An interview with James Fitzpatrick of Tadlow Music Ltd by Doug Raynes
James Fitzpatrick has been involved in the film music business for many years. After experience in the retail side of the business he co-founded Silva Screen Records in 1983 and produced a huge number of recordings for the label. In 2002 he decided to go freelance and set up his own orchestra contracting business Tadlow Music. The success of that enterprise led him to initiate the Tadlow Music Records label through which he has embarked on an ambitious and highly praised series of classic film score recordings with the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. This interview was carried out on 15 June 2011 in Tadlow, Cambridgeshire, England.
James, you were producing soundtracks for Silva Screen for many years before branching out on your own and setting up Tadlow Music. What was your motivation for going freelance and did you have any initial anxieties as to whether you would be successful as an independent orchestra contractor?
James Fitzpatrick: Yes, it was always a difficult decision to go freelance because I’d never been freelance before. But I got so fed up with the record industry and the way the record industry was going downhill. Also, Silva Screen were more interested in doing themes and I was more interested in doing whole albums of scores. So I thought O.K. I’ll go independent and set up my own music contracting business. Because over the years before that, I’d done a few jobs on the side for composers like Kevin Kiner and I sort of knew how the Prague scene worked as well as recording with the RPO in London and so on.
I was a little bit worried at first but it took off straight away and after the first three years of doing the contracting I then did what I vowed I wouldn’t do – I started my own label – which was basically because the contracting side was doing so well and I had to move the profits from that somehow. A record label seemed the obvious thing because specialist record labels don’t often make money.
I often see your name and that of the Prague Philharmonic on the credits of films. Is it as cost effective as it ever was for film companies to have the music recorded in Prague?
James Fitzpatrick: Yes. The full name of the orchestra is the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. It’s a bit of a mouthful. It’s a name I invented in the 1980s for them. Prague, after Los Angeles and London, is a place people like to score their movies because they know the quality is so good and the string playing, especially, is good. At the moment with current rates it costs about one third to one quarter the cost of recording in London and a lot less than the cost of recording in L.A. so film scoring is relatively busy in Prague. There’s been a lot of hassle recently from American musicians saying Prague is stealing their work. That’s not the case. The main reason for a downturn in L.A. scoring is the use of samples and the non-use of real orchestras and samples are now so brilliant – especially for a type of Hans Zimmer score – that one doesn’t always notice the difference; the strings are the main things where you can tell if they’re real or not. But yes, Prague is definitely number three on people’s film scoring lists. Then after that, you go further in Eastern Europe; you’ve got Bratislava, Budapest, Sofia but I think generally people know that in Prague they will get the same quality as in London and L.A. Whereas, sometimes the further east you get, it’s not cost effective because they don’t have the equipment or the technology. It might seem cheaper to record in Sofia but it then takes a lot longer, whereas in Prague we record in a session about the same amount that they would do in London or L.A.
You said you decided to set up Tadlow as a record label and THE GUNS OF NAVARONE was your first recording in 2005 followed soon after by TRUE GRIT. Did you always envision these as being the first in a series of recordings of classic film scores?
James Fitzpatrick: Well GUNS OF NAVARONE is a score I’ve always wanted to record. I really didn’t think of a series at the time. It was just a case of that being one particular score I felt needed a complete recording. It was not a particularly long score but it was one of my favourite Tiomkin scores. I’m not a huge Tiomkin fan but I do love that score and I love the movie. So that was received well and got quite a lot of awards. So TRUE GRIT was a natural progression in that I did Elmer Bernstein’s last two recordings with him before he died. At the time we did talk about doing a TRUE GRIT recording and Elmer was keen but because of his death I took over the whole project. Again, it’s because its one of my favourite scores. I’ve really only tried to record scores for my label that I really like. No real set plan. It’s just that at the end of each financial year I look to see if I’ve made any money and then think “Oh I’ve made a profit this year. Maybe I should record this”.
You’ve just said you record your personal favourites but apart from that, how much emphasis do you put on what you think is likely to sell well and what collectors request, before embarking on a project?
James Fitzpatrick: Well as I’ve always said, these recording never make their money back. They are done simply because of the love of the music and the love of the film so it’s really just a totally personal choice. Obviously there are certain scores like El CID where I knew there was a huge demand and I knew it would sell well but some of the others I simply did because I like the music. I don’t really think about sales because at the end of the day the sales, no matter how good, will never cover the recording costs – but it’s a nice thing to do and the orchestra particularly enjoy recording this type of music.
