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Interview with Andrew Lockington

Versión en español

Andrew Lockington is one of the young composers who have caused a bigger impact in the world of film music in recent times. Born in Canada and pupil of fellow composer Mychael Danna, in the year 2008 he stood out with symphonic scores for the fantasy films Journey to the Center of the Earth and City Of Ember, but has also written music for dramas, romantic comedies or horror films, such as the adrenalitic Skinwalkers.

Andrew was kind enough to chat with us in Ghent, during the Film Festival that is held there in October, having been invited to such event as a nominated composer in the category Discovery of the Year in the 2009 edition of the World Soundtrack Awards. He was also nominated in the same category in last year's Goldspirit Awards.

We hope you enjoy the interview below, which shows the talent and personal qualities of Andrew, to whom we predict a bright future.

Andrew Lockington

BSOSpirit (BS): Good morning. Thanks very much for agreeing on this interview on such a short notice. We are well aware of how busy your schedule is today.

Andrew Lockington (AL): Glad I could make it.

BS: Is this your first time in Ghent? How do you like it?

AL:Ghent 2009 Yes, it's my very first time. I had certainly heard from many people how beautiful it is... Ghent had always been described as a fairy tale land and, well, it is indeed! I've been lucky to be here and be able to see it with my own eyes.

BS: What are your feelings about being nominated for tonight's Discovery Award?

AL: Ah! It's a pretty amazing company to be in. For me it is such a huge honor to be nominated, I must say I was surprised and, well, I'm certainly thrilled to be here. You know everyone in here, all the composers like Alexandre Desplat or Marvin Hamlisch are very good people.

BS: Now let us move and talk a little bit about your music.

AL: Sure! Ha, ha, ha.

BS: The very first score of yours that we learnt about was Skinwalkers as it was released on CD. What was your inspiration for that writing that music?

AL:Skinwalkers Skinwalkers is interesting. The director was James Isaac and he had a real horror film background. When I first started talking with him about it, he was really interested in spending time talking about the details of the music. And one of the things I had done at the time when I was working together with Mychael Danna was to do some of research on African music, in particular Senegalese drumming as well as from Ghana. And one of the things I particularly love about this music is how it does throw in the waste all the rules with have in the Western about music. I remember listening to this music and thinking “but where is the downbeat?” And your brain would almost find the meter and then lose it again because it's such an organic resonance as opposed to the metered Western rules.

So, one of the first things I did actually was to write some rhythms and I sent them to a Senegalese drummer who’s actually working at a University in Toronto. And we went into the studio and recorded this drumming. Afterwards I did the same thing with a Japanese ensemble, with a taiko drum and things like that. I first had all the rhythm tracks recorded and from there I wrote the orchestral score, and rather than having play it quick, I had the orchestra playing to the drumming that had all the natural, organic movements.

Thus, it was kind of moving around, I mean I approached it in a rather different way as you can see. And the director loved the idea! Actually, it was pretty funny because he absolutely liked the idea of anything organic. So, as soon as he saw all this big drums coming he was thrilled. That was surely a fun score to do.

BS: Let us move to Journey to the Centre of the Earth which we think is a very powerful score.

AL: That was also a fun film to do because the director, Eric Brevig, had previously worked with George Lucas as a special effects guy. He had worked on a number of films with people like Michael Bay and others. You know all these people, these directors and producers were the people whose films I had grown up watching like, Indiana Jones, etc. These were the kind of films that I discovered film music with. Journey to the Centre of EarthSo, when he came up to me saying that he wanted a score with a theme that people could remember, in a fashion that was clearly heroic and giving me the freedom to go back and write in the style of the 80's, it was just great! He was very supportive and encouraged me to, literally, “be brave and bold, and not to be afraid to pay homage to all these great composers.” And this so because the movie was exactly that, a film that pays homage to these old adventure films. So, it was fun to be given license. I certainly like to write music like that, plus it was surely appropriate for such a film.

You know, now that you mention it, I do remember a funny story about the recording sessions to this film. We did those at Air Studios in London, and one day there was a fire across the street, so the fireman came and shut the power off in the entire block. At Air they do have a back-up generator which can run the studio but not the lighting nor the AC. So, we had to continue but they had to bring in lamps into the main hall because it was really dark. Indeed, it was so dark that the players had a hard time in seeing the conductor.

