"[Frank on the lockdown] A lot of my friends are all kind of saying 'man the very first thing I'm going to do is go to a gig once I'm allowed'"
Some of you may know Frank Turner from his time as vocalist of the Post-Hardcore group Million Dead, for those who don't, Frank Turner is an accomplished singer-songwriter whose music spans across a plethora of music genres but mostly is rooted within the Punk Rock, Folk and Country music genres. He is complemented by his touring family known affectionately as The Sleeping Souls - Ben Lloyd (guitar, mandolin), Tarrant Anderson (bass), Matt Nasir (piano, mandolin) and Nigel Powell (drums). Just last year, Frank Turner released his 8th studio album "No Man's Land" and two weeks ago released his 3rd live album "Live In Newcastle"; released earlier than planned due to COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown.
We spoke to Frank about his latest release, his lockdown experience and guitar building expedition, his passion for Heavy Metal and astonishment at the Syrian Metal band Maysaloon, his beloved and devoted support of independent venues and what tips he can give to musicians or bands looking to make it in the music industry.
As the UK is in lockdown musicians have been streaming performances, you played a benefit gig in aid of supporting the Huddersfield venue The Parish, can you tell us more about that?
"So basically I came home from a tour after playing around the UK; I was on the road when the lockdown kicked in, which sucked as cancelling shows is never a nice thing. So I came home and did a benefit for my touring family; my crew, my band who you know were looking at real financial hardships. It went really well and it was really easy to do, afterwards I was thinking about what else I could do that might be helpful.
So I thought about doing shows for independent venues because I've done lots of work with music venues over many wee places like that over the years; helping out indie venues and they really need help right now. I feel very strongly that I owe these places my depth in gratitude for helping my career, so I started doing them 7 weeks ago and haven't stopped yet because they've been going well."
Speaking of which it's not just COVID-19 impacting venues, but rents, noise complaints etc forcing some to close, so it's now than ever more important to back venues.
"Yeah definitely, I mean I think the fact that organisations like the Music Venue Trust existed before the lockdown goes to show that this is not the only problem facing venues, it's not all about us to run an indie venue and it's not certainly how anyone is going to become a millionaire. I think we have to be careful about talking about positives in regards to coming out of this as people are suffering and dying, you have to recognise that. Nether the less I think one of the potential positive angles about everything that's happening right now is that people really are starting to appreciate how much they miss live music and what it is that live music brings into their lives.
I miss gigs enormously but that's partly because of what I do for a living, but I think a lot of people who I speak to, a lot of my friends are all kind of saying 'man the very first thing I'm going to do is go to a gig once I'm allowed'."
Of course it's not just musicians, but the whole music industry is suffering due to COVID-19, in your opinion where do we go from this?
"Well I mean that's the million dollar question and if I had a short answer to that, I'd place some bets and make a lot of money (laughs). I think the thing is no one knows what's going to happen and at the end of the day I do sort of broadly accept the reasons for us having this lockdown and the medical side, that kind of thing. I'm not like sitting there saying 'there's no such thing as coronavirus, or anything like that', this is a real problem that we all have to deal with. It is a shame given that my career of 20 years has been based around travel and gathering people together and those two things seem to be a bad idea right now.
It's difficult and I suspect that live music is going to be one of the last things that will return to normality; if it ever does return to normality, but honestly I don't know but again I feel like that there's a lot of kind of positive energy right now in the industry. Even from some of the major labels, some of the major corporate promoters, people like that, there has been a sense of 'not being assholes' kind of moment, trying to pull together and trying to sort of maintain the structures that we built throughout all of this; which I think has been interesting and kind of heartening."
During the lockdown musicians have been looking at ways to keep engaged with music, but what other things have you been engaged with?
"Well the first thing this isn't strictly outside of music but it's outside of my usual thing, I've bought a kit off the internet to build a guitar, right, because I thought that would keep me busy. If I'm honest with you (because I thought it wouldn't be that hard), it turns out I'm an asshole and it's really hard and it's going to take me ages. I am working through it, but I was thinking that it might take me a couple of weeks but now it's going to take me f**king months. But you know it turns out that lockdown is going to last for f**king months as well so (laughs) I've got the time.
Other than that I read a lot, generally speaking I've been getting through books which I've been shying away from reading over the years. I'm fortunate enough to have a little root garden so I've made sure I've been doing a bit of gardening as well."
I suppose in a way building a guitar would be similar to the Airfix models you used to get?
"Well I think that was roughly the way I was thinking, that it was going to be something along those lines. But like I said, it turns out you've got to sand, cure, grain and all this kind of stuff. So I'm definitely learning new skills, but it's a lot of work."
Speaking of skills that you learn, what advice could you give to musicians and bands who are just starting out?
"Well I mean it's a difficult time to start right now in terms of the lockdown. Having said that one of the good things the internet has brought to us over the last decade or more is that it puts the power in the hands of the bands much more than it used to be. Much more than when I was starting out in bands when I was a kid, you can make your own luck, it is easier now to record good quality music at home, get it up on streaming services, do live stream shows you can do all of this and make noise.
Beyond that, this is going to make me sound a little old-fashioned so forgive me for that, but there is a large part of me that believes that quality will out, the fact that you can do that if you want to be in a band, make waves and be successful is to be f**king excellent and to be unique, to be different and make a noise that no one else is making - to do it in a way that is original. If you do that then people will find you and will pay attention."
Now you yourself are a Heavy Metal fan correct? Are you surprised about seeing bands emerge from countries like Nepal, Botswana, etc?
"That is correct yes I mean my first love was Iron Maiden.
