A composer from Denmark – Interview with Anthony Lledo

Anthony Lledo born in Denmark, studied privately, worked with Harry Gregson-Williams, and wrote score for the Frostbite, the Darkroom, the Civil War film, called Gettysburg, and many Lego productions – like the Legends of Chima, for which he received the 2013 Cue Award for Best Television Score. We talked with him about his most recent and earlier works.

Could you tell me a bit about your music education and what made you choose this career?

I mainly studied music privately. I have always listened to and played many different genres of music and also played various instruments. From early on I was composing music and I think it must have been in my late teens or early twenties that I got into composing for film. I started out composing for local film school projects and then documentaries eventually moving into feature films, my first being the Swedish film Frostbite.

Usually how did you build up the mood and the instrumentation? How free your hands were when selecting the style and the intonation of this music?

I guess that depends on the project, what kind of score you are writing and whether you have worked with the filmmakers before. There will be conversations, usually with the director, about stylistic approach and occasionally more specific musical ideas, but in general the conversations will focus more on the overall emotional approach to the film, rather than being too specific about the music itself. On something like Legends of Chima where I have a long-standing relationship with the filmmakers there has already been established a lot of trust and they know my music so they basically just let me at it without too much talking.

You work many times together with Harry Gregson-Williams (like: X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Unstoppable, The Town, etc.). Please tell to me a little bit about yours collaboration.

In 2008 I was very fortunate to be invited by Harry to come and work with him at his studio in Los Angeles. He was just finishing The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 when I arrived from Denmark and immediately after that we started on Wolverine with many others to follow. He is a great composer and a great guy and I have learned a lot working with him, not only in terms of music, but about the whole process – I would sit in on his meetings with producers and directors, go to scoring sessions with him and so on. After working on a number of films with him, Ridley and Tony Scott's production company Scott Free was doing a film about Gettysburg and Harry put me up for that.

Could you tell me about the world of the additional composers?

I guess it varies – a lot! I was very lucky to have been able to work with someone like Harry, who is not only an experienced and busy composer but also a great guy who would generously share his knowledge and experiences, include you in the whole process, introduce you to people and even has help me move forward in my own career. I think that's rare! 

The first Sweden vampire movie was the Frostbite in 2006. How did you get this assignment?

I happened to be at a post production studio in Copenhagen playing some of my music in a mixing suite – all of a sudden two guys where standing in the doorway asking about the music we were playing. It turned out that they were Swedish director Anders Banke and producer Magnus Paulsson who had been sitting in the room next door editing. They were looking for a composer for their film so I got hired right there.

What's your favorite moment of the birth of this horror music and why?

Although Frostbite also has quite a bit of comedy or fun elements in it we chose to play it seriously musically and focus on the dark side and let the comedy take care of itself on screen. I started by writing the Frostbite main theme, which is introduced in the opening cue of the film played with the full orchestra. This theme is then used in almost every musical cue throughout the film in various arrangements and orchestrations. One of my favorite scenes which also incorporates arrangements of the main theme is the bathroom scene where the young medical assistant Sebastian realizes that he is turning into a vampire – he can no longer see his own image in the mirror, his teeth starts growing into fangs and he freaks out! The scene ends with him sinking his newly grown fangs into a small white rabbit – sucking it dry for blood. The cue is called "Sebastian's Transformation" on the soundtrack and I feel the music and picture comes together particularly well in this scene. I also wrote a few other themes and motifs for Frostbite, among them a theme for the girl Saga and the one for the 'vampire pills', which was performed by celeste and a boy soloist singer. We recorded the score over a couple of days in Bratislava with Allan Wilson conducting.

The Darkroom's style was another tougher movie genre, the thriller. As a private man, are you fan of horror or thriller?

I am – especially the thriller elements. The Darkroom score had a bit more sound design and ambient elements to it although I also used quite a bit of orchestra. 

For Frostbite you received the 'Best Score' award at the Screamfest, which is the biggest horror film festival in the USA. How important are awards and positive feedback in your career?

It was very nice indeed to receive that recognition for the Frostbite score – especially since this was my first feature film score. Here almost 10 years after it's release, I still keep receiving emails from people enjoying that score. Truly amazing.

You composed the score of History Channel's Gettysburg. What differences did you notice between the documentary and the other genres (like action, horror, comedy, etc.)?

Although this was a documentary, narrated by actor Sam Rockwell, the overall approach was very much the same as scoring any other film in terms of helping support the story and enhance the drama and the action. One thing the filmmakers did NOT want for this score was a ‘Civil War score' – no blaring trumpets or fife and drums! I recorded a live 48-piece strings section for this as well as a lot of percussion, scraped metals, bowed guitars and processed solo violin among other things.

Until now, you have four associations with Lego: Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Brick, Star Wars: The Quest for R2-D2, Star Wars: The Quest for R2-D2 and Legends of Chima. All project directed by Peder Pedersen. Could you tell us more about your partnership with the Lego and Pedersen?

Peder is a great director who like me grew up loving the films of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, so for us to works on these Indiana Jones and Star Wars short films was a lot of fun. I believe that both Spielberg and Lucas actually watched and approved these mini movies themselves! As for Legends of Chima this was a huge project, so far spanning 41 tv-episodes, various mini movies, video games and theme parks at Legoland!

Please, tell to me, how did you built up the score of you's first Lego assignment, the Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Brick?

Musically it is in the spirit of the original Indiana Jones films but playing a bit more of the comedy. We did use the "Raiders March" occasionally and also had a few nods to the original score in there – such as an elevator music version of "Marion's theme" and a 1950's music style version of the "Raiders March".

Your latest project is the score for Legends of Chima series, which is an exciting, colorful and impressively epic score. Why did you start on this line when you started writing the music?

Thank you! Legends of Chima have all the classic elements that make up an epic fantasy tale and musically it was approached as such. We always felt that a thematic orchestral score was the natural way to go.

The MovieScore Media released the second Legend of Chima's album. In general, you involved in the production of the soundtrack CDs?

Quite involved I would say. Having composed, orchestrated and produced the score myself, I have been 100% hands-on throughout the whole process so it is important to me that it gets presented the best possible way on a soundtrack album. That is handled skillfully as always by Mikael Carlsson of MovieScore Media who does the album layout, gives suggestions to the track order and makes sure it gets out there.

Do you keep track the career of your colleagues? Which composer do you like and why?

I have quite a few colleagues whom I try to catch up with here in L.A. whenever our schedules allow for it! As for composers, I have always been attracted to melodic and thematic writing. In the film music world, John Williams, James Horner, Alan Silvestri and Christopher Young are some composers who come to mind.

To know more about Anthony Lledo's work, please visit the composer's official website.


May 30th, 2015
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