What’s ironic is that the cues we were recording were those from the film when they go down the cave. As you can imagine the players were joking with things like: “This is not true, there's no power outage. You are just doing this to get us in the mood.” And ironically, as soon as the session was over the firemen turned the power back on!

BS: Would you like to have a chance to score more movies in this fashion?

AL: Andrew LockingtonAbsolutely! Indeed they are talking about a sequel to that movie, and I'm currently discussing ideas with the director. It will be fun to go back to those themes and explore some new avenues as well. You know, this is one of the great things of being a film composer.

When I was a kid, I often wrote music in the piano and every time I was doing this, my mother used to redecorate, I mean she moved around the candles in the house. It gives you new ideas just by looking from a different window.

And films are exactly like that, you feel as if you were looking through a different window each time. Each film is a different window, and so it permeates a different creative part of your brain each time.

One of the things I'm lucky of is the fact that I've had the opportunity to work on so many different films. I've worked on romantic comedies, on films for kids, horror movies, adventure films, dramas... I just did a movie with Halle Berry and Stellan Skarsgard called Frankie and Alice which is very dramatic.

So, I would say I love diversity, working on different genres and not just being a horror composer or an adventure composer. I think if I can keep that up in my career this will keep it interesting.

BS: Do you find it easy to have your scores released on CD? It seems there's more and more of your music coming out these days.

AL: Skinwalkers had a very nice following and so, it sold out pretty quickly. Thus, after that we have more people kind of expressing their interest in my work and trying to make my music available for a wider audience. It's very nice to have a following and people who actually have a chance to hear your music on CD like that.

As a composer... you know, recently I wrote a suite to Journey which has been played by a couple of orchestras and which I'm now thinking of introducing in the States. The strange thing for me now as a composer is when you think that by working on films you get to write music that is actually only played once at the recording and that's it! Obviously when you watch the movie you get to hear it, but it's a whole different experience than a live performance. The latter brings your music to the forefront, and it's nice to appreciate it this way rather than with all the dialogue and sound effects and that kind of stuff in the movie.

BS: Are there any additional projects on your agenda?

AL: Yeah! I'm working on a new CGI film directed by Eric Brevig for Warner Bros. based on the famous cartoon Yogi Bear. And then on Journey 2. When you work in this business it's always nice to know that you are going to have paychecks at the end of the day, ha, ha.

BS: Going back to your filmography, City of Ember is also another film that stands out on its own. What was it like to work with Gil Kenan on this one?

AL: It was an interesting experience this one, because I was brought in rather late. When I arrived to the production they already had a release date and a recording date for the music just in four weeks time. And when I saw the film, I realized I had to write about 90 minutes of music in that a short time span! So, these were the busiest four weeks in my entire life!

City of EmberNow as regards Gil, he is an amazing guy! It's always such a great pleasure to work with people who are big storytellers, and Gil is one of those. These guys don't focus on the scene from just one viewpoint, they are aware of how much the music can add on to the story. And Fox was so supportive.

It was a fun time to work on this. I'm sure you know what's it like when you get into a project and your whole life is at it: you eat it, you sleep it, you live it. It's a whole different story when you are so much deeply involved in a project for four weeks. This film is very close to my heart though it didn't do well, unfortunately.

BS: What are your film music heroes?

AL: Honestly, I think everyone is fabulous. There are just a few film composers whose style I don't really like too much, but in general there's so much talent out in this world!

I like Mychael Dannas' music because I worked with him a lot, I like also Thomas Newman, Alexandre Desplat...

It's funny, now that I work on films I don't get to listen to film music as much as I did before. I try not even though I enjoy it. When I was growing up, my music that was on CDs was always scores: Shawshank Redemption, John Williams... And now that I work in this business, I listen more to classical music, music from longer before. I don't know why that is. I guess I'm around music so much in my work that I need a break from time to time, ha, ha!

BS: Where are you based?

AL: I live in Toronto, but I often work in Los Angeles and in London. These last four films I did, I scored in London. But Toronto is a great place for music, it's so multicultural that I don't need to travel to Africa or Japan, to name a few places. There are these great music communities just around the corner! You can grab from wherever you want. It's great!

BS: Well, thanks very much for this insightful interview, Andrew.

AL: Thanks to you guys!

Sergio Gorjon, Andrew Lockington y David Saiz

Interview performed by David Saíz and Sergio Gorjón

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