No not really I think that one of the things that metal has always been is like kind of outsider's music and is kind of fashion-resistant. Part of the things that attracted me to it when I was a kid was the sense of defiance almost, it's like yes I'm a metalhead... f**k everyone (laughs) and obviously people from other parts of the world are opening up, for example a Syrian Metal band (Maysaloon)... I cannot imagine what it's like to play music of any kind let alone metal in Syria, you know hats off to them for it.
It seems to me that metal's attraction is again down to that sense of defiance, that sense of identity against the grain and so on that level no it doesn't surprise me too much."
With that and the whole global pandemic in mind, it makes the love and sharing of music more important than ever.
"Yeah definitely I feel like people are starting to kind of like appreciate it more, now on the level of gigs I was chatting to a friend of mine the other day and he said that 'a couple of weeks before the lockdown kicked in, someone invited him to go to a gig and he didn't go because he said he was tired from working and couldn't be asked, and he said right now I will literally go and see any band, any f**king band', he was like dying for it. But I think that people are getting a sense of appreciation."
Musicians have all kinds of influences from in and outside of music, what influences do you take in creating your music?
"It's mostly purely music, the external thing for me would be that i read quite a lot of poetry and I emphatically believe that lyric writing and poetry are two separate things; they're not the same thing. I'm slightly scared of poetry writing, in the sense that you don't have the structure of the music to back it up... how the f**k do you do that?
A lot of the influences on my work come from other lyricists, whether it's John K Sampson, Nick Cave, Adam Duritz or whomever, but mostly within that I try to be as broad as I can; I always have my go tos from Hardcore music, Country and Folk music, those are my two kind of main repertoires of inspiration shall we say. I like to try new things, I try to challenge myself particularly as I go through my career and I do album after album; trying not to repeat myself, but for example when I did "Be More Kind" I went through a big phase of listening to Afrobeat and Ska stuff, not because I was trying to make an Afrobeat record but more so trying to push myself outwards in my sound."
You released your 'Live In Newcastle' album on 24th April, what was the reception like?
"Yeah It's been great and it was entirely different approach to a show, we were trying to do something different, it was a secret show which was weird and new for us. Me and my family usually have a more of a Punk Rock approach to a show, but now suddenly it was a sit-down show and with this it is something we've never done before; it was kind of a one-off, this isn't now how I am going to tour forever, it was just an experiment and that's why we captured and recorded the tour.
We practised and recorded it and I think the plan was to put it out at the end of this year, maybe at the start of 2021... but then the pandemic set it and so we thought f**k it why not get it out there. The one thing I'd have to say about that though, is that there is a level of which I quote 'mixing the record and then like releasing it', it's ever so slightly emotionally mixed where it leads to a point where you suddenly go 'I remember gigs, like gigs were great'. It's lovely to hear a room full of people enjoying the show and at the same time it reminds you that you're currently not doing that."
Have you got any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, family, fans, etc?
"I'd like to say thank you to everyone who's been tuning in for the live streams, we've been raising serious amounts of money every week for independent venues that I love. I know I'm the one sitting there playing the guitar, but it's the people who are tuning in, making the donations which is an incredible thing - to see people rising up week after week making donations to a cause like that'; I'm incredible blown away and grateful for it so big up for everyone who contributed to the live shows."
"Live In Newcastle" is out now via Xtra Mile Recordings / Polydor Records
"Em and Jack really made sure they’re parts complimented our sound and who Milk Teeth are live"
Steadily they have arisen from the underbellies of the English rock underground and thus henceforth arrive boldly having delivered their second album back in March, say hello to Stroud-natives Milk Teeth. The punk rock trio have in the past 7 years signed with some of the biggest labels on the planet: Roadrunner Records, Hopeless Records and now Music For Nations. Vocalist and bassist Becky Blomfield spoke to GMA about the state of the Punk Rock scene, what plans Milk Teeth COVID-19 depending and the beauty of the vinyl revival.
Guys would you say that Punk Rock over the past few years is seeing a huge resurgence in the UK? How did you get into Punk Rock?
"I think punk always exists in the background and underground scenes, I actually think there will be a more prominent rise in punk at the forefront again in light of so much anger caused by the Government lately and the circumstances surrounding COVID-19.
I got into Punk Rock as a teenager - I found bands like Operation Ivy, Alkaline Trio, early Green Day, The Ramones etc and was hooked."
You released your second album back in late March, what was the reception like given the circumstances we are faced with?
"It’s been so positive! I think it was so important not to hold the date back for release. What time is better to give people music and escape than in a global pandemic."
How did it feel signing for Music For Nations and was it a rocky journey signing with 3 labels over a 4-5 year period?
"I feel like I’m used to large amounts of instability in my work and personal life so have almost come to expect things to go wrong before they go right. It’s been positive signing to someone new and we are grateful they have championed the record and music we are making. I think a lot of labels aren’t sure what to do with us."
What would your favourite tracks from the new album be? What did you do differently with this album compared to 'Vile Child'?
"My favourite tracks are “Smoke”, “Better” and “Wannabe”. Vile Child was written as the original line-up - a lots changed and it’s given me so much to write about. I think this self titled record brings my writing to the forth front more than it ever has been, we stuck with a stripped back approach to production and Em and Jack really made sure they’re parts complimented our sound and who Milk Teeth are live."
Your album was released on both black and orange splatter vinyl, you must be excited to see that?
"It’s always crazy to see your own record exists physically. I don’t really associate it with me there’s “band Becky” and “regular Becky”. I’m stoked it’s out - I feel especially proud of this album."
Outside of music do you have any other hobbies / interests?
