Inteview: Frederik Wiedmann
Frederik Wiedmann, composer of such awesome animation scores as “Green Lantern” or “Son of Batman” and of the wonderful “Field of lost shoes” and the recently released “Justice League – Throne of Atlantis” and “Dying of the light” took a little time to chat with me. He recently won a whopping 4 awards at the Soundtrack Geek Awards, including cue of the year for “Storming the hill”.
M: Very nice to finally be talking to you
M: Congratulations on the Soundtrack Geek awards, you dominated!
F: Thank you and I send you congratulations right back for your new baby!
M: Yes it’s amazing, i still don’t realize what’s happening
F: I have a 1 yr old and a 3 yr old and it’s a trip (laughs)
M: So you were happy about the awards, all voted by fans…So it must be good for you.
F: It means so much to me and you know the thing that is dearest to me is that the movies I was nominated for are not very big projects.If you compare them with the competition I was up against, there were those big movies with very big composers that many more people had seen.I don’t even know if the people who voted for me actually saw the movies, they probably just heard the music and I like that the music just speaks for itself without the project being a 100 milions dollar blockbuster. And that really excites me that the fans took a shot at my stuff even though it wasn’t for a super famous very big movie. That’s super nice and very flattering to me.
M: You were featured in many different categories…Which genre is your favorite to write?
F: So far I’ve enjoyed everything I worked on, everything’s been a challenge in a good way but I have to say „Field of lost shoes” was a very unique project to me because it’s something I have not done before.More of a period drama with a sweeping Americana style orchestral score that’s something that was new to me and I had a tremendous time working on that, it was a joy from start to finish and I hope there’ll be more projects like this in the future. I don’t know if you read the liner notes for this project but that kind of score is really what got me in this business in the first place; composers like John Barry and James Horner , people I’ve always admired, especially their work int he 90s. I think there were two scores that resonated with me when I was a teenager: it was James Horner’s „Glory” and John Barry’s „Dances with wolves” I think those two were the igniting scores for me. Getting to do something like that was a dream come true.
M: It was surprising for me to hear such a beautiful score from you after all those animation epic scores you wrote…And you won best cue for „Storming the hill”! I was surprised to see so many people love it as well.
F: Me too. Honestly when you’re up against Hans Zimmer and those guys I have very little hope but it’s nice that there are fans out there who care about the music and not about the scale of the movie…that’s very nice.
M: I imagine for each different score you have to enter a special state of mind. My question is which genre represents you the best as a person? It’s a bit of you in every score.
F: I think it evolves… it’s constantly changing. If you listen to „Field of lost shoes” and you know my previous work you wouldn’t immediately say „Well this sounds just like Freddie’s score” because i hadn’t done anything like it before. So I had to sort of reinvent what I’m usually doing on projects and look through a different perspective. If you look for some kind of consistency I think that’s very much reflected in my animation work, starting from the Green Lantern series and going through the Batman and Justice League movies there’s a certain style that I’ve kind of made my own throughout all those movies that I think you can recognize in these type of projects.
In horror, what I always do is try to find some way to keep things thematic for some degree. It’s always a challenge because people usually look just for scary and creepy but I feel like there’s always room for a thematic material, even if it’s a distorted theme or something very creepy but I think there’s always room to do more then sound design and creepy random sound effects and things like that. So that’s the one thing in common you’ll find in my horror scores.
M: The animation must be fun, that’s how I discovered your music. I mean I was obsessed with Green Lantern when I heard it.
L: Well there’s a lot coming soon animation wise.
M: Your music is rarely quiet, and when it’s quiet it’s scary. When it’s not quiet it’s very loud…is this how you are as a person?
F: That’s funny…I’m actually a very calm person, extremely anti confrontational. It doesn’t reflect me at all, I am very laid back…I wonder what made you say that, because on „Field of lost shoes” there are a lot of intimate and quiet moments. The thing about Green Lantern, that’s probably one that the whole score is rousing, that’s only because I really had to chose from 500+ minutes of television music to figure out what to put on the album and I chose more of the exciting tracks than the low key ones. If you saw the series you’ll notice that there are some intimate moments. Especially the second season has this very intricate love story between this one red lantern who turned good and a robot and it gets very dramatic. On Volume 2 there’s one cue called „A new life” I think and there’s a lot of moments like that where it’s very quiet, very romantic piano strings or a duduk…But to come back to your question, that doesn’t reflect me at all, it’s funny you said that.
