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Interview Ilan Eshkeri


Filmmuziek.be interviewt componist Ilan Eshkeri

Filmmuziek.be: Did you always want to become a film music composer? Was there a specific moment/movie/score which inspired you to become a filmcomposer?

Ilan Eshkeri: I loved movie scores growing up. I was brought up with classical music, my mother played a lot of Chopin when I was young, which i loved. But I was also excited by the power of film music, although at that time I'm not sure I actually considered writing it. Back to the future was the first OST I had. The album was full of songs with 2 of Alan Silvestri's orchestral tracks, and I listened to them over and over again.

Filmmuziek.be: You have worked with a lot of film composers, each with their specific style (Michael Kamen, Hans Zimmer, …). Did they influence your way of working? Did they teach you anything specific?

Ilan Eshkeri: I learnt a lot from all the people I have worked with. Every once in a while the composer you are with passes down a gem of information to you that you absorb into your way of working.

Filmmuziek.be: You've written music for very different movie genres (thriller, boxing movie, fantasy, romantic comedy, …). What genre do you prefer writing for?

Ilan Eshkeri: I don't think I can say I prefer a genre. What I love about film music is the challenge of always having to find out about something new. Every film creates its own world and therefore a new area in music that has to be studied and understood to make a score that is bespoke in every way to the story, culture and character of the film.

Filmmuziek.be: You have worked /are still working with various songwriters. Which current projects are you involved with?

Ilan Eshkeri: I just finished working with Annie Lennox. She asked me to work with her on a concert with a 60 piece orchestra that was broadcast on Radio 2. We reinvented some of her biggest hits like "Sweet Dreams" and "Here comes the Rain Again". She really is one of the most amazing peope I have ever worked wiht. The job though was a bit scary; I really didn't want to be the guy who did cheesy orchestral versions of such universally loved music. But it seems to have gone very well. Reviews were good and Annie loved it. I hope we get to do another similar concert. Next i'm hoping to do a project with Tim Wheeler from Ash - we're looking for a film to do together, so watch this space!

Filmmuziek.be: Stardust is your second collaboration with director Matthew Vaughn. How did you get involved with your first movie together, Layer Cake? How was it to work with Lisa Gerrard?

Ilan Eshkeri: I was introduced to Matthew by my score producer Steve McLaughlin. There was very little time to turn the score around, but Matthew and I developed a good rapport and from first meeting him to standing in front of the orchestra in Abbey Road was exactly 2 weeks! Lisa had already been working on the film and I recorded and arranged strings for some of her cues. Unfortunately I never got to meet her but it was amazing to work with her none the less.

Filmmuziek.be: While composing the music for Stardust, which elements were your biggest inspiration? (the story, the images, the actors, the director, …)?

Ilan Eshkeri: There was an unusual amount of inspiration for Stardust because of all the material that existed for the film and because Matthew's way of working meant that I was involved from when he was writing the script. After my initial conversations with Matthew I immediately read Neil's graphic novel and found inspiration from Charles's beautiful paintings. One of the first pieces I wrote was "flying vessel", which was inspired by Charles's painting of the flying pirate ship coming out of the clouds. Of course i was inspired by Matthew, the film and the actors. I mean who wouldn't strive to do something brilliant when faced with a screen entrance of Robert DeNiro.

Filmmuziek.be: Your music plays an active part in the movie. For exemple in "Flying Vessel", we hear some notes on the piano, in the movie played by Robert DeNiro's character 'Captain Shakespeare'. Did you first see the images and then write the music or was the "composing relationship" between image and music more direct?

Ilan Eshkeri: Writing the music for Stardust was a very collaborative process. All the HOD's worked closely together, for example I was writing on set and hanging with Ben Davis the DOP and Jon Harris the Editor and they were at the recording sessions. It's a close nit team and a very exciting and rewarding process.

Filmmuziek.be: Was it your idea to include specific classical pieces in the movie/soundtrack? Did you choose them? Was it difficult to "write music around them"? (e.g. "Flying Vessel", where Yvaine's theme appears beautifully after Dvorak's Dance No 6).

Ilan Eshkeri: Matthew knew he wanted classical music in places. We chose the music together apart from the Cancan which Jon discovered and to our surprise we all loved. No, it's never hard to write around other music; it's part of the job and forces you to make sure your work is at least approaching a standard that is passable next to a great master.

Filmmuziek.be: Can you tell us something more about the various themes that appear throughout the score (Tristan's, Yvaine's, the love theme, perhaps even one for the kings of Stormhold, …) ? What (emotions, characteristics) did you want to express in their specific themes?

Ilan Eshkeri: Tristan's theme had to be pastoral but also able to be heroic. It was hard to write something that could do both, but it was also a lot to do with instruments. The best example is when he returns to his home to see Victoria. As she opens the door you get his original theme on the Cor Anglais, then as Humphrey arrives and challeges him to a fight you get the theme adapted to sound more heroic and played on the French Horn.

Yvaine's theme came from the idea that stars are celestial a bit like angels and so it needed to be sort of religous. Especially when she is the comet coming to earth. There's something iconic about a star in the night sky and choral music, so from that point on Yvaine - especially when she shined was a celestial female choir.

The love theme was really hard to do. I wrote at least 2 different themes. In it Yvaine is represented by the flute and Tristan again by the Cor Anglais. Eventually the strings take over. The theme was difficult to write because it had to be warm and happy, innocent, but also a little painful as they don't realise they love each other at first, so it's unrequited. The full version of the theme never made it into the movie but I managed to find some time to record it for the album.

The witches was another fun theme to do. Because there are 3 of them they always have three notes in the form of a minor triad. Following the top line, these notes always move in unison. When they have action I used the same harmonic idea but with a 3/4 rhythm.

When Septimus rides around his theme is in 7/8. I enjoy writing from the starting point of a conceptial idea. It gives you something to work with or against. I don't always stick with it but certainly it's less daunting than starting from a blank canvas!

Filmmuziek.be: The epilogue and end credit song are written by Take That. How was it to work with them?
How come their song "Rule the World" isn't included on the soundtrack?

Ilan Eshkeri: It was amazing to work with Take That. To be completely honest, I wasn't much of a fan before I met them, but I really liked all of them as soon as I did. Mark asked me how I got into film music and I told him that really I wanted to be a rock star and he replied "yeah me too!". They are really hard workers and wrote an amazing song; it was really exciting to collaborate with them on it. Unfortunately, it wasn't up to me to whether their song was included on the soundtrack or not.

Filmmuziek.be: Can you already tell us something more about your music for Matthew Vaughn's next movie, Thor?

Ilan Eshkeri: Not really, although we have talked about it. It is still too far off to tell. For the time being I've just used it as an excuse to read comic books.

Filmmuziek.be: What other film music projects are you currently working on?

Ilan Eshkeri: I'm currently working on an untitled dance theatre piece, it's pretty abstract but still very accessible, full of fun tunes and amazing dancing. I'm loving doing something different from films. I'm about to start on another film project called Telstar with Kevin Spacey. It's a biopic of Joe Meek the British pop song producer and song writer.

Marie-Lise Van Wassenhove