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Interview With Tomandandy -An Interview on "Resident Evil: Afterlife"- October 2010

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"Music to kill the dead"

Behind this name are two musicians called Tom Hajdu and Andy Millburn, specialists in composition and music production for all kind of media. This Canadian and this Texan are best known today for his participation in various films like "The Mothman Prophecies", "Right at Your Door", "The Strangers", "Killing Zoe", or "The Hills Have Eyes." But also showed his skills in advertising, video games, different art concepts and all other multitude of possibilities that able them to develop their musical creations.

Always very close to the world of electronics and ambience sound design, they have been chosen as the new responsible figures to bring the sound for the new series of the "Resident Evil" franchise in film, which was a perfect opportunity to know them in detail and know more of a world not so common among fans of soundtracks. Thus here we leave you with a short interview that we had the chance to have with them

BSOSPIRIT: First of all, thank you for granted us this interview. The first question is an easy one, how did you start to be interested in music for audiovisual media?

TOMANDANDY: We were working on graduate degrees in music at Princeton University and we became fascinated by the powerful ways in which music could inform media and we were interested in exploring the potential of the audiovisual experience

BSOSPIRIT: Checking IMDB, we see that you collaborated in the soundtrack of Oliver Stone films, “JFK”and “Natural Born Killers” with additional music. Are these data correct? What was really your role in these projects?

TOMANDANDY: Yes and yes. We knew one of the film editors for “JFK”and he added our music to the film. In those day phase vocoding was a computationally expensive and rarely heard audio effect and he used some of our phase vocoded music. We met with Oliver Stone during “Natural Born Killers”and created a good amount of music and some of it made it to the final cut of the film.

BSOSPIRIT: Two years later then, you participated in ZooTV in Sydney, showing your versatility. What was your role in this important moment in the career of U2?

TOMANDANDY: That’s true. We met in NYC with the director of the show and he asked us to make some music for the opening of the tour just as the band enters so we made some music that consisted of chopped up and processed Beethoven’s Ninth.

BSOSPIRIT: "Killing Zoe" is now considered a cult film. There was a lot of talent working on it. How did you get to be a part of the project and what memories you have of your work at Roger Avery’s film?

TOMANDANDY: That was a really fun project and in pop culture probably the first ambient music feature film score. It was a wonderful experience working with Roger, he is such a talent. Since then we have worked on all the films he has directed, we have tremendous respect for him and his creative talents.

BSOSPIRIT: During that time you worked a lot on television, for example, "TV Nation" with Michael Moore, "United States of Poetry", "Mr. Stitch" also with Roger Avary or “Shreddin’H2O." What memories you have of that moment in time?

TOMANDANDY: We were busy doing several diverse projects. “US ofP”was the first spoken word program and the CD we made went on to become the first pop culture spoken word CD. Each music track was stylistically different and we shaped the music around each spoken text. “TV Nation”was Michael Moore’s first TV show, we believe, and we had a lot of fun working with him. “Mr Stitch”was a project that Roger did featuring Rutger Hauer, we think it was ahead of its time.

BSOSPIRIT: In 2002, you worked in a movie, we believe marked a starting point in your career, “The Mothman Prophecies” One of your best works, and one of the best elements of the film from Mark Pellington. Do you think of this score as one of your "favourite sons" or is just one more work in your career?

TOMANDANDY: While we had worked with orchestras before for commercials, this was our first chance to work with a large orchestra on a large scale project. We were able to blend noises with the traditional orchestration to produce a novel score.

BSOSPIRIT: The score for this film is certainly a character, sound effects remain a critical element for the public to become involved with at certain times. We assume that to achieve that is not an easy task. How long you had to get these results?

TOMANDANDY: The project took several months and involved a lot of experimentation, the voice of the film emerged over time.

BSOSPIRIT: In 2006 composed the music for one of the best remakes that have ever been done, "The Hills Have Eyes." How did you meet the director, Alexandre Aja?

TOMANDANDY: We were contacted by the producers, Alex was familiar with our previous work and we knew his previous films so we both had something to go on. Creating a post-modern Sergio Leone score was really gratifying.

BSOSPIRIT: It is never easy to stand out musically when composing music for horror films. Anyway it is a genre with which you feel fairly comfortable, or at least that you visit regularly. Do you feel a special love for this genre, or is that film industry only ask you to compose music for horror films?

TOMANDANDY: We really enjoy all genres of film. We are working completing a comedy right now which we are really excited about called “The Details”written and directed by Jacob Estes starring Tobey Maguire, Elizabeth Banks, Laura Linney and Ray Liotta.

BSOSPIRIT: What was your biggest challenge in "The Hills Have Eyes"?

TOMANDANDY: Finding the tone of the film to match the horror but also allowing some humor to emerge at times.

BSOSPIRIT:In "The Covenant" you worked with Renny Harlin. Renny is a director who has worked with a lot of well known film composers (John Debney, Trevor Jones, Trevor Rabin, etc ...) and his movies always seem to have excellent soundtracks. How was your collaboration with the director?

TOMANDANDY: Renny is a really talented director. We really enjoyed working with him: he had a great vision for the score which was to combine electric guitar with orchestral elements.

BSOSPIRIT: Your soundtrack for "The Covenant" is magnificent. One of your best works. With a sound very close to metal music, where the electric guitar played a vital role in moments of action. Is this heavy metal sound something Renny suggested or something you decided yourself to use in the movie?

