Tag Archives: Interview

An Interview with Paul Henning

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Last month I was privileged to conduct an interview with composer Paul Henning where we discussed (in part) his work in orchestrating Star Wars: The Force Awakens, his work as a performer in film orchestras and the ongoing work of the legendary John Williams. I was fascinated to learn about the process that goes into recording a film score and how the process of orchestrating a score actually works. If you follow the link below, you can check out the audio interview I conducted with Mr. Henning. I hope you enjoy!

An Interview with Paul Henning

Film composer and musician Paul Henning’s most recent project was writing the score for the Tribeca Film Festival opening night documentary ‘Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives’. The film premiered at Radio City Music Hall in New York. Paul had a somewhat unconventional role writing music for this project. While the focus was the cadre of huge music artists Clive has worked with, Paul scored key moments of conflict, loss or emotional gravity that were vital to the story.

Paul also recently released his debut album, ‘BREAKING THROUGH’. The album was crafted with a nostalgic, Americana vibe drawn from Paul’s love of the expanses of the Western US and his love of American History. The album features piano solos performed by the Paul and recorded live with a 48-piece studio orchestra. Here is a link to selections of the album for your review: http://www.paulhenning.com/breaking-through.

Paul has served as Concertmaster for the Golden State Pops Orchestra since 2004. He’s also worked on the score orchestrations for over 50 feature films, including ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens, ‘The BFG’, ‘Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb’ and ‘Chocolat’. In addition to his film writing, he also works on orchestral arrangements that have been performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, and London Symphony.

An accomplished pianist and violinist, Henning has performed with the Hollywood Studio Symphony on the soundtracks to ‘Frozen’, ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’, ‘The Maze Runner’, ‘Furious 7’, ‘Moana’, ‘Storks’, ‘Monsters University’ and ‘Alice in Wonderland’, among many others. He has also played violin for artists including Barbra Streisand, Michael Bublé, Neil Young, Aretha Franklin, Andrea Bocelli and Josh Groban. Henning has served as Concertmaster for the Golden State Pops Orchestra since 2004.

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Brian Tyler talks War (2007)

*the links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link

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Brian Tyler talks War (2007)

War is a film that I have not seen but I’m sure I would like, given that it stars Jet Li and Jason Statham. The film is the directorial debut of Philip G. Atwell and tells the story of FBI agent John Crawford (Statham) who becomes obsessed with hunting down an assassin named Rogue (Li) after he brutally murders his partner. But, as it turns out, the story isn’t nearly as straightforward as it seems, there are some mind-blowing twists involved.

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Unbelievably, it comes out that the assassin Crawford has been hunting down is none other than his supposed-to-be-dead partner! It turns out that after being supposedly killed, he tracked down and murdered the real Rogue in order to work his way into the Yakuza to find out who ordered the assassin to take out his family. But there’s another twist: it comes out that Crawford is the one responsible for giving out his partner’s address to Rogue (albeit under heavy duress) because he’s been in the Yakuza’s pocket for quite some time. Talk about twists upon twists!

The film was produced under the working title of  Rogue (named for Jet Li’s character) but it was changed to avoid conflicting with an Australian horror film of the same name that was released the same year.

In the interview (which can be accessed in the link above), Tyler explains that he was approached to work on War after the premiere of The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006), and after watching some footage from the film-in-progress, he begged for the chance to score the film. Additional music for the film was provided by RZA, Mark Batson and Machines of Loving Grace.

A major element of the story involves the Chinese Triad going to war with the Japanese Yakuza. As a result, Tyler created a musical blend using Chinese and Japanese instruments against one another to symbolize the growing conflict between the two groups.

I have to say, looking at Brian Tyler’s work has given me a completely new appreciation for action films and their music. A lot of people write off action films as being “mindless” or somehow “less than” bigger dramatic films, but I think action films can be just as good as any other film genre if they’re done properly.

It was really exciting learning how Brian Tyler created the score for War and I hope you enjoy the interview too.

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See also:

Film Composer Interviews A-H

Film Composer Interviews K-Z

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

Danny Elfman talks Alice in Wonderland (2010)

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Danny Elfman talks Alice in Wonderland (2010)

If I’m perfectly honest, Alice in Wonderland (2010) should be included in my “Didn’t Think I’d Like it (But I did!)” series because, well, I really didn’t think I would like it when the previews arrived. But during my spring break that year I went to see the film because a friend of mine wanted to see it and I actually enjoyed it.