"I love working out and hiking - lately I’ve enjoyed trying boxing style workouts. I love reading, am getting into gardening and am hoping to do some more craft based courses in either ceramics or silversmithing."
What plans do you have for the rest of the year when everything gets back to normal?
"Everything’s uncertain right now, when we know what we are doing, the fans will be the first to know."
Are there any greetings / thanks you wish to send out?
"I want to thank all frontline workers looking after us all right now whether it’s in the supermarkets, collecting the bins, caring in residential homes or hospitals etc you are literally keeping the world spinning on its axis right now and there aren’t enough ways to tell you thank you."
Based in Chelmsford, the only city in Essex is alternative rockers Lemoncurd Kids. Their unique sense of fashion does not detract the focus from their musical brilliance and to prove they should not be taken lightly, the quartet have delivered their second album "Consequence Of Doubt". To show that there are consequences should you doubt this band's musical arsenal, the guys discussed the new album, their back-story and their place within the Essex rock scene.
"The problem in the [Essex] music scene is getting people to shows and keeping venues alive"
For those who have not heard of Lemoncurd Kids, could you give us a brief history of the band, the meaning behind the name and how you all became musicians?; was you in previous bands? Was it hard to obtain your signature outfits?
"Lemoncurd Kids were born in Winter 2014. Mark was a solo performer under the name of 'The Lemoncurd Kid' and he decided to put a band together for a charity show, so James, Jon and Matt joined him and he has been unable to shake them off ever since. The name comes from Mark’s propensity as a child to smear lemon curd over his face and stick slices of bread to it. He thought ‘The Lemoncurd Sandwich Kid’ was a bit of a mouthful so it was shortened.
We’ve all got a fair bit of band experience so we came into it knowing how a band should work; we function pretty well and have kept disagreements to a minimum.
The cardigans (or ‘Curdigans’, as they’ve become known) were purchased online from an American label called ‘2/men’ - I would guess they’re discontinued now. Also in the line-up is the burgundy cardigan - the ‘Burdigan’, and the lesser-spotted lemon corduroy trousers - the ‘Curduroys’. When we’re not naming our clothes, we sometimes make music."
Back in December, you released your music video and single 'Tick Tock', could you explain the meaning behind the title, what the video is meant to portray and where inspirations came from? What was the reception like?
"I guess the whole feel of the song is a message. A reminder to really live in the present, look around you, take it all in and appreciate all the little things that we take for granted in everyday life. In the video you see us connecting musically with each other through some strange scientific experiment. Take time every now and then to stop, put your phone down and really have a moment of peace. Social media and the instant gratification culture that we live in is screwing with people's mental health. The track had an amazing response and has become a firm favourite for people at our shows."
Regarding the video, is it true you made the hats yourself? How long did they take to make and did you have any inspiration to go by?
"James had the initial idea for the hats; I think his inspiration cams from an 80’s film, maybe ‘Ghostbusters’ or something, and he created his for a fancy dress party a year or so ago. It was a good look so we all had a go at making our own and personalising them in some way. Apart from Matt, who is inept and cannot operate a glue-gun without adult supervision so he got his friend Tom to do it for him."
What is the Essex rock scene like right now? Is it going strong? What could (or should) change in your opinion?
"The Essex music scene, in terms of the music itself, seems to be in rude health. Here in Chelmsford the established acts are putting out really strong efforts, and up and coming bands like Children Of The Fuzz are getting the recognition they deserve. Further afield, Shooty & The Bang Bang released an absolute banger of an album last year and we really have to be on our toes when we’re on the same bill. We’ve been lucky to play with some truly great talents. The problem in the music scene is getting people to shows and keeping venues alive - we lost Asylum around 18 months ago and The Square in Harlow went and The Railway in Southend nearly went. It’s a shame but we keep fighting the apathy."
Out of all the gigs you have done, what has been your favourite and why?
"Favourite gig is a hard one; we’ve had some great times and a great crowds but personally I’ll never forget the crowd singing along to ‘Tick Tock’ at a charity gig in January 2019, the song hadn’t been out long but everyone seemed to know it and it’s an undeniably amazing feeling when that happens."
Would you agree that rock music in the UK is on the up again? Or did it never really fade away?
"I think the supposed demise of rock music pre-dates The Beatles, so I’m not too concerned at a national level. The festival scene has diversified, and that’s a good thing, but it’s not unusual to see rock bands headlining here there and everywhere."
With 2019 in full swing, what plans (aside from album promotion) have you got for the year ahead?
"We have two gigs in the diary - June 16th at The United Bretheren in Chelmsford and The Fling Festival on 6th July, also in Chelmsford. We’re planning on making another video. And after that who knows?"
Finally do you have any greetings, thank you's, etc., that you wish to send out to friends, family, fans, etc?
"We’d like to thank everyone who continues to support us. Playing in empty rooms or to disinterested punters is no fun so to all that come to our shows and listen to and like our music - thank you so much. Peace out x"
There are many times when we have watched a film or TV series and have liked certain compositions found within scenes, or parts of the entertainment in question. These are usually ones that stick in our minds as symbolic to the entertainment itself or at other times are due to the compositions being created by well-known composers.
Recently the soundtrack to 'The Crown: Season 2' was released; a epic masterpiece at that, the soundtrack itself devised by critically-acclaimed composers Lorne Balfe and Rupert Gregson-Williams and it is the latter of who Global Mainstream Arts spoke to regarding his involvement in the making of the soundtrack, his working relationship with Adam Sandler, working on 'Wonder Woman' and his passion for horse breeding.
