«My obsession for In the Heart of the Sea was to create new sounds, unique»
Roque, first of all, thank you very much for taking the time to talk about your work for In the Heart of the Sea.
Before talking about this work for Ron Howard’s movie, tell us a little about how things are going for you , both at a personal and professional level.
In Los Angeles there are great opportunities and you should be there to attend all the meetings and interview that can arise, but I’m always missing Spain.
Focusing on your music for In the Heart of the Sea, let’s start with a question you have been asked many times, but obligatory for all film music fans who follow your work. Tell us about your involvement in this project.
Being a United States movie with European co-production, post-production had to be done in London, where the composer should be working during all post-production process. This is why they were looking for a European composer. Ron has had in mind several composers, but the suggestion to work with me came through two very important people for him: Guillermo del Toro and Hans Zimmer. This led to his decisión.
It was easy to convince Howard that you were the composer he needed? Tell us a bit about the meeting where the filmmaker was convinced you were his man to compose the music for this movie.
When we met for the first time, I had already read the script and I could express to Ron my impressions about the story of the movie and what kind of music it might work in the film. I showed him a selection of my soundtracks such as Alatriste and Buñuel and King Solomon’s Table and it seemed he was convinced. Soon after he confirmed I was on board for this incredible adventure.
Once in the project. Howard asked you about a specific kind of music for the film?
Ron is very sensitive and has a great point of view and intuition about music. He wanted the music to be one of the most important elements in his movie. So from the beginning it was made clear for us, that the main themes had to distinguish clearly the objectives of the whalers (ambition, money) of the feeling associated with the nature. Conjugating action and mistery music with melodic music, but with a modern approach (electric guitars…) He didn’t want a classic sound, but equally important was that the music would not be out of place considering the time story happens in.
Where did you get the idea to use cetacean sounds for the theme which is associated to the whales and deep seas?
The whales are the object of desire for the main character, his target. To do this I recorded sounds of nature, such as water, wind, whales… then I processed these sounds to create musical notes that I mixed with the orchestra and several ancestral instruments. I also recorded in a ship the sounds of beaten sails, ropes and harpoons hitting the deck, sounds of wet clothes hitting the harpoons… I used all the elements which happened in a ship to create a sound library which became part of the percussion section that would become the sound of the ship.
To portrait the sperm whale, you use a didgeridoo, an instrument which gives an ancestral and threatening image to the animal. How did you get to this very rare instrument?
This is the first time I use it, althought I know about its sound. I knew this instrument would be perfect for this movie because, as you say, I needed an ancestral, big and mysterious sound that it is very difficult to find in other musical instruments.
Another important part in the soundtrack is the voice of Lotte Rhodes . When did you decide introduce this vocal element?
The voice appears at Chase’s delirium, shortly before they shigt water land. The voice means hope, purification, a second chance to start a new life, full of peace, because it represents clearly the light of the main character, he has become a new man, he makes peace with nature.
How much time has taken to create the music of In the Heart of the Sea?
Four months to compose the music and a whole month for recording and mixing.
Once again you come back to Abbey Road Studios to record a soundtrack. How is the working time distributed in this kind of recording and how many musics have participated in it?
I recorded with an enhanced symphony orchestra ( 100 instruments), native and ethnic instruments, and natural effects. Cello, Glass harmonica, Didgeridoo, and electric guitars. Solo, ethnic, and electric instruments were recorded during composition time on different days. Orchestra was recorded by section in two weeks.
Using a literary simile, Which has been Roque’s Moby-Dick (obsession) in the creation process of this work?
To create new sounds, unique, music was resounding.
What have you learned and what you will take from the experiences to work with one of the most important filmmakers of the industry? Have you both planned on working another time?
Hans Zimmer is Howard’s composer and they are good friends. I don’t know if will be back to work with him in a future, but it is true both of us have been very satisfied with the result and, of course, it would be a great pleasure to work with him again.
This experience has given me the opportunity to demonstrate that I could do a great studio film – the first time on this level- that allowed me putting into practice all my learning and experience at the service on the biggest production I have ever made.
Meet Ron and work with him has been a very gratifying experience. He is a great filmmaker and an excellent person.
I don’t want to finish this interview without asking about your next works. Could you tell us a little about your music for Risen (Kevin Reynolds) and A Man in the Dark (Fede Álvarez)?
Risen contains atmospheric sounds, Religious and choral music, enhanced with ethnic elements and some modern elements (synth) and martial music.
A Man in the Dark contains strange sounds, modern and electroacustic sound effects, water percussions… created specially for the movie.
Roque, thank you very much again for allowing some time for us in your busy schedule. It has been a pleasure, as always, to talk with you. We look forward to your next works and all great new projects which will sure fall into your hands.
My pleasure, Juanra. My best regards!