Composer GRAEME REVELL talks
about his experience on AEON FLUX, his two CALL OF DUTY scores, his
screenplay and focus on revitalizing orchestral concert.
always frightened of inadvertently lifting melodies. When you are a
musician, things can stick in your head that you don't want to have
stick there. I don't want to have to go back and check to see if
I've lifted some 5-note riff from the first game. If I don't have
any knowledge of it whatsoever, then I don't have to worry about
CC: 2005 has been a very busy year for you
with four or five feature films under your belt and even a video game
score. Would you say this is your busiest year to date?
GR: I think I have had a couple a bit busier than this. I think, all
tolled, I've had 9 projects this year, as I just finished a project that
will come out next year. Having so many different types of material to
work with, it certainly has been fun.
CC: There was a bit of changing going on with the composer for AEON FLUX,
how did you finally come to be involved with this film?
GR: I had worked with Gale Anne Hurd, the producer, and David Gale, from
MTV, before on a project back in 1993. When they were having difficulty on
this one, I guess they thought of me to come and help them find a
direction that the movie needed. It was good to hook up with them again.
CC: That must have left you with a bit of a time-crunch. How did you deal
GR: I had about 3 weeks...and that's not a problem for me. Three weeks is
a fine amount of time to write a movie score in. I have done one in ten
days, so that's what I call a "crunch." It's just a matter of finding a
direction in a hurry. Then, if everyone in agreement in the direction we
are going, it becomes a bit of a mechanical exercise and there is a lot
of help you can get in that world.
CC: Were you familiar with the animated series and drawn any inspiration
GR: A little bit. I remember it back in the day. I actually have a couple
of children who kept trying to watch MTV at that time and I kept trying to
stop them, so I didn't watch too much. I did remember it being really
interesting and disjointed...and having a bit of a techno soundtrack.
That's really what I took away from my memories, but I didn't go back and
look at it again.
I think the film is a different animal.
CC: So then, the footage of the film itself probably played a big part as
GR: Yes, when I first saw the film, I saw that the production value was
very beautiful. It was shot in Berlin, but it has this sort of Japanese
simplicity and elegance about it. So when I see an image, I start hearing
music. I started to hear this very sinuous streamline that was bending and
shaped like something Japanese...and that really suited Charlene's
character, the Aeon character, with all the skimpy outfits and so on. So I
started to hear it and it sounded good and everyone else liked it.
CC: How much music did your write for the film?
GR: Oh...about 70 minutes.
CC: And the end result, how did you feel about the score?
GR: Pretty good, actually. I think there was good continuity throughout
the film thematically.
CC: How in volved was director Karyn Kusama in the process?
GR: Very involved. It was a team effort. Both David Gale, Karyn, and
others from the Paramount studio were a part of the process. Even Charlize
Theron came to the studio a couple of times and so she was very involved
CC: What sort of input would she have?
GR: Quite minor. She would ask questions. She was very polite...very cool.
We complimented her in regards to an actor actually caring enough to spend
that time way at the back-end of post-production. It was just a pleasure
to meet her.
CC: Have you ever had that happen before, where the star of the film comes
in to studio?
GR: No. Not to my studio, but I do remember Denzel Washington coming into
the orchestral studio when I was doing THE SIEGE. He brought his little
son and he went out into the orchestra, got really excited, and shouted in
the middle of a take! So that was cool too, but Denzel had come in more to
say "Hi" rather than being creatively involved.
CC: Do you consider yourself one of those composers in Hollywood that when
a project gets short on time and things aren't happening the way the
director or producers are wanting that they know to call you up?
GR: Seems to be! I wish they'd call me first actually, so perhaps they
wouldn't have gotten into the mess in the first place! (laughs)
CC: Do you find you have more or less creative freedom when you are
brought into production later rather than early on?
GR: It's amazing really. Even with a little amount of time everyone still
has all their notes and complaints that they would have even if there was
a year to do it in. And that's fine really because everyone just wants to
make it right and generally things get better as you get a few more tries
at it. In AEON FLUX there is a lot of exposition happening at the same
time as a lot of emotion, so it wasn't the kind of music you could write
in just one pass. You really have to work hard at it. While trying to be
"cool" there is a lot of storytelling as well.
CC: How would you compare AEON FLUX to, say, TOMB RAIDER or some other
project where you also had a very short time to write the score? Did you
sit back and say, "Hey this is pretty good...whether I had three weeks or
a year to write it!"
GR: I think this one is better. The use of the two main themes are more
constitently used throughout. With TOMB RAIDER, I had to look at it scene
by scene and write whatever would be best for that specific scene. So TOMB
RAIDER was a little bit light on the through-line of theme.
CC: Has anyone talked "sequel? to AEON FLUX?
GR: No. Not at all.
CC: Well, maybe they'll call you earlier in the game, if there is a sequel
down the road!
GR: (laughs) Hopefully!
