactly what they are after. So my job then is to compose the desired “package” of music cues, and record and produce it all in parallel with them recording the episodes with the actors. After that it’s largely sound designer Hilde’s job to glue all the music cues together with the episodes, at the same time as she’s creating all the sound design and mixing everything. There’s not much time for second-guessing or delivering something that doesn’t work, for any of us. It’s quite fast paced! But I don’t think it’s harder than working on a feature film. It’s different, since you’re not so much scoring scene for scene, but doing a more flexible package of cues that can work well for different scenes and situations. It’s a fun challenge!
What musical education did you receive, and was writing music for film and theatre something you had always wanted to do?
In my teenage years I did spend a lot of time scoring the amateur short films and computer games me and my friends were having fun creating at the time. So, I think I knew deep down that I this was what I was going to be doing.
I later studied musicology and music technology. There was no film music related course here back in the early 2000s and studying abroad was not even an option for me – I’m way too homesick. The national composition studies I knew of felt geared towards a certain type of contemporary classical music that I have never been that interested in. In that period, I spent most of my time playing in bands anyway, primarily as a drummer. In an act of desperation (or sudden inspiration?) I packed all my things and moved to the big city (Oslo) while I was supposed to be finishing my master’s degree in another town 500 kilometres away (Trondheim). Half a year later I got my first gig at the Norwegian Broadcasting Company with a children’s TV series. This was 2006, and I’ve been at it since then! I was a bit of a lousy student, to be honest. What I liked about musicology was the more playful aspects of it; like the subjects in composition and improvisation. I made some lifelong friendships, and my mind was opened to music history and learning more about certain composers and periods of music, of which I am grateful. But I didn’t speak the academic language. My mind was solely on making music, not analysing it.
What are your earliest memories of any kind of music?
My dad has always been a big music fan. LPs by the likes of Frank Zappa were always in heavy rotation in our home – and as you may know, Zappa represents pretty much every music genre there is! I also enjoyed stuff like Santana’s debut album and The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely-Hearts Club Band” (I have since grown to be a huge Beatles fanatic). I vaguely remember the sound of a-ha coming out of the kitchen radio. I was three when they had their big breakthrough with “Take On Me” in 1985. But I was probably drumming on kitchen utensils and singing improvised nonsense lyrics before that. Do you orchestrate all of your music for film and theatre and do you think that orchestration is an extension of the composing process?
I always do the arrangements myself, and indeed see them as an inseparable part of the composition. I have sometimes hired an orchestrator when working with larger ensembles, if I want some kind of proof-reading or even creative input on how to make the arrangements sound their best. As my university drop-out tactic might suggest, music notation is not exactly my strongest side – I enjoy doing it, but it’s not what I do best. So, it’s sometimes good to have a second opinion when dealing with the dirty details like harp pedalling or how often the tuba player needs to breathe. As a general rule, I only write down the parts that are actually going to be played by real musicians. If I am only going to use sample libraries, I skip the written score entirely, and only work directly in the sequencer. But on most of my projects, it’s a mix of the two. When you’re dealing with smaller ensembles and soloists, it’s always great to just talk to the musicians directly and communicate how you want the parts to be played. But of course, the closer the notation is to already be conveying those intentions in easily readable form, the more of a head-start you have in the recording session.
Many Thanks to Eirik for taking the time to answer my questions.
Questions by John Williams, Colin Childs, Serge Karov and Jason Drury.
Part 1. Questions from John Williams.
We all got to film music in different ways. Mine was my Mum taking me to the pictures when I was round 7. How did it start for you?
I got into films in a similar way, my Mum was an usher at the local Odeon, so when I wasn’t at school I was in the cinema, watching all sorts of movies, probably some I should not have, but I do remember AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS, and also SPARTACUS for some reason, the fight scene with Woody Strode sticks in my memory, and then EL CID and action films mainly both on cinema and the TV when they showed them, of course they were in black and white, because that’s what was available.
