You have been writing music for films since 2001, was this something that you had always wanted to become involved with?
We’ve both been around musicians and composers growing up. It was around us all the time. We’ve always had a passion for it. So yes it’s definitely something we’ve wanted to be involved with.
What musical education did you receive and what areas of music did you concentrate on?
Andy went to Berklee and the University of San Diego, while I had a majority of private lessons growing up. Andy was classically trained from age of 4. Played on several albums for many different artists. Where I had some formal training at an early age but abandoned it off and on in high school. Got into rock bands then later went into electronic music. But the concentration was always on writing our own stuff. Songs, score, classical pieces.
Your first scoring assignment was PAULY SHORE IS DEAD, for which you provided additional music, how did you become involved on this?
(Andy) – I had just moved back to Los Angeles from Boston where I was going to Berklee. A long-time friend of mine was editing Pauly’s film. He called and said, “hey man, are you still writing for orchestra and playing in bands etc? do you think you could help us get the score going for this film?” I said yes and moved into Pauly’s living room for 2 weeks where we worked through theme’s and got the ball rolling on the score.
You compose film scores with Andy, how does this partnership work, do you collaborate on every cue together or do you both contribute cues to the score separately?
We’re not actually brothers. Sorry, misleading for sure. It’s different for every project. Usually we both write themes and write on each others cues. Very rarely do we write completely separately. But if time is a factor and we have two weeks to write 60 min. It’s just go time. We’ll listen to each others stuff and constantly give notes before the director hears anything. I think it’s a great filtering method and a positive way to collaborate. But time is always a factor.
One of your more recent assignments is OCULUS, which is a horror that has more than its fair share of jumps and scares. How much music did you write for the movie and how much time were you given to score the picture?
It’s roughly 65 min of music or so. We had 3 months. (The most time we’ve ever had).
What composers or artists would you say have influenced you in the way that you compose music or approach scoring a movie?
I think it’s very different for both of us. But for me, (Taylor) I would say Williams and Zimmer influenced my working method. Williams gave several interviews that caught my eye at an early age. He talked about starting with the themes first or the final suite and working backwards. Which seemed so obvious but somehow I overlooked it. When I worked for Hans he would have these enormous suites with all these different themes pretty flushed out before picture was even locked ( this method is great.. but having enough time is a factor) these are tools we use constantly. We typically don’t write anything until we have thematic material decided. Composing music – That’s’ tough… to many to list. But off the top of my head I would say: Debussy, Herrmann, Elfman, Zimmer, The Beatles. I’m sure Andy would say: Erich Korngold, Bach, Puccini and Reznor.
OCULUS is a fusion of synthesized, choral and symphonic elements. What size orchestra did you have for the score and what electronic components did you add to this to achieve the sound that you were looking for?
We had a 50 piece string section that I would say was bass heavy. Then we had some solo woodwinds and solo cello played on top of certain sections. We used surprisingly large amount of recorded samples: Sheet metal, scraped instruments, shattered glass. Everything was really processed. On the synth side we used a Virus, an Old Oscar synth and Zebra.
Do you conduct all of the music you write for film or do you think it is better to monitor the scoring sessions from the sound booth? I personally would prefer to conduct everything we do. But sometimes it can slow things down especially if we’re in a country where English isn’t the primary language. It adds more stress when you’re under time restraints. Yes we both can conduct. But Andy prefers to be in the booth with the director. I’m happy to conduct if Andy’s with the director and people are generally understanding me.
Do you orchestrate all of your music for film or because of schedules etc do you at times use an orchestrator?
I’ve just about given up trying to orchestrate the movies we do. Time is ticking away and there’s always something left to do at the last second. But I did orchestrate the Choir parts for Oculus, just because it was faster than sending it to our orchestrator. I think it’s important to develop a team. Time is always a factor.
How many times do you like to see a movie or project before you begin to have fixed ideas about what style of music that you will write or where the music should be placed and at what stage of the proceedings do you prefer to become involved on a movie?
That’s a tough one. It depends on the movie and the director. Some guys have specific ideas where things should be placed and others just give you space to do your thing. I don’t usually get fixed ideas until the director says, “I like that”. We prefer to get involved as early as possible. Script would be ideal. Many of our films have started with us writing themes off of scripts.
You worked with Paul Oakenfold on OCULUS, he remixed the theme and also did the remix of the end title song which is performed by Greta, did you approach him or was he already involved on the project?
Andy Ross the music supervisor brought him in. He’s such a nice guy and incredibly talented.
OCULUS OF GLASS which is a vocal, is very haunting and infectious, did you write the lyrics as well as the music for this and when you were writing it for the movie did you have a vocalist in mind at that stage to perform the song?
Thanks. It’s actually an expanded version of Paul’s remix. Yes Greta was the choice from the start. We wrote the lyrics with her as well.
Did the director of OCULUS Mike Flanagan have specific ideas about what type or style of music that he wanted for the movie and did he have a hands on attitude when it came to the placing of the music etc?
Mike definitely had specific ideas but he was a true collaborator. We would sometimes throw things he wasn’t expecting and he would love it. Like the last cue. We had the idea to make this sort of lullaby. I was very nervous to play it. But he really liked it. He stood up walked over to the piano and just started playing the piece.
When you are working on a score for a movie is there a set pattern that you work to, by this I mean do you firstly establish a core theme or set of themes and then build the rest of your score around these?
Exactly. Thematic ideas first or end credits first.
Do you perform on your soundtracks at all?
We both usually play something on every soundtrack. Andy’s quite an amazing musician. He can pretty much play everything… and play it well. Where I have my go to instruments.
Although a lot of the music in OCULUS is quite atonal, it still has to it melodic properties in places, do you think it is important to maintain some thematic material even within a horror movie?
You really have to do what services the film and its characters. But I think it’s very important. You need try to have something memorable even if it’s one note.
You did an album of re mixes of the music of Les Baxter, why Baxter?
That was some time ago. We were approached by his grandson to do some remixes. We were fans of some his orchestral pieces. Like, “Pearls of Ceylon”. The guy was super talented and just wrote some really weird quirky material for his time. It was a lot of fun. We’re still very proud of that project. Nothing like getting original recorded material from the label and giving us the go ahead to have at it.
What are you working on at the moment?
We have a bunch of stuff in the works. A Bruce Willis film later this year, Of course we’re already getting into Somnia and a really cool Sci fi film towards the end of the year.