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Our Man Harry
When the CD to The Rock was released, the lengthy English hyphenated name of a hot Media Ventures composer caused much debate. The question of authorship, style, and talent ensued; with a little research though, modesty masked an already proven talent. With the release of Whole Wide World, his sense of melody and romance embodied the spirit of Valentines, and then permanently held the attention of fans since scoring Smilla's Sense of Snow. Yumbiosis celebrates his continuing talent by opening HG-Winfo. I first glimpsed the collaborative writer at the end of 1996 when he strode with cowboy boots and cruised with a cadillac; late 1997 saw the change which experience brings as I witnessed the pressure that The Replacement Killers brought. As time has permitted, and with appreciation herewith, take the time to discover - in words, pictures, and sounds - the joy that comes from the inspired hand of, our man Harry.
With the recent release of Enemy of the State, our man Harry gave his 1st online interview launching the newest site at Yumbiosis; 4 questions were submitted by readers while I drummed up the rest (thinking there was no tomorrow), from here in the Fiji Islands.
Q: What was your first score, ghosted or otherwise?
White Angel - I composed the score for this British low (no) budget thriller and have always been grateful to the young filmakers for giving me a whirl. It opened the London Film Fest in '95 and then disappeared to video as quick as it came! Earlier this year they asked me to do their second feature An Urban Ghost Story which I couldn't do as I was half way to Armageddon, so one of my brothers (Rupert) did it - rather well I think.
Q: Did you have any previous ambitions before turning to scoring?
After music school in London I turned to teaching the two things I enjoyed - Music & Sports. I lived and taught in Alexandria, Egypt for a couple of years where I learned to speak Arabic. After that I travelled through Africa to Kenya where I settled in the Rift Valley for a while - again teaching children music and games. If I have a vocation it is teaching. I guess in the last four years it has been dormant while I give film scoring a good run for its money. If I can achieve a certain level of success - write an inspired score to an inspiring movie, maybe - I may hit the teaching road again as I have NEVER got close to the satisfaction that gave me. Anyhow for the moment it's definitely heads down as the challenge that scoring films presents, is pretty intense right now.
Q: Did you study music; how did you get into it?
I got a place at one of only about two (Dickensian) establishments in the UK which specialize in taking children from the age of six and immersing them in music for several years; touring Europe, making records, performing on TV and Radio etc. So you could say I started young and never really stopped. I also studied at The Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London.
Q: How did you gang up with Hans?
He sniffed me out to do some arranging/orchestrating/writing when he was in London scoring Nic Roeg's Two Deaths. We had worked together a lot before on projects like Crimson Tide & The Lion King. It was strange symmetry because after his return to the US, I maintained a close relationship with Nic Roeg and over the course of the next 8 months scored 2 films for him. Thief, I hear you say...After that HZ called me up and asked me to come over to score Muppet Treasure Island with him...I stayed on to do Broken Arrow, and the rest, well you know the rest!
Q: How do you see yourself as one of a few MEDIA VENTURERs?
Everyone at MV is very different which is what makes it interesting.
Q: What is your favourite aspect of the scoring process, since you also orchestrate and conduct?
Somehow landing on a tune/riff/texture/figure that works in harmony with the given picture. You know it when you do it...if you do it.
Q: Going back a bit, did Hans really help out with WHOLE WIDE WORLD and SMILLA?
Hans didn't write any music for WWW - in fact he heard my score for the first time at the premiere. On SSOS he was bound to write a cue or two. His relationship with the director dictated that. He was also very helpful and supportive to me on that film.
Q: What was your contribution to THE ROCK?
I basically helped Nick Glennie Smith and Hans get through it - there was a mountain of music to be written and hardly any time (what's new), not to mention probably the most odious director alive plus the eternal task master Jerry "let's torture Harry now" Bruckheimer. The car chase was one of a few that became my responsibility. I thought Nick did a REALLY good job considering the circumstances.
Q: Did BLACK RAIN influence your score to THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS?
I've never heard the above mentioned score.
Q: What's the skinny with the Japan-only release of LIAR (DECEIVER)?
God knows - if YOU hadn't told me of the existence of the Japanese CD I would never have known!
Q: What was your contribution to ARMAGEDDON; and on CD? (Trevor seems to get all the credit.)
The rumours that surround the score for Armageddon over-complicate what was a straightforward situation. TR was hired to score the film (probably not before HZ was asked and declined, but who's counting?). Jerry B doesn't like travelling away from Santa Monica to hear cues during the composing process, he's too jammed. JB found an opportunity to get the best of a couple of worlds: Have TR move his home (Burbank) studio to Media Ventures (2 blocks from the JB Hub) and do the score there, where of course the score could be done a mere corridor hop from JB's favorite and most successful scorer - HZ. There was never any question of HZ writing anything but psycologically for JB this was the best possible scenario. As soon as TR arrived he headed for my room and within a day I had been hired to Additional Music-ize. As we zeroed in on all the music that had to be written (120 minutes... or something insane) it just worked out that I wrote about half the score, give or take a cue or two. There was some question then as to whether I ought to be co- credited with TR, but as that became a kind of sore point I backed off and left things as they originally were (no-one was finding a cure for cancer here...). The Score CD is another ball of wax and as I have no idea what's on it or who's credited as having composed what, I can't comment...
Q: Can you, will you, would you want to, release the material you wrote for ARMAGEDDON? (Varese is a good way to do it.)
No - I think that I should let sleeping dogs lie, so to speak. I have always used any material I have written for any film on my 'sampler' CD and Armageddon has its place on my current one; the cue that plays as NY becomes toast, a 12 minute stonker that covers the whole of reel 13 (our heroes trying to defuse a ticking atomic weapon!) and a few of the more emotional moments.