Where do you begin with a project? Presumably the first thing is to find out if the original score is available and I suppose obtaining rights must sometimes be complicated. How do you actually go about finding out who has the rights?
James Fitzpatrick: Generally the rights are always owned by the publishing company. So with TRUE GRIT the rights were with Paramount Pictures and Famous Music – the publishers who are now part of the Sony empire. So first and foremost we approach the film company – the publishers. More often than not they don’t have any material so then obviously we approach either the composer if he’s still alive or the composer’s estate and family. For instance with TRUE GRIT we were lucky in that Paramount had kept all the music from the original sessions so that was a relatively easy thing to do but most of the time we’re dealing with scores where the original material doesn’t exist any more or there might be just sketches from the composer or we might have to do a complete reconstruction by ear, whereby Nic or whoever is orchestrating will listen to the movie or listen to the album and do a reconstruction.
As regards clearing rights – generally not really a hassle because very few publishers will turn down the chance of making some extra revenue, especially if they don’t have to contribute to the actual recording – just to really give permission and say “Yes you can record this”. Obviously if something has been recorded already it’s no problem; it’s entered public domain. What you then have to do, for any cues or any music which hasn’t been recorded before, you enter into what is known as a first recording agreement. So the publisher says “OK fine. You can be the first person to record these pieces of music”.
Of the Tadlow recordings you have produced, which are you most proud of and which were the most challenging?
James Fitzpatrick: Of all the recordings I think I’m proudest of EXODUS. It sold the least of all of them but for that we got the ideal performance and ideal sound. It was a project which was relatively easy to put together and I just think the orchestra rose to the challenge. So that, I think, is the best recording I’ve ever done. Challenging? Probably LAWRENCE OF ARABIA – because Maurice Jarre’s music is never easy, simply because of all the percussion and also a lot of strange time signatures and the complexity of the music. So performance wise, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA would be the most difficult because of having nine percussionists and three ondes martenots and lots of other things to try and get it right. I did try it a few years ago with the Philharmonia for Silva Screen but just about everything that could go wrong in a record session did do. So I always said to Maurice that one day I would try and record it again with the full forces of a hundred piece orchestra and reverting to all the original orchestrations by Gerard Schurmann. So that, performance wise, was the most challenging.
Obviously things like EL CID are very challenging simply because Rózsa wrote so many notes because in those days, composers like Rózsa, Tiomkin and Waxman felt the need that if there was an action scene the music had to be at the same tempo as the action. So consequently, in a duel scene between Charlton Heston and Andrew Cruikshank one person said “Oh it’s played way too fast”. It’s not played way too fast. It’s played at exactly the tempo Rozsa stipulated, which is almost impossible to play – but we did!
Gareth Williams does your editing and mixing. How would you describe his contribution?
James Fitzpatrick: Well I couldn’t do these recordings without Gareth doing the mixing, editing and mastering because Gareth is not only a brilliant recording engineer in his own right and also a mixing engineer but he’s also a composer and orchestrator. So I can often leave him with the recordings and let him get on with things and then he just gives me a ring to say when he’s ready for me to hear things or else I’ll be with him all the time, do the editing, then he’ll go away, fine tune the sound and then I’ll give it final approval. He’s totally essential to the whole project as is my Prague engineer Jan Holzner who is probably one of the best orchestral engineers I’ve ever worked with. He’s trained with the best British engineers, Mike Ross, Eric Tomlinson and John Timperley. He gets the sound in Prague that I like then we fine tune it back at Gareth’s studio which is only about 12 miles from where I live so again that’s convenient. I don’t have to go into London to pay expensive studio rates for mixing and we can take our time and hopefully get things really right. Yes – I just couldn’t do without either Gareth or Jan or Nic. We’re a team. I obviously have a final say but they really contribute.
You said EXODUS sold least well. Can you say what has been you best seller to date?
James Fitzpatrick: Yes. Undoubtedly EL CID, because that appeals to a really broad spectrum of film music fans – and it is such a famous score. It’s certainly one of my top five scores of all time. So EL CID has sold well but of course bear in mind that it’s a three CD set and cost more to record than EXODUS so it’s about half way there to making its money back [laughs]. If ever!
