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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > Jul-18 > HANS ZIMMER


Though we’ve had many exceptional figures grace the pages of MusicTech over the years, we’re extraordinarily honoured to speak to one of the most innovative, revolutionary and highly sought after composers on the planet: the incomparable Hans Zimmer. His soundtracks have enhanced many of the greatest movies of the last four decades, from Gladiator, the Dark Knight trilogy and Interstellar to the recent Dunkirk. In this interview, we speak to a modern creative genius about breathing new life into the art of film scoring.


© Getty Images
Hans Zimmer has taken his music on tour with spectacular results, despite a touch of stage fright.
© Getty Images

The art of being a film composer hasn’t changed,” Hans Zimmer tells MusicTech, when we’re granted a rare interview with the soundtrack master. “The basic idea remains the same and that is to ask a question: ‘Why are we having music here?’”

If anyone knows about the art of composition, then it’s Hans Zimmer. His name has become synonymous with breathtaking, resonant scores and his staggering body of work covers a veritable checklist of the some of the most important films of their respective decades. From early work such as the subtle and empathetic Rain Man soundtrack or the laid back, country-ambience of Thelma and Louise, to his Academy Award-winning score for Disney’s The Lion King – not to mention the Ridley Scott epic Gladiator – Hans has proven time and time again that he is a composer of incredible dexterity – and that’s before we’ve mentioned his groundbreaking work with Christopher Nolan. His scintillating scores for The Dark Knight trilogy redefined the sound of superhero movies while his fusion of organic sound design, beautiful melodies and orchestral excellence characterises his work on Inception, Interstellar and last year’s Dunkirk.

Yet despite these remarkable achievements, Hans’ unending desire to push the boundaries of what is possible sonically still drives him to innovate. Which brings us to Hans Zimmer Strings – the remarkable orchestral library from Spitfire Audio that we reviewed last issue. We’re curious to know how his interest in sampling, and his collaboration with Spitfire Audio, began?

“Needless to say I’m not in it for the money,” Hans says before telling us that it’s a relationship that goes back a long way. “I don’t think I’m telling complete porky pies if I say that we were the ones who started orchestral sampling at AIR after we did The Lion King. A couple of other composers [Christian Henson and Paul Thomson] thought it would be a good idea to pursue this further, so they were sort of doing a parallel thing to me. It just made sense that we would join forces eventually. We were overlapping on so many areas, dealing with questions like, ‘How often can you go and ask the same viola player to play the same note for a sample?’ I approach sample creation with two specific mindsets: the first is how much inspiration and sound can I get out of the orchestra, and my other is to just try something really outrageous and see if we can make something that allows you to do what you ‘can’t do’ in the real world.”


We press Hans further on how he’s able to push the creative team at Spitfire Audio to realise this ambition. “Fortunately both Paul and Christian have a similar recklessness to me! After they’d created the very beautiful, and very delicate Tundra, one of our ideas was what would happen if we went totally the other way: sample something that is actually physically impossible. At the end of the day, from my point of view, the key thing is not the studio – it’s how do we move air to create a sound? And how much air can we move in one go. This is more interesting to me than how it hits the microphones. So then the idea of this fantastic, huge orchestra was born. It was great for me to get everyone involved too, to see pretty much every player that’s ever played on any of our sessions all in one room together.”

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About MusicTech

He’s the man who revolutionised modern film scores with a creative approach to music-making, sonic experimentation and sound utilisation that helps some of the biggest directors to tell their stories. This month we’re overwhelmingly honoured to speak to one of the greatest composers on the planet: Hans Zimmer. In our ten-page interview we talk to Hans about his recent work with Spitfire Audio – co-creating a remarkable assortment of production and studio tools – as well as his incredible career in soundtracking. Elsewhere this issue, Dave Gale takes us through the legacy of the vocoder, we report on this year’s Superbooth show in Berlin and speak to its progenitor Andreas Schneider about his views on modular synthesis and its integral place in the music technology world. We’ve also got our usual tutorials, tips and reviews. Enjoy the issue!