Q: To what extent were you inspired by Loreena McKennitt on ARMAGEDDON?
By her, no. By her violinist Hugh Marsh, yes. He came over from Canada and spent a couple of weeks with TR and me.
Q: What was your contribution to ENEMY OF THE STATE? (Read Soundtrack.net's interview with Trevor)
I have just read the TR interview. That's kinda one way of putting it...My contribution on EOTS was to write half the score and half the themes.
Q: What sort of approach was taken with ENEMY OF THE STATE?
The film is basically charting the progress of 2 characters. TR wrote a Will Smith thing and I wrote the Hackman thing. There are a couple of other themes which we split out. We then set out to score half the film each.
Q: Do you envision more partnerships with Trevor?
Some bullshit political things have really surprised me (the absence of any of my music on the Armageddon CD, EOTS interviews implying this and that) BUT the fact is we get on really well whilst working and yes it wouldn't surprise me if we did many more CO-WRITES in the years to come. I hope so.
Q: After scoring all his recent films, Hans passed on Tony Scott's EOTS - was there a particular reason other than a scheduling conflict? ie. Did he have your confidence, grin?
Q: Has Hans been involved somehow on your recent projects? (He's been absent for a year!)
Hans was invaluable on Antz for two reasons; his specific knowledge of the way the producer, Katzenburg, likes to work, and his great encouragement and faith he showed towards both JP and me.
Q: What was your contribution to PRINCE OF EGYPT?
I wrote a few cues for HZ when he got a bit crunched for time - an amazing Heiroglyphic nightmare sequence for one!...and during the 2 years or so before when the songs were going down I did some arranging and orchestrating.
Q: Your brother Rupert recently helped out on POE - should we expect a G-W dynasty?
Rupert is doing his own thing in the UK and is doing well. He comes over occasionally and has helped HZ out once or twice. We don't see ourselves trying to out manouevre the Newmans...
Q: How do you write your action cues?
Practice...I think I wrote about 90% of the action stuff on Armageddon. Also the composer that inhabits the room a few feet up the corridor at Media Ventures has been a rather good teacher...!
Q: 'The teacher' likes to sit in his bath and jot down ideas - do you have your own unique source of inspiration, or is it pencil and paper at a writing desk?
The circumstances for each score seem to always be so different for me that a pattern is yet to emerge...
Q: You're moving home for 2 months - how mobile is a scoring studio?
Yup, I have moved my studio to my house in Topanga Canyon from Media Ventures simply so that I can be at home and at work at the same time. My wife is expecting our first baby any day!!! My studio is totally mobile.
Q: What is your favourite score by another composer?
Basic Instinct does something odd to me when I've hear it...other scores by JG haven't touched me in the same way. The music used in Kubrick's The Shining freaks me out also (was that even 'score'?). The music HZ has done for The Thin Red Line is outstanding.
Q: How handy is your Macintosh with your scoring needs?
Sad to say, ALL important.
Q: Which score did you have the most fun with?
Maybe The Borrowers as I was able to be so joyful and noisy with a huge orchestra!!
Q: Which score gave you the most creative satisfaction?
Writing the theme to Deceiver (aka Liar) with my great friend Martin Tilman (Electric Cello) in mind was deeply satisfying and I had great fun being directed by the Pate Brothers. WWW was special for me although hardly anyone ever saw the movie as I became great friends with the director Dan Ireland and also the actress Renee Zellweger. Antoine Fuqua, the director of TRK turned out to be a really creative and musical guy.
Q: Stylistically, you're either romantic, or proficiently electro-ambient, or more recently jazzy-cool with Track 14 on THE BORROWERS, and I'm told on ANTZ - is there a trademark you're proud of?
Not really. I'm lucky to have had the chance to score such a wide range of films and I hope that there is a thread emerging from somewhere! So far, so good, I hope.
Q: What does Steve Jablonsky mean to you(r work)?
He's a perfect assistant. He totally keeps my vast MIDI studio running on the one hand, and he is more than capable of writing a cue or two on any given project. I am always reminding myself how lucky I am to have such stellar support.
Q: Who's the most understanding director you've worked with?
They all bring something different to the music making process - sometimes havoc and confusion even! But Tony Scott was the most incisive and he posseses amazing insight into the possibilities that score can open up.
Q: Is there an actor/actress or character that inspired you to score with finesse?
Vince D'Onofrio in WWW, Tim Roth in Deceiver, Julia Ormond in SSOS and Woody Allen in Antz were all outstanding and their performances gave me such a springboard.
Q: Do you enjoy scoring one genre of film more than the other, given the split between action/drama and children's ones you've done?
Jury's out on that one.
Q: What's upcoming on your schedule?
Who knows? I've several film scoring projects that may or may not come through, I'd like to work with my friend Perry Farrell (Janes Addiction) again, and I have been asked to conduct some interesting scores by other composers which I would hope to find time to do as I find it invaluable experience.
Q: What are your thoughts on your music being heard by fans, and do you have any words of inspiration of the English kind?
As I have never really listened to movie music and gone out and bought soundtrack CDs (and I doubt I ever will) I am constantly surprised that people would be interested in my music WITHOUT the film! Sometimes I worry that a lot of the music doesn't make much sense without the pictures...but I guess that's for others to judge. I am living proof that a lot of hard work and little luck will take you...somewhere or other...in this extraordinary and exciting business.
Yumbo & Harry
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In the studio
|Smilla's Sense Of Snow||'60 Minutes (Australia) - Sea Piracy in SE-Asia episode', 'ad for ECO - Earth Communications Organisation'|
|Whole Wide World||Whole Wide World, Saving Private Ryan|
Weekly related entertainment articles - summary of interesting Reuters articles.
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