I have known Stephen for many years now and I have always been impressed by his varied taste in music. He introduced me to a number of composers and also bands that I would have probably by passed. His knowledge on film music is wonderful and he is never selfish with his knowledge. He has contributed to MMI on occasion, and is a stalwart supporter of the site and always has been.
1. Firstly, why film music? And when did first become aware of music in movies?
Film was the first art form that grabbed me as a youngster, so immediate and powerful. The first films I remember seeing were Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and the Harryhausen Sinbad films. I loved them. And then of course came Star Wars and that was it for me. Back then, the only way to relive the film was comic books, novelizations, the soundtrack album and action figures. I grabbed onto them all. It kept the film alive in the mind, gave it a great power, something I think we lost when films became quickly and easily accessible following their cinema run. The films don’t develop in your imagination and have that extra life, at least not in the same way.
2.What was your first record purchase, if it was not a soundtrack what was the first film music you went out and paid for?
My first purchase was David Soul’s (Starsky & Hutch) eponymous lp. Can still remember it, carried the track Blackbean Soup. I think I was about 7 or 8. Bought from Woolworth’s if I remember correctly. Not the most auspicious start but I still smile thinking about that track. I think the first film score purchases were the Star Wars scores, followed later by Brazil, Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, Hellraiser, Casualties of War and Frantic.
3. Before the arrival of CDs how many soundtracks did you have in your collection on vinyl?
Not that many really. I had the Star Wars trilogy lp’s and a few Morricone’s. Also, Hellraiser and Hellraiser 2 by Christopher Young. I bought scores on cassette for a while, choosing this over vinyl. Why I don’t know, but there you have it. I had more scores on cassette than lp’s.
4. What was your most expensive soundtrack purchase?
There are a few imports I can think of that cost a lot, box sets. The three Toho sets of scores to Kurosawa’s films (very lovely items) and the 10-cd boxset The Ennio Morricone Chronicles. That one was pre-online ordering, had to contact the seller via mail and send a money order.
5. Do you still buy lps and which do you prefer.lp.cd or download?
I’ve gone back to vinyl over the last year. I prefer having vinyl and/or cd over downloads. Recently bought the 40th Anniversary release of Star Wars on vinyl and a lovely thing it is. I’d say a good vinyl release tops my Wish-list but there are so many top-notch releases on cd that I’m happy with either. Downloads are a last resort for me and only if I can’t find a hard copy release. For example, I bought Robert Carli’s Murdoch Mysteries as downloads but only because they are unavailable any other way.
6. Is there anything that you are looking for that maybe you have not been able to find?
There are definite holy grail releases that I would love to have in my collection. Probably top of the list is a complete version of Morricone’s For A Few Dollars More, given the love it deserves, full liner notes and top-notch artwork. Whilst I’m dreaming, a complete release of his Novecento would also be welcome, along with unreleased gems like Roma Come Chicago and Diabolic (the release we have just now I find painful). Other notables are Christopher Young’s Murder At 1600 (great promo disc but deserves a complete release) and Williams’ Star Wars prequel scores given the proper treatment. Also, it would be great to have Kamen’s Dead Zone expanded and given the deluxe treatment.
7. What composer would you say dominates your collection?
That’s an easy one. Morricone for definite. I believe I have somewhere in the region of 450 cd’s by him and perhaps 20 lp’s, as well as other bits and pieces. I’m fairly completist with other composers, notably Christopher Young who I regard as one of today’s greats. Other notables are Williams, Bacalov and Schifrin.
What is your opinion of the state of film music in recent years. Compared to the 40.s 50. s 60.s and 70s?
I would say a cursory glance at today’s mainstream scores would suggest homogeny has crept in, but I try to remind myself that fashions are always in place in music and if I’m being fair then it is just that I prefer the fashions of the 60’s into the early 70’s. For me the jazz idiom that drove so much of that era’s music was a great form to drive the scores of the day. I love electronic music and I’m the last person to decry music created in the digital realm, but I don’t hear the same kind of individuality and idiosyncratic output these days. That is not to suggest it is not out there, I’m just not hearing it as much. There are certainly still great composers out there doing great work (I know you champion and highlight many of them John) but I do wonder if there is more constraint on them these days, perhaps a more corporate mind-set to appease? For instance, I loved the work of French composer Pascal Esteve, who composed for several films by Patrice Leconte, but he seems to have absented himself from the field of film scoring, before he really got to develop.
How do you store your CDs?
Ikea bookcases. Alphabetical by composer and then by the company releasing them. I can locate stuff relatively easily so am quite happy with that system.
OK, you are asked by a record company to choose ten titles which you think deserve a release or a re-release, what would these be?
Christopher Young – Murder At 1600 (complete)
Michael Kamen – The Dead Zone (complete)
Francois De Roubaix – Daughters of Darkness
Lalo Schifrin – Cool Hand Luke (complete, original)
Ennio Morricone – For A Few Dollars More (complete from masters)
Elmer Bernstein – The Magnificent Seven (complete from masters)
Ennio Morricone – Novecento (complete from masters)
Ennio Morricone – Roma Come Chicago
John Williams – Dracula (complete)
John Williams – Star Wars prequels box – (complete)