Some soundtrack enthusiasts can be extremely demanding – often being very vocal in making criticisms if the music doesn’t sound exactly as they think it should sound or if it doesn’t sound like the film soundtrack. Don’t you find that sense of entitlement when fans suggest that, “You should have done it the way I wanted it done” intensely irritating?
James Fitzpatrick: Totally irritating. I respect their viewpoint but at the end of the day we are the ones with access to the original scores or original material or sketches so we are basically following exactly what the composer wanted – sometimes decisions are made at the original sessions to make cuts or change music which the composer wouldn’t normally have agreed to – so we adhere to what they originally wanted. For instance, in TARAS BULBA having the original sketches meant that we had access to exactly what Franz Waxman wanted before they cut around his score. So you’ll hear music on the TARAS BULBA album which doesn’t appear in the movie but it’s the way Waxman originally scored it. What they did was to cut up a few cues and move them around. So with TARAS BULBA what you hear on the disc is as originally written – not what is heard in the movie – which is, I think, more pleasing to do for a recording rather than just trying to replicate the cuts made in the movie.
You’ve recorded THE ALAMO and CONAN THE BARBARIAN for Prometheus Records. Were those projects a straightforward case of Prometheus financing the recordings and leaving all the artistic and practical details for you to deal with? What I mean is… what input does Luc Van de Ven of Prometheus have… does he attend the recording sessions?
James Fitzpatrick: Luc is absolutely brilliant. I’ve known Luc for many, many, years and when he came to me with the idea of doing some new recordings for his label I jumped at the chance, especially when he said he didn’t want to have any say in anything artistic. He’d left all the recording and artistic decisions to me. He’s never been to any recording sessions except that he has been able, thanks to modern technology, to listen to recording sessions at his home in Belgium while we’re recording them in Prague via Source-Connect, which is a Pro Tools add-on whereby you can listen to a session anywhere in the world as long as you’ve got Quick Time on your computer and hear the session as it goes live. It’s the way we’ve done quite a lot of film scores recently. Last year on THE EXPENDABLES for Bryan Tyler we recorded that way. He couldn’t make it to Prague because he was too busy in L. A. Actually I couldn’t make it to Prague either because of the Icelandic volcano [In Spring 2010 European air travel was seriously disrupted due to volcanic ash clouds]. So you had the composer listening to the recording in L.A., me listening to it in Cambridgeshire and then everything being recorded live in Prague. But going back to Luc he’s been wonderful. He’s financed these things. I’ve warned him in advance how expensive they are and he just hasn’t baulked at it. He’s said, go ahead and do what you do.
So can we expect you to be producing more recordings for Prometheus in the near future?
James Fitzpatrick: Yes, we’ve got plans. In fact I’ve just finished a major recording for Luc but I can’t say what it is until it’s finished but it is quite a mammoth score and a very exciting performance.
You’ve got no less than three new releases on the way. TARAS BULBA, VILLA RIDES and a disc featuring violinist Lucie Svehlova, THE LARK ASCENDING. It must have been very special for you to have had Franz Waxman’s son John at the TARAS BULBA sessions. What was his reaction?
James Fitzpatrick: Well originally John was going to be at the sessions but he couldn’t make it so again he listened in live and loved every moment of it. Again, with CONAN, we had the whole Poledouris clan listening in. It’s great when you have enthusiastic people listening in and also the orchestrator Pat Russ listens in. My main stipulation is I’m not to be disturbed during a session – so no emails, no phone calls saying, “Oh you got that wrong” – until the end of a session. But all of them have been so supportive and very helpful in their comments made after the sessions.
Amongst the bonus material is a six hand version of “The Ride of the Cossacks”. The Waxman website has a link to a video of an amazing two piano performance by Per Tengstrand and Shan-shan Sun, arranged by Paul Henning. Is that the arrangement which you’ve used?
James Fitzpatrick: Yes it is. Actually I haven’t seen that video I must see it. Paul did two versions, one for two pianists four hands and then another for three pianists six hands. So we did the one for six hands because it’s almost impossible for four hands
You’re very active in soliciting the views of fans. For TARAS BULBA you asked for opinions on whether to include the source music. It’s a difficult judgement to make isn’t it? But I see that you have included more of the source music than you originally intended. Presumably you had a re-think about the amount of source music to use?
