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Interview with Brian Tyler (September 2007)

Versión en español

More than such a talented composer, a great friend. We missed a long, nice talk with Brian Tyler, one of the best and hard working composers right now in the business. Furthermore he seems to take the lead from one of the greatest and most famous composers ever in film music history: Jerry Goldsmith.

It happened a warm evening in Madrid last september, we decided to phone Brian to his music studio where he was expecting us, once more, with his arms well opened, to travel with him across the last three years of his career, his scores, his films, all his new works not treated before in previous interviews with us. You can read all of them here, at Enjoy!

BSOSpirit: Hello Brian, how are you?. This is from Spain

Brian Tyler: Oh, very well, thank you, haha, good to meet you again, how are you doing?

BS: Very well, thanks. It has been a long time since our last interview. How is it going there?

BT: Working away of course. Very much going on, haha, working in a lot of movies at once, but it's Ok.

BS: Yeah, you have been working a lot from our last conversation, a new bunch of pictures. Do you have time enough now for the interview?

BT: Oh, yeah, of course, no problem. Let's start.

BS: Oookay then, let's begin. If you don't mind, firstly we are going to ask you about your latest works.

BT: Okay!.

Conducting AVPRBS: Let's start with your work for Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem . We guess you have almost completed the score at this time, and we would like to know how it is going to be your approach, is it more Goldsmith rather Silvestri , or would you say it's 100% Tyler ? And what can you tell us about new thematic material for the saga?

BT: Oh, I haven't completed the whole score yet, but the sound of the music is referencing the classic Silvestri 's scores, but as well the Alien saga, Goldsmith, Horner, Goldenthal, and Frizzell works. Well, what I wanted to do is paying homage to the sound created. For Predators , Alan got a sound, a very melodic one, but with a lot of brass and percussion, a lot of rhythm creating melody, what we know now as Predator music. I wanted to compose in that style.

The Alien music is much more aggressive, avant garde in a way, kind of strange and I wanted to bring both styles together and reference the past combining it with new themes for the new film.

In the new score, I can tell everything is new, with those references to the past, but what I enjoy the most is creating this combination between the classic sounds of the creatures, their particular voices, and the new material, but I must say there is so much score in the film (about 95 minutes the complete score). Yesterday I finished the recording of one particular complex cue, and it was a 22 minutes long one, and that only for one cue.

BS: Wow!

BT: Yes, and it was a cue very difficult to play, very complicated and challenging for the orchestra, for the musicians. We were very excited about conducting it for four weeks. It has been recorded in Los Angeles with the Hollywood Studio Symphony , and they have done a really great job, and now we are going to record at Newman Stage at Twentieth Century Fox's . It's going to be lots and lots of brass and percussion, something fantastic to hear.

BS: Brian , do you know if your score for this film is going to be released? By Varese Sarabande , or some other company?

BT: Oh, yes. I spoke with them, yes, but now it all depends of the conversations with Fox, but I'm sure there's going to be a release of the score (after a few weeks from this interview we know that Varese Sarabande will release the score – 21 tracks, 79 min long and with a Special Alien Vs Predator Suite Requiem arranged by Brian Tyler ).

With Sylvester StalloneBS: Ok, let's change the topic. What can you tell us about the creative process for Rambo IV (a.k.a. John Rambo) , which will bring to an end the story of this character at the big screen? Have you already composed something for this film? Could you premiere us something about the score?

BT: I have already started the film, I've written music, but we are in the early stages of writing. The movie is going to definitively use the Rambo themes. Jerry Goldsmith composed those really great motifs for the character, and what I will do is paying homage to those themes inside a new score and a whole new scenario, but with Jerry 's music in mind. What I have composed at this moment is kind of inspired by Jerry . The story of my involvement with the film comes from the close relationship of work between Sylvester Stallone and Jerry . They worked very close together for the films, Sylvester listened my music and thought I would be appropriate for the score, that I was close to his feelings about the music.

The score will have a strong orchestral and percussive component as well, the movie takes place in Burma , so there is a kind of eastern, we can call “Burmese” kind of jungle feel for the percussion, very naturalistic. Yes, it's going to be very ethnic and acoustic, with those trumpet themes as well.

BS: And Brian , what about the action pieces?, are we going to listen those remarkable obstinatos and electronic passages, Jerry 's trademark?

BT: Well, you know, I think this is closer to the feel and mood of First Blood , sort of, than Rambo II , for instance. The movie is very gritty and dark, like First Blood, and my approach will be more live, more orchestral than synthesised. Very acoustic, much more like the first film, and with less electronic elements in it.