"You don't walk into a room where Adam Sandler is and come out not smiling"
Rupert, what was it like working alongside Lorne Balfe on the soundtrack for 'The Crown: Season 2?
"Wonderful, I've known Lorne for many many years and we're great friends which helps, we have a lot of honesty between us when we're working so, we have a short-hand which we developed over the years. We have done some writing together in the past and I found that Lorne brought a lot of muscle and a different kind of emotion to 'The Crown' that we had before really which really suited the development of the second series."
How did you and Lorne decide on what parts you were going to score? Did you have your minds set on something, or did you flip a coin?
"(laughs), often it would be... towards the end of the process it became obvious who it suited. I would have thought that our strengths were obvious to ourselves, I always thought that I'd do the more sort of emotional things and Lorne would do the more muscular things, but actually the reality was that / is that Lorne who I've known for years is such an amazing composer he's adapted all of it, so no we didn't toss a coin but what we do is we watch the episodes through and if there was a through-line from one of the episodes that had come before i.e. the story of Philip that is continuing, whoever had been telling the story of Philip would probably take those moments and the other would take something else.
It was never an argument and was never a discussion we just... we didn't often carve things up either, often we would work in the room together or we would discuss things and send ideas to each other and the other would finish them off, something like that. It was never difficult and it became very organic by the end of the process in that we kind of knew what would suit either of us and from what we've done before."
Where did you and Lorne score the soundtrack for 'The Crown: Season 2'? Is it tough working in London?
"It was in London, mostly in London... I certainly did it in London and Lorne probably in one or two places I'm sure, but when we were together we were in London.
No no it's not tough, my studio actually isn't in London, it's at my house in the countryside. Back in the day I used to spend a lot of time in Soho where the work was and where the centre of the UK film industry really is, but I don't any more, I work at home and hopefully get the directors or the producers down to my place to review music and that way it doesn't really matter where I am."
How was you approached / hired to score the second season of 'The Crown'?
"While I was doing the first series, Peter Morgan the producer, the writer and the show-runner, he would phone me and talk about a second season and I had a little bit of fun with him, I breed racehorses and of course Elizabeth breeds racehorses too so he'll phone me every now and again and say 'OK what I want to happen is in this scene is, this, this and this, but are there any phrases that somebody who breeds horses would or might say, is there some lingo that I'm missing?' So I'd write a whole bunch of sentences of stuff that they would say and he would maybe steal a passage or a sentence and it would appear in the script, so I already knew I was going to be on board for the second season because Peter and I would already be talking about the development of the character and this horse-breeding that he would ask me for. "
What did you feel emotionally when watching the second series? Did you feel related to the characters?
"I found my respect for Elizabeth as a character and as a person has just grown and grown, just knowing that the job that she's undertaken since she took 'The Crown'. I mean I loved the characters, I was sorry to lose Winston Churchill obviously, he was just the most amazing character to score, but there were some interesting characters that we had in this year... a couple of weak prime ministers that were interesting in that they caused political problems or deal with political problems as well as Winston might have done and so they were very interesting. The family though, Philip and Elizabeth, I enjoyed scoring the developments for their character."
How long did the overall scoring take to complete?
"We probably did it over the course of around 4-5 months, quite a long time but it takes a while because the directors tend to do two episodes each and you spend 2-3 weeks on each of those, and then the next two come along and sometimes they're on top of each other which can make it hard."
Upon scoring the soundtrack for the second series, was there any character(s) you found particularly challenging to write music for?
"Well, Philip was a character who had sort of developed since the first series and we found it hard... I found it hard to try and tread a line with him where we still... I find him an interesting character because he had a tough time with finding his role in the Royal family and musically I wanted to... I didn't just want him to come across as a hard man who is difficult with his son; I didn't think he was that sort of person I think he had a very hard role. So yes Philip I found the most tricky and Lorne probably not, Lorne was a really good help in finding the characters themes, finding Philip's theme."
Which scene and musical score from 'The Crown: Season 2' is your favourite?
"I can't remember the title of the piece of music but I can tell you the scene it's in, it's when Elizabeth gives her first television speech to the nation at Christmas and there's a lot of things going on in Elizabeth's head at that point. She has chosen to do the speech but she doesn't really want to do it, she's been forced into a situation where she has to, and I enjoyed writing it, I like getting inside her head and I thought that specific episode was wonderfully directed and I enjoyed it a lot. I felt the music worked and it felt good to me at the time."
When you scored a piece, did you think to yourself that you could better it or adapt it?
"Writing music is just non-stop, you're always judging it and are always trying to create something, you know the best you can. This was no different from 'The Crown', I always try to find the best route into the story and with television it's so hard because there's so much music to be written... so there's that as well, you know if you're writing five hours of music or something for a series, and you're trying to make every single moment the best it can, it can be tough sometimes and that's why working with somebody else like Lorne really helps, it gets somebody else's perspective on it and also half the workload of actually creating the notes if you like."
Digressing away from 'The Crown S2', you've worked and have a long-partnership with the actor Adam Sandler, could you enlighten us on that?
"I do, I've done loads of films I can't count how many films I've done with Adam and he is a good friend, we play in a band together so we know each other socially and I love working with him, I mean he is just... what you see in his movies is how Adam is in life, he's sharp, he's quick and he is not pretentious at all. He's just having fun and trying to do the best he can with the material he has got and he has a lot of fun doing it, and he is very loyal to me which I appreciate and always have appreciated, he's always asked me back to do his movies and we have a lot of fun.
