Ilan Eshkeri Interview with Ilan Eshkeri by John Mansell © 2011
Composer Ilan Eshkeri learned to play the violin and guitar and later went on to play in a rock band. Eshkeri attended Leeds University where he studied music and English literature. During this time he also worked with fellow film composers Edward Shearmur, Michael Kamen and music producer Steve McLaughlin. Eshkeri got his break following his work on BACK TO GAYA. He was asked to score LAYER CAKE, and he later received a nomination for DISCOVERY OF THE YEAR at the World Soundtrack Awards. He has since collaborated with the director of LAYER CAKE, Matthew Vaughn, on a number of other films, including STARDUST which earned Eshkeri a nomination for Breakout Composer of the Year and won him the International Film Music Critics Association award for Best Original Score. Eshkeri and Vaughn’s most recent collaboration was the film adaptation of KICK-ASS. Eshkeri’s other notable works include THE YOUNG VICTORIA, which was nominated for this year’s Ivor Novello Award for Best Original Score, NINJA ASSASSIN, HANNIBAL RISING and producing the BAFTA-nominated score to SEX & DRUGS & ROCK & ROLL. Eshkeri has also collaborated with various songwriters including Annie Lennox and David Gilmour, and has worked with Take That.
STARDUST was I think the score that attracted the attention of film music collectors to your music, how did you become involved on this project how much time did you have you score it and how much music did you compose for it?
Stardust was my second film with director Matthew Vaughn. He gave me the script before the film went into production and the first piece of music I wrote was to one of Charles Vess’ illustrations in the original graphic novel. The illustration is called flying ship and the music is called flying vessel. I was writing on the set of the film which was really unusual and fun. I found it really inspiring to walk onto the set which was magnificent and awe inspiring. I don’t know how much I wrote but many themes didn’t make the final score.
Staying with STARDUST the movie had a title song or end credits song by ‘Take That’, were you involved in the writing of this, or was it solely the work of the band?
I worked closely with the band. The final minute of the film’s score is an intro to the song based on Gary’s chords. There are elements of the song which relate to the score. ‘Take That’ were amazing to work with.
What musical education did you receive, and what instrument or instruments did you concentrate upon whilst studying?
As a child I played the violin and when I was a teenager I played the guitar. I studied music and English literature at university. When I was 19 I started apprenticing with film composers and that’s how I got into it.
Do you come from a family background that is musical?
My mother was a pianist and my grandfather was a violinist. I grew up listening to Chopin.
Did you always want to write music for film, or was this something that developed as your musical career progressed?
I was always really interested in it but growing up I wanted to be in a band.
Do you carry out all of the orchestrations for your film scores?
No I don’t. I would love to but because of the schedules of modern film scores it would be practically impossible. I love working with Bob Elhai. Working with specialists and geniuses like that always gives you an opportunity to learn something new. My sketches are very detailed and I always check through orchestrations before they are handed to the copyist.
You recently scored A SONY CHRISTMAS CAROL advertisement with piano solo by Lang Lang, when writing for an advert is it at times difficult to develop a musical theme, given the amount of time you have?
If the direction is clear then not really because it’s only one minute of music. It was challenging writing for such a brilliant and famous musician as Lang Lang.
CENTURION, is a powerful work, and one which I like very much, you utilized a number of unusual or less conventional instruments within the score, what made you decide to approach the score in this way and was it hard to find musicians who were able to play these?
I’m always looking for new ideas for film scores. New instruments and new sounds are inspiring. I travelled through the Highlands in Scotland where I found instruments such as the ‘Carnyx’ and the people who play them.
Do you conduct your own scores, all of the time, or do you at times use a conductor so that you may monitor the scoring of the project from the recording booth?
I always work with the conductor Andy Brown. He’s a brilliant conductor and has great rapport with the musicians. I like being in the control room so I can work directly with the director and the film makers to make the score sound the way they want. Modern film scoring schedules leave no time to walk from the podium to the control booth.
You recently were at the Royal Albert Hall for a concert with the Cinematic Orchestra; do you enjoy giving concerts of your music?
I love concerts; they are great fun with the Cinematic Orchestra and also Amons Tobin. It’s a huge challenge to translate Amon’s electronic music into purely symphonic scores.
You worked on KICK ASS, on this movie there were a number of composers/artists involved, was this a collaboration in the true sense or did you each contribute your own sections to the score?
Yes this was a collaboration in the truest sense. It was enormous fun working with Marius De Vries, Henry Jackman and John Murphy. John kept calling us the spice girls of the film scoring world.
Do you have any preference at all when it comes to what studio is used to record your film scores and likewise do you have any preference for any one particular orchestra or group of musicians?
I love working with the London Metropolitan Orchestra and work on all London based scores with them. I love recording at Abbey Road Studios and Air Studios.
When you begin work on a movie, how do you work out and develop your musical ideas, piano, keyboards, synths, etc?
I often sit at the keyboard, I love playing a real piano. A way to a really good melody is to try and sing it.
What are your musical influences?
It depends on what film, for each film there are different influences and I get inspiration from new places all the time. There is variety in my scores and the scores are always appropriate to the film. I love Eliot Goldenthall and I like working with people who work with him. I’ve learnt a lot from Michael Kamen.
Do you think a good score can help a bad movie in any way?
Yes, it is the soul of the movie. A good film score improves a good movie or detracts a bad movie.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on the score for the film JOHNNY ENGLISH REBORN, with Rowan Atkinson at Working Title. It records in July, .I’m also in talks to write an Opera.