It is a long way from enjoying music in a movie to collecting. What was the catalyst for you? I remember the first film music I had. My Mum and Dad bought it for me. Do you recall your first soundtrack purchase. The main reason I began to notice music in films was because of my family’s love of the musical as in CALAMITY JANE and things like SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS, but my love of film music began with LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, this was I am certain the first time I realised that there was music in films, not sure why really, it just caught my attention, and that was the first ever LP I had, my parents got it for me, but because they did not really understand the meaning of Original soundtrack they gave me a cover version album which was on Summit records and it was kind of like the bloke down the pub plays his impressions of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, but it was ok and it began my long journey into collecting film music, I think ZULU came next, but this was because of the movie more than I noticed the score. But I did buy that myself I saved up did jobs for pennies and got together 37 shillings and 6 pence and went and got it myself in Hove which is near Brighton where I am.
Did you tape soundtracks from tv via microphone and then edit the tapes?
Yes, I did but I soon gave up on it as I got irritated by the dialogue and sound effects, TV themes were the easiest I suppose as you got the opening theme and sometimes a nice long end credits theme. I think SANDBAGGERS was one I kept on tape, reel to reel tape that is I had a Grundig 4 track recorder, and wish I still had it now, along with my trusty Dansette which was bright orange. Talking of recording from the TV via a microphone mainly, I remember getting the five-pin din plug installed on the Dansette wow that revolutionized recording, I remember making tape after tape of compilations. It was great because my recorder had two speeds and if you put it on a slower speed you could get so many on one tape.
I now find as much I love Goldsmith Herrmann, the great s, I love many of the shall we 2nd choices in the early days. Jones, Dankworth, Myers etc. Are there some now you love you didn’t at the time. Well, Goldsmith I always loved, but I did find it hard to get into Herrmann, For, me the main contenders were Barry and Morricone but then via Morricone I discovered Stelvio Cipriani, Bruno Nicolai, Carlo Rustichelli etc. the whole Italian school of film music. Which I have always stayed with, composers like Gianni Marchetti are so underatted and also Gianni Ferrio and Allessandro Allessandroni. As for composers I did not really take notice of back then and maybe have warmed to now, well John Williams or Johnny Williams as he was then known, Neal Hefti, Quincy Jones, but because I write reviews and also do interviews with composer I do find I soak up a lot of the new music and think, you know this is really good. Then I re-visit something like BLUE by Manos Hajidakis and think wow this was way ahead of its time.
I also have re-discovered Brian May. Is there a composer like that you may have found again? Ron Grainer, I think, he wrote some great scores, OMEGA MAN for example. And also, Stanley Black two talents but rarely applauded. I never fully appreciated these composers in the early days.
The Film Music of Stanley Black
What made you start writing etc. For me it was trying to find something on Chris Gunning and I could find nothing at all.
For me it was when I joined the Max Steiner Music Society, back in around 1973, I was 18. I think the guy who ran it was surprised that this young kid liked film music, so he asked me to write about it and why I liked it, it all started there, after that I contributed to their news-letter, but it was not till SOUNDTRACK magazine and the Goldsmith Society’s LEGEND magazine and later Music From The Movies that I started to write regularly.
You are a well-known authority on Italian Film Music. How did that come about? It was a happy accident as they say, and I don’t know about an authority, there are plenty of other people out there that are far more qualified. Tom Betts, Lionel Woodman and Sir Christopher Frayling among them. I used to go out every Saturday and look around the record shops in Brighton, there was a TV shop called REDIFFUSION in North Street in the town and they sometimes had LPs there so I went in one Saturday morning and saw THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY in the rack Ennio Morricone? I thought who’s that. Picked it up put it down and then went back to it.
I noticed it was marked up wrongly at 13 shillings and 11pence, which if I am correct is about 70 Pence now. So’ I thought ok I got £2.00, but was still cautious, so I asked to listen to it, which you could then. Once I heard it that was it, I got it and made a hasty retreat in case they realised that they had priced it wrong, I think I looked over my shoulder all the way to the bus stop. So that’s how my Italian film music interest came about it was all down to the money(lol). A couple of weeks later I went back and in the rack was ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST but the French cover and yep it was 13 shillings 11p too I got that too. After that I started to go to DEAN STREET in London that was a treasure chest of everything films and shows.
