By Junsui Films | September 2011
Composer David Buckley chats exclusively to Junsui Films about his journey into film composition, scoring The Town and tells us about the upcoming thriller, ATM…
Junsui Films: Tell us about your musical beginnings and your journey into film composition…
David Buckley: I had a very traditional musical upbringing, singing church music in an English cathedral day in, day out. Then, aged 10, the choir were hired to sing on The Last Temptation of Christ, the Scorsese movie with music by Peter Gabriel. It was a defining moment in my musical life as it led me to understand that there were more applications for music than simply serving its own needs. The combination of disciplines that make up a movie fascinated me, and I pretty knew then that film music was what I wanted to do.
I continued my musical education and eventually ended up in London where I started composing for TV and commercials. Some years passed and I was re-introduced to the film composer Harry Gregson-Williams (who I had known from years ago), by our mutual composer-friend, Richard Harvey. This led to me helping Harry out on some movies and led to my eventual move to Los Angeles.
JF: What composers have had the biggest influence on your work?
In terms of film music, Harry and Richard, as mentioned above but I have always had a particular fondness for music of the Renaissance, having sung that music for so many years. Mannerisms from that music have seeped into my work, albeit obliquely, as has some of the grammar of modern classical composers such as Olivier Messiaen. Also, one cannot operate in this business and not be impressed by composers such as John Williams, Ennio Morricone, Hans Zimmer and John Powell.
JF: You provided additional music for such films as Revenge, The Number 23 & Gone Baby Gone before going solo on Forbidden Kingdom and Blood Creek. How did you find the transition?
The transition was not expected, but I was certainly thrilled to be offered The Forbidden Kingdom. Luckily, Harry remained involved as a score producer, but it was now my chance to make the big decisions, and my chance to have sleepless nights worrying about it all!
JF: For The Town you collaborated with Harry Gregson-Williams. How did you both approach the scoring duties?
It was a true collaboration. I have my studio in the ground floor of Harry’s studio complex, and we would be buzzing in and out of each other’s room sharing a theme, a motif or sound. It was a minimal score so it was quite interesting for us each to take small ideas and see what the other would make of it.
JF: You’ve worked with some of the industry’s biggest directors from Tony Scott, Joel Schumacher and most recently Ben Affleck. Can you tell us a little bit about the relationship between a composer and director?
The composer and director relationship really varies from film to film. At the very least, one will meet the director every couple of weeks and play back ideas and demos and get feedback. Some directors are more hands on with music and others are happy to let the composer take the initiative. There are also producers to consider in the equation (i.e. one often finds oneself serving many masters!)
JF: You provide the score for the upcoming thriller, ATM. Was it challenging scoring a ‘contained thriller’ and did this alter your usual approach in any way?
Yes. This was a first for me, as it was without an obvious melodic theme. The director was very keen for us never to feel the comfort of an established melody or harmonic progression. There were certain sounds, textures and motifs that reoccur, and hopefully help create a sense of structure but essentially it was a score concerned with tension and ultimately despair. The musical landscape was totally bleak.
JF: Which one of your scores would you say you are most proud of and why?
There are things I like in all my scores, and things I hate! The Forbidden Kingdom remains a firm favourite, as it was my first. I also very much enjoyed scoring a small animation recently called Book of Dragons (a tie-in to How to Train your Dragon).
JF: Any future plans you can tell us about?
I have just started a new season of TV legal drama The Good Wife, and I’m also scoring Gone, a thriller staring Amanda Seyfried.
The Forbidden Kingdom (Lionsgate Records) & The Town (Silva Screen Records) are available now.