Hans Zimmer talks INCEPTION, Composing, Working with with James Newton Howard, and More

     October 31, 2010

Last week, The Recording Academy hosted an invite-only screening of Inception, followed by a special Q&A session with the film’s composer, Oscar and Grammy winner Hans Zimmer (Gladiator, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight).  The Q&A was moderated by Mike Knobloch, President of Film Music and Publishing at Universal Pictures.  During their talk, Hans talked about his relationship with Batman and Inception director Christopher Nolan, revealed his creative process for composing, and described what it was like co-composing with James Newton Howard (on Batman).  Hit the jump to read some selected quotes from Zimmer and you can also listen to the audio.

Here’s the audio file.  You might have to run up your speakers after the opening Collider tag.

0:00 Working with Christopher Nolan on Inception during pre-production

“[The Inception script] all made sense to me, which probably means I’m really really crazy.”

4:23 Hans’ composing process

“I really do believe in the collaborative process.  I come from a band culture.  I come from, you know, other people coming in and contributing ideas, and, you know, jamming.”

“It’s a rock and roll score.” (in reference to the Inception soundtrack)

6:45 “Johnny Marr playing guitar”

“[Johnny Marr] knew what was needed was not to add notes, but to play the notes I had written with conviction.”

8:15 Using technology to compose

“I have no musical education.  I had two weeks of piano lessons; that’s my formal education.”

“I’m off the generation where a new musical instrument was invented called the computer.  So if you ask me to play a piano, I don’t play it very well.  But I can play a computer really well.”

9:10 Hans’ view of “real composers” versus “film composers”

“There are real composers… and then there are film composers.  I’m not saying it’s anything of a lesser thing, it’s just a very different discipline.”

“I know how to say this language of film really well.  That I know I’m really good at… I learned from great filmmakers.”

11:00 Working on Batman

“I wanted to work with Chris [Nolan], but I wasn’t sure I wanted to do Batman.  Chris doesn’t accept ‘no’ – ‘No’ is not in his vocabulary.”

“I don’t want to do the lovey-dovey bits.”  (What Hans told Chris regarding Batman)

12:00 Hans discusses his collaboration with James Newton Howard

“We started off very shy of each other.  After a week it became at least three-handed piano.”

“Music is indefensible.  You play it to somebody and it either resonates or it doesn’t.”

“It’s a very fragile world being a composer.  When you play somebody your piece of music for the first time, you’re really exposing your inner self.”

13:45 Inception post-production

“One of the things I try to do is I try to not have a score which sits on top of a movie and sort of looks down on it, but it needs to come from the inside.  We bleed into sound design all the time.”

“We never spotted [Inception].  The weird thing was I would never tell him what I had written the piece for… Part of the experiment was would he recognize what I would write it for.”

To learn even more about Hans Zimmer, watch Steve’s exclusive interview with him.

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