BS: We are looking forward to listen to this score, Brian . But, do you feel somehow pressure by the fact you may be compared with Master Jerry Goldsmith ?.

BT: Hahaha, oh, it has happened before. I mean, for me, it is an honor, but Jerry Goldsmith and myself have often been linked together, for example in Timeline . That was definitely a direct comparison because we both score the same exact film, hahaha, and I worked in Star Trek , now in Aliens and in Rambo . A lot of movies or projects that I composed in which he had worked or he was the previous composer or was involved in them. It is something I kind of grown accustomed to, and I am comfortable with it, but, you know, Jerry is Jerry, well, I think I definitely dive into it, haha.

BS: Brian , we think that you are the best choice to follow the footsteps of whom we have always regarded as the best composer in film history: Jerry Goldsmith.

BT: Oh, thank you, thank you. It is quite an honor.

BS: Brian , you have an amazing talent, and your scores always excel the film they have been composed for. Do you feel that there is a risk to write this kind of music for pictures with a shorter budget than the one you'd need? Directors may be more demanding thinking that you've worked in many blockbusters (the only one being Constantine).

BT: Yes, I think so, there is definitely a risk to open yourself up to comparison, but part of me it's not just a film composer but a film score fan and lover of his films, and if Jerry had some great music for a previous movie and he is no longer here, I want what's best for the film and I really take it so seriously what he did. I want to be the one to jump in there and continue that, try to think what would Jerry be doing and that's the perspective I try to take with such a project like Rambo.

BS: Do you know that Rambo IV may put you in the spotlight and help you work on larger films or not?

BT: Ah, yeah. With any film that you compose there is the chance to get a new audience or new directors that liked your music, so it is very hard to tell which ones are going to further my expectations, so I work hard in every single project, I treat every one of them as the most important project I've ever done. I approach every film like that.

With Bill PaxtonBS: Okay, well Brian , we would like to go back in time a little bit now, to the last score we talked about in our last interview, The Greatest Game Ever Played . This could be your all time best work. With two years in the making, which are your memories from your collaboration with Bill Paxton ?

BT: Oh, it is very interesting because I worked with Bill in a film called Frailty before (the very first film he directed) and it was so different movie than The Greatest Game... it requires so different music, that he had no idea if I could have in me the style of music he needed for the new film, because he really knew me from the previous film as a very dark, very brooding film composer, haha. The new film needed such a different approach. What I really enjoyed working with Bill on the film was to be able to score it more in a manner of scores done many years ago. I mean, playing him themes on the piano, more about melody, not the usual way of presenting fancy mock-ups and so to the executives. That's fine, I do it, it's the way it is, but I think there are limits sometimes. You end up writing music to make it sound good for the samples instead of really writing music directly to the live orchestra, losing time and energy.

I approached it from the perspective of a very heartfelt music, very true to the period and reflective to the idea of America being a nation of immigrants, of people of all over the world (that's the reason of the Irish , or Scottish feels to the music that come together into the score).

It is kind of an un-American feel, I had never written anything like that before, it was very gratifying.

In UbedaBS: Very fresh, yeah. Well Brian , we have to thank you for having mentioned some members of the web page within the booklet of The Greatest Game Ever Played .

BT: YEES, yes, I'm glad you noticed that.

BS: Thank you very much Brian. It was a great honour and a dream come true for us, Thank you so much.

BT: No problem, you know, when I came to Spain for the Conference I played the main theme of the film on the piano, and finally I ended up playing, strangely enough, when I went back, that piano version in the final cut of the film and, adding to the score that cue that I have played in Spain. In the CD it is the piece "An Unlikely Outcome" , that piece is at the end of the film. Well, the original ending of the movie didn't have that version, it was all orchestra, and after that moment on the piano in Úbeda, I decided to perform that piece with piano only. We may say that actually the Conference affected the score in a way, and it was really fun to find that way, and I felt you were somehow connected to the process to be in the booklet.

BS: Thank you very much Brian.

BT: Sure.

BS: Let's talk about Annapolis. We think it is a combination between Rocky and An Officer and a Gentleman.

BT: Yeah, absolutely, haha.

With Justin LinBS: Haha, a very entertaining movie in which you worked with Justin Lin for the first time. Did you know him beforehand?

