How old were you when you had your first encounter with music ?
I have the fortune to grow up in a house where there was always music playing. My father is – and always has been – very passionate about movies & music. It was only a matter of time to encounter the music that would change my life totally: Filmscores.
What musical education did you receive?
I started out to play the keys around sixteen I think which is quite late – since I was too busy with painting & sculpting – so I started practicing music later on in my teenage life. Unlike most I had my education backwards. The first eight years or so I followed private classes with a teacher that gave me total freedom and helped me a great deal on arranging & adapting well known tunes. But in my early twenties I kind of got stuck with music. Playing music wasn’t enough anymore. I wanted to write! I soon realized I needed to study music more thoroughly if I wanted to call myself a composer, so I started my education at a local academy of music which helped me a great deal. Of course a lot of what you see and hear isn’t useful in today’s filmscoring at all, but as my teacher so often says: „as a composer you should know which rules you are violating…”
Did you concentrate on one instrument inparticular when you were studying music?
The piano has always been my main instrument. I really love it. It’s such a diverse and powerful tool for writing.
Was music for film something that you set out to do or did this just become more evident as a career as you progressed?
John Williams’ Star Wars just struck me like lightning on a sunny day. The first LP I bought was ‚The Empire Strikes Back’. Gosh, I must’ve have played it far more than both my parents and neighbors could bare. He is such a intelligent, graceful and tremendously talented human being. I still believe he is the very best working today. Although his methods might not be in pace with today’s demands anymore, nobody writes that kind of sophisticated yet instant recognizable music as he does. The more I got into scoring myself, the more my attention spread to other composers as well. Scores from around the world, not just Hollywood.
When you begin work on a project have you a set routine when you are writing, by this I mean do you like to concentrate on larger cues first or do you start with the main theme and work through to the end titles?
With television work, I tend to write quite linear which means I start out with a couple of themes and then just work my way through it to the very end. The working routine to get it all done on time is of the upmost importance. Generally I wrote between 8 and14 hours a day with a couple of breaks in between. Basically it was working 10 weeks non-stop. So it’s important that you really like what you do. After almost every hard working day I tried to get out of the house and go out for a walk, have a drink or meet up with friends. They are the best antidote for your own mind that keeps on spinning 24/7 while working on such a demanding project.
What composers or artists do you think have influenced you in the way that you compose etc?
Without any doubt John Williams. It’s actually his „fault” that I do what I do today. And although he is my biggest hero, I don’t think you will hear a lot of his style actually influencing mine. He is just a league of his own. Other composers such as Danny Elfman, James Horner, Jerry Goldsmith, James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer to name a few must’ve influence me as a composer in one way or the other.
How many times do you like to see the footage before you begin to work out where the music should be placed or indeed what style of music is required?
Usually I look at it just once very, very carefully. I rarely write something down actually. I like the surprise of it. The more you watch it, the better you memorize it for sure but for me that works against my creativity. I like that first sparkle, that creative fire sort of speak. The more you score, the faster you understand which moments require score and which don’t. Sometimes while writing you feel you’ve entered a moment too late, or stopped too early so that’ll need adjustment. On other occasions it’s the director that will point out certain scenes don’t require music because of a certain reason or vision. Never take it as an insult though. It’s a collaborate effort so any form of input should always be very welcome.
You utilised a soprano voice in KATTENOOG who was the vocalist ?
That wonderful voice is Judith Rijnveld. Judith was suggested to me by a colleague of mine. Initially the soprano sample wasn’t that bad, but I knew that we could get it much better with a real voice singing. It resulted in a more haunting rendition of that idea for the ‚Opening Titles’
How do you work out your musical ideas, keyboard?
For these kind of assignments I work on my studio keyboard. I have a grand downstairs which is wonderful of course, but because of the very tight deadlines I instantly play my ideas into the sequencer.
At what stage of the proceedings on a project do you like to become involved, does it help to have a script or do you prefer to start at the rough cut stage?
With KATTENOOG it all started with a meeting with the director who really wanted to collaborate with me on this project. As soon as I was on board the production assistant delivered the pile of scripts. I read as much as time allowed me and got a general idea of what the story was all about. But as so often with scripts it’s quite surprising the moment you receive a first cut, since it’s totally different than the way you as a reader imagined it. The scripts are interesting to understand the story, but it’s the footage for me that get the creative juices going. At first there were a couple of rough cuts yes on which a lot of the first demo’s were based. After the first couple of episodes I got the locked versions on a tight time roster. Everything beyond this stage is writing, more writing and loads of writing!
KATTENOOG contained 350 minutes of music how did you decide on which cues to include on the compact disc release ?
That was a tough selection to make for sure. But as the saying goes; it’s killing your darlings. Since it’s a quite melodic score I focused as much as I could on the themes and try to remember on which scenes the themes worked the best music wise. Besides the themes there were a couple of crucial scenes – such as the burning of the witches, Robin discovering her secret powers, the installment of the new order etc… – that I really liked because they were pretty much in the foreground instead of merely supporting underscore. Once I trimmed the amount of music down to a rough hour, the fin tuning began. Shortening certain longer notes to add more musicality to it, compiling a couple of interesting but rather short cues so all of it would add to the overall listening experience. I even went to the extend to have an additional recording for the track ‚Eli the Modern Zombiekiller’. I had a lot of fun writing this tune, and I always had real guitars in my head the moment I wrote it. But due to restrictions of time while working on that episode, the sounds remained sampled. I always sort of regretted I didn’t have the time to actual ask a friend of mine to perform this theme. Luckily I could do this idea justice when the album was announced, so now I have the track on the album the way I intended it to be.
Was there any temp track used on KATTENOOG to give you an idea of what the producers were looking for musically if so do you find this helpful or distracting ?
Generally with television a lot of attention is given to the first couple of episodes. Once you got the hang of it, and knew what they were after everything just followed the previous thing. But yes, on the first couple of episodes there was temp-music used which most of the times is quite intimidating in a way. You get a temp-score performed with the best players in the world, written by geniuses such as a certain John Williams with a budget a zillion times bigger and…they want you to do just that! But more than the music itself I try to analyse what it is that makes that music match the footage, and try to depict why they chosen this music out of the tons of music out there. I don’t think I need music to understand what they are after; but I know it’s part of the editing process so if it helps the editor it’s fine I guess. I did ask to get the temp music separate from the dialogues so I could mute the temp as I saw fit to let my own creations boil in my head.
Staying with KATTENOOG you scored all 50 episodes, thats a mammoth undertaking, did you score the episodes in order or were they given to you out of running order?
The majority was in the right order. Just a couple of episodes were altered for reasons of special effects etc… It’s a little bit harder to get your head around it, but on those moments it helps that you’ve read the scripts so you can position yourself within the story.
What do you think is the purpose of music in film ?
For me it enhances the unspoken. It compliments the story, gives the right colors to the setting of the story, it adds an edge to certain acting performances and at his very best it is absolutely silent in moments that speak for itself.