This film is actually something of a sequel to the first Alice in Wonderland (1951) because Alice is now grown up and has all but forgotten her childhood adventure in Wonderland (renamed here as “Underland”), believing it all to be just some fanciful dream she had. Finding herself on the cusp of being forcefully pushed into a marriage she doesn’t want, Alice unexpectedly returns to Wonderland/Underland, where, as it turns out, she must slay the Jabberwocky, defeat the Red Queen and return the White Queen to power. Mayhem and insanity ensues, including a hilarious sub-plot where Alice accidentally grows into a larger person and briefly joins the Red Queen’s court as a woman named “Um” (due to a misunderstanding when the Queen asked her name and she was fidgeting on how to answer).

One of the highlights of this film is the musical score by Danny Elfman. The composer is well known for his collaborations with Tim Burton, and this effort is one of their more memorable efforts in recent years. The film is also notable for using the voice of Alan Rickman (RIP) as the voice of the Caterpillar.

In the brief interview I found, Elfman briefly talks about his work on the film’s score (I always love watching interviews like this one, I just wish they could be longer!). I hope you enjoy this interview clip.

See also:

Film Composer Interviews A-H

Film Composer Interviews K-Z

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

An Interview with Adam Blau

(From Adam’s official bio): Adam is a rising star in the comedy world, with many directors entrusting his musical talents to bolster their projects, often working closely with writers and performers to lend a strong and humorous musical sensibility to their projects. His music has uplifted projects by some of the world’s most popular comedians, including truTV’s Billy on the Street, starring Billy Eichner; NBC’s Mulaney, starring John Mulaney; several Funny or Die shorts; and IFC’s upcoming Brockmire starring Hank Azaria. In addition to composing score, Adam regularly collaborates with the showrunners and writers of projects to create and develop a variety of songs for special episodes – songs ranging from “serious” to intentionally over-the-top satires.

Adam has also scored music and written songs for celebrated films like Warner Bros.’ License to Wed, starring Robin Williams, Mandy Moore and John Krasinski; SXSW favorite The Overbrook Brothers; Phoebe in Wonderland, starring Elle Fanning; and Indian Pictures’ Fuzz Track City. Known for his expertise in percussion, Adam has spearheaded specialty drumline sessions for high profile projects, including Christophe Beck’s We Are Marshall and Mark Isham’s The Express, as well as arranging and producing world percussion for Joel McNeely’s scores to Disney’s popular Tinker Bell films.

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What got you interested in composing for film and television?
Well, I had been a musician to some extent for most of my life…I started playing when I was very young, and I’ve always been involved with music in some capacity. And while I was living in New York I was pretty active in theater, music directing and accompanying, that kind of thing. As part of that, I had some friends who were writing comedy shows and they needed some interstitial music between scenes, or maybe they needed a song, and so I would help them out and it was really fun. And as an extension of that I wrote some songs for a friends show in Los Angeles, and while I was visiting LA I met a couple of people who needed some extra music for a film they were working on, they’d had a composer drop out of the production and so from New York I experimented with some music for this film and I ended up really enjoying it. In fact, I ended up being “bitten by the bug” and picked everything up and moved from New York to LA and it seems to have worked out pretty well so far.
Are you inspired by any particular composer?
In general sure, I have those (soundtracks) I like to listen to independent of the film, but being so involved in multiple facets of music production, it’s rare these days for me to be listening to any current film scores while I’m composing, because I do so much of that as part of my actual work. But Carter Burwell’s score for Adaptation is a big one, it really got me in tune with what a film score could be/should be…in terms of what I’m writing, so much of the scoring process is dependent on the material and who I’m working with. There is an extent to which it’s a bit of a service industry because I’m writing music for what is essentially someone else’s vision. I think a huge part of the job is finding out what the vision is for the director and seeing how the music can best manifest that idea for them. Now I’m going to put my on thumbprint on it one way or the other, but especially in writing for television comedy, it’s writing in a particular style, usually to form the “punchline.” So I do listen to works by several composers, but in terms of my current writing, they don’t really influence/inspire me in that sort of way, because it’s dependent on what the director needs.