BT: I didn't. I met Justin when I was finally mixing The Greatest Game Ever Played , just finishing the film and I got a phone call (the Studio was very frantic because another composer was doing Annapolis and he just went out of the project), Justin wanted a new composer right away, and I went over to the editing room with Justin . He showed me the film and I immediately told them my impressions about what I thought the film needed musically and he decided "Okay, You are the guy" . It was really based on one meeting, and, as you probably know, at this time Justin and me have collaborated in three films: Annapolis, The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift, and now Finishing the Game, and he is now one of my very best friends. It's very strange how things happen sometimes, haha, we actually went to college together at the same exact time and we graduated the same year but I never met him.

So, there were a lot of connections there of which I have no idea, but I really feel very fortunate of having jump on to Annapolis, having met Justin finally and clicked with him to make a score like this. A score which I feel very thematic, where you can play a theme on different instruments and make it sound right. Because it's very difficult, playing for example a theme on the guitar and then blowing it out into a big orchestral march. To work in both ways was a challenge.

BS: Brian, talking about these points, how actively you can be the performer of some instruments in your own scores? Was the reason a budget constraint or you really wanted to play all these instruments by yourself as fun?

BT: Yeah, it was fun, haha. I don't even think about it when I am writing a score, I'm not thinking in how many instruments I am going to play myself but in a case of a living orchestra I finally play a lot of the leading instruments. I always play the piano, the drums or the percussion, the guitars as much as I can, and in the particular case of Annapolis, I played the guitar because it is easier for me to play it instead of teaching the performer about how to play it. I am very particular with some instruments like guitars, dulcimers, bazoukis, drums, piano, acoustic guitars, mandolins, all those instruments I find very personal in terms of the style of how you played. That's the reason I want to do it myself.

BS: When we listen to the opening tracks of your soundtracks albums we are always amazed by how powerful they seem to be.

BT: Thank you.

BS: This is also the case in Annapolis. The order of the tracks is certainly not chronological. Did you take this decision about the arrangements and the order, or was it decided between you and Robert Townson, for example ?

BT: It varies, sometimes the director and the producers get involved and they decide. Then I don't have the power of decision necessarily, but usually what I propose it is a first track to present the thematic ideas, a kind of suite or introduction of the main theme, then I try to go chronologically starting with the next track. But it doesn't always work out that well just because of different factors and I think that presenting the pieces in a different order is a better listening experience in those cases. It depends on each particular case and the different circumstances for each score.

Other case it is when I have composed much more music that it fits on the CD, and I have to choose which cues must go, and which ones have to be left outside. It could be sometimes painful and the most difficult part of it really.

BS: One of your last films sees you pairing again with renowned director William Friedkin. Had your previous collaboration be so interesting as to repeat once again?. Was it him who called you?.

BT: Yes, for The Hunted I was not even in consideration for that film, haha. At that time my name was not put in consideration for a film that big (I just have scored Frailty), but because of time constraints, I believe Howard Shore was originally going to do The Hunted, and I don't know what happened with Howard, but what I do know is that William Friedkin went to a movie theatre the weekend that Frailty opened here in the USA , he saw the movie and he loved it, specially the music. That Monday morning, first thing he found my number, called me and asked me to come and to meet him. I was so surprise and so honored, I say yes, of course, and then he asked to do the score in that first meeting.

BS: After the work for Bug (your other collaboration with Mr. Friedkin), you get the tag or the label of “experimental composer”. How do you feel about it?

BT: Oh, yeah, haha. It's always interesting, I've seen many descriptions, haha. I suppose some of the music that I've scored it's experimental. If you look at Bug, or The Hunted it's a little more experimental, it has that feel, one of my new scores, The Heaven Project, can be considered experimental, but in the other hand, if you consider scores like The Greatest Game Ever Played, or Children of Dune or Partition, they are much more melodic and actually kind of traditional in many ways, so, I don't know, I just try to write whatever music is going to fit the film more appropriately and help the film the most, and if some of my music is experimental and avant garde it is because the film needs that kind of feel.

When you try to be innovative and you are trying to do things a little outside the border, those scores (like The Hunted or Bug) have always been my most controversial. There are people who typically love them or absolutely hate them, those are the ones where I get feedback from people than think this is my absolutely best work, it's polarised.

BS: We like this work, we like Bug.

BT: Thank You. That is the most controversial I think, people argue about that one a lot, haha, never the same opinions, haha.

BS: Brian, is Bug something like your own Planet of the Apes, in terms of how much you seem to experiment with instruments and sounds?

