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Interview with Brian Tyler

Versión en español

BBrian TylerS: Before start, thank you for give us the chance to talk with you. To us, it's such a privilege to share with you a viewing of your career.
BT:My pleasure.

BS: First, why did you enter into the film music world, and when did that happen?
BT:I entered the film music world in about 1996 when I scored a film called “Bartender”. Since I was a young boy I enjoyed watching films and was influenced a great deal by my grandparents. My grandfather (Walter Tyler) was an art director for films and my grandmother was a terrific pianist. I started writing my own music at a young age and began writing score music in my teens. It wasn’t till after graduate school that I got the chance I had been waiting for. Director Gabe Torres simply enjoyed my music and asked me to score his film.

BS: Your first important work (and today, cult film) was "Six String Samurai". Why did you decide to use surf music on it? It was a film in the Mad Max style, with desert everywhere...
BT:Director Lance Mungia had a lot to do with the musical influences we referred to. It was a film with a post-apocalyptic story but the main character (Buddy) was an alternate reality doppelganger to Buddy Holly if he lived through the 50s. The idea was that rock music stopped at its 1960s infancy but was infused with Russian music (since the Russians occupied North America after World War III). I know it sounds strange... and it is!

BS: After that, you made a few projects that were Thrillers. We can pick "The 4th Floor" starred by William Hurt and Juliette Lewis, and "Shadow Hours" with Peter Weller. Can you talk us a bit about those works?
BT: “The 4th Floor” was a great musical journey for me in that I made an effort to push the boundaries of where, in my mind, atonal and tonal music met. Where is the line? That is the question I wanted to answer. It was experimental yet it turned out to be a very thematic score. Atonal meets melody. “Shadow Hours” was a dark movie about the underground club scene here in LA and was a re-telling of “Faust”. So for that film I recorded all industrial underground music. The music had a Faustian quality I suppose.

BS: In "Panic" and "Terror Tract" you could put music to two films of the missed Jon Ritter. What was the feeling of those projects?
BT:“Panic” is one of my favorite films. I wrote a score I think is still one of my best. The director Henry Bromell made such wide film with wide shots of Los Angeles. Very open and understated. That is what I tried to do with the score. It was minimalist with piano and orchestra but it needed to convey the painful relationship between Donald Sutherland and William H. Macy. John Ritter was terrific in “Panic” as the psychiatrist and as the real estate agent in “Terror Tract”.

BTyler conducting the orchestraS: Truly, "Terror Tract" is a surprising soundtrack, with a main theme that is really strong, and that feels strange, since the film was a low budget movie. Why did you choose to compose a so big sound for that one?
BT:As for “Terror Tract”, I rarely have had so much fun scoring a film. There were 2 directors (Lance Dreesen and Clint Hutchison) and they were terrific. True film fans. It is my most bombastic score with pounding orchestra in the tradition of 1950s thrillers. Huge brass. Choir. Big strings. Big percussion. The score was the anti-thesis of “Panic”. The funny thing was that I wrote them at the same time and conducted the orchestras only days apart. As for the big sound on a small budget, I had to make the orchestra sound much bigger than they were and I did that through careful composing and orchestral technique. It sounds more simple than it was – believe me! I didn’t sleep much during that time.

BS: You have worked in a few TV series, such as "Living in Captivity", "Level 9", "Last Call" with Jeremy Irons and Sissy Spacek or "Enterprise" with Scott Bakula. Do you work in the same way for the cinema and for TV, or you approach the work in a different way? (not counting the instrumentation differences due budget restrictions)
BT:I approach the scores in TV no differently than when I write for a movie. I wouldn’t know how to approach it differently. Scoring should always follow the picture. The picture is its master. My job is to enhance the story as much as I possibly can.

BS: You have said in some interviews that you are a "Star Trek" fan, so, is that the reason why you have preference towards the fantasy/sci-fi genre?
BT:I am a huge sci-fi fan. Actually, I am somewhat of a movie fanatic. My DVD shopping is completely out of control!

