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Kurt Oldman

Kurt: "I was a big Pink Floyd fan".

Conducted by Phil Davies Brown
September 21st, 2009

Anyone who has been lucky enough to have seen the awesome little horror movie Babysitter Wanted will be familiar with the work of Kurt Oldman. This rising talent is one of my new favourite composers thanks to his work on genre films such as Marco Polo and the forthcoming Neighbor.

Read on to hear which composers influence Kurt's work and to find out which are his favourite horror scores.

You were born into a musical family, but were your parents supportive of you wanting to follow suit, or did they want you to try other things?
My parents wanted me to be a graphic designer at some point. Not sure why, my illustrations sucked. They did let me do what I have put to mind as long as they didn’t have to support me financially.

What genres of music and which artists did you listen to when you were growing up?
I listened to a lot of top 40 stuff growing up during the 80’s. My Brother always gave me his records that he didn’t want anymore. I was a big Pink Floyd fan. My mom bought me the John Williams soundtrack of ET when she saw the film. That was really the first time when I took notice of filmscores and went ‘holly shit what is that?’ not knowing at the time that I would end up scoring films myself.

Which instruments do you play?
I started as a boy with the flute. My grandfather later convinced me to learn the accordion, which I studied for a couple of years. In college, I was finally able to study the guitar. I listened to guys like Steve Vai and Joe Satriani at the time. When I studied at the Jazz School I picked up the bass and piano which still comes in useful today. I bought several accordions on eBay for a project a couple of years ago.

Were there ever times as a teen when you couldn’t be bothered practising and wanted to hang out with your friends instead? If so, what kept you going?
Before I started playing the guitar I hated practising. I was much more into computers and technology. My parents basically forced me to practise an hour a day. When I started guitar things changed. I loved it.

When did you decide that music is what you wanted to pursue full-time?
Sometime during college. I knew that I wanted to focus on music but wasn’t sure what area exactly. I just knew I didn’t want to be a teacher.

Kurt: "Hellbound really was a big reason why I wanted to get into filmscoring".

Can you tell us about the training you undertook?
I studied at the Fribourg Conservatory, The Lucerne Jazz School and later did the UCLA film scoring program.

How did you first get into film composition?
I got the chance in 1995 to do a film called “Endless Escape” back in Switzerland. I had no clue about the mechanics of filmscoring, so it was a real crash course for me. I just remember writing a lot of Pop and Rock oriented music for that film.

You have created scores for many horror films. Are you a fan of the genre?
Absolutely. I’ve been a big horror fan since I was little. I loved watching the late night features on TV.

What are some of your favourite horror scores and the composers who produced them?
There are two films that I specifically remember seeing: “Psycho 2” scored by Jerry Goldsmith and “Hellbound: Hellraiser 2” scored by Chris Young. Hellbound really was a big reason why I wanted to get into filmscoring. I didn’t know up to this point that the horror genre could be approached this way. “Babysitter Wanted” was actually tempted with Hellraiser. When I later told Chris Young about it he just said “I’m sorry man”.

Who are some of the composers that influence your work?
I studied Bernard Herrmann’s “Psycho”, “Vertigo” and “North by Northwest” for a long time. I still love going back and reading through his scores. Of course Chris Young was a huge influence. He’s the most generous person I’ve met in this business. I think Jerry Goldsmith and Marco Beltrami influenced my writing a lot as well.

Can you explain your work process to us? How do you create a score from scratch?
I always spend a couple of days just writing themes at the piano and worrying about the tone of the film after the spotting sessions. Sometimes this initial material finds its way into the score and sometimes I dismiss it. After this I move over to the computer. My sequencer is Cubase. I used to be on Logic for about 15 years. That’s where I write all my scores and create the mock-ups. A lot of the scores I write get produced from start to finish in my own studio. For other films the mock-ups are approved by the Director and then they get prepared and recorded in an outside studio.

Babysitter Wanted was an amazing film that took many genre fans and critics alike by surprise. Did you enjoy working on this project?
I loved working with Michael, the director. He really understood the genre we were working in.

Your most recent project, Neighbor has just premiered at Fantasia. How did you get involved with the project and what kind of time frame do you usually have to score a project?
I did a film called “All Along” with Robert A. Masciantonio a couple of years ago. I was happy to be brought on board for “Neighbor”. It was a really fun project to do. Robert is really straight forward and to the point with what he wants which was great. Six weeks is an ok timeframe for a film which will require about 2 minutes to be written a day. “Neighbor” was done in 3 weeks. Schedules seem to get tighter these days. I remember spending several months on some of my earlier films.

What is it like to see a finished film complete with your score?
There is always the trade-off between sound effects and score. It’s sometimes disappointing to have the score become useless because there is no balance between SFX and score. However, a majority of the films I’ve worked on were brilliantly dubbed and ended up being quite enjoyable for me to watch.

What’s next for you?
I’m working on another feature with Alton Glass called “The Confidant”, it’s a crime thriller. We worked on the horror slasher “Marco Polo” together a while back.

"Thank you ever so much for taking part in this interview Kurt.
And we wish you the very best of luck in the future."


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