1) TREVOR, YOU CONDUCT YOUR OWN SCORES AND ALSO POSSESS FORMIDABLE TECHNOLOGY CHOPS. WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE TO ASPIRING COMPOSERS REGARDING BOTH OF THE ABOVE?
Technical skill is fairly vital these days, a lot is asked of the Modern day composer and technology is your friend. I have a strong technical background so is comes fairly easy to me, but I recognize that’s not true for everyone, but you can always hire someone to help get you on your feet if thats what you need. I grew up engineering and producing on SSL’s, NEVE’s and I own a Euphonix System-5, so technology as it pertains to the pursuit of High Fidelity has always been in my blood. But to answer your question for aspiring composers, mastering one sequencing program is vital, think of Cubase or Logic or Digital Performer as learning an instrument. You absolutely want mastery and proficiency of that tool. Conducting your own scores is not vital, but I’m a strong proponent of doing it for several reasons:
#1 Is just the sheer enjoyment of it, you get out of your dark room by yourself and get to be part of the band again which is great.
#2 I also believe if you have enough skill to get the job done, then you are the best person for the job since its you the musicians are there to play for. The audience at the movie theater doesn’t know who conducted your music when they experience it, so in that way again its not “vital”. But making orchestral music is the closest thing to God I’ve ever experienced, musical alchemy so why would not want to be part of it ? And for me the third reason to conduct was a conduit to conducting my music live in concert which I had aspired to do. It also scared the shit out of me at first, which is kind of nice if you know what I mean? Not much scares me anymore, I’ve kind of seen it all, but conducting live is next level action, and it was nice to challenge myself to see if I could do it and I have. My last concert was for 12,000 fans in Krakow Poland, experientially one of the most amazing moments in my career.
2) WHAT WERE SOME VALUABLE LESSONS YOU PICKED
UP WHILE CUTTING YOUR TEETH WITH HANS ZIMMER AND JAMES NEWTON HOWARD?
Very different composer in ethos. I’d admire just about everything about James, as a composer and human being. He was a disciplined writing machine, and worked very hard from 9am to about 6 or 7pm and then went home. Hans would work or socialize until 3 or 4 in the morning most days, and you were expected to stay as long as he did. So I basically got home at 5am everyday for about 5 years straight. Having lived both of those musical lifestyles, I write more like James now. I don’t fuck around in the studio like I used to. My focus is very intense and usually only lasts 8 or 9 hours before it fades, but I’m very productive that way. It works for me.
My time with James was brief, so the lessons I learned were more observational or experiential. Viewing his process from start to finish, from mock up to orchestration to print mastering (which is what I did for him) and then recording with those huge JNH size orchestras at Todd A/O stage. I have such affection for that period in my early days in L.A.
I worked with Hans very closely for years, he wasn’t big on teaching or mentoring, so you again learned by observing him. I would just sit next to him for hours and hours watching him work. He more or less invented the way we all work and mock up orchestral cues with computers. He looked at the MIDI parts in cubase in some kind of Escher like way, the very German side of him came out then, and your sequences were expected to look beautiful. But he also is a great melody writer and always starts with the tune, something that rubbed off on me as well. So those lessons I took with me, I’m pretty good at an orchestral mock up.
3) YOU HAVE COLLABORATED REPEATEDLY WITH THE LIKES OF Jerry Bruckheimer. WHAT MAKES PEOPLE COME BACK TO YOU OVER AND OVER AGAIN. IT’S NOT JUST GREAT MUSIC, RIGHT?
Well it starts with great music, it has to. Striving to make the best goddamn music you can each and every time you sit down is absolutely part of it. They wouldn’t have you back if you music just sucked ! My personal mantra has always been “Take care of the music and the music will take care of you”, so in that way it starts with striving for excellence and finding your own voice as composer. That in itself is an internal uphill challenge in today’s world, but of paramount importance to being asked back to the party.
Having said all that, I have always believed and teach all my assistants this one universal truth, we are in the service business more than the music business. It may seem cynical but its not meant to read that way, but has nonetheless proven true for me. Clients remember that time they gave you fix notes a midnight before the 9am dub start and you came though. They don’t tell you the remember it, or pat you on the back, but its part of why they come back. Conversely if you make the mistake (as I did once in my early days) of reminding the clients how unreasonable they are being to you, or you pout and your attitude screams of being treated unfairly, you’re not going to have a lot of success in this business.
Me and my team are very big on making clients “Feel” they are heard non stop, serviced and have a Can-Do attitude about it all. We try to have an air of Gratitude, which I always feel when I get hired and trusted to compose the music for a project. It still feels like a privilege even after all these years, so I try to make sure my clients sense that from me. You can’t fake gratitude.
As a composer you have to love every single note you write, then let it go and look at your work as an “observer” just your clients do. If you can acquire that skill, its easier to react to notes and criticism as you look at your work from a distance, you can’t be precious about it. If that’s your Jam, then write concert music for yourself. If you want to be in the applied arts, you’re getting paid by a client who expects you to write well, write quickly, and react to their needs. That and they are right a lot of the time btw, they’ve lived with the story a lot longer that I have (years in some cases). Its just about understanding that making a movie or TV show is a team effort, you’re part of the team and its important to exude that air about you.
The short answer to your question is, after the music fades, the clients long remember how you serviced them.
It’s that maturity and professionalism that gives careers staying power.
4) YOU COMPOSE MUSIC WITH STRONG THEMATIC MATERIAL. CAN YOU NAME SOME COMPOSERS THAT INFLUENCED YOU OVER THE YEARS?
Too many to name, but from Film Composers I always loved Jerry Goldmsmith’s score that that reason, he could hang an entire movie score off one melody, amazing. James Horner and James Howard both have that same quality to their music as well. I was Movie fan before I was a Movie composer, so I just grew up loving the great themes from movies I loved, regardless of style. It could be Axel-F from Beverly Hills Cop, or E.T. from Williams, I just love to be able to sing the tune.
5) YOU ARE A PARENT AND A FOOD ENTHUSIAST! HOW DO YOU BALANCE ALL THAT WITH YOUR BUSY WORK ETHIC?
I’m not there yet, but I’m getting better at it over time. I still work 7 days a week, but its more bankers hours. Being home to have dinner at the table with my family is just about the most important thing in the world to me. Being a parent brings me a joy that I never knew existed before, so its not really an obligation for me, its just fun being part of their lives. TV has also honed my skills to the point where I can more or less write 1 minute of music in about 1 hour in the studio. So I can throttle my musical output up or down dynamically as needed. If time is tight and pressure is high, I can find a high gear and write 12 minutes of music in a day if needed. Even at a leisurely pace I still write at least 4 or 5 minutes a day. I’ve yet to have a project where I have so much time to write that I can do 2 minutes a day. I want that and desire that pace, its just not the reality I live in very often. I also enjoy mentoring young writers and helping them gain experience through working with me. It doesn’t always pay off but when it does its just so great to have someone to lean on if you really need it, and at the same time help them learn the entire process of being a working composer with 1/10th the pressure that I have on me.
Again I just have this sense of gratitude toward my life. Yes I worked hard for it, but a lot of people work hard and don’t end up with a life like mine. So I just want to make the juggling act work because I love all the aspects of my life as a composer and a father. A little sleep is good too!