James Fitzpatrick: Yes. I did sort of ask fans if they felt it was worthwhile recording the source music. Nine out of ten of them said no they weren’t bothered, so I totally ignored what they said! [laughs]. Simply because – well – this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to record the seven songs that were written for the movie but only two or three of them were used. They were done more like demo things. They are not really highly professional recordings but it was just nice to do so that people could hear the songs and Mack David’s lyrics and they are quite fun to do. Plus, there was one source music cue “Gypsy Camp” which in the film was scored for small orchestra but Waxman had actually scored it for big orchestra. So we did the version which Waxman had originally scored. There were a few other things and I thought; “Well why not?” it’s going to be a double CD anyway because the score is 100 minutes so why not fill it up with some bonus material. If the fans don’t like them, well they don’t have to listen to them. They’ve still got the score they’re not paying anything more for the bonus material. Myself and John Waxman thought now is the time to do it so that there’s something for posterity.
You announced VILLA RIDES without much advance publicity. I don’t think it’s a score which you’ve previously mentioned as a recording possibility. Has it always been high on your list of scores to record?
James Fitzpatrick: It’s always been a favourite score of mine and as I was doing TARAS BULBA and had just done CONAN for Luc. I thought it would be nice to do a smaller, gentler, score and why not VILLA RIDES because there are a lot of things like guitars and cantina music. I thought why not try it and I just got in touch via John Waxman with Bob Bornstein of Paramount Pictures. They had all the original scores and parts so it just came together so quickly. What I didn’t realise was that when I got the scores, some of the big cues are written for an orchestra bigger than LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. So my idea of doing a small score was thrown out the window because some of the cues require an orchestra of more than a hundred musicians, including eleven live percussionists, guitars, cimbalom, salterio and God knows what, so it was a very expensive small score to record. It’s probably one that won’t sell hugely but it’s when Maurice was on the top of his form in 1968 shortly after DOCTOR ZHIVAGO and THE PROFESSIONALS and I just think it shows that when Maurice was interested in a movie he could turn out some great music.
VILLA RIDES has a lot of unusual percussion sounds. Were all those percussion effects difficult for the orchestra?
James Fitzpatrick: Not really. There was a lot of percussion but it was all fairly standard although we did have four marimbas which is generally quite unheard of in scoring and half a dozen tambourines and all sorts of things. Of course the original was recorded all together whereas these days they would tend to record using samples. We did it as Maurice would have done it – the whole orchestra playing live together. The main challenge was because it’s in this “huapango” rhythm which is alternating 6/8, 3/4 bars, a bit like “America” from WEST SIDE STORY; a very Mexican rhythm. Trying to get the orchestra used to that rhythm took a little while to get going but after that it was fine – but then Dvorak used 6/8 quite often. It was just a matter of a mind set that this rhythm is going to be in virtually all of the cues and it’s got to be really tight – especially with the guitars and the percussion. If the percussion are not tight, the whole thing will fall apart
I take it that the Lucie Svehlova CD is a mix of new and previously recorded pieces but it does include a new composition “Renacuajo” by Nic Raine. What’s the background to the piece? What does Renacuajo mean?
James Fitzpatrick: I always promised Lucie that I’d do a compilation of the things we’ve done over the past few years. Yes, we did remaster SHERLOCK HOLMES and EL CID and also did new recordings of SCHINDLERS LIST and THE FIXER but it was also nice to include some new material and when Nic heard that I was doing an album with Lucie he wrote this piece “Renacuajo” especially for her. It’s from Spanish and translates as “Tadpole”. One of these days I must ask Nic why “Tadpole” – there’s obviously a very good reason for it. It’s a beautiful Spanish piece. It’s, sort of, a bit like Rodrigo meets Luis Bacalov meets Villa-Lobos. It’s an interesting mix – a lovely piece. The other World premiere recording is by a genius of a composer who should be better known called Paul Hart and he’s done this “Greensleeves Rhapsody” which is really a variations then theme, because you don’t hear the actual tune until right at the very end and it’s a 15 minute real tour de force for a fiddle player and orchestra because Paul is a fiddle player – he started out as a jazz fiddle player. We recorded it originally as a piece of library music with David Arnold – not the Bond David Arnold – the other David Arnold, conducting the piece and they were very gracious in letting me add this to the album because it’s a real showcase and I’m sure it will because a standard piece of concert repertoire.