Since then I have added hundreds of Italian scores to my collection, at first it was the Italian western that I concentrated on then I started to find things like THE SICILIAN CLAN and also Nino Rota scores as well, then Luis Baclov and others, and even today the Italian labels are still issuing scores I have never heard. The music led to meeting the composers, and interviewing a lot of them, a trip to Rome and a day with Franco De Gemini at BEAT, and with Franco Micalizzi at his studio, and numerous meetings with Allessandroni. Plus talking to Nico Fidenco who I have to say was the most open person I have ever interviewed, I also enjoyed talking to Piero Piccioni and Nora Orlandi. I wish I had met Bruno Nicolai and also Nino Rota. And I think that is why I did so many interviews with composers and not just from Italy.
What is your view on a new thing Isolated scores.
Not got any, so really cannot comment. I know people do like them and I was thinking of getting the NIGHT OF THE DEMON because I think that is such a great score. But still thinking about it. I am not into buying DVD.s at all.
I feel film music is dead, Long live film music!! Is there anyone coming up you have hope for the future.
That’s difficult because I think there are a lot of young composers or newer composers that will be awesome in the very near future, mainly Spanish or European, the Hollywood score for me personally is a no-go area, why? Well, I know this sounds like I am an old moaner (which I am so I am told). It all sounds the same(shock horror). But it does, there is very rarely any originality, and I will probably upset so many people here, but there are a few composers who seem to monopolize the scoring of movies in the States and they for me have made film music the same ole same ole, if you know what I mean. So it is the Spanish composers I have been listening to more and more. Some have only written a couple of scores, but their talent shines through straight away. And then there are composers like, Arnau Bataller, Fernando Velasquez, Angel Illarramendi, Roque Banos, Anton Garcia Abril, Sergio Moure De Oteyza, to name but a few, all gifted talented and creators of such beautiful music.
Does film music have a life in the concert hall. Are some soundtracks better in the film not a lp or CD.
There are lots of scores that work well in the films, which is their job after all, and when you listen on record or CD they are just background or atonal, so horses for courses I suppose, it sounds great in the film because its doing its job and supporting and enhancing the action, but away from the images its just sometimes a noise. Mind you some work in the film and also as a piece of music on their own, concerts I love, I like to see the orchestra working together and seeing how a sound is achieved as in what instruments are used. The new thing of live orchestra to film is also interesting, but only been to one of these, its getting the time and of course the prices are way over the top and I do sometimes think I got the original score here why do I want to go and watch it live?
How do you feel the future of recorded music will develop? How do you feel about Streaming? It has been said that soundtrack collectors will be the last to ditch CDS.
Because of room to store things now I have not purchased many CDS and record labels do tend to send review copies via downloads on the internet via an attachment, so if something is available digitally I do add it to my collection on the PC but things like HOLACAUST by Morton Gould recently I made a point of getting on CD as I will with the new Tadlow recording od Dracula and Frankenstein (unless of course I get a review copy from good old James Fitzpatrick-hint hint). Film music is a very small part of the market as we all know and we have seen record shops gradually fade out the vast soundtrack sections which is sad and a little annoying when you wander round a store like virgin or HMV searching for soundtracks and are showed by an uninterested member of staff that they are under the stairs in a badly lit corner next to the t shirts. And I think sometimes this is why the high street shops are fading away because there is just no customer service anymore, (sorry Victor Meldrew Person coming through again). So collectors have been driven to online purchases and more and more to streaming or digital downloads, I can click on Spotify and some- times find a soundtrack that there is no compact disc of, so I am happy to do whatever I have to listen to film music. But it will all go online soon I am sure or maybe we will have a new system installed in our homes that makes digital downloads and streaming obsolete too soon.
Is there any composer you think more highly of now then you once did?
No, I don’t think so, maybe Michel Legrand, I seem to enjoy his scores more now, there are a few soundtracks by various composers that I often think Why did I even buy this in the first place. In fact, some of my LP’s have only been played once. I do enjoy classical music a lot more now, Mahler, Debussy, Holst, Stravinsky and Rachmaninov and depending on my mood Britten. I put this down to my age I am a lot calmer now than I was.
Do you miss the printed magazine against all online now?
