Brian Tyler, Composer, AVP-R

Brian Tyler, Composer, AVP-R

This is something that has been in the works for a little while now, and it’s also something that, as a fan of both the Alien and Predator films, and of their respective soundtracks, I’ve really been looking forward to. Therefore, I’m happy to be able to share with you all the ‘conversation’ I had with the composer for AVP-Requiem, Brian Tyler.

Let’s get to it:

Alien Experience: Was Requiem a project you had on your radar, and were interested in working on, or were you actively recruited for the film?

Brian Tyler: I knew about it because I make it a habit of keeping up on what is going on in the world of Aliens and Predators. So I knew a script had been written. Before shooting began, I was asked to meet with the Brothers Strause to discuss the possibility of scoring the film. I was so excited because I am a huge fan of both series and I really felt that these guys were incredibly talented and were my kind of people. I really loved the take they had on the series and what they wanted to do with the film. I also met with the producer John Davis. I was elated to be asked to join the team.

AXP: How familiar were you, outside of the soundtracks, with the previous AlienPredatorand AVP films?

BT: Like any decent human being, I have seen every Aliens and Predator film many many times. AlienAliens, and Predator rank in the top tier of my all time list watched list with Star WarsRaidersNorth by NorthwestBlade RunnerGoodfellas, etc. I can nearly recite the films verbatim. Bill Paxton directed two films that I scored and a highlight for me him saying, “Game over man!” in person.  I know Predator 2Alien 3Alien Resurrection really well too. I actually snuck into a test screening of Alien 3 back in college. The Quadrilogy is life. I saw AVP on opening night, bought both editions of course on DVD. Let’s put it this way, I am lucky enough to work in the field I love.

AXP: What sort of research did you do in order to prepare for the job?

BT: I went back and watched all of the films again. Also, I went over the script and went over early cuts of the film with Greg and Colin.

AXP: Did you ever visit the production during filming to get a sense of how the film would play out and to get in the right mindset for scoring?

BT: This dream of mine to visit the set could not be realized due to my film schedule on other projects. Tragic! But I kept up to date with the filming.

AXP: At what point in production did you begin work on the soundtrack?

BT: I started working on the soundtrack early. The day I met the brothers I started jotting down ideas and got really into the process.

AXP: And what is left for production of the soundtrack at this point? Final mix into the film?

BT: Right now all that is left is mixing the music with the sound FX.

AXP: Any idea how many tracks there will be on the commercial soundtrack, or is it too early to tell?

BT: 21 tracks totaling about 79 minutes of music. It’s beefy.

AXP: I understand films usually implement a temporary soundtrack during the editing process, before the final soundtrack is finished; was any of your previous work used for the temp track for Requiem?

BT: In fact it was. I believe The HuntedDarkness FallsFrailtyConstantine, and some of my early ideas for the film were in the temp.

AXP: There is a long history of orchestral music accompanying science-fiction films, including all previous Alien and Predator films, as well as the first AVP; why do you think the two styles blend together so well?

BT: Science fiction music is epic. It is adrenaline pumping. It is mysterious. It is elegant. It is brash. I think the reason symphonic music works so well is the association with timelessness that science fiction evokes. Orchestral music is more timeless and less reliant on trends. Science fiction evokes a sense of being timeless as well. It really doesn’t work to slap on some “hip” songs onto a sci fi movie when in 3 years it will date the film. And I find that its the young guns in Hollywood that are most pro-orchestral score. We grew up on Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Those are classic. The “pop”ish scores from the past are the ones that really don’t hold up.

AXP: The scores for the Predator films are very different from the Alien films, with a primitive, raw, tribal feeling to the music, as opposed to the eerie, otherworldly, sometimes militaristic, scores from the Alien films; how much of a challenge was it to blend the two styles together in a manner that made sense both in the studio and on-screen?

BT: Yes, yes! I love the fact that these two styles are so distinct. And for the score, the distinction is there completely. Within cues you will hear the screeching atonality and soulless violence of the Aliens and the tribal drums, tonal brass, and intelligent sophistication of the Predators. I love that these characters are so different. The Predators with their technology and spaceships and the Aliens with their cold hearted nature.

AXP: Likewise, the film will surely feature both tense and frightening scenes, as well as all out action; therefore blending a dark and visceral vibe with a tense and action-packed vibe, which Horner did so well in Aliens incidentally, must have been equally difficult?

