Chappie (Hans Zimmer)

Chappie Soundtrack Cover

Chappie Soundtrack Cover

Chappie Soundtrack by Hans Zimmer (2015)

Get it:  If you enjoy all-electronic music, especially if you are a Hans Zimmer fan

Don’t get it:  If you want a score that sounds remotely orchestral

Chappie was bound to be something a little special since it is composer Hans Zimmer’s first all-electronic score in 25 years.  He also had a little help with this, with additional music by Steve Mazzaro and Andrew Kawczynski.  But how did it turn out?  Chappie, being a film about a robot that can feel and think like a child can, is quite an interesting movie for anyone to score.  It has to have somewhat of a child element, while still remaining robotic and ready for action and intensity.

The first track, “It’s a Dangerous City”, seems like it would fit perfectly, given the OST’s nature, into an action sequence of a new Tron film.  There’s a constant, underlying low that doesn’t change very much, while the beeping highs fluctuate, also not changing much.  In the middle is where you find some variation.

Other tracks are club-ready (in part).  Although it’s clear that it isn’t made specifically for a night club, it could still overlap given the tone of the score.  There’s a lot of repetition with the specific layers of music.  It is interesting when you get to hear Zimmer use a softer side of the electronic music.  However, don’t get to attached to it because it doesn’t last long before we’re back to the pulsating beats.  These moments are mixed into the overall score fairly frequently throughout.

In general, it’s simply an intense electronic action score.

It’s easy to pick-up that Zimmer really did try to add variety between the tracks and to keep each one from sounding just like the other.  This is particularly important when you’re dealing with this electronic score that he is.  Whether it was effective or not is a matter of opinion and ultimately up to you, but the effort is definitely appreciated for certain.  “Mayhem Downtown” definitely stands out since it varies from the rest of the score in that it incorporates fresh elements, such as an electronic choir of sorts.  “Illest Gangsta on the Block” is pretty different.  It sounds somewhat like if an Atari formed a modern rock band.  This is undoubtedly a successful attempt at variety from the rest of the soundtrack and is a quite unique cue. 

Not to sound redundant, but it is, in the end, basically what a Hans Zimmer Tron score might sound like.  Zimmertron.  Sounds cool.

Now your turn to listen to a score preview:

Click here or here to buy the soundtrack digitally

Click here to purchase the score on CD

Interstellar (Hans Zimmer)

Interstellar Soundtrack Cover

Interstellar Soundtrack Cover

Interstellar Soundtrack by Hans Zimmer (2014)

Note:  This review is for the Deluxe Edition

Get it:  If you like a soundtrack that captures space with a Zimmer twist

Don’t get it:  If you aren’t a fan of Zimmer’s style

From WaterTower Music comes Hans Zimmer’s newest soundtrack, this time to the Christopher Nolan film Interstellar.  It starts off with soft melody behind noise.  This doesn’t last long before the notes take the foreground.  Something stands out almost immediately – the organ.  It was used throughout and added a bit of originality and identity to this score.  At times, this soundtrack was loud in the same way other Zimmer scores can be.  However, at other times, it was distinctly soft. 

The synth and instrument choice matches the setting very well (outer space).  Something about it sounds rather stellar (go figure) and a little cold.  This seems to be a good soundtrack for the eye – something that adds to a visual experience.  The OST doesn’t have much variety.  It does give a good identity.  The majority of the notes were more drawn-out than not.  The parts that focused on rapid notes usually have slower ones backing them up.

This soundtrack to Interstellar is obviously suited for this film.  Fans of Hans Zimmer’s other scores will definitely want to give it a listen since it is consistent with his other scores with the added twist of space.

Click below to shop for the soundtrack and listen to samples:

Amazon

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For more, visit the website www.watertower-music.com

Interview with Geoff Zanelli

Geoff Zanelli

Geoff ZanelliInto the West and Disturbia

FSC:  What inspired you to compose film music?

GZ:  Let me start by thanking you for taking the time to do this.  It’s always flattering to know that people want to hear more about my work and me.  As far as how I ended up in film music, it really started with my realization that I admire versatile musicians and wanted to be one.  As a teenager I had a band and while I considered trying to succeed in that world, even at age 16 I could see that successful recording artists face a big dilemma.  They have to keep performing the material that made them successful in the first place, even when it’s 20 or 30 years old.  You don’t get to switch styles so much because you’re still responsible for retaining your fan base.  So I combined that thought with the passion I had for the films I grew-up on and could clearly see where I’d be happy.

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FSC:  What has your experience working with composer Hans Zimmer been like?