You’ve had a frustrating time trying to set up a recording of Miklós Rózsa’s QUO VADIS despite having obtained approval from the music publishers EMI. Is this project now completely dead? Is there anything you can say about the problems you’ve encountered?
James Fitzpatrick: Politically I can’t really say too much in that I can’t really answer some of the questions because there’s been a block put on it by the Rózsa Estate. I don’t know why – maybe they feel that there’s money to be made from film music recordings – which there isn’t. I do have full permission from the publishers of the music who as far as I’m concerned own the music. That’s EMI Publishing and they have given me permission to record the music. They’ve even given me permission to get copies of the sketches and scores from Syracuse University [Syracuse University has been the official depository of Rózsa’s papers since 1964] but these scores aren’t forthcoming because the Rozsa family for whatever reason have put a block to it. I respect that decision and if they change their mind I would record it tomorrow. But until then I’m not really going to make too many waves although I know I have proper legal rights to record it. Hopefully things will change?
Can you say anything about possible future recordings? I think you’ve expressed interest in doing two of my favourite scores, THE WAR LORD and THE PRIDE AND THE PASSION.
James Fitzpatrick: Yes I would love to do both scores complete. I did a twelve minute suite of THE WAR LORD for Silva Screen and that would be lovely to do. PRIDE AND THE PASSION – I just adore that score. I would love to do them but we’ll just have to see how finances go. Quite honestly CD sales, even for these limited releases are going down, mostly because I think the whole market now has been saturated. Every single week there’s some limited edition, some special release coming out, or there are all sorts of things being dredged up. The whole market’s totally saturated with too many scores. I know some of the fans say; “bring it on, bring it on” but how can they afford to buy every decent release? There’s also a lot of rubbish released. So I’m going to have to be very careful over the next year or so. I’d love to do these things but financially I might have reached the end of the line.
Well that would be a great pity if that was the case. Were you serious when you said [on the Film Score Monthly message board] that you needed twelve pianos for IS PARIS BURNING?
James Fitzpatrick: Well, Maurice had twelve pianos because Maurice, being Maurice, could have twelve pianos – six grand pianos and six uprights. He often used that technique. He used five or six pianos on SHOUT AT THE DEVIL and the music producer said; “Why not just use one and overdub it?” and Maurice quite rightly said; “Well, it doesn’t sound the same”. And maybe not – I mean twelve pianos? Yes that would be excessive. You certainly could create a bigger sound with modern miking with probably four pianos. It would be nice to do. It’s definitely high on my wish list – but we’ll see.
Turning to the City of Prague Philharmonic, are the current members of the orchestra also members of the Prague Symphony Orchestra and/or other Czech orchestras?
James Fitzpatrick: Yes, essentially the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra is an orchestra I put together, along with the orchestra manager Josef Pokluda. It’s a selection of the best musicians from all five of Prague’s symphony orchestras as well as their theatre orchestras and ballet orchestras and opera orchestras. Prague is blessed like London with so many orchestras that we have a pool of about six to seven hundred musicians we can call on at any given time and the expertise of the musicians is so much better than when I first went to Prague; their sight reading is incredible. There’s also the Prague Conservatoire which is very successful – so there’s new musicians every year coming out of the Conservatoire who go straight into our orchestra and learn about recording. So we’ve got a good mix of the older, more veteran musicians, but a lot of youngsters.
I think you once said, when you were recording for Silva Screen and first began using the Prague orchestra, that they were totally unused to playing Hollywood film music. Obviously they have become fully immersed in film music now but does the orchestra require more rehearsal time than say, London orchestras?
James Fitzpatrick: Certainly in 1989 they weren’t used to the British and American way of scoring movies – that sort of – rehearse a piece and then record it straight away. They were more used to rehearsing quite a lot and then recording but that’s because it was an in-house orchestra so they could take as much time as they liked. Then after the Velvet Revolution everyone became freelance so they had to become more adaptable and certainly when I first went to Prague their sight reading wasn’t so good. Now, I think with most types of music they are on a par with any London orchestra – I mean Nic Raine often says he’s just astounded at the changes made over the last twenty years. So I think generally for symphonic and more traditional types of scores they’re as quick as any orchestra. Where they probably lag behind is maybe in things which involve more rhythmic or pop orientated material or jazzy material but then they are a more traditional orchestra than a session orchestra. So certain things – yes – they probably are slower but for ninety percent of the music they are just as quick. In fact, for my recordings, generally we record everything after just one read through and that’s usually it. After that it’s take 1, take 2, take 3. We do very little rehearsal simply because they are so good.