If you're having a downer, he certainly brightens the day up... you don't walk into a room where Adam Sandler is and come out not smiling, you know he's in the room too I mean he doesn't sit in the room quietly. He's great fun and like I say he's very loyal and is a family man so we have some things in common like family and what have you, which we find as important if not more important than anything that we do and Adam gets that, he tends to surround himself with people who have similar values."
How did you get into composing; at what point did you want to get into it? Was it a childhood ambition?
"I would love movies, but when I was young as an early teenager I just wanted to be in a band like Pink Floyd, Genesis, I wanted to be able to play the keyboards like the keyboardist in the Frank Zappa band and I didn't actually discover that I could make a living out of TV or movies until I was in my early 20's because I was so focused on playing in a band, so I've been in bands all over the UK, trying to make that work and it didn't really. Then I met someone who is working in TV and my love for movies has never waned, I always loved it but I didn't realize that it could be something that I could be good at until I was in my 20's and also the dream of being a rock-star probably waned at that point as I grew up.
And what of the band Adam and yourself are in? Could you elaborate on that please?
"We play a couple of times a year at a function like an awards show or a party, he sings and plays the guitar, I play keyboards and we've got a lot of other friends who play in the band too and we get guest artists in. One year we had Slash playing guitar with us and Fergie singing, Blondie comes on and does some numbers with us, it's crazy but great fun so. It's not a regular thing, we don't have band practice, we don't have the time for that but we know we've got a gig coming up lets say in December and then we'll start rehearsing a couple times a week for a month beforehand and then we'll go out and do a whole bunch of numbers with a bunch of people; band name? I guess it's called the Sandler band, I don't know (laughs)"
It seems that people in Hollywood certainly have a hobby for down-time, surely this is vastly important?
"Well yeah it doesn't surprise me that some of these guys are either musicians or they're artists just because of the artistic nature in being an actor, director, composer, or whatever. For me breeding horses couldn't be more different than composing or the pressures of composing, and that's somewhere I get some relief from the pressures of work or get some contrast in my life. I think it's important for everybody to get some contrast in their life, well it's important for me anyway not necessarily important for everybody. Jim Carrey, the most amazing actor and comedian is just as incredibly good at art which doesn't surprise me that he's an artist, just because of his genes."
You've also done the scoring for the blockbuster "Wonder Woman", what was that like working on?
"That was like nothing else that I've been involved in or written the score for, it was an enormous undertaking, it was wonderful working with Patty Jenkins who is a great director and is full of passion. The biggest logistical thing for me was the amount of music that had to be written, but also there is a lot of effects-driven action in the movie and of course that doesn't get finished till quite close to where I was scoring. So that was tricky and quite a lot of the action music which inherently had more notes than anything else had to be written quite close to where I was going to record it, so that was hard logistically but it was great fun and like I said Patty was lovely to work with."
As a composer do you find it challenging to undertake different project styles e.g. 'Paul Blart' (comedy), Postman Pat (animation), etc?
"Yeah I do, every project has it's own challenges and when I've got a blank slate or I'm right at the beginning of a project, I do worry that I'm not going to be able to find the voice of the film and boy, nothing is easy and even if it's a comedy I find comedies difficult if not more difficult than a drama or something that has an epic tale to it, or a big romantic arch... comedies can be really, really hard. So yeah I struggle and that probably is a good thing because it means that I really have to think carefully before I start on writing my scenes or the angle I'm going to try and take with the movie. Some movies you have longer to sort of talk to yourself over, you know you come on late for whatever reason and you don't have long to score them... I've done a couple of those and they've actually been hard because you have to write a lot of music in a short amount of time, but I found them easier to find the voice because you haven't got the time you commit to, you go with your instincts and often your instincts can be right sometimes early on"
Is there a 'friendly brotherhood' between yourself and Harry? Not rivalry-like almost banter?
"We've never really gone into competition over the same movie as far as I know, he's always been my big brother so he was on the patch first as it were. What we do share is, I mean there's no one in the world who could empathize more to how it feels to be a composer and the pressures that happen, and the deadlines one has to reach... there's no one who can appreciate it more really than having a brother who does it. We do share that so, when we're having good time we share those moments and when the pressure is on and there's a lot to write or haven't quite found the sound of the film, it's nice to be able to pick up the phone and be a brother and talk about it; we both do that. Whenever I visit Harry he always plays me what he's doing and I do similarly when he comes to me, it's great to have somebody who understands what it's like. There's never been any serious rivalry and nothing more so than you expect luckily."
You have studios in both London and Los Angeles, surely it must be stressful travelling to and fro?
"It's stressing on the body and as I get older it's not something I tend to take lightly. I used to just sort of jump between countries and spend two days here and five days there and two days here, but I tend to do things in slightly longer periods now just to recover from jet lag and what have you, but I tend to be where I have to be and actually up until now, in the last two years with 'Tarzan', 'The Crown', 'Wonder Woman', etc they were all shot in the UK and I recorded them in Europe so I was lucky in that way, I could be where home is, home is in the UK so I was lucky. But over the next couple of years it might be that I'll be doing things more USA-centric and that's where I'll go, but yeah I try not to... you got to watch your jet lag especially when you get to my age (laughs)"
And so what projects are you working on at the moment?
"I'm working on a Melissa McCarthy comedy which I believe we are recording in about 4-6 weeks time, I've just started on 'Aquaman' for DC / Warner Bros which is very exciting."
It's always imperative that upcoming musicians from the grass roots background should receive attention and endless coverage to help push their career forwards. Specifically focusing on rap music, a more or less male-dominated genre, things recently have began to change for the better with more and more females taking up the MC and laying down their own songs to challenge the guys in their own ball park. One such female rapper is Cianna Blaze, whose gritty, smooth yet punchy sound is set to shake the very foundations of the rap music world.