BT: Oh, for sure. There is certainly a militaristic component to this score as well as a eerie component. I love the Aliens score, of course. This score incorporates the creepy tone and complex action. Creating an ebb and flow, an arc, for the music is vastly important. The music needs to tell a story. As a composer, it is vital to help the film tell its story and emphasize the turns of emotion invisible to the audience but nonetheless felt strongly.

AXP: You’ve said in previous interviews that you, like the Brothers Strause with the film, are aiming at going back to the roots of the originals, in your case musically; what does that mean to you, and do you feel you’ve accomplished what you set out to do?

BT: Going back to the roots was key in this process. And yes, I do. I am very proud of the score.

AXP: How did you manage to keep the sound fresh while attempting to recapture the essence of the original scores?

BT: Well, the compositions are all new and specific to this film. It is a completely new take that echoes and respects the past.

AXP: What insight did the directors, Colin and Greg, have in terms of the soundtrack?

BT: They had fantastic input. They knew what they wanted tonally from each scene. We were completely on the same page so are joint mission was to make it as effective as possible.

AXP: From previous interviews I’ve read where you’ve spoken about Requiem, I get a sense that you are an energetic and focused person, whereas most composers I’ve seen interviewed seem laid-back and almost morose; do you feel you take a unique energy into the studio with you?

BT: Well, I am so excited to working on these films. What’s not to love? Just as an example, the orchestras that I conduct for these films are talented beyond measure. It is hard not to be thrilled about conducting such talent. It is an absolute privilege. And we are talking about writing music for movies. My two favorite endeavors: movies and music.

AXP: Could you describe a typical studio session with the directors for us?

BT: So much goes on during a day of recording. I am out with the orchestra conducting like mad. Conducting is mentally, emotionally, and physically taxing. You need to really feel the music. At the same time, there are the directors, producers, and executives who are in attendance. The directors would come out and say “hey could you hit that moment more strongly” etc. This is one of those times where ever note they gave I felt the same thing. It was fantastic to be so in sync.

AXP: You obviously composed the score, but did you also orchestrate?

BT: By orchestrate do you mean conduct? If so, yes. Also, I am involved with orchestrating as well because I write out every part for the orchestra.

AXP: There have been some iconic performers, such as the London Symphony Orchestra, who have performed both the Alien and Predator scores in the past; who performed the soundtrack for Requiem?

BT: Well I just recorded the London Symphony Orchestra for the film WAR and it was a fantastic experience. I love that orchestra. My favorite orchestra in the world is definitely the Hollywood Studio Symphony which is a dream team compilation of the greatest players from many orchestras. They are like the All Star team. The talent in that orchestra is mind boggling. And that is who we used for AVP-R. They played this score incredibly. I was stunned.

AXP: Near the end of production for Alien 3 Elliot Goldenthal had to compose an entirely new sequence for Ripley’s final scene, which obviously caused a lot of chaos, but was ultimately handled very well – in fact I think Goldenthal’s entire score was genius!  I understand some new footage was cut into Requiem well after principle photography ended; how did that affect your composing process, and what was the end result?

BT: In fact, I did rewrite some things at the last second for picture changes but on the whole, we waited to the perfect moment to record. The film was already in 99% locked state. And I agree, Alien 3 is a great score. I love Elliot. In fact, my mixer for this film was Joel Iwataki and one of my orchestrators was Robert Elhai – two of the guys behind that score.

AXP: Was any of the music that was featured in the trailers part of what you composed for the film? If not, will we see a trailer cut with music from the finalized score?

BT: That I am not sure of.

AXP: What do you prefer writing – theme pieces (ie. opening credits) or sequence pieces (ie. music set to on-screen action)? How is the process different?

BT: Oh, wow. I don’t actually separate the two processes. I just try to do the best job for every sequence that I can.

AXP: What is your overall impression of the film?

BT: It is a gritty and exciting film that is true to its heritage. I love it!

AXP: You’ve worked on a lot of big, successful, films so far in your career; where does Requiem rate for you personally?

BT: This was one of the best experiences I have ever had on a film. I consider myself lucky to have worked on it with such an amazing group of people. The Brothers, Dan Zimmerman, John Davis, the whole bunch. Fantastic!

AXP: Thanks so much for your time, before we wrap, is there anything you’d like to add?

BT: The soundtrack comes out on Varese Sarabande CDs and iTunes on December 11th.

A big thanks to Brian for his time and insight, I really enjoyed this interview. And thanks to Pakk, his assistant, for sending these pictures over. I, for one, am really looking forward to hearing the score early next month! And a special thanks to SiL for his input on this interview.