GZ:  Hans and I have been friends and colleagues for 20 years now, which is hard for me to believe!  The way we work together has evolved over the years.  If you look at the early scores I worked on with him, like Hannibal or Pearl Harbor, I was mostly an arranger, which is to say I’d take his music and re-work it in different contexts to either fit a scene or just experiment a little bit.  It was the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie where the tight schedule necessitated that I take on a bigger role and actually write original music for the film.  That was a turning point for me in my career.  I really got to play a big role in that score which led me to bigger and bigger roles on the rest of the Pirates franchise.  The experience has always been nurturing and collaborative, and these days when we work together I’m usually brought in to lend my voice to the project rather than just write arrangements of themes that are already there.  The Pacific, which I co-wrote with him, would be a good example of that.

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FSC:  How challenging was it to compose the music for a re-created Alfred Hitchcock film as you did with Disturbia?

GZ:  I treated Disturbia like an homage.  It was definitely a challenge, but to me almost anything you can do with music is challenging.  If it wasn’t, I would think I wasn’t doing it right!  You may find this surprising, but the key to getting the score for Disturbia to really work was the love theme.  I think everyone was hooked on the film cause of the chemistry between the two leads, and I didn’t want to lose how genuine that felt.  So I thought about how I’ve heard teen romances played in scores before, and thought the most honest approach here would be to write it as a pop song, not a big sweeping orchestral love theme.  That meant the orchestra would be used to play the larger than life things in the film, the murders, the stalking, and the love story would play as a song.  For most people, the music of their first crush is whatever songs are meaningful to them at the time.  I even found a band to come in and write lyrics for and perform my theme, which became the song “Don’t Make Me Wait.”  That plays when they finally kiss in the film.

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FSC:  America has always been fascinated with the Kennedy family.  When you composed the music for the music for Killing Kennedy, how did you try to incorporate the Kennedy family into the music?

GZ:  With Killing Kennedy, I was really trying to play the man, not the gun.  The intimate story, in other words, cause we all already know the big story, that resonant and world-changing event.  I don’t know that I was necessarily thinking of the Kennedy family, but I was certainly trying to get into the heads of both JFK and Oswald with that score.  Oswald was a tough character to score.  If I say “I’m writing a theme for a misunderstood loner with an overbearing mother who feels out of place in his country, so he flees for a new home in another nation, falls in love and struggles to keep his marriage together” you’d think I’m scoring a sympathetic character, but he’s indisputably a villain.  So what drives a man to commit such a crime?  What does the noise in his head sound like?  That’s what kept me up at night as I wrote that score.

FSC:  Into the West aired back in 2005 but the soundtrack wasn’t released until 2013.  What is it like to finally have that out?

GZ:  It’s a huge relief to release my Into The West score.  Ever since the show came out, I’ve had people asking how they can get their own copy, so I knew it’d find a home with my supporters.  I don’t really like to look back on the things I’ve already done since I’m always trying to move forward, but putting together that release made me go back through 6 hours of music I wrote a long time ago.  I found myself pleasantly surprised.  I was still in my 20s when I started writing that score, but already it has the elegance I strive for in my scores these days, mixed with a touch of earthiness that really makes it effective.

FSC:  That really is quite an incredible soundtrack.  (Very belated) congratulations on the Emmy win for it!  How were you able to achieve such deep layers that stay true to the script?

GZ:  Thank you!  I really did have to dig deep for Into The West.  I remember having a hard time falling asleep during those months of writing, cause I was so concerned about being sensitive to the different cultures that are represented in the show.  These are the kind of things that keep me up at night when I’m working on a project.  For example, there are long story arcs that deal with the Lakota people, so I reached out to every Lakota resource I could find to talk with them about my music, especially in the early days when I was still defining the tone of the score.  I met a man named Charlie White Buffalo, who worked on the show as an advisor, and I played him the things I was writing.  I hope you can appreciate how nerve-wracking that is, for me to play my music under those circumstances.  It was a huge relief when he said how much he liked it.  I recall very specifically how much he appreciated that I didn’t portray the Lakota only as an aggressive nation, but instead focused on their peaceful nature, their spirituality and their appreciation for life.  One thing that helped immensely was Robert Dornhelm, who directed the first episode, had the forethought to record some live music that the actors were playing during their downtime in between takes.  He had recorded a few traditional pieces played on a type of flute that his cast was playing which I incorporated into my music.  They didn’t know they were being recorded even, until after the fact, which is why it feels so genuine when I use it in the score.  There’s a rawness to it cause it’s recorded outside, far from a sterile recording studio environment.  I mean there’s the sound of the wind hitting the microphone and all sorts of other noises going on around the set, but we still got that brilliant essence of music passed on from generation to generation, played genuinely out in the open air, and there’s no way you can top that emotion in a recording studio.

