Name: Karl Frid
Occupation: Composer
Nationality: Swedish
Current event: Karl Frid composed the score to PLEASURE, a female commentary and emotional response to the porn industry. The music comprises of pieces written in a classical opera style and deep trap beats, creating an air of intense inner suspense and mesmerising beauty. It is available via Sony Soundtracks.
Recommendations: Pippilotti Rist - Wicked Game - was an inspiration to some aspect in the creation of the Pleasure score.
Olafur Eliasson - Den Blinde Passager

If you enjoyed this interview with Karl Frid and would like to find out more about her work, visit him on Instagram, and twitter. Together with his brother Pär Frid, he also operates Stockholm based boutique production studio Frid & Frid.

Can you talk a bit about your interest in or fascination for film music?

I wouldn’t say that I have a special interest in film music. I love music in general, as a universal language, and I think music combined with image is a powerful means of expressing yourself.

Which composers, or soundtracks captured your imagination in the beginning? What scenes or movies drew you in through their use of music?

Well, there are so many great composers and scores. I think like many others I was really drawn into film music by the greats such as John Williams, Ennio Morricone, Bernard Hermann and Henry Mancini, as well as many more.

I’ve always been fascinated by how the tiniest and most simple motifs, such as the Jaws theme by John Williams, could create such direct and deliberate tension.

What made it appealing to you to score a movie yourself? What was it that you wanted to express and what did you feel did you have to add artistically?

I think what drew me into film to start with was to create music with a purpose.

When I started collaborating with my brother Pär twelve years ago, and formed the Frid & Frid Studio, our main goal wasn’t really to be film composers. Rather to combine our different skill sets to complement each other and form our own musical platform. But after composing our first score we realized that it was such a fun creatively rewarding process, and that we could be much more musically together.

For us every film project needs its own universe, and we think the important thing is to do great film, where the music should follow and elevate the artistic vision of the director.  

What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to film music? Do you see yourself as part of a certain tradition or lineage?

I think the main approach by me and Pär has always been to find that specific sonic universe of the film. Each film needs its own unique space and sound. The choice of the musical timbre is, in my opinion, one of the key aspects of bringing that to the screen.

I don’t really consider my music or the scores I have done together with my brother belonging to a certain tradition or lineage. I think we always try to find that special sound, genre and sonic components and to build the score from that.

How would you rate the importance of soundtracks and film music for the movie as a whole? How do you see the relationship between image and sound in a movie?

I think the sound and music has the ability to complete or ruin a film. The sonic universe of the film is one of its most important components.

There are dedicated scores, sound tracks, temp tracks that ended up staying in the finished movie and even scores that were written without the composer seeing the movie first. How do these different premises affect the finished movie, do you feel?

Temp tracks can be great in terms of communicating the direction of the score between the director and the composer. The possible downside with temp tracks would be that the film maker might get too attached to that specific track, making it hard to replace with the actual score. We’ve been in many situations like these.

A lot of our music has primarily been written with the film in mind, letting the story and the intentions of the film be the creative spark to the music. Then applying the music to the film and fine-tuning it to mold into that universe. Then of course some films need much more direct composing to the picture than others. I wouldn’t say that one way is better than the other though.

How did you get started scoring for films and what were some of the specific challenges?

I took an extracurricular class in my last year at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm. I remember finding it very exciting and fun to write music directly for the picture. Then it took me some years before I actually scored my first feature. It was after teaming up with my brother that we started to get requests from friends and acquaintances.

I would say the biggest challenge with scoring for film is that you sometimes have to set aside your own taste and ego and really follow the will and intensions of the director.

As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?

I started off my musical career as a jazz musician, with trombone as my main instrument. Along with that the piano has always been my go to instrument for trying out ideas, composing and arranging.

I first started out composing and producing music with Logic Pro, but after teaming up with Pär he introduced me to Ableton Live, and it has been our main DAW during all our projects. I find it to be the most creatively rewarding DAW, and along with Max 4 Live, there are so many fun things you can do.