Check out here debut EP "Get Mine" below:-
Global Mainstream Arts sat down with her to discuss ambitions, gender equality in rap music and of course her debut EP.
"I do also feel that there is pressure on females to be sexier with it (rap music) too"
Hi Cianna, firstly how did you get into rap music? Who inspired you growing up and at what point did you want to become a rap artist?
"I've been an Emcee (MC - Master of Ceremonies)) from my early teenage years, all of my friends were guys at the time and they all emceed, so I initially tried it more to fit in but grew to love it and couldn't stop! "
What do your parents think of your music?
"Mum calls it noise lol"
Do you feel that rap music carries certain stigma's with it? How would you address the criticisms of the genre? What do you think of rap rock / metal?
"I think when being a rapper people automatically stick you in a box, they pigeon-hole you; you are either hip-hop or grime and that's it! My sound is much more alternative, although there are certainly influences from both genres."
What was it like working with Maxim from The Prodigy? He must be a laid back yet creative guy.
"Yeah he is dope, touring on his DJ sets was such a 'once in a lifetime experience'!"
How did you come up with the inspiration for the song 'Booty Like Nicki'? There surely must be a story behind it?
"When I go to the gym and I see girls with wicked asses, I can't lie it makes me sad because I want a bum like that! That's what initially inspired the concept and obviously with a bit of tongue and cheek. Nicki Minaj has the BIG bootay so it felt right to mention her."
You must be excited to be releasing your debut EP "Get Mine"? Will you be touring in support of it?
"I plan to jump on the festivals in the summer for sure! I will be pushing it online via my Spotify @ciannablaze and also my YouTube account which is also /ciannablaze "
With Grime becoming a vastly popular style of rap music, could you inform us what the core differences between rap and grime music are?
"Grime is a British sound and hip-hop is American, the tempos are different and all round styles are fundamentally miles apart! "
Do you feel that female rappers aren't as appreciated as their male counterparts? Is there a stigma towards female rappers?
"I think that the rap scene until recently was very male dominated. With female rappers like Cardi B and Nicki Minaj running the charts it is beginning to change for sure! I do also feel that there is pressure on females to be sexier with it too."
What plans do you have for the year ahead and are there any greetings you wish to send out?
"Lots more recording and releasing, I don't think you can ever have too much music! Lots of touring and more videos, a new year but the work continues!"
If you haven't seen 'Early Man' already, you really should go and see it, not only is it Nick Park's latest masterpiece but it has been beautifully and thrillingly charged by Harry Gregson-Williams's scoring wizardry. Born in Sussex, Harry now resides in Los Angeles and whilst you might think it's all golden sands, glamour and the luxurious life, Harry delivers the hardening truth... it's not, it's hard graft, the returns are worth it if you are dedicated to it.
Global Mainstream Arts managed to speak to the legend himself of whom has scored for the likes of Shrek, Antz, 'Spy Kids', 'Chicken Run' and various other big-hit films, not to mention networking with the Ridley brothers, Hans Zimmer and having his moment of potential glory snatched from him (winning an award and giving Bjork a peck).
Read how he got into composing, his groundbreaking achievement with DreamWorks, his latest scoring for 'Early Man' and interesting invitation to score for Metal Gear and Call Of Duty.
"(Early Man) is a bit of a David & Goliath story, that the little guy can win"
Hi Harry, what was it that made you take up music, in specific composing?
"Well it started with two different things for me, I took up music when I was probably around the age of 4. I'm one of five children and my dad and my mum were very keen that we all played instruments; my dad's dream was to live in some gamekeeper's cottage in West Sussex, where there wasn't any electricity and what we did for fun was play music and climb trees (not necessarily in that order altogether), so it was a magical upbringing really; my brothers and sisters we all play music.
When I was about 6 or 7 I was packed off to a specialist music boarding school in Cambridge... I guess I could read music better than I could words (English) by the time I was 6 or 7, so yeah music was always coursing through my veins and actually I went into teaching music but after that I had no idea what I was going to do because I wasn't going to be a world-leading pianist; I studied all sorts of music but I hadn't studied compositions (you might be forgiven for saying "you should have done" (laughs)). But I went into teaching, I thought I had such a brilliant music education myself and that I was really set to be able to pass that on onto kids; actually mainly sort of grubby-little boys (like I was), because I went to a boys school and I felt that I kind of knew what they wanted because it only seemed like yesterday that I was one of them.
But I did that for years and it was quite a lot later, I was in my early 30's I suppose when I met Hans Zimmer quite by chance in London one summer in 1994 (I think) and what he was doing just blew my mind. He has all these twinkling lights, samplers, synthesizers and he was creating these sound collages... I couldn't believe it, he could see I was really interested and we got on like a 'house on fire' (he came into London from Los Angeles, and went to the studio I was working at) and he said "come on why don't you try compositions, you should do a composition for a film", so yeah that's where my path really began. I pretty much dumped everything I had going back in London and got a one-way ticket (which you could do in those days pre-9/11) and kind of lived on a visa-waiver; where you could waive all your rights to actually be in the country, when I was supposed to be on holiday.
I wasn't eligible to work in Los Angeles, but back then if you came clean and presented yourself to the Authorities... they were going to find you and said 'well what's the point, you shouldn't be here', 'you should have a Visa' so I said 'OK, can I have one?' and so they gave me one and that led to a green card and actually many years later I had to give up my British citizenship to be there. It was an excellent situation back then, no idea what it is like now I'd imagine it's a lot tighter and more difficult, but back then you couldn't get a work visa unless you worked.