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FSC:  Changing the topic a little, what director have you not yet worked with but would like to?

GZ:  I’ve led a charmed life in that I already get to work with some of the directors I admire most, like Gore Verbinski, Peter Hedges and David Koepp.  There are so many directors I’d love to work with, though!  Off the top of my head, Tim Burton, Andrew Stanton and Paul Thomas Anderson.

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FSC:  What is your proudest work to this point?

GZ:  I try so hard not to let pride enter into how I feel about my work.  Once I finish a score, I move on to the next one.  I do feel, though, like I got every note right when I wrote The Odd Life of Timothy Green, and the same is true for Into The West and The Pacific.

FSC:  Do you have any exciting projects coming up?

GZ:  Well, I haven’t had a weekend off this entire year so I’ve had plenty to do, but I can’t actually announce anything at the moment.  You’ll hear me at the theater in a few different films, though.  I wish I could say more, but I’m afraid I can’t at the moment! But when I can, I will announce them on my facebook and twitter feeds.

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FSC:  For any young and aspiring composers, what advice would you give?

GZ:  I give this same advice to aspiring composers all the time:  Get an internship with a composer.  Be around film music as soon as possible, and don’t go home early.  I got my best education by sticking around to learn about anything and everything when I was an intern for Hans during The Lion King.  I got so good at bringing in a tray of coffee and walking ever so slowly back to the door so I could hear one or two more sentences of the conversation Hans was having with Jeffrey Katzenberg about the music.  For me, it was a conscious choice to be around great filmmakers and try to glean everything I could about filmmaking.  An invaluable education, which I suggest young composers actively pursue.

FSC:  Thank you so much for your time.

GZ:  Yes, of course!  And thank you for your interest in my work!

For more info on Geoff, go to his website at www.geoffzanelli.com

Special notes:

Geoff will be appearing at the Fans of Film Music panel on August 30th.  More information can be found by clicking here.

Thank you to Geoff Zanelli and CW3PR for letting us have first run of the photos in this post.

Man of Steel (Hans Zimmer)

Man of Steel Soundtrack Cover (2013)

Man of Steel Soundtrack by Hans Zimmer (2013)

Get it: If you enjoy the consistent elements of any one of the tracks (or Zimmer’s style)

Don’t get it: If you are looking for a soundtrack that has more elements of melody than rhythm

Given the success of The Dark Knight trilogy, it was only a matter of time before Christopher Nolan became involved with the production of a Superman film.  As usual, he was able to tag his go-to composer Hans Zimmer (who was very reluctant to take on the task).  Before anything else is said, one thing absolutely needs to get out of the way.  This simply cannot be connected in anyone’s mind to the John Williams traditional score for the hero.  Even when John Ottman scored Superman Returns back in 2006 there were grounds for some comparison.  However, this entire new face of the franchise (the film, music, story, etc.) cannot justly be compared to any previous film in the series.

Having said that, it is time to look at this soundtrack from a new, original perspective.  With the first couple tracks there is a good, empowering tone.  Once that is through, the percussion section takes control.  While this is good action music, it is somewhat generic in nature.  Someone could take this music and put it in Inception and it would work.  You could put in it King Kong and it would work.  You could put it in pretty much any action movie and it would work at least fairly well.  However, there isn’t much here that, when you hear it in an amusement park, you go, “Oh it’s Superman!” (unless you are very familiar with it).  The 3 main notes that Zimmer uses are good, but they are basically the only 3 notes to carry the weight of the score, so you would likely have to like it in order to like the rest of the soundtrack.  Again, you must like any one track to like the soundtrack as a whole because it can be fairly redundant in theme.  If you skip around the entire soundtrack, anyone who isn’t very familiar with the movie might be hard-pressed to know if the music is from the first or second half.  None of this is supposed to be saying if it was good or bad, but rather just point out some elements.  If you like the soundtrack, chances are you’ll really like it.

It seems that audiences either loved or hated this soundtrack.  Here are just some of the thoughts:

Loved it:  It was empowering, glorious, and majestic.  It made me want to go stand on a tall rock with my fists on my hips and cape in the wind.  I was really able to feel this soundtrack.

Hated it: Predictable, boring, and overrun with generic percussion.  The tracks generally blended into one blurry mesh.  If it was possible, I would say that this soundtrack plagiarized itself from track to track.  The main theme (if you can call it that) was the only worth-it part.

You will just have to listen to the soundtrack yourself to determine which side you fall on.  Perhaps you’ll be one of the few who fall somewhere in the middle.

Click here to listen to the main theme

Click here to shop for the soundtrack