That’s all for part 1, part 2 should be uploaded by Friday night or Saturday morning at the latest. You can follow Adam on Twitter at @adamblau and if you’re curious about You’re the Worst, seasons 1 and 2 are currently streaming on Hulu (seriously, you should check this show out if you haven’t before, it’s hilarious and at times very serious). Thanks for reading!

What’s it like working on You’re The Worst ? How is the music composed for each episode: do you get to see any footage or is everything done in advance?
It’s a blast, the show itself…especially in seasons 2 and 3, goes in a very interesting direction. It’s a fairly racy comedy, but they really start talking about some more significant issues. The characters are very well conceived and written and that’s a testament to the show’s creator. The characters can be assholes at times, but over time you can understand why they might be that way. As that goes on, the show shifts tonally, there’s a spectrum of comedy to emotional stuff.
It’s a really great thing, as a composer, to be able to work in the comedic realm but also to work with the more serious, dramatic stuff, or spoofing a genre, like the ‘Sunday Funday’ episodes. And the other part that is really rewarding, is writing actual songs for the characters. Gretchen is a music publicist and she represents this one group, and Stephen (the show’s creator) and I co-wrote all of the songs that they do; and in the PTSD episode we wrote a song that serves as a “relief” for this one character. It’s an original song that we wrote together, and the song is currently being sold as a benefit for the Wounded Warriors organization. The variety is thrilling for me.
How long do you have to put a particular score together? Is there less time for television?
The schedule, for television, is just ridiculous, there is a very quick turn-around between when the picture is locked, like when they’re done editing and when the episode is released, so we have maybe a week, maybe…to get the music finished. Now, I ask for scripts very early in the process, just so I can look through and see if there are song moments or other moments to keep an eye out for. If there’s music within the show, I write it in advance and then go to the set, which is really rare, but I go and teach it to them. I prepare as much as I can in advance though, but by the time it starts being cut, and by the time the show gets to the producers, there is already temporary music in place, either composed by me or someone else, to prompt discussion about what should be in place there. And by the time we come to a spotting session where we meet to discuss how the episode should be scored, either I’ve already written a couple of pieces OR we will discuss if something is working or if we want to go in a different direction. It’s a quick process, sometimes it feels too quick but other times that quick turn-around is a blessing.

How would you describe your compositional style? More orchestral or electronic/synthetic?

It’s totally a case by case basis, I’ve written for full orchestra, like with License to Wed, which had a jazz, swingy feel for the most part. So we wrote it for a huge orchestra. And the other end of the spectrum then is the electronic stuff that I do for You’re the Worst, it is totally case by case. And with percussion stuff, my first stint with that was for a film called We Are Marshall, and there was also Yours, Mine and Ours as well.

The genre is really dictated by the material and also the budget. I would prefer to work with a live orchestra, but with most tv it is simply not in the cards (except for maybe Game of Thrones which has the budget to do it.)
What’s your favorite genre to work with? Why?

I am happy working in any genre, but I like working in comedies because it allows for working in a lot of ways, I admit I am a huge comedy junkie and I love sitcoms. But these days, if you’re doing comedy, you get to write in a number of genres and run the gamut, because writing comedy can also mean writing in a serious moment or a song, so you can try a lot of different things. One of my strengths has been being able to wear a number of different hats, learning a new genre or figuring out the core elements of a particular style and working in that new style, it’s a fun challenge trying to do that. I also enjoy the collaborative process with comedy as well.
Does one score/project stand out as your favorite?

It’s truly hard to pick a single project that I would call my favorite. I would have a hard time sitting here working day after day on shows that I don’t like so much, so I try to find something enjoyable about the project itself or the music for that project, or the people I work with, or otherwise it’s a long hard slog. But there are some standouts for me, You’re The Worst is definitely a highlight. And the people are just so spectacular to work with as well.

Me: Well thank you so much for meeting with me to talk about You’re The Worst and your work as acomposer

Adam: Thank you!

You can follow Adam Blau on Twitter @adamblau .