Yes I do, it was always great to get the latest MFTM or Legend and soundtrack, it’s not the same online is it, but once again I am of a certain age and a bit set in the ways now, I suppose its like when LPS first started to get pushed out by CD.s I missed the notes on the back cover and holding the record and also the smell of the record too, yes there is a nice smell to a record. I recently contributed to WE BELONG DEAD magazine and when it arrived I thought how wonderful it was, Eric McNaughton who edits and publishes it does a fantastic job, I was taken aback by the high quality of the publication. I would love to see the return of something like FILMS AND FILMING etc or a specific film music mag, Empire does not do it for me, so a new Music From the Movies mag please….There were a lot of magazine around at one time, Soundtrack, Film Score Monthly, From Silent’s to Satellites, Music From The Movies, Movie Collector, Little Shop of Horrors, Legend, Sight and Sound, Films and Filming, Film Review, so many most gone now.
PART 2, Questions from Colin Childs.
You have often hinted that you do not like Hans Zimmer, any reason for this?
Well I am sure he is a great guy, and some of his early stuff I liked a lot, in the early days his music was more innovative and there was a great deal of variety to it, I think up until GLADIATOR I would always look out for his new works, but after that my interest went on a downward spiral. Look it’s like everything is,nt it certain people like certain things, one mans meat as they say etc, I loved Gladiator and also Backdraft and his theme for FIRST BORN has always stuck with me, maybe he just got too busy? Saying that though I watched a concert of his on Netflix the other night and it was brilliant, it was just pure entertainment and I was surprised just how many instruments he played. I just don’t get why so many younger collectors think he is the saviour of film music. So, maybe its this attitude rather than Zimmer’s music that makes me a little standoffish.
You write a lot, I would say you are pretty prolific in fact, do you research a lot into subjects before writing?
Yes, you have too, or someone will always be there to say you got that wrong, especially online now. Saying that I have been collecting film music since I was seven years old, so I seem to have picked up a lot of info and held it in my head, I cant sometimes remember what I went into a room for but ask me who wrote a score for an obscure Italian movie from the 50’s and there it is.
Do you just sit and think ok today I am going to write about Italian westerns or War movies or TV shows etc?
Sometimes yes, it maybe something I hear on the radio or see on TV or even at times its weird you see something or smell something and it kicks off a memory of a time or a place and then you think oh yes I remember that place it was in 19— whatever and I went to see TOO LATE THE HERO for example, and then you start to think about other movies and for example I did an article on war movies and all these titles came into my head, PLAY DIRTY now that was a good movie and Legrand did the score, there was a track from that on the UA GREAT WAR MOVIE THEMES LP I wonder why they never released the soundtrack? I just hope that when I write people will read it and enjoy it.
You are writing a book I am told?
Been writing a book since I was first born I think, or at least had ideas about one or two. Yes I am writing or at least now compiling a film music composer book, its just getting it published, two publishers said yes and then at last minute backed out so I am still sending proposals out every day, whether it will get put into print I don’t know, I think it will make a fantastic book but I am the author so I would say that. I have had a lot of support from the composers involved and I think it would not just be a book but a historical document of film music, the way it’s written and the way that it has evolved.Can I just say I am not worried about any money in this venture I just want it printed, there are some great interviews here and I would like people to see them. Also written a few stories mainly for children but never bothered to go any where with those.
Favourite scores have you a top 5 or more?
Not sure if I have favourites, I certainly have soundtracks I return to a lot, CONAN THE BARBARIAN for example and also things like, OHMSS, EL CID, THE SICILIAN CLAN, KRULL, THE WIND AND THE LION but these are just scores I go to when I need a lift or some inspiration. I don’t like lists of favourite scores, it’s annoying when you see a top ten poll online and SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER is number 1. You have to laugh, or you would cry I suppose. Its like when someone says what music do you like, you reply film music, you can see on their face an expression that says weirdo…and then they say OH so you like stuff like MY FAIR LADY and THE SOUND OF MUSIC. You stop yourself replying and just nod in agreement because you just know this person will not have a clue what a score is or the difference between I.M GETTING MARRIED IN THE MORNING and THE ECSTACY OF GOLD. No disrespect to musicals of course, I do kind of like them, in fact I was watching SOUTH PACIFIC the other day and noticed it had a really good score for the non-singing parts. Alfred Newman I think had a hand in that.
