Growing up, you performed in orchestras, chamber ensembles and…bands! Such an unique combo! How did your musical upbringing influence your artistic voice?
I was really fortunate to have a brilliant local music service around when I was younger and I got to explore all different kinds of music, ensembles and ways of creating. I think a lot of my skills as a performer fed into my writing in an unconscious way – whether that was playing viola in an orchestra and learning how my part functioned in the middle of the harmony, or locking in my bass line with the drummer in my band and exploring rhythm and experimenting with form and structure in songs. I think it opened up my ears and sparked an interest in music and techniques outside what I would have come across organically if I had just been an orchestral player, or just been in bands, or just been a soloist. Everything starts with timbre and texture for me, and how I can combine and create these to produce rich and unique sound palettes for my scores. I like to use my viola and guitars and the other acoustic instruments in my studio as the basis for my work, but then process these elements electronically to transform them into something unexpected.
You recently scored the HBO/BBC feature documentary, ‘The Mystery of D.B. Cooper’. How did you approach this film and what was your experience like?
I was actually brought on board to co-score the film by a fantastic composer, Tim Atack, who is also represented by my agent Manners McDade. It was one of my favourite collaborations in my career so far, and the film had a real Twin Peaks vibe to it which we completely ran with whilst writing the score. We sent our ideas back and forth and it was great to have someone else to bounce sketches. Luckily, we both had similar ideas of the tone and function of the music which made the process super easy and enjoyable! Based on the infamous unsolved case of the hijacking of a Boeing 727 in 1971, the film re-enacted some of the story with actors, mixing these dramatic moments with interviews from the flight crew who were on board as well as the family members of some of the suspects. It was important to balance the slightly zanier scenes with these more reflective and personal moments in the music, and think we did a good job of creating something that straddled these two worlds effectively.
Alongside composing, you also work on some major film and TV projects like ‘The Crown’ and ‘The Feed’ as a music editor, and ‘Lucky Man’ and ‘The Tunnel’ as an additional writer. What are some of your takeaways from working on these high-end projects, and in your opinion, what makes a good team player?
I was very lucky that when I left film school I found a job as a composer’s assistant almost straight away. I understand that the assisting route isn’t for everyone but I’m definitely grateful for the experience and I think my understanding of a composers role in a production benefited greatly from the knowledge and expertise of the more established composers I worked with. I think to be a good team player, understanding your role within the music team is crucial. Being able to seamlessly transition from the technical side of things to the creative, giving any opportunity to write your full 100% but ultimately remembering that your job is essentially to make the composer’s life easier. In an industry based on relationships, being easy to work with, having the production chops to be as useful as possible and doing your best is going to earn you a good reputation and hopefully as words spread, your opportunities to move up the ladder do too.
Can you tell us about your recent EP release and how do you combine being a solo artist on top of working in the film-music industry?
My new EP LINES is my first foray into writing music as a solo artist in a good few years, so the whole thing was a little bit daunting! I wanted to combine my love of contemporary classical music with electronic production techniques, with a little bit of experimentation thrown in for good measure! I was interested in the ‘leftover’ sounds – the tails of echoes, the breaths before melodies, the little scrapes and crackles from recordings – happy accidents that emerged unexpectedly and sparked new ideas. I combined evolving motifs, kinetic percussion and textural synths as well as going back to my roots as a performer and being part of the string trio accompanying the electronics.
I think there’s a growing trend for productions to hire artists to create scores nowadays, so I don’t see any reason why composers can’t also release their own music and continue to cultivate their own artistic identity away from their work to picture as well. I think it’s all part of a composer’s ongoing artistic development – I’m constantly learning, constantly trying new things and enjoying the process of evolving as a musician.
Between earning an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Sound Editing in a Comedy/Drama series in 2020, and collaborating with some brilliant filmmakers whose films you score, what is one achievement (or score) you’re super proud of?
It was from a while ago, but I’m really proud of my work on my graduation film from the National Film and Television School, ‘Come Out of The Woods’. It was the longest ‘short’ film I’d done at that point and it was when I’d first started feeling like I’d figured out who I was as a composer. It was one of those projects that was a complete joy to work on from start to finish – the crew were fantastic, we had a great cast who delivered some amazing performances and everyone was very clear on the director’s vision and how to get there. I’m working with the director again on his debut feature film which will hopefully be shot later this year, so I’m excited to see what we can do next and develop my voice as a composer even more with all the experience and creativity I’ve had in the four years since that project.
What is your dream project, and where do you see yourself in ten years?
I’m really keen to work on long form projects such as more features and multi-episodic television series as a composer in my own right. I’d love to score a gritty political thriller, or a dark and twisted drama… something that I can really get under the characters’ skin with unique and innovative musical worlds. I’m also really interested in scoring video games –I love the idea of exploring non-linear composition and the sheer volume of music needed to weave throughout the stories.
In ten years I just hope to still be busy! I’d perhaps like to make the move over to the USA for a while and continue working on both European and American projects if possible. However, nobody can really plan out their career in this industry with absolute certainty, so I’m just grateful that I’ve been incredibly lucky with some amazing projects and collaborators so far, and I hope it will continue for years to come.
Interview by Nami Melumad
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