It was a weird situation, I went into and saw the authorities and said "I have been here on a holiday visa and I have to keep going in and out every 3 months". I could just drive down the 405 which is a free-way that goes to the south of Los Angeles down to a really nasty place called Tijuana which is on the border of Mexico. All these signs saying 'You are leaving the United States, be aware you are leaving the United States' and when you cross over it's a pretty nasty drug-ridden town, pick up a couple of sleeping pills, turn around and come back.
But regarding my music education I had at St.John's College, Cambridge, I was there from when I was 6 to 13 and that set me in good stead because I had such a solid musical education. I knew about harmonies, I had studied composition but in all of the years of my teaching I actually realized I had been composing all this time.
I learned so much from Hans in the early days, when I was his assistant and sitting in the room with him watching him battling it out with I don't know, Dreamworks Animation, Disney; he did 'The Lion King' and just being a fly on the wall being in a room where it was all going down, no one was really looking at me I was just the guy at the back of the room, but then at some stage I put myself up to the front of the room and see what happened; I guess after a couple of years I got some confidence and had to start at the bottom, I couldn't just start working on films, I mean I have been working on half his films with him, these were $100 million dollar films and were winning Oscar nominations and stuff, but I wasn't going to start at that level; I started doing films you probably have never heard of, little Indie films that paid just enough to be able to make them work and hire a couple of musicians, but there was no Abbey Studios one... I was saying to myself 'you better be ready when that opportunity comes, because it will come to you', but it's no good coming to you if you're not prepared to grab it and throttle it; lot of hard work, heartache, a lot of failure to begin with.
I was around at the time when DreamWorks was formed (by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen) and one of the first animation films they set about doing was a computer-generated animation; which was the first one of it's kind, was a movie called 'Antz' and I guess this was probably around 3 years after I arrived in L.A..
Hans entered the room and told me that Jeffrey Katzenberg wants me to do this movie 'Antz' featuring Woody Allen and Sharon Stone, it's going to be amazing it's all done by computers... so I said 'only for you Hans'... he replied with 'nah nah nah I'm not going to do it, you can do it' so I was like 'oh, ah Ok'. So 'Antz' led to 'Chicken Run' which led me to Aardman, and 'Chicken Run' led me to 'Shrek' and I don't know maybe a decade of Shrek, four feature films, various TV specials; a Halloween one called 'Scared Shrekless', a Christmas one called 'Shrek The Halls' (laughs), a theme park ride based on Shrek underneath the London Eye.
I had a decade of non-stop work on Shrek, which led me on to do 'Flushed Away', lots of other movies and simultaneously I was fortunate enough to meet the Scott brothers... so rather than being typecast as an animation guy, having met Tony Scott (Ridley's younger brother) through Hans, he asked me to do this movie with Will Smith and Gene Hackman called 'Enemy Of The State', and from there I did 'Spy Game', 'The Hire', 'Domino', 'Déjà Vu', then I did 'The Taking of Pelham 123' and then it went on and on, I did all of Tony's films from 1996 till the year he died; sadly took his own life about four years ago.
People ask me 'how do you make a dent in Hollywood?', it's all about relationships... you meet one person and do a good job for them, they''ll probably want you to do another job and they'll probably have a friend who asks 'who did that?'. It's a complete fallacy when people think of Hollywood personnel sunning themselves by the swimming pool, this is not true, the people who are doing well are busting their asses, really working hard at it.
I was so lucky that I got to do 'Chicken Run' and I had such a great experience, not only with Nick Park but the whole team there, Peter Lord (Nick Park's partner), we got on so well and from that I asked to do 'Flushed Away', which led to 'Arthur Christmas' and then 'Early Man'. I was quite busy finishing another film at the time of being asked about 'Early Man', a Warner Bros. film coming out this Summer called 'The Meg' (starring Jason Statham) and I was a bit nervous about whether I could pull it off because the timing was quite short and I suggested to them that a young composer I've tried to champion, a mate of mine who has only been over here for 3 years and he is a good composer, his name is Tom Howe.
They asked who he was, they had to google him (I've been living under a rock, no idea what's going on British TV), he has the theme tune to only the most popular English cooking programme called 'The Great British Bake Off'. They agreed to that and we'd split the work so I'd write the theme tune and I'd make sure that Tom stayed on the straight and narrow and we got through it. We went over in October, November last year, spent a week at Abbey Road which was a great thrill for him and recorded a symphony orchestra, multiple strange instruments, quirky colourful instrumentations to go with the quirky, colourful characters on screen and a big choir, and yeah that's it."
Naturally composers watch the film production to gather ideas for the score, however did you take any inspiration from Nick Park's other works, e.g. Wallace & Gromit, Chicken Run?
"No not really, because when I already started 'Chicken Run', the producer said 'look, listen, we've got these clay chickens on screen for 90 minutes, what we have to do is forget that and score the characters on-screen, put away the fact that they are clay chickens, think of this movie as more of an animation and the music should attract that emotional journey', looking at 'Early Man' and the first character, it already told me what I needed to know, it's about this pre-historic tribe of people led by Dug; Dug is our main character and a slight anti-hero, in that he lives with too much confidence in his actions to begin with so musically we needed to give him an emotional arch that where the film starts he is just a regular joke inside the tribe, but by the end when the film finishes he's stepped up and built some courage and his dreams have come true; win a soccer match, win a football match that allows him to keep the ground the tribe occupy at the beginning of the film."
It's not just film that you've scored music for, what is it like to be involved in the Metal Gear Solid and Call Of Duty gaming franchise?