Do you participate in discussion boards?
No not any-more, too many negative thoughts, and so many rude comments, no manners and no courtesy whatsoever. A lot of opinions but if you do not agree with them, they single you out and that’s why I don’t bother anymore and will never go on them again. That’s why Movie Music International has no discussion board.
Ah yes Movie Music International, how did that start?
It began as a little Yahoo group where people who shared the same interest would chat, nothing fancy just a basic chat group, it was called MOVIE MUSIC ITALIANO. To progressed to the blog/website stage a few years ago and I changed the name because I wanted to include all things to do with film music if I could. It’s a small site compared with others, but its quite popular at times, I do try and post as much as I can and when I do an article or a review or interview the reactions are always nice.
What was the hardest set of notes for a CD that you have worked on?
All of them… well not sure if I can say this or not but I will, I worked on 20 sets of notes for a record company in Europe and they accepted the notes paid me and then found out they could not even publish the soundtracks because of legal reasons, so they returned all of them to me and told me keep the money, these were very hard to research etc, but never used which was disappointing. Same happened with Marvel mags, paid in full but articles never used because the publication they were written for folded, so again a disappointment. But then you get a chance to do notes for a nice release and it all is worth it. I think I am most proud of THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE by John Addison which was on Quartet and also THE HILLS RUN RED by Ennio Morricone also on Quartet.
Do you get a lot of direction from the record label as to what they actualy want in the notes?
Sometimes, but mostly there is no real need, Kronos for example are great, Godwin never interferes, he asks, I do the notes and I don’t think he has ever said I don’t like them, he may edit them but that’s usual because of limited space. Intrada were more hands on but not to the point of cutting stuff just asking for it to be re-written in American English, but they are the ones who are paying I suppose, and if the notes are not good it reflects on the release.
There were two releases I did for Italian westerns SABATA by Marcello Giombini and THE BOUNTY HUNTERS or INDIO BLACK by Bruno Nicolai, which were released originally by Hillside, these are both favourites of mine and had never been released in their full version before.
I did the notes, Hillside loved them, sent them to Italy where they were translated to Italian, but then Hillside said no we want them in English, so the Italians translated them back into English via a translating device and printed them without them being checked, it was awful, I actually cannot read them to this day as I squirm because the grammar and the punctuation are all over the place, and my name is on them. It was a shame because they were at the time important releases. After that fiasco Hillside never had notes again.
How did you become involved on the GDI Hammer CDS?
I got the first CD that GDI did which was a compilation, and I was over the moon with it, somehow I managed to get Gary Curtis’s phone number and I rang him to say how great it was to have the music at last, I think we spoke on the phone for about an hour, and then he said come to London and we will meet up, he was planning the comedy CD and also a second compilation, I noticed that Marcus Hearne had done the notes for the GDI releases I had known Marcus from the Marvel Hammer magazine and he had always said he liked my Hammer interviews. So, when Gary said he was going to release THE MUMMY by Franz Reizenstein, I wrote some notes and contacted the composer’s widow, Gary liked them and used them, I think I did thirteen CDS in total.
Of course, I was really lucky because I was already friends with James Bernard, Harry Robinson, Carlo Martelli and David Whittaker and had met Laurie Johnson and a few other Hammer composer’s such as Chris Gunning, and I had a lot of info to hand because I had interviewed them all. The releases on GDI were a dream to do, VAMPIRE LOVERS and TWINS OF EVIL were my holy grails and there I was writing the liner notes for them. I just wish they had done a lot more PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES was one they mentioned but it did not come to fruition.
How did you meet James Bernard?
I had written a review of the Silva screen HAMMER films LP and CD and David Stoner had sent it to James who was in London, I asked David to introduce me and he did, James was a kind and gentle man, I liked him a lot. After the interview with James I found out where Harry Robinson was and phoned him out of the blue, I think he was surprised anyone was interested to be honest, but I went along and spent the entire day with him talking and taking photos. Carlo Martelli and David Whittaker was the same scenario but Laurie Johnson and Tristram Cary interviews were done via letter, and I never met Laurie Johnson till after the interview.
