Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I take my mornings pretty slow, I try to spend the first hour reading and drinking coffee and then walk my dog for 30 minutes before making breakfast and then start getting ready for the day. So, my work day usually doesn't start until 11 AM or so. And then I work as long as need be, it always differs.
I have a studio that’s 20 minutes away and it's the first time I've ever worked away from home and I have very much prospered from the separation of life and work. In Austin, I had a studio built behind my house and that was helpful to have a separate structure at least as opposed to a room in my house but now that I “go to work” I feel like I've become a more efficient worker and can also relax and enjoy my time away from work more.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a soundtrack or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?
It's all pretty stream-of-consciousness for me. Like I said, I have no training, it's always been something where I start playing something, whether it's guitar, keyboard, bass or something else and then just start following whatever that's sparking. I try to not overthink it and listen to my creative pulse. This applies to lyrics as well. I always write them after the music has begun to take shape and I have an overall vision for the ultimate feel and mood and I write the lyrics to reflect that.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
Since I spend most of my work hours having to be creative, I've had to learn to be much less precious about being in the right mindset or being “inspired”. In the past, I used to justify not working on music because I wasn't feeling in that state and for my band's last album in 2013, I did the sort of clichéd thing of going to a friend's cottage in the mountains in Colorado while he was out of town with just my acoustic guitar and wrote the whole album there.
Now that my income and projects I've been entrusted with depend on my ability to turn the creative switch on, whether I'm “feeling it” or not, has been thoughts I've had to turn off. I HAVE to be in that mindset, so I just have to fight through anything that’s blocking that. It can be very frustrating to be trying to work on music for hours and nothing is coming out that's at all satisfying or inspiring. I’ve learned how to not get too fatalistic about it and I'll take breaks as need be, whether it's walking the dog or watching something or talking on the phone and just remembering that it's always worked out before, so precedent says that eventually I'll get back in the right mode to be able to hear my creative pulse more clearly.
How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of film music and the 'composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?
My scores have always been very sound-design heavy to varying degrees. On The Report and Barry it’s more of a part from the very beginning of the compositional process, in that an idea or piece will start with finding the right synth sound. This has been where my head and ears have been at since I first became interested in music. Particular guitar sounds on Velvet Underground or Sonic Youth records I heard when I was a kid mystified and fascinated me as much as anything I'd ever heard. There are bands that I can't enjoy because I just can't get past the way the bass guitar sounds. So, it's always been as important in terms of the seed of the initial creative spark as the actual composition or songwriting to me.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
This is another big one I'd have to think about and get back to you. It's not something I've given much thought to if I'm being honest.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
In short, I think it’s just listening to that part of my brain distraction-free and trying to express it as unfiltered as I can. That's what always seems to work and affect other people the most and I feel like that's the role of art in our society, to connect to other people in a specific way.
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of soundtracks still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what film music could be beyond its current form?
It's exciting to see it evolve since I got started in it 20 years ago and I can't say that I do, I'm just excited to see where it goes.