TOMANDANDY: This was Renny’s idea and we think his vision was great!

BSOSPIRIT: "The Strangers" was the first film by Bryan Bertino. Again, a horror film, with a variety of elements very close to "The Hills Have Eyes." Did have your soundtrack for the film by Alexandre Aja have anything to do, for Bryan calling to do his film?

TOMANDANDY: We can’t remember whether that score informed Bryan to call us but we don’t think those two scores are very similar actually. While they both use orchestra, “The Hills Have Eyes”uses lots of electronics and is a brutally loud score in general. “The Strangers”score consists of a softly played, brittle small ensemble which is very closely recorded: the quiet sounds are loud in the mix but the score in general is tense because it’s rather static. It’s almost as if the music represents the uncomfortable silence of being human in the world. In a sense, silence and pedestrian sounds are considered a part of the score and as musical elements, which is unusual.

BSOSPIRIT: We suppose that "The Good Guy" was like a breath of fresh air among so many fantastic and horror films. You usually do not work for the comic genre. Here you move between the romantic and comic genre. did you feel comfortable working on this movie?

TOMANDANDY: Of course! Over the years we’ve worked on a wide range of emotional material. Crafting music to picture is all about timing and aesthetic choices.

BSOSPIRIT: You are credited as composers of the film adaptation for the video game "Return to Castle Wolfenstein." What state is this production on?

TOMANDANDY: This film is not yet in production.

BSOSPIRIT: How did you get the proposal to participate in the "Resident Evil" saga?

TOMANDANDY: We were approached by the producers who had spoken with Roger Avary. Roger recommended us for the project.

BSOSPIRIT: In preparation for the director Paul W.S. Anderson ... What are the ideas that you began to use as bases for your collaboration?

TOMANDANDY: We studied the films and scores before meeting with Paul but the collaboration began when we met him in person.

BSOSPIRIT: Was there any mention of using bases or elements from any of previous films in the saga?

TOMANDANDY: Paul wanted something entirely new. He wanted to freshen the brand so he wanted no reference to the previous film scores or video game soundtracks. He suggested using no orchestra so that’s where we started and the voice of the film emerged from there.

BSOSPIRIT: Since the series is based on a popular video game series ... there is some reference to it or based some of your ideas in it?


BSOSPIRIT: How was the collaboration and / or participation with Paul WS Anderson with reference to the music for "Reside Evil: Afterlife?

TOMANDANDY: Paul has a very good ear and a strong aesthetic sensibility. When we met him in Los Angeles and he showed us the footage in 3D, we were amazed. We wanted to make music that was as strong as the film he had created.

BSOSPIRIT: What was your main idea for the music and how you develop it in the score?

TOMANDANDY: The main idea was to not use any orchestra in the film; to find a new sound palette for the film score and as a result to refresh the franchise.

BSOSPIRIT: In your previous film collaborations you have always been close to the horror, thriller and action genre... What similarities and differences between those works and "Resident Evil" can you draw?

TOMANDANDY: Actually, there are several projects which are not at all thriller or action or horror. We always try to look at a project strategically: how can we best serve the project? We try to create a sound signature that is particular to each project. While all the projects are visceral, they each sound different.

BSOSPIRIT: Is there any movie or music preference within that genre that served as a base to build ideas or music for "Resident Evil"?

TOMANDANDY: Paul Anderson did not want to hear any orchestra or traditional score sounds so we started from there. From that place we started to find the musical voice of the film.

BSOSPIRIT: It is clear that your music is not a classic film score…you move into a more electronic, industrial, modern sound... did it seems risky to you? ...

TOMANDANDY: No it wasn't risky but we had to focus on production techniques not normally evident in film scores. The music is a score, it is produced like a contemporary CD; listen to the soundtrack CD and see what you think?

BSOSPIRIT: We have the end result already in our screens ... How do you think it works with your music in it? ...

TOMANDANDY: We think the film is very successful! It feels like a fresh updated franchise!

BSOSPIRIT: Any problems of “fighting”between you and the editing or special effects, being this the case of a heavy action-oriented movie?

TOMANDANDY: No, we really respect everyone involved and we try accommodate all the work done
by all the collaborators.

BSOSPIRIT: What part or what elements are the ones you are most proud and happy of in the end result? What will you highlight in your score?

TOMANDANDY: We feel that we were able to create a new voice for the franchise which was our hope. There are several tracks that stand out on the Soundtrack CD, for example, Tokyo, Flying, Binoculars and Axeman.

BSOSPIRIT: Would you dare to continue working on future episodes of the saga?

TOMANDANDY:We would love it if we were invited to participate!

BSOSPIRIT: What would be the idea to develop your music in future installments of the saga?... Toward what areas or style will you go?

TOMANDANDY: That really depends on what direction the film will go, apparently there are rumors that people are submitting ideas online, but we don't know if that is true!

BSOSPIRIT: And now the classic question... what will be your next steps?

TOMANDANDY: We are completing the score for a comedy feature film called "The Details" written and directed by Jacob Estes, starring Tobey Maguire, Elizabeth Banks, Laura Linney and Ray Liotta.

BSOSPIRIT: Please can you say a farewell and a few words for our readers?

TOMANDANDY: Thank you so much for having us, we are grateful for the opportunity and we hope to connect with you again you soon!

Interview by David Doncel and Fernando Fernández.

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