‘Why he is so revolutionary is that Hans takes the string section and treats them like a guitar playing rhythm, nobody has done that’ said John Debny, Director of The Passion of the Christ.
President of Music at Fox, Robert Kraft said ‘Hans Zimmer is a legend and becoming more legendary’.
The term legend is thrown around far too often and cheaply these days, but it’s special when rightly deserved – in this case for film music composed by Hans Zimmer, the dogs bollocks of scoring Hollywood movies
But what’s the North East link ? While researching studio work by Durham born record producer Trevor Horn for a later post, I found a link between Horn and Zimmer. In the music video for Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles in 1979, Horn is playing bass and two men are on keys, one being Horn’s song writing partner Geoff Downes, the other is a young Zimmer. The song hit number one and was first music video to be played on MTV.
Zimmer’s early work varied from co-producing History of the World Part 1 by UK punk band The Damned, who included the track on their 1980 LP, The Black Album. Captain Sensible said… ‘Yeah we gave him his first big break in showbiz. We also gave him a hard time. He was a bit of a megalomaniac in the studio. Perfect for us’.
Remember the 1980’s TV game show Going for Gold ? Zimmer wrote the theme tune for that. In a BBC interview he said… ‘It’s the sort of stuff you do when you don’t have a career yet. I just felt so lucky because this paid my rent’.
Hollywood came calling with Rain Man starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman, then The Lion King happened ‘At first I didn’t want to do it, I thought I can’t write fairy tale animated music but that’s why they wanted me’.
I was first Zimmered after watching the American war film The Thin Red Line (1999). Journey to the Line has become an iconic piece of Zimmer’s work. I found his name when I checked the credits at the end of the film. This was the time before googlin’ up – remember then ?
The link from the Buggles/Trevor Horn is a bit flimsy so here is a more concrete North East link to Zimmer. In the 2000’s he worked with South Shields born film director Ridley Scott on Gladiator, Black Hawk Down and Hannibal.
On his roll call, Zimmer can also list Hollywood blockbusters Mission Impossible, Inception and Pirates of the Caribbean. Would some of the films we’ve seen have had the same impact without his music ? I doubt it.
Zimmer also writes for TV – the 2018 World Cup theme, Blue Planet 2 and The Crown receiving the smooth, silky glossy treatment. Currently, his work features on the new James Bond film, No Time to Die.
Throughout his career Zimmer has received a large amount of honours, awards and nominations including Academy, Grammy and Golden Globes. One which he shared in 2001 for the dreamy opening film sequence and haunting vocals of Lisa Gerrard in Gladiator.
Zimmer said of the piece …’It had to be a woman’s voice, the only way it worked was because of Lisa. It gave a little more licence to the rest of the movie to be more poetic, more expansive’.
Sky Arts are screening an orchestral performance of his work, Hollywood in Vienna 2018 featuring Queen of the opera, Gerrard, resplendent in red velvet belting it out on stage bathed in orange fire light and video projections, chandeliers decorate the opulent concert hall. At the end a kiss for the crowd – follow that.
A set list including goth/trance of The Dark Knight add extra atmosphere to fantastic pieces of music. On the Dark Knight soundtrack check out Like a Dog Chasing Cars, it has a menacing undertow and crackling rhythm which heralds in a triumphant swell. Trust me on this one. It’s on the epic scale.
The latest movie I watched that had a huge blast of Zimmer was Christopher Nolan’s war film Dunkirk. So good I saw it twice. The soundtrack on CD alone is a killer. Crank up Supermarine – it’s where the lightning strikes. Sound rushes up to the max and washes over you in waves. By the end of the track I nearly spat out me popcorn.
The Film has a scene where The Oil is scored under German Stuka planes on the hunt. Its constant pulse and ticking picks up pace as British soldiers are in the sea hoping to be taken to safety by boat, but oil has spilled out among the stranded soldiers.
Zimmer cranks up the tension throwing up a signal above the noise. A Spitfire scores a direct hit on a German plane heading nose-down for the sea. Both sound and vision fuse together in perfect symmetry.
To bring yer heart rate down, why not try Time on the Inception film soundtrack, the orchestra mix is a total sob-fest. Johnny Marr (The Smiths) featured in Time on the Live in Prague cd. Zimmer, who was in the Vienna audience all night, finally makes an appearance on stage walking through the orchestra playing guitar and living up to his title of the rock star of film music.
Guarantee by the end you’ve been Zimmered. The undisputed king. A legend.
Zimmer said ‘I’m still hunting down the great tune that I’ve never written. It’s somewhere out there, that’s what makes me get up in the morning.
When I play you a piece of music I completely expose myself and that’s a scary moment. I love what I do even when I sit there tearing my hair out. I still wouldn’t trade it for anything else’.
Gary Alikivi February 2021.
Research: Score, Cinema’s Greatest. Hollywood in Vienna 2018.