Interview with Ticks/Delicious Composer - Ben Simpson
How did you first break into the industry?
I’ve been involved in the music industry since signing a record deal in 1987. After this, I opened my own recording studio and then onto teaching music technology at St Helens College.
It was around this time I composed the music for two small independent films ‘Deadland’ and ‘Homecoming’ and stumbled across a form of writing that I seemed to enjoy more than creating self-contained music pieces. Films seem to communicate to you what’s needed, you get a feel of what works really quickly. It’s just a matter of refining it after that.
So, score writing is something I tried in the 90s and have recently revisited with Fear Crypt. I’ve worked on two short movies so far, ‘Ticks’ and ‘Delicious’ and I enjoyed every second of it. I think I was still to find my mojo with ‘Ticks’ and when I watch the film now, there’s parts I know I could improve, but it’s still a great film, after such a long break from soundtracks. I think I’m getting there now with the work I did for ‘Delicious’
Who/What inspires you as a composer?
Before I could even be classed as a musician, I was fascinated by the work of Ennio Morricone. My uncle had an album, I think it was a compilation of the best bits from the Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns. I was only nine or ten at the time and played it non-stop every time we visited. I just remember the sound was amazing; Bells, choirs and even music boxes, all with a really original feel. Even now I can hear Ennio’s influence on all kinds of modern music.
Contemporary composers would have to include Danny Elfman and Hans Zimmer, but the soundtrack to Cloud Atlas is also amazing and I think that was created by the directors! Saying that, it never stopped John Carpenter who has also created some fantastic scores.
What Fear Crypt short did you have the most fun composing and why?
I think it would have to be ‘Delicious’ as I wasn’t as nervous!! I thought that because I’d been ‘asked back’ - what I did the first time must’ve been ok, so I was a bit more confident and less worried about doing what was expected - I just did what I felt was right and everyone seemed to really like it.
What sort of person is going to love this short (As mentioned above)?
‘Delicious’ is very creepy. There’s the innocence of the girls, the mothers detachment from reality and the brother! I think the most sinister character is probably played by Chloe (Carroll) as she is the architect of the whole thing and she’s a vegetarian (There’s nothing wrong with that, I am myself, but I don’t bring people home for food!)!! Although you do wonder if she’s been conditioned to accept this behaviour as normal?
I think anyone who enjoys a good creepy horror film, the kind that makes you feel a bit uneasy, will really enjoy this. For me it’s a film that has obviously been made by people who love the genre. I know lots of people who are horror movie fans and I’ve no doubt they would’ve paid to see this made. I feel honoured to play a part in this and ‘Ticks’ - both are excellent shorts.
What advice would you give to aspiring composers?
I’m still one myself really, but anyone just starting out should find their style before anything else. I think I personally enjoy scoring horror movies the most. I’ve just finished the score for a futuristic car chase and was a little out of my comfort zone! If I had to make it seem scary, I think I would’ve found it much easier.
Anyway, I’m digressing... aspiring composers should definitely get Spitfire Audio’s BBC Symphonic Orchestra Discover plug-in. It’s £49 or free if you fill in a short questionnaire and it does give you the ability to work with a large and realistic orchestra.
Once you’ve got yourself that, it’s time to build up a portfolio. This can be done in a number of ways, strip audio from existing movie scenes and replace with ‘your take’ or try to get involved with some like-minded people on an original project. I’d advise joining groups and forums for this, but usually they’re going to want to hear your work before committing, even if you’re doing it voluntarily! Invest as much time as you can, as every second will show as you become more experienced.
Where can we find more of your work?
I have a YouTube page with the grand total of two videos on there! I’m just setting up (as I write this), www.bensimpsonmusic.com and intend to have lots of work examples on there soon. I also have SoundCloud, where my some of my other compositions are laid to rest!
I’m feeling confident about the future right now. I’ve just completed my entry for HBO/Spitfire Audios Westworld Score Writing competition and although I have no idea how I’ll do, I’m happy that I’ve got another work example in my portfolio that I’m proud of. The future should hold a lot more music composing for me, even if it’s just examples in my portfolio.