"Well, I have five children and well my eldest son is now 17 and started playing video games a few years ago I suppose, he was like 'come on dad when the hell are you going to do one [score a game]', I mean way back in the mid 90's I received a curious letter from Hideo Kojima, the creative force behind the Metal Gear games; did not know what it was at the time, they were going to do a follow-up called 'Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake' and was asking if i could consider scoring for the game. But you know, flattery will get you anywhere and (laughs) he said that he 'listened to some of my film scores and he wanted his game to sound like that, I want it to sound cinematic'.
Now back then film composers weren't really doing video games, there were a whole different set of composers knocking out video games; I think I was one of the first film composers to score for a game to give it a cinematic feeling and done this by treating it like a film. I couldn't have messed up too badly as he asked me to do the subsequent Metal Gear releases (3, 4, 5, etc) and along the way, the Activision people called me up to see if I would do 'Call Of Duty'; but it was around that time I realized I didn't have a lot of interest in scoring for games and I told them that, that I think you've got the wrong guy and wasn't sure that I could do 'Call Of Duty' as much as I admire it.
So they suggested splitting it up and letting me do a lot of the multiplayer stuff and a lot of the music that will be heard in the game that's very important to some of the cut scenes, that isn't going to be accompanied by any gunfire or anything like that and we'll get someone else to cover all the other stuff, so I agreed that was perfect, because to do a video game you're looking down the barrel; there's a lot of music involved, maybe like two-film score's worth of music, I didn't really have the time or the inclination to do that with 'Call of Duty', but they were imaginative enough to say 'OK let's try to balance it by giving you 30-40 minutes worth of music and the bits we really care about sounding cinematic and have someone else look after the rest of it'.
Whenever you're nominated for a BAFTA, Golden Globe or Grammy, do you get anxious at all?
"Oh no, you can tell because I didn't win a Golden Globe, I didn't win a Grammy and I didn't win a BAFTA, but of course it's nice to be nominated and go along to the party and of course you're going to hope that you're going to win, but look the year I was nominated for a Golden Globe, John Williams was nominated for two Golden Globes, you know in my category the name John Williams was there twice! (laughs) Now if you're up against him once, I don't think you're going to win but if you've got him twice in your bloody category... yeah I went that evening thinking 'You know what? I'm just going to have a glass of wine, I'm not going to have to make a speech yeah?' (laughs). But it's definitely one of the best parties I know of. The Oscars apparently you sit in a cinema-type of situation, you know it's long... the Golden Globes though are a dinner party and you can table hop with everybody in-between awards and stuff... that was fun.
The Grammy's? Again, I think I was nominated for 'The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe' and that year John Williams won it for whatever he won the Grammy for (I can't remember the film). But those things are very fun and don't mean much, but if the party's good then everyone is happy"
Oh and I was nominated for a BAFTA for 'Shrek' and they very kindly flew me back to London from Los Angeles, put me in some posh hotel... when I used to live in London I'd never go to a place like that; I couldn't afford walking into The Dorchester or somewhere like that. So I was like great me and my wife can make a night of it and then it turns out that the person presenting the awards for the Best Score is Bjork; who I happened to have a massive crush on back then, massive crush and loved her music, so I was like 'Oh come on, I've got to win this, I've GOT to win this' so I can go up on stage and give her a peck, but no I can't remember who won that year, somebody else, but that was fun too"
Regarding 'Early Man', who would your favourite character be? Are there any morals to the story?
"Probably Dug, you know with the shaggy hair and goofy teeth. He gets up and does something good with his life, unlike some of his lazy, dumb tribe mates who do nothing to help the situation, nah he's a worker and finds a way to get where he needs to go.
Well the end of the film where the soccer / football match is, it's between the riff-raff of some ancient tribe, who haven't got any skills, any backing and haven't got any chance really, and a very, very classy, snooty, well-funded, well-dressed, well-groomed team and you'll have to see who wins (the riff-raff do). So maybe it's a bit of a David & Goliath story, that the little guy can win"
What has the reception for the soundtrack been like? How long did it take to score?
"Very well, and the four bands and songs included were received well although I didn't have anything really to do with that, I mean Nick Park sent his choices across for that and I helped him come to a decision on which songs worked best.
Well we would come together almost everyday to discuss what we were doing with certain characters, what score to put to them and probably spent about half the time than you'd normally would like. We probably had about 10 weeks, we'd be more comfortable if we had 3-4 months but we didn't have that"
What scores are you working on currently and what future scores will you be working on, or hope to, that you can reveal? Are there any thanks / greetings you wish to send out?
"I have been asked to do a huge animation, not an animation, a horror which is coming out in August called 'The Meg' which is a Jason Statham movie, a big action movie which was great fun to do. I'm working on 'Penguin' at the moment and there's a big Disney project which although I have been hired, formally hired, however for contractual reasons I am unable to mention it. A bit ridiculous but there you go, 'top secret'... what's the secret? I think people make these things overblown, when you know who the hair / make-up artist is or the gaffer, 'work for hire'.... but it's not 'The Lion King' (laughs)... as much as I'd loved to have scored that one... but as you know Disney are doing a whole host of live-action films that are adapted from their cartoon equivalents... I can tell you it's one of those. But yeah work out which character from Disney it is (laughs).
Well thanks to whomever is reading this, I could say hello to my mum (laughs), she's down in Chichester, probably freezing like the rest of you, my sister and brothers whom are scattered across the UK, that's about it and if Nick Park is reading this... 'this was fun, let's do it again sometime! 'Early Man: 2'... 'Late Man'.
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