You knew Michael Jones quite well didn’t you?
Still do, he is a live and well, Michael is probably one of the most overlooked figures in soundtracks as in retail, he was responsible for getting Italian soundtracks into the shops in London, and is never given the full credit. If it were not for Mike we would not have had the LPS on CAM or BEAT in the 1960’s and 1970’s. He should be applauded. I keep on at him to do an interview but he wont, which is such a shame.
PART 3. QUESTIONS FROM SERGE KAROV.
After so many years dedicated to film music, and with present knowledge of everything what you had experienced during the time, would the choice to follow this path remain the same? Yes I think so, its something that I was attracted to and still am, I get excited over a good score and I do try and experience as many new scores as I can and have over the past few years found soundtracks I was not familiar with, its like a voyage of discovery isn’t it. Film music is still surprising and sometimes it does disappoint, but very rarely in my opinion. So, yes, knowing what I know now my path would have been the same. Maybe I would have studied music, which is something I always regretted, I was not allowed to do that my family refused to fund it. I was told to get a proper job (lol).
We know you were DJ, so your exploration of music was not solely concerned on film music, but would I like to ask you all the same – between the two – what has the highest priority, regardless of how small the difference might or might not be, movies themselves, or their music?
The DJ work came a lot later I think I was around 19 when I started, I think it was my way of getting into music more, my entry into it was a big bluff really, someone had been let down and I had a collection of records, so they asked me to do their wedding of course I said yes, then wanted to leave the country as I had not got a clue, I had watched and listened to DJS in bars and on the radio so I modelled my self on those I suppose anyway I did the wedding and it was good, and ended up DJ,ing up till New year’s eve 2017. I think I was fortunate as I was DJ,ing in the 1970.s and there was so much great music around then, funk, disco, jazz funk, soul, Motown and also cheesy pop stuff too. The music then or should I say popular music at that time was so different to now, there was variety and it was not unusual to see a hard rock track in the chart next to a love ballad and maybe an instrumental or even a theme from a movie. Not so now sadly. I did a couple of what they call mobile discos and ended up in a full-time residency and then worked three residencies at once which was a bit confusing sometimes trying to remember if you had played this at the venue you were at or was it at the last place? I worked through till the beginning of 2009 in various big clubs and specialist venues, but things change and you find that venues or at least the managers at the venues don’t want experience any more, they want youngsters or bedroom DJ.s as we called them, because they can influence them or boss them about basically. As for the question about movies and music, I don’t have to see a movie to buy a score if that’s what you mean, but I did see a lot of films. So, I guess I am a bit of a film buff too, but if I had to choose between films and music it would be music every time. I am a bit of a fidget and I have to admit if a film starts to lose its way a bit that’s it, I am up and doing stuff. I tend to watch the older movies if I do watch any to be fair, again the classic stuff like ZULU, KHARTOUM, THE GREAT ESCAPE and anything Hammer horror, I also do watch Italian westerns but even these I do think now how did I think that this was a great film. But that could be because I liked the music rather than the film?
Being aware of many movie scores now considered as being lost forever – what do you think of re-recordings, as an effort to fill, let’s say, the missing link? Can you recommend some of those titles, which you deem are almost as good as the original would’ve been?
I do not think there is any substitute for the originals. Although the RCA series of the Golden film music of Hollywood, conducted by Charles Gerhardt is pretty impressive. it’s a series that I still dip into and enjoy. There have been a lot of re-recordings around in the past ten to fifteen years, the John Morgan William Stromberg material is also excellent and invaluable, after all they are preserving the music from yesterday that would have been lost and probably forgotten. I know it’s not full scores (apart from GONE WITH THE WIND I think) but the RCA series did so much for film music in general and we as collectors could also hear certain things within the vintage scores that contemporary composers had been influenced by. THE SEA HAWK and STAR WARS springs to mind, I am not saying of course John Williams copied Korngold, but without Korngold’s bristling fanfares would there have been a STAR WARS theme/score as we know it? I also thought that the Silva Screen HAMMER FILMS collection was pretty good, quite faithful to the originals, although composer David Whittaker disagreed with that for some reason. Recent re-recordings on Tadlow have been ok, but sometimes I do prefer to go back to the original soundtracks as in CONAN THE BARBARIAN and EL CID, its all very well adding ump-teen tracks and secs and minutes here and there, but sometimes less is more isn’t it. I am however looking forward to the Hammer, DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN re-recordings on Tadlow they should be interesting. It’s a shame that GDI never released the full scores from the original tapes. I would have got to do the notes.
