For decades, one of the highest praised aspects of the Alien franchise has been it’s art. With the likes of Giger and Ron Cobb involved, why wouldn’t it be. But music is also one of the other things that both Alien and Predator movies are well known for. I got the chance to talk to music composer Brian Tyler, the man behind bringing the AvPR score back to its origins. We also have some shots of Brian composing AvP Requiem which you can see on the right.
AvPGalaxy – So I’m talking to Brian Tyler today. Big thanks for agreeing to the interview. For those not in the know, what is your role in the upcoming AvP Requiem?
Brian Tyler – I composed the music for the film.
AvPGalaxy – Music, like art, is one of the more memorable parts of the Alien franchise and to an extent, the Predator franchise. Which of the scores for the previous movies would you say is your favourite and why?
Brian Tyler – Wow. They are all pretty awesome. Alien, Aliens, Alien 3, and Predator 1 and 2 are the ones I listen to the most. They really reflect the fantastic and brutal nature of their creatures. Classic science fiction music at its finest. The eerie atonal undercurrent of Alien. The militaristic and thunderous might and elegance of Aliens. The primal thunderous nature of Predator. And the cold and shrieking Alien 3 music. Simply fantastic.
AvPGalaxy – What about the movies as a whole? Which film would you say is your favourite?
Brian Tyler – Aliens. Although Alien is one of my favorite movies of all time as well. And Predator.
AvPGalaxy – I actually found Harold Kloser’s score for the first Alien vs Predator to be quite entertaining. What’s your opinion on the score and how would you say yours differs to Harold Kloser’s?
Brian Tyler – Well the two films are very different. So the scores are different. I enjoyed his score as well. This film is much more violent and gritty. I would say that an aspect I wanted to focus on was really making a reference to the earlier Alien and Aliens scores as well as the original Predator score stylistically and how they were recorded. Live, gritty, mean, rude, militaristic, with the orchestra really distinguishing the vibe that makes the two species so different.
AvPGalaxy – How did you actually come to work on AvPR? Where you the first choice?
Brian Tyler – Yeah, they searched through tons of composers and chose me to my eternal gratitude! I am a massive Aliens and Predator fan as are they. We hit it off really quickly. And I really wanted to score this movie. I also have to thank John Davis and Fox for bringing me on board as well.
AvPGalaxy – For the folk who don’t know, describe to us the process of creating a film score.
Brian Tyler – First I watch the film with the directors in an early stage of the cut and essentially choose where the music will go and what the vibe will be for those scenes. Then I sit down and literally start writing the music note for note while watching the film in my studio. Then I choose what instruments should be used. In this case, an 80 piece orchestra with an additional 20 parts of percussion and 20 tracks of various music effects that I record at my studio. Essentially, that is about an average of 130 individual musical parts to every piece of music in the film.
So it takes time. The parts are written individually. Then, I mock up the cues to give the directors and the studio an idea of what they will sound like once recorded live. Along the way, I play many instruments at my studio and record them as “pre-records” before recording the actual orchestra. In the case of this movie, a great deal of Predator drums and percussion were played ahead of time for the more jungle style percussion not associated with symphonic orchestras. Then the sheet music is written out part by part and printed for the orchestral musicians. This is done after I have written out all the parts for the music and handed off to music editor Joe Lisanti who edits the music to match the latest cut of the film and then hands off the sound files to orchestrators Robert Elhai, Dana Niu, Andrew Kinney, Bill Boston and Brad Warnaar which then hand off the music to copyists to actually physically prepare the thousands of pages of sheet music so the orchestra has something to read.
Then, I conduct the orchestra myself (in this case in Los Angeles with the Hollywood Studio Symphony at the Fox Scoring Stage). This takes about a week. It is beyond thrilling. Conducting a world class orchestra for a film (especially an Alien-Predator film) is probably the coolest thing to do on the planet. It sounded AMAZING. My engineer Joel Iwataki recorded the 80 person orchestra with 48 microphones digitally into Protools using sweet analog preamps and a massive 192 channel mixing board. Then we went to Warner Brothers and mixed the score down on another giant mixing board onto 3 Protools rigs in surround sound. The music editor takes the finished music to the dub stage where it is mixed in with the dialogue and sound fx. The last step is getting the soundtrack together which we are doing now. The great label Varese Sarabande will be releasing the CD. Phew. I am tired.
AvPGalaxy – How long did it take you to actually write the score? Where there any actual complications – from Fox or the Brothers – that caused rewrites?