M: So there’s way more music from green lantern?
F: Oh yeah. We put out 140 minutes and all together it’s 550 minutes of score.
M: And the others won’t be released?
F: I think for now, no. I mean the show got canceled after the first 24 episodes and I don’t think a lot of people would by an extended release…Maybe in 20 years when it becomes a cult classic. For now I’m just glad that La La Land was able to put out 2 CDs. I think this sums up the cues I was most proud of, I think it’s a good selection.
M: What’s your view on unreleased music or stuff like bootlegs…Because sometimes people want to hear more and they look for every way to get it.
F: It’s a two sided thing for me. I very much appreciate the interest and the fact that people want to hear it even if may not be as popular but I’m very much against bootlegging. I don’t bootleg anything I buy movies, soundtracks, because I am part of the industry and I want to support it in any way I can. I get a lot of emails form fans asking for music for Hellraiser and things like that and It’s tricky because legally I am not allowed to do that. I don’t own the rights to the music. If i own the music 100% then I can do whatever I want, I can give it to fans which i very rarely do and only if I know the person. But the studios own that and I don’t want that stuff to show upon YouTube and get a call from the studio asking what happened.
M: If a studio wanted to release the recording sessions, would you be OK with that? Are you OK with all your music from a project to see the light of day?
F: You know, that’s actually and interesting question. I don’t think I am. I pick very carefully what I want released on a soundtrack and I don’t really know what it’s based on…I guess I must really fully love the score and it should have production value. You know there’s some scores that are done a very low budget and there’s very little live recording done on that and I sometimes feel it’s not the best thing to put out on a high resolution CD; it works in the movie but I want to make sure that what people get to hear isolated, without sound effects and dialogue, is as good as it can possibly be. And if there’s any doubt in me, because maybe it’s done 100% with a synthesizer I usually just keep it in the movie and have people enjoy it like that. I am very picky about what gets released and I really need the soundtracks to have great production quality.
M: Do you listen to movie scores?
F: All the time! I read a John Powell interview the other day and he said „Stop listening to film music for fuck’s sake” and I was like, come on, I like it, why would you say that…I’m one of the people that just absorbs scores all the time. I listen to other stuff as well, this morning I bought the new Bjork album, she’s amazing and a big inspiration for me on my synth work so I definitely listen to a lot of film music. I try to buy everything that comes out that is new and that I’m into so I am a geek too. I started as a film music geek and this hasn’t changed. I have favorite composers and I get excited when they come out with something new.
M: Aha. So who are you favorite composers?
F: I really like Christophe Beck’s work. I already adored him when he did movies like Elektra or The Sentinel which a lot of people didn’t like but I thought were amazing.
M: I loved his work on Buffy the vampire slayer, there was so much emotion in that score. He doesn’t write like that anymore in my opinion…
F: Yeah he’s more action oriented now. I thought Frozen was terrific. And he’s got a whole lot coming up this year
M: Beck is not a name you usually hear on favorites list…
F: I know and a lot of people tell me this. I still think Elektra is one of the most inovative scores I’ve ever heard and it’s still mindblowing to me to this day as it was back then when it came out. I know the movie wasn’t that great but the music changed the way I think about a lot of things, it was really groundbreaking to me. And then I think the next composer that I really like…there’s so many of them but I’m gonna say Alexandre Desplat for sure. He’s got something that I enjoy and listen to a lot…I listen to him a lot with my kids actually, no offense to him but it’s really beautiful thematic stuff that you can listen with your kids, it’s always relaxing, unless you’re listening to Godzilla of course, it never gets too creepy or scary.
M: It gets so in Harry Potter
F: Yes but that’s Harry Potter, I;m talking about dramas like Benjamin Button, or Syriana even. The next one I’m going to mention I think it’s Marco Beltrami because he’s so versatile…he does all kinds of movies and they are all incredible projects like his music for this movie Soul Surfer I thought was beautiful, with the Hawaiian vocals, and then he does these Tommy Lee Jones movies that have a different vibe, then the action stuff, the horror stuff, he’s really good at all of it. Every time he does something you can hear his signatures sound but still it’s fresh and new and innovative and I’m very much a fan.
M: I also found “The homesman” to be very interesting
F: yes. I love it when people think outside the box
M: I guess it motivates you to do the same
M: So from last year, as a fan, which score really impressed you?