PART 4. Questions from Jason Drury.
How do you split your time with your reviews and the rest of your life?
It works out quite well I just write when I want to basically, unless I get asked to do liner notes and there is a deadline of course. Some days I can do four maybe more reviews other days I just can’t string two words together. Recently I have slowed down a little on MMI, but have been working on other bits and bobs.
Was there an interview that got away?
Yes a few actually, Mike Oldfield, he said yes then never turned up, which is fine as I know how busy composers are. I also sent questions to a few composers who said yes that’s great but never did get back to me, I wont mention names as that’s not fair really. There are also a handful of composers who are very difficult to get to, their teams around them sort of say and who are you, no sorry no can do. And I am sure the composer does not know anything about it.
How difficult is it to get a composer interview these days?
Yes, its quite difficult because they are all very busy, but the majority do reply, and I end up getting a few answers.
Which Interviews have given you the most personal pleasure to do?
James Bernard certainly, and Harry Robinson. I also enjoyed doing all the Italian composers some face to face others via letter at the time and more recently e mail. But James and I became friends which I was pleased about, he even shared his souffl’e recipe with me at one point. Most of the time composers do the interview and then move on, but James and Harry stayed in touch till they sadly passed away. The same with Roy Budd I spoke with him a lot prior to the interview, and for a short time afterwards, but he also sadly died suddenly. I thought Roy was great full of life and terrible jokes. Alessandro Allessandroni too became a friend. I do like to think of all the composers I have interviewed as friends really, Debbie Wiseman is wonderful she always replies, and she wrote the foreword to my book which is still in production. Mark McKenzie I think is one of the nicest guys in film music and Chris Young is awesome. But I get pleasure out of most things I write, if I dont I discard them. Harry Robinson said to me “IF YOUR NOT HAVING FUN THEN GET OUT”. Which is something I do tend to do.
How do you see the Film Music Industry developing in the future?
I think we will see an increased use of electronics and the conventional instrumentation within film scores will evaporate, this is not a realy bad thing because the samples etc that are now being used are so good. But the sad thing is that musicians will be utilised less and less, but at least we are getting scores and not soundtracks made up of songs that are pretty dire.
More than a collector I know, an author and also Hammer films expert.
What film score was it that sparked your interest in music for the movies or was it a film?
I think it was the “Hammer Presents Dracula with Christopher Lee” LP rather than a film. I came across that record quite by accident soon after it came out and the resonance of James Bernard’s orchestrations made a huge impression on me.
Horror films are obviously a passion for you, but are there any horror movies that you don’t like or have a lesser opinion of? I’m probably a bit old-fashioned in my personal tastes. I’ve recently been looking at a great deal of Body Horror for my latest book. These films are often very interesting indeed and have a lot of things to say about reality in general, but despite the gore, I find them visually rather bland, which is perhaps the point. In fact, I find the way most films look these days rather boring from a visual point of view. Basically, the more baroque, gothic and theatrical the better, for me…
What format do you prefer to listen to your soundtracks on, CD, LP or downloads? CDs, really, as I hate clicks and scratches. I still have my old Hammer Presents Dracula LP though!
How many soundtracks have you got in your collection and can you remember what was your most expensive purchase? It’s not a massive collection. Over 100 certainly. A lot of them are review copies, so I don’t spend a lot on recordings.
Are there any composers that you are drawn to more than others, likewise do you prefer action scores or something that is thematic? Because I was initially attracted to Hammer composers, I became more interested in British film music, in general, rather than American. The Golden Age of British film music was stylistically very diverse, bringing in, as it did, so many concert composers with their highly individual voices. The 1960s were the great time of experiment and stylistic freedom, I think. There’s a great deal of diversity in American film music, of course, but the Steiner/Korngold idiom has prevailed via John Williams.