BT: Exactly, hahaha, there's no doubt. It's one of these things I had complete freedom on the score, and I want to push the boundaries of what I knew could be considered music in a sense. It was really trying to go to a different place that I normally do.

With SlashBS: Okay, let's jump to another of your collaborations with Justin Lin: “The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift”. This is seen again as an evolution in your own style. Let's say you've created a sub-style of your own, which I think, it has later shown in War. Is that right?

BT: Yes, in a fact kind of talking about, there are different styles of music that I have done. There are probably four, five, six kinds/types of scores I do. The Fast and the Furious is one of them, with that aggressive action music, a live orchestra playing hard but with a lot of modern elements and drums and a heavy percussion as well, but certainly there is an evolution from that score to War, but also there is a connection between those two. Both are modern action films, one a racing car film with a lot of action, the other an action/thriller movie, and both have an Asian component to the storyline. In the kind of style of the score, they are family in a way.

BS: Did you listen to some of the previous scores, BT and David Arnold had composed?

BT: Oh yes. I have seen the films and you know, I don't know BT personally except we do joke between each other because people confuse us because of our initials, but I know David very well.

BS: We believe David is a good friend of yours, is that right?

BT: Yes, David is my friend, he is a good friend of mine and I really respect David and what he does. The reason of the differences between TFATF scores and Tokyo Drift wasn't because I didn't like the music of the other two, it was more because, as opposed to the other two movies, Justin wanted to score the film most predominantly with music instead of songs, and the other two movies had mostly songs and less score.

Tokyo Drift was mostly score and some songs. I think it's the only one to get a Score album release, and for the first time we could create character thematic themes for the saga with that score (I had about sixty five minutes of music to compose for the film) I don't think BT or David were really given the opportunity with the fifteen minutes or so of score they were allowed and they could get into the movies in spend of a melodic score. It was a treat for me to get a melodic feel for the score apart of the modern action.

BS: Was your own love for cars and speed something that influenced the movie, or not?

BT: Oh, yeah, for sure. I'll tell you something, at the beginning of the film I knew more about drift racing and cars than the director himself, but he became such a student of that that now he really knows what he is talking about, for sure, you can't argue with him about cars, haha. I love cars, I love all types of racing, I'm a big Formula One fan (that's my main theme in terms of what I watch), but in my own life I do race (also in a different car, haha) and you know, it was fun being able to write music to my hobby (the other love of my life, which is car racing). To be able to kind of merge two things that I REALLY LOVE into one.

BS: That's great. Okey, you keep on composing for Justin Lin in Finishing the Game, which is a mockumentary (a false documentary) on Bruce Lee. This takes advantage of the sounds of the seventies following the many footsteps of the many recordings of that time. Could you describe us a little bit how this experience was?

BT: This could be the most surprising soundtrack I ever made. This December 2007 is the premiere of the film, at this moment not many people have listened to the score yet and I think they will be shocked by what they'll find. The whole score is like... well I wrote all of it like if it was all songs, but I wrote them all in the old 1970's kind of funk, and that kind of thing and I recorded everything with only equipment older than 1976, so all the instruments, all the microphones, the recording gear, everything have to be of that era, very authentic to that period. I also played a lot of instruments, the drums, the base guitars, the keyboards... there is also a brass section, haha, anyway, I can explain but, you really have to hear it to know what I am talking about, haha. It's completely, completely different than anything I've ever done. It will be fun to see people's reactions.

BS: Is there going to be an album, Brian ?

BT: Oh yes, there will be for sure. I know they are working to get a CD, but I do know it's available at ITunes for world-wide. You will be able to find it and get it there at this moment at least for download.

BS: Okey, let's move on to Partition which I think is close to Children of Dune in terms of color. Did you make a conscious choice?

BT: Sure, like The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift and War are connected, Partition and Children of Dune are connected. That's more because of the films than anything, both have a similar feel, both take place in a middle-eastern type of environment and they are both epic in terms of scale, and both romances in the set of a war, or a time of war, with the obvious difference that Partition is a true story.

The feel of Children of Dune was more middle eastern, Partition is more Indian, but at the same time, the director (who is Indian, Vic Sarin ), he hired me on the fact that he loved the COD soundtrack, so, what he wanted was to give my western sensibility of themes (bold romantic themes) to the film, knowing at the same time that I was able to infuse all of the Indian and Pakistani percussion into it, to incorporate local instruments of the area (that I was familiar too)... and to get the combination of the orchestra (with a very epic type of themes that I wrote) with the percussion and the ethnic flavour (incorporating those local instruments to the mix).