F: As a fan, let me think…Homesman is one of them. I did like Steven Price’s „Fury” score, “Interstellar”, I loved the organ, it was clever and very magical. Hans did a great job on that one. And the last one I want to point out is “Maleficent”, that was great. I think James Newton Howard would be on my fourth place as favorite composer.
M: I love his work as well, in fact every week I dedicate a day to posting a review of his work.
F: I’m sure he appreciates it. We find out about these things so I’m sure he’s read something of yours.
M: I know you read some reviews, but do you look for them, are you curious what people write about your music?
F: absolutely. I do enjoy that. Often it’s Beth, my publicist who sends me this stuff. I get emails from her and I read what people have been writing about me. I really enjoy, even if it’s negative I always enjoy finding out what people didn’t like about it. If they say “I didn’t like it” I can’t do anything about it but if they say it’s too monotonous or lacked themes, I want to know. What was really funny about “The damned” I read some reviews where they said it was really creepy but I will not listen to it a second time and I’m like great, it’s kind of what I wanted. It’s funny because it’s a bad thing but they say it for the right reason.
M: So you think other composers like James Newton Howard or Hans Zimmer read reviews?
F: I don’t know Hans personally, I met him once ten years ago and don’t know much about his personality. I can speak from my own experience, I think everybody enjoys fan reactions to their work. They probably get sent emails from the publicists too. Film music is such a niche; we don’t really do it for a broad audience. I mean the people who watch the movie we work on, they go to see the movie, they don’t go to hear the score so we have this core group of film music fans who go and listen t these scores inside out and love them and write about them and I think we cherish that as much as you guys cherish our music. I think it goes both ways. From my personal perspective I can’t thank you guys enough for the support and any click on anything I’ve ever done because it really means people care about it…especially these awards that have been coming, it’s really nice to know that people listen and they like it, it really makes my day. And I like it that people keep an open mind to smaller and more independent productions.
M: I can’t wait for “The dying of the light”, how will that sound?
F: It always depends on the movie. “Dying of the light” is not the kind of movie where you write a score people will be blown away by. It’s not that kind of film. What this is is kind of an intimate personal thriller score. It’s string heavy but you shouldn’t expect an amazing action cue like the ones from Green Lantern that will knock your socks off, it’s not like that. It’s a very personal story of Nicolas Cage’s character going through his decay that really is reflected in the music. It’s more of an intimate score. It has action moments but don’t expect another Bourne score or something like that.
M: You made me even more curious because that’s my kind of score. If I had to choose from Bourne or the recent score for Tokarev, another Nicolas Cage movie, I’d choose the second one.
F: If I had to describe it to you, put a little bit of Syriana, with a little bit of Bourne, with a little bit of Harry Gregson Williams “Déjà vu”. It’s got electronics but very much on the subtle side. I hope you’ll like it. It’s very minimalistic, but it is thematic and it’s got some nice textures.
M: So what else are you working on?
F: The other project that’s coming out is another DC Batman movie called “Batman vs Robin” and that’s a sequel to “Son of Batman”. These movies connect, so the themes reoccur. It’s a continuation of Son of batman with a little bit more darkness. I don’t know if you are familiar with Batman comics but The court of Owls is a big part of this story. They have a nice theme and it’s very creepy.
The other thing I’m working on right now is a TV show for Netflix. It’s a spinoff of Madagascar, a show about the Lemurs, King Julian. He’s getting his own show and we’re doing a few seasons of that and it’s a really funny show and it’s challenging me in a different way because it’s all about the comedy and silliness of it, and I haven’t done something like this. It’s really fun.
M: With all these different styles…Do you have a dream project, something you know you’d love to work on?
F: it’s funny. A couple of years ago someone asked me what was my dream job and I said I wanted to do something with Batman and a year later came the Batman movie and TV series. Then they asked me again and I said I wanted to do a period drama and I got “Field of lost shoes”. So if I put it out there it will kind of happen so what my dreams is right now is to do a family / animation movie. Something like “Up” or “The incredibles”, something Pixar would do. I think I would really enjoy doing that. So we’ll see what happens.
M: I’ll remember that and maybe next time we’ll talk about that….It was great talking to you, thank you very much and I’m really looking forward to your music. We’re waiting for you at the awards of next year.