I really admire Williams’ JURASSIC PARK score, which I think is the best thing he’s ever done, but I’m an even greater fan of Jerry Goldsmith, who avoided that route, I think. My favourite American film composers from the Golden Age are probably David Raksin and Franz Waxman, who was such a stylistic chameleon.
I like fantasy in general as the music necessarily has to be more extreme and integral.
You are known for your interest in Hammer films and their musical scores, what Hammer composers have you interviewed? I was very lucky in the early days in discovering that Leonard Salzedo lived down the road from me, and he introduced me to many of these composers via Phil Martell, whom I got to know very well in his latter years.
I of course knew James Bernard very well, too, but I also became friendly with Harry Robinson, met David Whitaker, Christopher Gunning, John Cacavas and Monty Norman, and corresponded with and spoke with Paul Glass, Tristram Cary, John McCabe, Mike Vickers, and Gerard Schurmann. I wish I’d had an opportunity to meet with Don Banks, but he passed away before I had the chance. (Phil Martell was a great admirer of his work.)
I also met Buxton Orr, which was the closest I got to meeting the great Benjamin Frankel, as Buxton was his friend and associate, and kindly made me a copy of Frankel’s amazing serial CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF score. Also, I’d love to have encountered Elisabeth Lutyens, which would have been as scary and entertaining as any horror film!
If you had to pick 10 soundtracks to take with you on a desert island, what would these be?
In no particular order: DRACULA A.D. 1972, DRACULA (1958), BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY’S TOMB, ARABIAN ADVENTURE (Ken Thorne), THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, THE MEPHISTO WALTZ (Jerry Goldsmith) DR JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE, LAURA, THE IPCRESS FILE, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN
Away from film music what do you like to listen too?
I’m a Romantic at heart. I first became aware of Wagner from Werner Herzog’s NOSFERATU. I went back to see that film three times just to find out what I was hearing, and eventually worked out that it was the Prelude to DAS RHEINGOLD. Ever since then I’ve been a huge fan of Wagner. Also Liszt, Chopin and all the great Romantics, and obviously Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, etc. I love Russian music (Ken Thorne’s wonderful score for ARABIAN ADVENTURE is very Rimsky-Korsakoff!) and I’m also a fan of what’s now known as lounge music. There’s also dance music and pop in the mix – Abba of course, and I might as well confess that I’ve always loved The Archies SUGAR, SUGAR, which I can remember being in the top 10 back in the 1960s. My tastes are very Catholic, but these days a long way from cool.
Do you have to have seen a movie for you to buy the soundtrack, or do you buy on past reputation of the composer or maybe word of mouth from other collectors? Oh no. I often got to know the music of a film long before I saw the film itself. That was particularly the case with all those Korngold and Steiner scores. That’s an interesting way to approach things, because a) you’re so much more aware of the music when you do see the film and b) it’s often surprising to find out what the music’s designed to accompany! Obviously, a composer’s reputation goes before him, and sometimes the music can impress you so much when you see a film, you want to seek out the soundtrack later – as was definitely the case with JURASSIC PARK.
What is your opinion of contemporary film music as opposed to the movie scores of the golden and silver age?
A tricky subject. Well, in a nutshell, I think contemporary Hollywood scoring has become very generic – a kind of sub-Korngold, corporate sound that oozes over every film regardless of its content. That’s largely the consequence of the Blockbuster, so it all goes back to STAR WARS. Paul Glass used a good phrase, once, about what happened in the 1980s, which was “sitting on a synthesizer.” With a synthesizer you can play a couple of chords and dress it up with effects and hey presto. But that’s not to say that there isn’t a lot of good music being written for contemporary films. I still think that horror films inspire the most interesting music. And minimalism is well suited to film. (I don’t really believe in tampering with the classics, but I do think Philip Glass’s score for DRACULA (1931) works really well!).
TADLOW MUSIC NOTES BY DAVID HUCKVALE.
TADLOW MUSIC. NOTES BY DAVID HUCKVALE.
FILM AND TELEVISION MUSIC FROM AROUND THE WORLD AND MOVIE REVIEWS AND NEWS.