The orchestra visited South America recently and have also performed in Germany with Nic Raine conducting. Do they and Nic have other tours planned?
James Fitzpatrick: Yes, hopefully. Certainly later this year or September and December there’s more German concerts because they’re tied in with Klassik Radio Hamburg which is like Classic FM of Germany. The idea this year is maybe to do a Disney concert and I think they’ve got a link up with Disney. It would be lovely to do more things like Chile because that was an amazing experience. Just meeting Itzhak Perlman was marvellous – lovely guy. But organising the whole thing – and I got roped into supervising the sound – which was two live concerts in front of 20,000 people was terrifying but also very thrilling – and also rather cold at night. But yes, terrific facilities and the whole organisation and meeting the Chilean people was tremendous. Yes it would be lovely to do some more.
A couple of years ago you were concerned about the long term future of Smecky Music Studios. Is the future of the studio assured now?
James Fitzpatrick: Nothing’s assured in this life. All I can say is that the whole building where Smecky is located is still up for sale. At the moment, no takers but there is a sort of gentleman’s agreement, between the orchestra and the Barrandov Film Studios who own the whole complex, that whoever does buy it will keep the studio on for at least six months to a year. We’ll see if that happens. All I can say at the moment is that we have invested in extra material and extra facilities at the studio. We certainly look good for another twelve months. Beyond that – no idea.
You’ve said the acoustics at Smecky are very dry, making them ideally suited for the closely miked requirement of film music. If you wanted to have a concert hall sound, such as those RCA Classic Film Scores recordings, would Smecky still be suitable or would you need to record elsewhere.
James Fitzpatrick: Basically I can get almost any sound I want from Smecky Studios. For instance, for Silva Screen’s HARRY POTTER, I used EQ and reverb that made it sound as if it was recorded at Abbey Road. So that’s why I like the studio environment because it is totally controllable but then if, for any reason, I wanted something with a very, very classical sound we also do a lot of recording for other clients in the Dvorak Concert Hall – or Rudolfinum – which has a rather interesting natural reverb delay of about five seconds which makes it not particularly good for film music but for classical it’s superb. So yes. If I had a score that was an out and out classical score then I certainly could record in the Dvorak Concert hall.
And Prague itself must be a second home for you. How much time do you spend in Prague over a year?
James Fitzpatrick: Yes, collectively I’m probably in Prague two weeks out of every four, sometimes more, sometimes three weeks of the month. Then when I’m not in Prague I’m at the studio mixing and editing and when I’m not there I’m often in London doing recordings with the RPO. So thankfully I’m incredibly busy, which is more than can be said for a lot of composers and studios and so on because a lot of studios have closed recently, especially in London, like Sony Whitfield Street, CTS, Lansdowne. So it’s just nice that people still want a live orchestra, though where Prague wins out is that I’m not, for my contracting side, chasing after film work so much because we get a lot of album recording to do for crossover singers – this sort of pop-opera market. I’ve done four albums for Katherine Jenkins; did an album for Alfie Boe recently, did an album for the Welsh tenor Wynne Evans who’s on Go Compare [well-known British TV commercial] and people like The Ten Tenors from Australia. So we do a lot of albums which are a lot of fun to do than new film scores which are a lot of stress. And in a couple of weeks time I’m producing an album with my old friend Lesley Garrett. So it’s a good mixture of film work, video games, TV scores and albums. We also do a lot of stuff for Nashville for a Christian pop market so it’s that variety I like and I think that’s where Prague wins out because we can play all different types of music.
One of the problems of recording film music is that the written scores seem to be so difficult to trace. So often a re-recording is made and then no-one seems to know what happened to the score and parts. Would it be feasible for a film music archive to be set up and managed by a body such as the British Film Institute so that scores could easily be located and made available for performances and recordings?