We tend to create a lot of our own instruments with simpler and sampler, as well as using a lot of different virtual instruments and orchestral libraries, depending on the project at hand. But I always come back to the point where I need to be more tactile and hands on in a sense. I feel my music always need to have real musicians performing it, and I always try to make it as organic and alive as possible, whether it might be symphony orchestra or synthesizers.

The last couple of years I’ve also started experimenting much more with analog and modular synthesizers. For this I found the Moog Grandmother synth as the gateway drug into that wast jungle of modules. I think I have used that synthesizer on every musical project since I bought it, because there’s just so many fun things you can do with it.

Apart from Ableton Live we also work a lot with Protools. Mainly because it’s very stable and reliable when it comes to recording as well as working with film, but also because it is an industry standard.

Can you take me through your process of composing a soundtrack on the basis of a movie that's particularly dear to you, please?

Well, I guess it is more or less the same process for me and Pär. We’d like to be involved in the creative process as soon as possible, sometimes start composing even before the production starts to shooting. In some cases we’ve composed music to be on set, which can be really helpful setting the mood for the actors.

We would normally start with reading the script, talking to the director about the artistic intentions and direction of the project. Then we would start sketching, playing around with different sounds, instruments and harmonies. Sometimes this process is very natural and easy flowing, sometimes it takes longer. Once we have musical themes and a tonality that we find fits well in the universe we’re trying to establish, it’s all about fine tuning, following the dramaturgic arches, and composing certain scenes from scratch to picture.

The music editing and music mix is also a very important part of the process, calibrating, timing and tuning the score to the picture.

I would assume that a major part of composing for film is the ability of interpreting the images and the narrative at play. Tell me about how this works for you and how these interpretations in turn lead to sounds and compositions.

I think the most important factor when scoring a film is to musically translate the intentions and ideas of the director. Then you have to start experimenting in finding the timbre and tonality. Once you have decided on motifs and tonality it comes down to calibrating each scene and to make sure that there’s a coherency and purpose with the music.

What, from your experience and perspective, does the ideal collaboration between you and a director look like?

I think the sooner the composer is a part of the process the greater the collaboration. I also feel the most rewarding collaborations have been when there’s a complete trust between the director and the composer, and you push each other to do great things and spark each others creativity.

How do the other aspects of a movie's sound stage – such as foley and effects – influence your creative decisions?

Not always as much as you would think. I often compose in parallel to the sound edit/foley recording/sfx process, and so I have to use my imagination of what’s it going to sound like together with the final sound mix.

We often try to have an early dialogue with the sound mixer and sound editors to decide on different creative directions. We always do an  music mix. Then the final creative decisions are taken in the final mix.

The balance between visuals, fx and film music is delicate. What, from your point of view, determines whether or not it is a successful one?

I would say it’s a successful balance when it serves the purpose and the narrative off the film. Everything trickles down to the creative decisions made by the film makers and the director. If there are clear creative visions and ideas and everyone involved works to fulfill these to the fullest, then I guess most of the time this will show in the final result.

Then, of course some of the original creative ideas might not have been that well-founded to start with, and that would also show. I guess it all comes down to well measured creative decisions, talent and hard work.

Once the movie is finished, what is the value of the score you composed outside of its original context?

Well it depends. I feel that if you have composed a score for a film or show that resonates well with the audience and the score has something unique and personal about it, it tends to grow a life of its own. If people appreciate the film/show and the music, then people will want to listen to it.

Then again, if the film/show isn’t a success and if it doesn’t resonate with a bigger audience the chance of the music being picked up by listeners on streaming platforms will certainly be smaller.

Different composers could potentially approach the same scene with strikingly different music. Would you say there can be 'wrong' and 'right' musical decisions for some scenes? In which way can some film music be considered 'definitive'?

I wouldn’t say there’s a wrong or right way. Every composer and film maker have their own creative vision and taste. Of course there are films where you’d wish for a better score sometimes, but it’s all a matter of personal taste and execution. Then there are other films where you might really like the score, even though the film isn’t that great.

There are of course a variety of ways of approaching different scenes, but not necessarily a better one. I feel that is always up to the film itself and what kind of tone and expression you wish to establish.