Emmy award winning composer Trevor Morris talks to Time+Space
Sunday, November 20, 2011
When you spend the early days of your composing career working with the likes of Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard, a future as a successful film composer is a certainty. That’s how Trevor Morris’ career began and today he has many a feature film soundtrack to his name including The Hills Have Eyes 2, The Ring 2, Stolen to name just a few. But what Trevor is perhaps most well known for is his Emmy award-winning soundtrack for the popular historical drama series The Tudors.
We heard that Trevor uses plug-ins from several Time+Space brands, so we got in touch with find out more about writing music for film and tv and why he chooses the products he uses….
First up, congratulations on your recent Emmy win for The Borgias in the category of ´Outstanding Original Main Title Music´! How does it feel to now be the proud owner of two Emmy awards?
It feels fantastic. It’s an especially deep honour to win awards like these that are peer group voted. Unlike the Oscars say, the EMMYs are voted on by my fellow music types, which feels amazing.
The Borgias is described as a sexy, bloody, sneaky, political series about the Borgia Dynasty circa 1492, with Jeremy Irons playing the lead role, how would you sum up the music across the series?
Oh that’s a tough one. Well, its a blend of big and small gestures, which follows the story lines. It involves a lot of adding mystery in intrigue to the story, which has so much subtext to it, such a rich tapestry already.
You also wrote and have won several awards for the music you´ve scored for another historical drama series The Tudors, which carries some similar themes to The Borgias, (sex, power, murder etc). How differently did you approach the music for The Borgias?
Well they have similarities to be sure and they actually take place less than 50 years apart in history which is amazing. But The Borgias is a different beast. Italy and specifically Rome was the hub of the world at that time, and the Papacy was in essence the "president of the world" post. So the level of power and corruption goes such much deeper in The Borgias.
At school, you were heavily taught classical music but later in your education you decided to forgo a traditional music education program for a course in recording engineering and production – what was it that instigated that decision?
Well, I fell out of love with classical music in High School. And upon graduation it was time to choose my path, and for my going to University, at least in Canada, meant getting a Bachelor of Music and then going on to being a teacher, which I had no interest in. I know how immensely valuable good teachers are and I didn´t feel I was meant to be one. So by default the other choice was Music Industry Arts, which suited me anyway since I was so into technology and all that.
Before your own career really took off you got to work with some very famous movie composers including James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer – how did that come about and what were you doing with them?
I worked very briefly with James, a few months or so I think. It was my first gig when I arrived in LA. James and I are still friends, and his influence on me as a composer, human being and about 7 other ways (including French Wine) stay with me today. That led to working with Hans, where I did a variety of things from technical to musical for about 8 years or so.
You´ve just completed the soundtrack for your biggest feature film to date Immortals which hits cinema screens in November. The score was recorded in London with a live orchestra and choir – did you compose the score using plug-ins beforehand? If so, which ones did you use?
My music is beyond mocked up, it is the truest, closest realization of what I want to convey musically through technology. A process I take a great deal of time and care in doing. And the reliance on technology is so deep in this regard. I use some version or form of almost all the top libraries, plus my own custom orchestral samples in getting my mock ups to sound the way they do. The plug in that was a game changer for me of late is Vienna Ensemble Pro, as a sample host. It allowed me to get rid of all my PC´s (thank God) and go all Mac´s. My studio machine room has 15 G5´s in it now.
We hear you´ve been using Sample Logic´s Rumble – what is it about this product that you find most appealing and how have you been using it for your projects?
I like Sample Logic´s stuff at lot. They´re a great bunch and they really get the "cinematic" thing that I look for in libraries. The more libraries that come out, the more I realize how good the good ones are, and how crappy the bad ones are. I am MUCH choosier about the libraries and VI´s I use now.
There are a number of other Time+Space brands amongst your set-up, including titles from Spectrasonics, Synthogy, Rob Papen and Toontrack, could you tell us more about which products you´re using and for which purpose you find them most useful?
I use all those. Stylus RMX and Trilian and Omnisphere are permanent residents in my auto load, can´t imagine life with out them. I like the Rob Papen stuff a lot too, I am tweaking around in BLUE as we speak!
We hear you´re also using iZotope software, which titles in particular?
Ozone and Spectron are favs, I’m just starting to get into Alloy a bit now too, which I think is super cool. I do a lot of solo instrument recording and overdubs on my Film and Television music. I like that their sonic character is unique and different than the large feel of the orchestra. And Alloy is the perfect tool for taking something such as solo cello say, and quickly modernizing its sonic character. Having access to the self contained nature of Alloy´s processing and being able to save it for specific instrumentalists is creatively huge for me.
You´ve just built yourself a new studio, have you bought much new equipment for this? Is there anything left on your wishlist?
Mmm, not really (laughs). I bought a large format mixing console by Euphonix called the System-5 this year, so that is a dream come true to have my own state of the art mixing environment. What’s on my wishlist is more time off, of which there is never enough to balance the work out.
Finally, what projects have you got in the pipeline for the rest of 2011?
Borgias II is spinning up, and doing a great feature with Bruce Willis and 50 cent called "Fire with Fire" which I get into soon as well.
My pleasure, thanks for having me.
Click here to visit the Trevor Morris website