BS: If you could choose to score "Star Wars", "Star Trek" or "The Lord of the Rings" series, which one you would you pick in musical terms?
BT:I have no idea. Classics all. The original Star Wars trilogy is my boyhood favorite and those first two films (Star Wars and Empire) are still mind blowing. The LOTR trilogy is fantastic, and I loved Wrath of Khan.

BTyler and Bill Paxton during Frailty recording sessionsS: "Frailty" was really a turning point in your career. Truly, watching the movie in the cinema I felt myself hooked to the story directed by Bill Paxton. The musical universe that you created was totally oppressive, and you became nominated to the "Discovery of the year" in the World Soundtrack Awards. What can you explain about this terrific work?
BT:Frailty was one of those wonderful experiences. Bill is amazing as a director. For me, Frailty was a score done the old fashioned way. I spent day and night on the basics: composing the themes and writing notes. Bill and I communicated through the ways of the old masters like Hitch and Herrmann. We favored previewing themes on the piano instead of having the computer churn out midi mock ups. It was bliss. I would sit there with Bill and play the piano as he listened. The orchestra was recorded in a huge hall for that gothic flavor of old.

BS: "Bubba Ho-Tep" is a madness created by the "Phantasm" author, Don Coscarelli, with the great Bruce Campbell as Elvis. A so original story that can be compared with the one in "Six String Samurai". Did you composed both films with a similar approach?
BT:In fact, yes I did. Both films are so wild and original. Scoring Bubba was a nice detour into my roots which was independent film making. I played all of the instruments myself and sang the choir parts. It was just like when I scored “Six-String”.

BS: "Vampires: Los Muertos" is another work of you that I love. It's a follow up of the John Carpenter movie, but now the protagonists are different. Did you worked with the obligation of keep the "Carpenter sound" of the first movie, or you had total freedom?
BT:In fact, I made a conscious decision to not even listen to the original score. I saw the film years before and I stayed away so I would not be influenced. Tommy wanted this to be its own creation. In fact, its one of the few John Carpenter scores I don’t know. To this day, I don’t know if they even sound remotely alike.

BS: According my point of view, "Darkness Falls" is a totally failed movie, where your music stands out of any other movie element. The power of the orchestra is a already a trademark, but... don't you think that it can damage the movie? In the meaning that a so big soundtrack distracts the spectator.
BT:Gigantic scores can and do detract from films if they are not right tonally. I think that with “Darkness Falls” it is a matter of where the viewer is coming from. It is a monster movie. If the audience member doesn’t buy the premise then no score can help it.

BS: I feel similarities (though not when it comes to instrumentation) between the main theme of "Frailty" and the main theme of "Darkness Falls", was it something pretended?
BT:I suppose since they are both over shots of historical records and both main title visual sequences told a story of death and murder in the 20th Century in small town America the music naturally evoked a similar sound..

BS: You have said in some interviews that you like Goldsmith. In "The Hunted" the main sound is percussive, excellent... and at the same time it sounds very "Goldsmith". That approach to his style, was a decission of you, or of William Friedkin, who had already worked with Goldsmith?
BT:I am a percussionist so percussion is something that often dominates my action music. The idea for The Hunted was that all of the sections of the orchestra would play in a percussion-like manner. The themes were based on rhythm more than melody. As for Friedkin, he has an encyclopedic knowledge of music and was a great resource while composing the score.

BS: I wanted this question to arrive: "Children of Dune" might be one of the best soundtracks of 2003, and here in Spain you have got a lot of new fans thanks to it. Can you tell us a bit about this score?
BT:I am so happy that people enjoy the score as much as they do. The music for Children of Dune means a lot to me. I wrote it from the heart. Composing music is not merely a technical exercise. Composing is a deeply emotional experience and when someone is moved by your music, it is very gratifying. I was touched by the tragedy of the story. The director Greg Yaitanes is a dear friend and he gave me the latitude to write a score that evoked passion and resonance. There are 3 components of score in COD. There is a large amount of anthemic orchestral music with big themes and aggressive orchestration. There is the otherworldly ensemble music and then there was the romantic component to the score which was either orchestral or soloistic.