James Fitzpatrick: Yes it would nice if there was some sort of central library. Obviously there are independent libraries like John Waxman’s “Themes and Variations” which has a lot of material but a lot of his material tends to be pre Sibelius or Finale computer scores so it’s sometimes not in the best of condition but it’s used for concerts a lot which is great. Then obviously there are the publishers of the music like Boosey and Hawkes who have the STAR WARS stuff. But yes it would be nice if there was some sort of central library. I myself have a library and Silva Screen have hundreds of film music scores. I’m loathe to throw them away so it would be nice if somebody could take control of them. At least the good thing is for music that we reconstructed in the last six, seven or eight years has been reconstructed either on to Sibelius software or Finale software, so even if the parts go missing, the score is available to generate new parts. For instance, I’ve recently sent some music to Ubeda for their film music festival. They are doing a tribute to John Barry and also a tribute to Philippe Sarde who had totally lost his music for TESS. Fortunately I did have a very nice concert suite that Nic Raine, who is Phillipe Sarde’s orchestrator, had done so they are going to perform that. But music hire, letting out music, is a full time job and basically it’s a real pain in the arse. Because you have to send stuff out, make sure it comes back and check that it’s complete. It really needs maybe some body to take it on full time because it’s a mammoth task.
Despite instant sell-outs for some soundtracks, the overall market seems pitifully small compared to the past. Labels nowadays seem lucky if they can sell 3,000 copies or even less but prior to the internet soundtrack CDs could sell in tens of thousands. Klaus Heymann of Naxos said recently “an orchestral recording needs to sell 20,000 units to make a profit and nothing sells like that now”. Has the decline of high street stores and internet downloads effectively killed off the soundtrack business so far as making serious money out of it?
James Fitzpatrick: That’s a huge question. In the ‘60s and ‘70s some soundtracks – orchestral soundtracks like DOCTOR ZHIVAGO and STAR WARS used to sell huge amounts because there was no other way of buying them. You had to buy the vinyl album or then eventually the CD. Then along came the music supervisors with their music “from and inspired by” albums – lets say, BEVERLY HILLS COP which might have two tracks from the soundtrack and the rest is filled up with songs – and those were huge sellers. But then all of a sudden because of downloads and so on those types of pop soundtrack compilations stopped selling because why would you buy a whole album for two tracks when you’ve got all the other tracks already. So those types of soundtracks have stopped selling; stopped being produced. So then – orchestral soundtracks – well essentially the record labels and film companies are not really so interested in them. For instance AVATAR, the soundtrack, has sold a tiny, tiny, quantity compared to TITANIC and yet it’s the same people, same team.
So it’s a combination of all sorts of things and also the orchestral soundtrack market, as I said before is totally flooded. Whereas two years ago you might sell 3,000 of something, now you’re lucky if you sell a thousand. I mean for instance Quartet Records – Jose Benitez – I know him very well. He used to do maybe 2,000 limited editions. Now he does a 1,000 and is lucky if he sells them. Of the smaller labels, if they are totally honest, they will say that. Yes there are always some that will do very well. I’m sure that Intrada’s recent MASADA will sell out almost straight away – I bought one. But those are now few and far between because, and again I’m sorry to say this, there’s too much coming out. The market is flooded and it has reached saturation point and what else is there to release? OK, there might be some Disney things that have never been released but there’s not much else that’s really worthwhile
You and the team behind Tribute Records are very up-front about what recordings you are doing, even to the extent of making video clips of the sessions available and keeping fans informed on progress, which to me makes sense because it builds up interest. It puzzles me that some labels prefer to say nothing until the CD is ready for release. I can’t see how that helps sales. What’s your take on that?
James Fitzpatrick: Yes I’ve never quite understood this last minute announcement. OK you might generate sales very quickly in a short period but I’ve always believed in trying to build up expectations. So videos and sample tracks and so on help. I don’t quite see the philosophy in not letting anyone know about a recording until a week before a release or a day before release but each to their own – I might be totally wrong. The way I approach things, I just do it like an old fashioned record label and try and build up publicity before a release date but being a one-man operation I don’t have time to look after something two or three days before release date and just announce it. I need to build up time because I’m so busy doing other things.
You said that none of your Tadlow recordings have recouped their cost. With a continuing trickle of sales and possible licensing deals do you expect any of them to come into profit eventually?