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

John Debney talks The Jungle Book (2016)

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John Debney talks The Jungle Book (2016)

It’s no secret that I have mixed feelings about the live-action Disney remakes. It just so happens that The Jungle Book (2016) is one I dislike, only because I have very strong feelings for the animated original. My own feelings for the work aside, I have heard that the score was well done, not surprising since it was composed by John Debney (his musical magnum opus remains the score for The Passion of the Christ (2004)).

In this short interview, Debney talks about how he came to work on the score for the film, what kind of vision the director had and how Mowgli needed a theme of his own. But that’s not all I discovered. I also found a B-roll of footage from the scoring sessions, and I’m pleased to share it with you here. Please note around 1:58-2:00 the giant score that the composer is flipping through. You can also see a beat counter next to his head at the beginning of the video.

The Jungle Book scoring session B-Roll (2016)

I love watching scoring sessions, it’s something I really hope to witness firsthand someday in the future. I hope you enjoy this interview and the footage from the soundstage. I have a lot more interviews queued up and I can’t wait to finally get them published!

See also:

Film Composer Interviews A-H

Film Composer Interviews K-Z

See also:

John Debney (and Tom Morello) talk Iron Man 2 (2010)

John Debney talks The Scorpion King (2002)

John Debney scoring Predators (2010)

John Debney talks The Passion of the Christ (2004)

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

James Horner talks The Rocketeer (1991)

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James Horner talks The Rocketeer (1991)

In 1991, Walt Disney Studios released The Rocketeer, a period film set in 1938, which told the story of how a stunt pilot named Cliff Secord discovered a prototype jetpack that could enable him to fly without a plane. He uses this device to become “The Rocketeer”, a hero and a media sensation. Before the story is over, Cliff will have to use all his skills to save the girl he loves from some Nazi spies, including one hidden right in their midst!

While the movie was favorably received, it didn’t perform well enough to justify continuing the story and plans for a set of sequels were cancelled (which is a shame, I remember enjoying this movie very much, though I found a hard time accepting Timothy Dalton as a villain).

James Horner was selected to compose and conduct the score for this film and the score is still highly praised as one of the stronger elements of the film. I think it’s interesting to listen to how he composed music before his big successes in 1995 and 1997 respectively. I hope you enjoy this all too brief interview with James Horner regarding his work on this film. Please enjoy!

See also:

Film Composer Interviews A-H

Film Composer Interviews K-Z

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

*poster image is the property of Walt Disney Studios

Thomas Newman talks Wall-E (2008)

*the links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link

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In 2008 Pixar made the leap into outer space and released a film named WALL-E, a touching tale about a waste-cleaning robot named WALL-E who works all alone on a garbage covered Earth in 2805. Having spent so many years alone (the other robots having long since broken down), WALL-E has developed an individual consciousness and identity of his own: he salvages items he deems “special” and keeps them in his “home” (such items include an ancient tape copy of Hello, Dolly). The monotony of WALL-E’s life changes dramatically when he discovers a plant seedling; not long afterward, a strange ship arrives bearing a feminine robot named EVE. WALL-E (being very lonely) falls in love and embarks on a huge adventure that, ultimately, will save the long absent human race once and for all.

Thomas Newman talks Wall-E (2008)

Composer Thomas Newman had worked very well with director Andrew Stanton on Finding Nemo (2003) and began working on the score as early as 2005 (EVE’s theme was first arranged in 2007). Newman found the score to be a good challenge, as the first portion of the film is largely silent (with no dialogue in the traditional sense). Stanton had originally envisioned a purely orchestral score, but Newman eventually included electronic elements as well. Several scenes also include selections from previously composed works, most notably Hello Dolly! and La vie en rose (as performed by Louis Armstrong) during a sequence between EVE and WALL-E on Earth. Newman’s score was nominated at the Academy Awards for Best Original Score and Best Original Song, but it lost to Slumdog Millionaire (2008).

Interestingly, with the film making several references to Hello Dolly!, it’s cool to note that Thomas Newman’s uncle Lionel Newman (1916-1989) worked on that production.

WALL-E is such an adorable film, and it’s commentary on society (most notably how it deals with consumerism) makes it a must-see for all ages. Please enjoy this behind the scenes look at the score of this film.


You can become a patron of the blog at: patreon.com/musicgamer460

See also:

Film Composer Interviews A-H

Film Composer Interviews K-Z

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

*poster image is the property of Walt Disney/Pixar