BBrian Tyler and... ¡Zimmer!S: Many fans are telling that in "Children of Dune" there are a few influences of the soundtrack for "Gladiator" by Hans Zimmer. What is your opinion of that?
BT:That is fine with me. Music is subjective. I tend to write in a vacuum with no temp score so influences on my writing is more by osmosis than anything else. The ensemble world music component of the score, as with “Gladiator”, owes influence from Peter Gabriel’s “Passion” score which owes its heritage to both medieval canonical music as well as ancient Indian folk music.

BS: I had the feeling that there is in that soundtrack an homage to the theme by Brian Eno to the Dune by David Lynch... am I wrong? What do you think of the Toto's soundtrack for that movie? And the Revell's one for the first TV series?
BT:You are right! I used a similar sound to the “Prophecy Theme” from the original soundtrack (I believe it is a Mellotron and Prophecy V keyboard layered together). It was my way of connecting the two stories musically. I am one of the few people who loved the original movie by Lynch as well as that soundtrack. I bought the record back in 84 and played it all of the time. As for Graeme's score, I enjoyed it while watching the original Sci Fi miniseries.

BS: Thanks to "Timeline", you are in the point of view after replace a master, Jerry Goldsmith. How did you get the news about the change, and how did you decide to take part on it?
BT:I heard about the Jerry news through a friend and as a huge Jerry Goldsmith fan I was disappointed. I was shocked and honored to be asked to score the film by Richard Donner. I did my absolute best as a tribute to one of my favorite composers and a director I had long admired. It was a wonderful experience.

BS: Have you heard the score that Goldsmith composed?
BT:I am sorry to say I have not.

BTyler in Timeline recording sessionsS: "Timeline" is an excellent work that has convinced the Spanish fans that "Children of Dune" was not a mirage. Again, you surpass the images and show that the power of the orchestra became your trademark. What is your best remembrance of the work in this film?
BT:Thank you very much! My fondest memory was conducting the orchestra to one of the main themes and it was sounding great out there on the podium. After the cue finished I turned around to see the entire recording booth with Donner and the producers cheering. Then the orchestra cheered. I couldn’t believe it. I was very grateful.

BS: In "Godsend", you join Nick Hamm, director of "The Hole", in a science fiction and horror story starring Robert DeNiro about clonation. How have you approached this project and what kind of ideas you have for the music?
BT:I wrote the score for orchestra and the melodic content is really wild and textural. I wanted it to reflect the scientific spirit of the movie so it has a distinctly modern edge to it. It was an invigorating film.

BS: "Final Cut" is a film starred by Robin Williams, also science fiction. What are you preparing for this project?
BT:I am writing that score as we speak. It is very thematic. Although it is a science fiction movie, the feel is more like a 1930s mystery than a space extravaganza. It is understated and lonely. But there is a pulsing energy to the score that becomes apparent as the movie proceeds. It is an amazing film and a great story.

BS: "Sahara" is an adaptation from a Clive Cusser's novel. Have you already started to work on it?
BT:I am presently scoring "Final Cut" but I am really excited about "Sahara".

BS: The biggest amount of your work is focused on the field of the fantasy and science fiction. Do you feel that you are typecasted in that genre or you just like this kind of music/movies? Would you like to compose for a drama, a romantic comedy or something more specific such as a western or a pirates movie?
BT:In fact, I have scored an even amount of dramas as fantasy or science fiction films. I enjoy dramas tremendously. I have scored a number of romantic films and maybe 4 or 5 comedies. Those were really great to do. The comedies “Perfect Opposites” and “The Big Empty” will be out in 2004. I would love to score a western. That would be great fun.

BS: To end, what would you tell to the Spanish fans that are reading this right now?
BT:To anyone who enjoys my music I must say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am truly grateful.

BS: Thank you for your time. It has been a pleasure to have you with us in BSO Spirit.
BT:Thank you. Catch you later!

Interview by DDBSpawn
Translation by Rubén Sánchez

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