BS: Great. Well, we are finishing the interview. Let's talk about War. One might say you've focused on high-octane action-driven films. Again do you happen to have chosen so?

BT: I think, well, it's sometimes strange how things work, I don't really think about it too much actually, about which films I'm going to score. It's much more of a collusion of different events which brings me to every film. Talking about War, the director, Philip G. Atwell, had just seen The Fast and the Furious in the theatre (just the same case like William Friedkin before) and called me in to come see the film the following Monday.

You know, the way that just one action film can link to another and connect all of these films together is because basically directors that I had never work with before find me on the basis of preparing some other film. He did not ask for me to do a score like The Fast and The Furious , it was just that the films were similar in their tones, so, you know, I love doing action films, it is definitely something I always want to do, but I like changing it up. I like doing dark films too, more like horror movies or science fiction like the case of Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem now, and you know, things like Rambo , or my next project coming up, which is The Heaven Project, much more an introspective drama. So as long as I can keep on shifting styles and genres, you know, I'll be happy.

BS: War and TFATF:TD have similar styles but in the first case your achievements in terms of how you create an atmosphere are even more remarkable.

BT: Oh, thank you.

BS: You're welcome. Please tell us, how did you come to the idea of hiring the London Symphony Orchestra ?

BT: For War, the original idea was the electronic component of the score, it was going to be partly hip hop, partly techno driven, and I thought in order to balance out that feel, that style of the supporting tracks, that we should get kind of the most classical styled orchestra in the world, which is really the London Symphony Orchestra .

They have a natural, pure, classical, very symphonic style and it's a little bit different from the sound or the styling you can get in the orchestras of the United States , maybe a little bit of a jazz tone to it. I wanted to contrast both musical worlds with this score, we can say. I just love the London Symphony regardless, I think they are great, and it's a privilege to conduct them. They are fantastic, and I'll work with them any time but for this in particular I kind of need a contrast stylistically with the supporting electronic elements of the score. A score which reflects both worlds, symphonic at its best and electronic.

BS: Did you decide to have one CD release , and at the same time, an ITunes release with the Complete Score ?

BT: Yes, I knew that the commercial release would have songs as well, and not a whole presentation of the score. Because in one particular CD there is not enough room for both the Complete Score and the songs, and because I received a lot of e-mails asking for the possibility of a Complete Score available, I decided, since ITunes is out there, why don't we put it out there for people that wanted it. At least people can get it in some manner.

The only difference between the soundtrack commercial album that has the songs in it as well, and the ITunes release is the Remix of the Main Title on the CD, that the ITunes one hasn't got. I'm not sure why that is, but that's how it is. Anyway, when I can I will try to get the Complete Scores out there for those who want them.

At War´s recordingBS: Us, us, haha. We want.

BT: Hahahaha, Yes. You Know, for me, I love having Complete Scores and having all that's possible on the CD, but sometimes I have been criticised for having too much on the CD which it is strange to me, but you know, regardless, the better thing to do I think, it is to get it out them for the people who really “do” want them.

BS: Yes, of course, we completely agree with that. Thank you Brian for taking care of the music score fans all over the world. And to end this interview, what about Bangkok Dangerous ? Will this one be released?

BT: Oh, yes, it will be release on February. To see it in a while, haha. But I can tell you I'm very excited about this soundtrack, I think you may really like it, it is definitely one of my strongest scores for sure.

BS: Okey, we wait for it, no doubt of that. Brian, our last question, would you talk us about your next projects coming up?

BT: Yees. Right now I am just focus on Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem , John Rambo and The Heaven Project . This one is going to be an ensemble type of score, very introspective, very heartfelt, it is a movie about Purgatory and it's going to be different than anything I've done before, and I am really happy and very excited doing it. It also comes up next year, like Bangkok Dangerous .

But for now, I am going to be releasing Finishing the Game , Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem , Bangkok Dangerous and John Rambo , I'll be working in The Heaven Project , and there are some other films coming up, but for those films I will not be scoring until we were deep into 2008.

BS: Great, very good, okey Brian , many thanks for your time.

BT: No problem, it has been a pleasure guys.

BS: We hope we can see you back in Úbeda in the coming future.

BT: Oh, I would love to, you know that. I would try to get out some time next year.

BS: Thank you very much Brian . See you soon pal, we keep in touch.

BT: Byes.


Interview performed by David Doncel and Jose Luis Diez-Chellini
Transcription by Sergio Gorjón and Asier G. Senarriaga

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