CC: Now, this year you also scored for a couple of video games: CALL OF
DUTY 2 and CALL DUTY: THE BIG RED ONE. Talk about your involvement with
GR: Well, they called up my manager and asked if it were something I'd be
interested in doing. And I'm always up for a challenge! This was an area
that I didn't have a lot of real knowledge on. I do play some games
occasionally, but I'm not a real "gamer" guy.
CC: What was the experience like?
GR: I knew that the way you have to write for video games is quite
different than the way you write for movies, so I found it quite
interesting. Also, I never had the opportunity to write for the big, world
war two, orchestral type of score and so that made it fun. I just liked
watching the mechanics of the game, the features of the game. Especially
the areas the producers were going into, I found very interesting
CC: I understand that you don't like listening to work that has been done
for a particular franchise prior to your involvement. For instance, the
music for CALL OF DUTY was originally done by MICHAEL GIACCHINO. Why is
GR: Well, I'm always frightened of inadvertently lifting melodies. When
you are a musician, things can stick in your head that you don't want to
have stick there. I don't want to have to go back and check to see if I've
lifted some 5-note riff from the first game. If I don't have any knowledge
of it whatsoever, then I don't have to worry about that.
CC: I always like to ask composers who have worked in multiple mediums of
film, television and games, if they favor one medium over another. Do you
have a favorite?
GR: I think film...although I really have to say that I just like to work
with the greatest variety as possible. I'm always wanting to branch out
into new areas...to try something new, so I can possibly add something
fresh to a genre. Otherwise, I become the guy who just does horror movies
or action movies. If that was the case, I'd just have kill myself
CC: You recently took some time off to write your own screenplay. How is
the coming? Is it complete?
GR: Yes. It's complete. Unfortunately, the company that ask me to do it
went into some kind of "change of direction" and my script was one of the
ones that got let go. So now I'm out shopping it again. It's a fun, light
comedy, so I'm hoping that somebody is going to pick it up soon.
CC: Now, if they do, will you say, "I have to write the score for it"?
GR: Yes. That is part of deal. There are a few sort of rock-songs that go
with it, so I'll definately partner up with someone to do those.
CC: And you're also working on a Las Vegas production.
GR: Yes...and producing is hard. I have had a project with Ceaser's
Entertainment and then they got bought out by Harrahs. So now that
production is in limbo as well. But I'm still very excited about this one.
I'm sort of changing some of the ideas right now and I'm thinking of
forming a new partnership which I think will be good for everybody.
CC: Being a New Zealander, have you had any desire to work with your
fellow Kiwi, Peter Jackson?
GR: Hell yeah (laughs). So far he hasn't come my way, but hopefully he'll
wise up come one day.
CC: Have you met him or spent much time with him?
GR: Oh, I tried to meet him before he started THE LORD OF THE RINGS. I
happened to be down in New Zealand, but he had already made up his mind on
HOWARD SHORE. He had really like Howard Shore's music for THE FLY, so
there was no changing his mind on that one. That's the breaks!
CC: Obviously you have a worldwide following, what is the question you
tend to get the most from your fans?
GR: I think I have a really polarized audience. When you try to have an
edgy-sound this happens. There are people who really like film soundtracks
that really don't like my work - the type who are the traditional, Jerry
Goldsmith, John Williams kind of fans. Then the people who really like my
work are people who come more from the industrial or rock or gothic area.
They find that my soundtracks have this sort of emotional, dark quality of
some of their favorite bands. I have to say the question I get asked the
most, though, is "How do I get into that business?"
CC: And your answer?
GR: I tell them it's really tough! But I encourage them to just be
themselves and not try to sound like anyone else out there.
CC: As you continue to move on in your craft, do you ever see yourself
going down a more traditional, musical road?
GR: Oh no. There is no interest in me of going down a more traditional
line at all. However, I am about to move into a more traditional area. The
focus of the next few years is going to be to revitalize the concert hall.
The orchestras of the world are dying. If you are under the age of 50, you
probably have never been to a concert hall or been to hear any orchestral
music. In fact, the average age is now 71. I think the problem is that
there isn't anything to listen to at all. No one is writing anything worth
listening to. So I'm going to try take some of the people I know who have
an interest in that area and write material which is using many of the
techniques I developed over the years and try to make that arena exciting.
CC: How soon do you think you'll have your first production ready?
GR: Hopefully, there will be something we can do for Summer of next year
CC: Well, it's clear that you have quite a bit on your plate for the
foreseeable future, but hopefully you'll be able to squeeze in a film
project or two.
GR: Oh I'll still be available for films, but at some point I'm going to
have to make the judgement its the film genre that I don't work in
anymore. I have reached a point where I'd like to do more serious dramas,
but if you are the guy who has done horror movies, they're never going to
give you the chance. That said, I do enjoy doing films like BRIDE OF
CC: Well, thank you for your time today and all the best to you in your
GR: Thank you and you have a great holiday, Chris.