Do you come from a family that is musical; in any way, were your Parents or Grandparents involved in music?
Not really, but there was always a radio playing, and, later, my elder sisters became involved with music and musicians, which led to the first guitar at, home…
When did you begin to take an interest in any kind of music?
Since I can recall, music had a strong effect on me. I had my first musical instrument, really a plastic toy, when I was ten, and started playing guitar at twelve and piano at seventeen.
What musical education did your receive?
Eclectic and, overall, not very academic. I learned how to write here and there, and for a while I had a serious teacher, a composer called Gabriel Brncic, but we quickly became more like colleagues and started a project together. My true musical education was writing minimal music for keyboards, because the process involved writing, taking few but decisive decisions, and confronting my output with an audience, even a small one.
What led to you composing music for film, or was this something that you felt you always wanted to do?
I really didn’t want to do film music in the beginning, but I later realized that I wasn’t made for a career as a symphonic-concert composer, or a teacher, so the options was get involved with theatre plays, dance, commercials and movies, and I discovered myself rather enjoying it.
You collaborated with film maker Guillermo de Toro on THE DEVILS BACKBONE and PANS LABYRINTH, did he involve himself heavily in the scoring process, as in was he present at the spotting sessions and also did he discuss in detail style and also where music would be placed?
Yes, of course. It doesn’t mean that he was over my shoulder all the time, because he has a lot of confidence on what he’s doing, and consequently he leaves you alone to do your thing at the first term, but then when he has something to say he’s very sharp in his approach to the score. Both movies were very different, and his main aim regarding the second one was that the score had to be emotional and melodic.
You have worked in Spain, United Kingdom and also the U.S. how do facilities vary or compare between the three countries regarding Orchestras, studio recording facilities and availability of soloist if you should require them?
I’ve recorded also in Germany, France, Russia, Czech Republic, Ukrania, Macedonia… U.K. and U.S. facilities are by far the best ones, closely followed by German, and so I feel regarding my connection with their respective musical sensitivity, But every place has a flavour and an experience to offer.
Who, as in composers or individual performers in music would you say have influenced you in either the way you compose music or approach a film score?
I try to not listen too much film music, and that’s maybe because the way I enjoy it most is along with the movie. So my influences come too from classical and also experimental music, but if I had to choose some names in the scoring world, I would say Bernard Herrmann, Ennio Morricone and John Barry. The three of them have a voice, and also a kind of simplicity which works very well with picture.
When you are working on a score do you think it is important to firstly establish and create a central theme or a theme for a central character and then use this as a starting point or a foundation for the remainder of the soundtrack?
That’s the best possible situation, if the movie allows you to do it.
BYZANTIUM, was directed by Neil Jordan, he has something of a reputation for being involved and taking a hands on approach when it comes the music for his movies, what was it like to work with him on this movie?
Neil Jordan is the sweetest possible person and a very musical mind (he plays Bach on the guitar for fun but also knows a lot about pop music), and I found myself completely spoiled by him! Working with him was a privilege and a great experience.
What size orchestra did you utilize on WRATH OF THE TITANS and what percentage of the score were performed using synthetic/electronic elements and what is your opinion of the increased use of electronic/synthetic components and samples being utilised within film scoring?
We had orchestra playing all the time, and also lots of electronics. I love electronics, anyway, but I think the narrative part of a movie would better be based on the emotion that you can get from the performer. The size was usual, except for the brasses, which were slightly reinforced by suggestion of Nicholas Dodd, my orchestrator and conductor on the project.
Another director that you collaborated with was Joe Dante, is he a film maker who likes to be involved when the music is being decided upon or did he allow you to work on THE HOLE without very much involvement?
Joe got involved a lot, luckily for me, because he knows a lot and has these huge libraries of genre music from the 50s and 60s. And it felt very comfortable working with him, to the point that we changed a major theme in the recording, on the fly, when we thought it worked better for a character than the one we were using, all that without expending much extra time, which we didn’t have, or pushing anybody at stress.
Do you conduct your film scores all of the time or do you find at times it is more convenient to have a conductor?
I’m terrified of facing an orchestra, other than in the bar room. Also, I like to hear and control the performance thru the speakers, so I always left the job to somebody better qualified.
How many times do you like to view a project before getting any fixed ideas about the music?
I wish I could tell you ten or twenty, but the true is that I can’t stop making noise or whistling when I see the movie for the second or first time.
At what stage of the production do you like to become involved, for example does it help at all to be given a script before any footage has been shot, or do you find it better to wait until the film is in its rough cut stage?
I find it better to start at the rough cut stage.
Do you or have you performed on any of your film scores and do you have a favourite score either of your own or by another composer, or alternatively is there a movie that you have scored that you have a particular affection for?
I performed electric guitar in a few movies, like in the main theme of Warrior’s Way. I have a particular affection for Pan’s Labyrinth, Cracks and Byzantium.
In your opinion how does film music in the 21st century compare with the music from the Golden and Silver age of film music?
It’s hard to have that kind of perspective. It would be good to know how does current films compare with the classic ones. I’m not sure about it…
Your first scoring assignment I think was in 1986, when you worked on a TV series entitled ARSENAL, you are credited with episode 1, How did you become involved on this project?
I think that was after I made my first feature movie In a Glass Cage, but they released the TV series first. You have to see the movie, is a cult one, and I’m very happy with my work, having in mind that it was the first one I ever made…
When you are starting to compose music for a film and there is a temp track installed, do you find this a distraction, or maybe it is helpful to you to establish what kind of style or sound that the director thinks his film needs?
Temp tracks can be helpful or distracting, depending on who has chosen them and what they expect you to do after they get used to
FIREFLIES IN THE GARDEN is a score that I like very much, how much music did you compose for the movie and how long were you given to write and record the score?
I did it rather quickly, partly because there is not much music on it. I wish I could do this kind of score more often. We recorded in a great place in Berlin, called Teldex, and I had studio hours enough to do it decently, and also the chance to choose the performers that I thought would do better with the score.
Do you ever involve yourself any of the compact discs that are released of your soundtracks. By this I mean do you at times select the music that will be included on them?
I normally do. Something I take care of is grouping the tracks so to build longer ones. This way the audio experience is enhanced and more narrative. I think I always selected the tracks myself, even in a movie like Wrath of the Titans, which is a big studio project. Mastering is great too. If I can, I attend to the sessions in the studio, otherwise they send me proofs and I make comments until we get what we want.
Can you tell us what you are working on at the moment?
I took a time out of the movies to do two personal projects, involving piano and church organ music. Let’s see what it comes out, but right now I’m enjoying the pleasures of making music without having to follow a schedule or even a particular direction. This is the way I started making music, and it’s great….