James Fitzpatrick: No – quite honestly. The only way any of the new recordings might make money is if somebody licensed a track for use in a film trailer, for use in a film, or a TV commercial. It’s the over-usages which make the money – that’s why Silva Screen can do so well. That’s why we set up the recordings in Prague with Silva Screen to record just about every film score theme known to man. Because somewhere down the line it might get used in a commercial or a trailer. It’s those usages which can turn something that only made half its money back, into actually covering the costs. So hopefully one of these days somebody will use one of my tracks in a commercial!
You use your Tadlow label to also release original soundtracks such as MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME and LION OF THE DESERT/THE MESSAGE. Is there any chance of A PASSAGE TO INDIA following soon?
James Fitzpatrick: Well I had hoped that A PASSAGE TO INDIA would be out by now. Years and years ago I managed to get hold of A PASSAGE TO INDIA, THE BRIDE and MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME because Maurice phoned and said CTS was closing down, could I rescue some tapes. Then a year or so ago I remixed, remastered A PASSAGE TO INDIA. There’s not too much extra score, just a few tracks but there’s a whole load of source music which is quite interesting so I put in a request with EMI and after about two and a half years of going back and forth they’ve declined the licence. I think they’d got fed up with me going back asking what’s happening. It might be done one day but maybe not on Tadlow Music. But I do have a fabulous master which I can listen to myself!
I think you were also able to rescue some tapes of scores before they were thrown out from Anvil and Olympic Studios? Do you have other tapes which you saved but which it’s not been possible to release on CD?
James Fitzpatrick: Not particularly. At Olympic I wasn’t able to get anything and Anvil had very little. Basically the only thing – and I got these years and years ago from Eric Tomlinson when he was retiring – he took me to his garage and showed me what tapes he had. He did have the original safety tapes of Walton’s original score for THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN which I remastered, remixed and then they came out on Ryko Records. Then as I said before, at CTS I managed to rescue some multi tracks of THE BRIDE, A PASSAGE TO INDIA, and also LION OF THE DESERT. I have other things – either first generation cassette copies or quarter inch tapes so there’s a few I’m negotiating with film companies about releasing. First off we’ve got to make sure that the multi tracks don’t exist anywhere and then the worst scenario is going back to the first generation cassette. But most of these first generation cassettes I have are metal quality and very good apart from being Dolby B which makes them a little bit dull – remastering would do the trick. But I’m in talks with a couple of film companies about some British scores from the 1980s which deserve to be heard.
What was your involvement with Intrada’s THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES? Were they tapes which you had saved? The sound quality is certainly excellent.
James Fitzpatrick: In the case of THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN, basically Doug Fake at Intrada had an agreement with the Ron Goodwin estate and with Ron’s ex copyist Ron Shillingford. Fortunately the Ron Goodwin estate kept these tapes so really I am just a go between. I pick up the tapes and then I go to one of two studios I use and get them transferred onto a digital format – making sure that everything is balanced and so on. I did the same for some Jerry Fielding tapes. So I’m just there to make sure the tapes don’t leave the country because they might then get lost. Then they’re transferred to hard drive in the best possible quality and then Doug can stitch them together to make an album.
One final question. Do you have any plans to retire – and I hope the answer is no – because we need you to keep recording more classic soundtracks?
James Fitzpatrick: Well I’m always threatening to retire but who can afford to retire in this day and age. No, I won’t retire. I’ll just sort of slow down eventually. As I’ve said before I might have reached the end of the road with Tadlow rerecordings but tomorrow I might completely change my mind. We’ll see. If TARAS BULBA does well and then also if a couple of things I’ve got upcoming for Luc do OK then it’s still worthwhile doing. My main reason for maybe slowing down or retiring is for the lack of new recordings – of the way the whole industry is going in not using orchestras and using samples. So it would be a case of – I would retire if the musicians won’t be used. If there’s no musicians to record with I’m not going to record with machines, so we’ll see what happens. I’m always a bit pessimistic about the lack of live music in West End and Broadway shows – the lack of use of real musicians. So I’ll keep on going as long as people still want to use real musicians. When they stop using real musicians then I’ll stop.
Well let’s hope they never stop then! Thank you James for giving time out of your busy schedule to do this interview.