What drew you into the world of composing music and ultimately composing for film?
Before I start I’d like to thank Aguilar and the entire Aguilar community for taking the time feature me on your website!
Movies have always been for me a wonderful escape from reality and music has been my personal way to heal from reality. It just seems natural for both of them to come together to bring an experience to the audience. I’ve always respected the responsibility that an artist has to share his talents to benefit others.
As a composer what is the greatest distinction creatively that separates composing from any other musical situation? For bassists that are pursuing this kind of work what are some key qualities to develop?
If I’m honest, I feel that a composer creates an environment for discussion. When you are a musician you are debating within an environment, but it’s the composer who has provided the theme of contemplation. Bass players need to develop intuitively the ability to surrender their ego for the sake of the composition’s needs. The frequency range of our instrument can literally ruin the dialogue of a male voice in a particular scene. We have to learn how to react musically to a situation on the screen without hindering the director’s vision. Ear training and theory is a given must if you want to enter the world of film scoring.
How does being a bassist influence how you compose?
Since the bass typically outlines the harmonic functions I’m able to create melodic foundations quite easily after so many years of experience, then I build the rest of the composition on top of those functions. If the situation requires it I can also turn the bass into a melodic contrapuntal instrument rather than just a rhythmic root keeper. If you listen for example to the bass lines of Beethoven’s Eroica you clearly understand how you can create a composition from the bottom up.
While many players have seen you perform with your signature 6-string basses, you often use 4- string more simplified instruments in the studio (particularly with Dune). How do you choose between instruments for a project and is your approach to each instrument similar or unique?
A lot of my followers and fans were very surprised when they saw me perform the song Eclipse -- from the Dune movie trailer -- with a Fender 4-string bass. Since I wanted to respect Roger Waters’ legacy and Pink Floyd it just seemed natural to go for a vintage sound in that scenario. As far as the movie soundtrack itself, I’ve literally constructed a “bass brigade” which involves an Ibanez UB804 hybrid bowed bass, my Neubauer Phoenix 6-string signature model and a 1961 Fender Jazz. Each project has different demands and each step of the way I try to push the boundaries as far as possible in creating walls full of resonating depth.
Your performances have a lot of dynamics and you command a lot of stage presence – especially evident when performing with Hans Zimmer. What is the importance of stage presence and how does that influence the rest of band?
One of the most important lesson I’ve ever learned was while working with Elton John: “The audience sees you before they hear you! We must not forget that the mundane conformity of daily life which people are enduring everyday should inspire us while we are on stage to give them an emotional experience outside of their daily predicament. To quote Lemmy: “Nobody wants to see their neighbor on stage, they want to see an alien!”
You have a unique relationship with Hans Zimmer in that you not only perform on bass with him and for his work but also collaborate with him when it comes to scoring, composing, and recording. What are some key lessons you have learned working with him and how has it influenced your own music?
Working with Hans has been one of my life’s greatest opportunities as far as understanding how extremely sensitive one has to be in creating the aural aspect of the images we receive on screen. What Mozart communicated with 256 notes, Hans can achieve with 4 notes! There is an element of psychology, extraordinary talent, experience and gentleness which Hans illuminates across all of his projects. He knows exactly who to bring into a particular situation, with tactical precision. I am very honoured to be a part of his circle of musicians.
You recently released your latest single HUSH. Tell us a bit about the track and about this upcoming project. What were you hoping to accomplish and what were some of the influences for this music?
HUSH is the next single from the second album of a trilogy which I’m in the middle of producing right now. “The Blue Road” was the first album and now we are at “The Red Road”. I am very proud of my Arawak heritage and these are the 3 spirit paths which we believe a soul journeys within their time on this planet. A stereotypical comment that 6-string bass players receive constantly is the one that we should be performing on guitar instead of a 6-string bass. I wanted to produce a song where the traditional role of the electric distorted guitar was entirely taken over by my instrument! So what you’ll hear will be a completely new approach to Heavy Metal and Hard Rock bass in terms of layers and soloing structures. I’m also very excited that I’m finally writing not only the music but also lyrics for my songs, as I feel instrumental music does not always deliver clearly enough the message unless words guide the listener directly. I look forward to hearing the bass community’s response to this new endeavor!
To listen to HUSH and to check out more music from Snow Owl click here
Snow Owl’s Gear:
- Aguilar AG 700
- 2x Aguilar SL 112’s
- Ibanez UB804 hybrid bowed bass
- Neubauer Phoenix 6-string Signature Model
- 1961 Fender Jazz Bass