So we totally missed Junkie XL this morning. We were running late, and the tram was undergoing construction, as were the roads we tried to cross. Since they were filming, we sat inside in a cafe at De Brakke Grond, and just sipped coffee and regrouped. However, this somewhat played to our advantage: we got awesome seats for Hans Zimmer., since we walked in about 20 minutes early. Of course, we couldn’t video, as there was a nasty note on the door, blah blah getting kicked out confiscated footage blah.
Now, if you don’t know who he is, you must live in a media-less society, and then you wouldn’t be reading this anyways. The Dark Night. Inception. Gladiator. The freaking Lion King. He’s scored over 100 movies. This blog is going to be a doozy.
He opened his talk stating how much he hated being on stage, to which he said “I can’t let myself be stopped by my fear.” Fair enough. He went on to say that being on stage gave him a welcome solitude. Yay for us being able to catch him even more!
Hans got his start “torturing the piano” at a young age, when his mother eventually encouraged him to get lessons. However, he said that lessons did nothing for helping him get the music out of his head. Instead, he said it only taught him how to perform, which was useless. Music was his outlet, as TV wasn’t allowed in his home (to his parents, TV was the end of civilization as they knew it).
As a young adult, he went from playing in a band on to writing jingles for an ad agency. He loved it because it gave him variety, but also its own set of challenges. He knew it was time to leave advertising when someone asked him with all sincerity “Can you make it sound more like an avocado?”
He says he’s lucky because no one tells him what to do now. Directors come to him for help, as it is his expertise, and directing him is meaningless. They need to trust him to do what he knows. He went on to say that the entire opening sequence of The Lion King was actually reanimated to match his music. This was a movie, he said, that he was even hesitant to do to being with. Disney, he said, had music in every movie with princesses and songs that sounded like broadway musicals. Despite the fact that NOW it is a broadway musical in itself, the majority of the music do not fall into the normal “show tune” genre. He made sure to focus to make sure it broke that mold even before the titles.
When he got to Hollywood, he said it was not the technological wonderland he imagined. Things were written on paper and then tested with the orchestra and the film itself. To everyone, that was very frustrating. To change that, he would create demos with synths and actually get the principal players together and show them over dinner (later, one of the students in the audience remarked that he must have had a lot of fantastic dinners). To compliment his music, he said that director Ridley Scott would join him for dinner and scribble on napkins in return. Still, he noted comically “Say horrible things about Hollywood and I will join you!”
He really hit home when he said “Creative process is started by fear of deadlines.” So true, Hans, so true. I can’t even begin to imagine his fear when he said that he would walk down the street and see movie posters with his name for something he hasn’t even scored yet! Still, getting to the top is not a one person job. He has a whole support team, but in the end, he is the architect of all of the music. He’s the man with the master plan.
Now you might ask, what the heck does any of this have to do with dance music? Well Hans-freaking-Zimmer started out working with synths. He scored the majority of Angels and Demons with fake sampled people, and a large majority of sampled instruments and synths. He’s worked with Junkie XL on movie music, as well as Pharrell, and even Skrillex, and is a huge fan of using it when the opportunity is right. After all, he has to work with the tone of the movie. As he said, certain things sound “horrible with blue.”
As a bit of advice for those that want to produce dance music, and then break into the movie business, he said you have to practice. EVERY. DAY. Write every day, even if it’s not any good. It needs to become a part of your life. You go to bed thinking about music, dream about it, and then think of the same stuff when you wake up. You forget to eat, you miss other important stuff. You must love it with every bit of you. It must become a muscle that you exercise and develop. “I have to write, I have to write,” he said, “I’m just lucky enough that people ask me to.”
“You only have one life. I decided my life was going to be about making music. Or maybe music decided my life was going to be about it.”
His closing, and one of my favorite remarks was this: “I love EDM. It’s collective dreaming. We are all alone in this together.”
Well said, maestro. Well said.
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