Fresh off winning his 2015 Screamfest award for 'Best Musical Score- The Hallow' composer James Gosling talks with us and the film's chilling score, what his favorite horror films are and more.
What was your creative process like with The Hallow director Corin Hardy? Did he have a specific idea on how the score should sound or did he let you experiment?
The process began with the temp track which Corin Hardy (director) and Nick Emerson our editor had put together. This gave me an idea as to the approximate intentions regarding atmosphere and tone, and then it was my task to react to that either by being in total agreement, general agreement, or by feeling that something wasn't working well and coming up with alternative solutions. This was the jumping off point anyway, after which evolved a dialogue between myself and Corin where we gradually narrowed down the sonic world that would best speak to the narrative of the film. So in a nutshell you could say that Corin had some very specific ideas but was also open and extremely keen for me to experiment and to follow my own instincts and stamp my own personality on the film.
Did you create a theme for each of the characters?
There are themes, but for the most part they are not attached to the characters in a conventional sense but are more to do with the various characteristics of the impending threat.
Where did you get the inspiration for this score?
Well one of the first things I did was watch a bunch of horror films to see how composers had previously approached the genre. So I watched Alien again to pay particular attention as to how Jerry Goldsmith had approached it, similarly Aliens for James Horner's take, The Thing for Ennio Morricone's, and more contemporary films like Under The Skin and The Ring, and then I set about choosing a palette that I felt would help me best come up with my own take and from there it was a case of toying and teasing different ideas until something emerged from the deep!
James: "It was a case of toying and teasing different ideas until something emerged from the deep!".
Did you compose from the script?
No. By the time I was brought on board the film was shot and edited, so I was working from the final cut straight away. You do occasionally hear of composers who are on board from the pre-production stage working from the script and beginning to think of themes and ideas a long time in advance of the final edit, and I think in fact this is the ideal way to work. Often though the post-production schedule is very tight, and so if the composer is able to work in advance of this then by the time the edit is finalized, much of the work in creating the musical identity of the film has been done, which of course is the hard part. After that it becomes a relatively simple case of fitting fully formed themes and ideas to the picture. On this occasion though, and as if often the case for various reasons, I began working directly from the final cut.
If you could sum up your score to The Hallow in a few words what would they be?
Dark with a heart.
What are your favourite horror films?
Well I'd have to start with Kubrick's The Shining. I remember being scared out of my early teenage mind by A Nightmare On Elm Street, and Rutger Hauer in The Hitcher. Then Alien, Aliens and The Exorcist are classics that I've always loved. Jaws too if that counts as horror - it's certainly a 'creature' feature so I don't see why not. More recently I really enjoyed Under The Skin and The Thing which I watched for the first time while in the research phase of scoring The Hallow. And also I was left reeling by the brilliantly nasty Wolf Creek, and also I loved the beautifully imaginative Pan's Labyrinth. To name a few...
What's the key to scoring horror in your opinion?
It's to get under the skin. To create a sound world that embodies the unsettling tension, danger, fear and inescapable doom!
If you were get offered another horror film to score would you do it and what and would you like it to be another "creature feature" or more of a straight slasher film?
I would be open to it certainly and I wouldn't necessarily have a preference for it to be another 'creature feature', neither a slasher. More important is that the idea is well conceived and executed, and that it is populated with interesting and three dimensional characters, and so becomes a canvas on which I can properly get my fangs into.
ABOUT JAMES, www.jamesgosling.net
James studied composition with John Woolrich and Peter Wiegold, and piano with Thalia Myers at the University of London and later, with the help of scholarships from Endemol UK and the Musician's Union, he completed his masters in ‘Music for the Screen’ at the National, Film and Television School in Beaconsfield.
After graduating from the NFTS, James went on to assist multi award-winning composer Rob Lane, working with him on numerous projects which include among many others HBO’s mini-series John Adams, Joe Wright’s emmy nominated Charles: The Power and the Passion, and Tom Hooper’s Brian Clough biopic The Damned United. This working relationship with Rob ultimately led to a collaboration composing and producing the score for the BBC's flagship fantasy-adventure series Merlin, and its successor Atlantis.
James currently splits his life between the UK and France, and having recently completed work on Corin Hardy's debut feature The Hallow for Occupant Entertainment, he is currently working on Lego's recently announced animation series Nexo Knights.