Brian Tyler – The great thing about this film is that we were all on the same page in what we wanted musically. We wanted it gritty, scary, adrenaline pumping, anxiety ridden, huge as well as quiet and creepy, epic, with a wide dynamic range. We wanted the score to reflect the tradition of the aliens and predators. So it was intensely hard work but in lock-step. The Brothers Strause, Fox, John Davis, Robert Kraft, Mike Knobloch, and the editor Dan Zimmerman were all awesome in pushing forward towards the same goal: let’s make this score kill!
AvPGalaxy – How long have you been recording the score and how close is it to completion?
Brian Tyler – I just completed the score last night in fact. I was working on the film for months and have be actual onboard the film for over a year.
AvPGalaxy – We were told sometime ago that early edits of the film have been finished. Have you had chance to record the score to these edits?
Brian Tyler – I have been writing all along. But recording was done to the final film.
Joel Iwataki and Brian Tyler
AvPGalaxy – Scoring a film that combines two different franchises such as these seems like a difficult task. Predator films have that more tribal sound with drums and percussion while Alien films have always been more stringy and brass. How much of a challenge did it present to you when writing a score that combines the styles?
Brian Tyler – You have got that right. But I felt right at home in these two styles. And I felt it absolutely vital to really emphasize these two styles more than before. The aliens music had to be very aliensy and the predator music had to be very predatory. I did not want to blend the styles so much but rather make them distinct. The wild and primal nature of the aliens is reflected in the music. They are probably the greatest movie beasts ever conceived and the early scores for those two films did such a great job of capturing the sheer terror and relentlessness of the creature. The Geiger connection between the visual concept of the alien and the music was captured so well in those scores and I wanted to continue that tradition. Screeching strings, atonal furor, wailing brass! Ear laceratingly violent use of the orchestra for the aliens is a must!!
When I conducted the aliens music in person, the sound wave created by the orchestra nearly knocked me on my ass. In contrast, the predators’ have an intelligence not seen in the aliens that is combined with their brutality. A merging the tribal-style percussion and the stern brass was something I really wanted to do for the predators. The predator can mess you up viciously with their brutality but then again they also create technology, write computer code, and fly ships. Oh, and they have cloaking technology. How cool is that? So the music needed to honor their ritualistic tribal traditions but also have form and organization to the music in a way the aliens don’t have. The music of the aliens is randomized and relentless brutality. They are sheer terror.
AvPGalaxy – That said, I’m actually listening to the track from War you have up which *laughs* is pretty much a blending of said styles. How much has your experience with previous films helped while scoring AvP Requiem?
Brian Tyler – Well War is certainly nothing like this score of course. But others did prepare me. Frailty, The Hunted, Constantine, all had dark elements that helped prepare me. But this had to be unique. If anything, my steady diet of Aliens and Predator films growing up prepared me more than anything.
AvPGalaxy – Goldenthal liked to use natural sounds to infuse into his score for Alien3 while Frizzell liked to use synthesized sounds mixed in with the orchestral stuff. What sort of methods did you use to create sounds, if any at all?
Brian Tyler – Well, this score is organic. It is naturalistic but i used very alternative methods of how instruments were played. There was a lot of hitting of metal poles, junk, car parts, and other actual physical things. Also the orchestral instruments were attacked with reckless abandon. Strings playing off the bridge, cellos hitting music stands, players screaming into their brass instruments, percussionist slamming away on their instruments with actual hammers, and pianos being thrashed and hit with heavy objects. Woodwinds playing in extreme low and high registers. Odd orchestral instruments like the cimbasso and contrabassoon blasting. Basically I did everything I could to ruin and distort live instruments. It was nasty.
The orchestra recording AvP Requiem
AvPGalaxy – Time and again we’ve heard from the Strause Brothers that AvPR is going back to the roots, something you’ve said in other interviews regarding the score. What is it about your score that takes it “back to the roots”?
Brian Tyler – The roots are Alien, Aliens, and Predator. That is our AVP bible really. So recording the score in that style with those killer techniques from those films was something that was very important to do. Also, I felt it was important to give the music a backdrop of sounding epic and true to its science fiction roots.
AvPGalaxy – Alien Resurrection was the only one of the Alien scores to use themes but the Predator scores had quite a few of them. Does AvPR’s score make use of themes and if so, what are they themes for?
Brian Tyler – The themes are conceptual. There is certainly a reference to those scores but more on a conceptual level rather than a melodic level.
AvPGalaxy – What has been your favourite scene to score to so far?
Brian Tyler – Ooooh. I would tell you but then I would have to kill you via facehugger and chest burster.
AvPGalaxy – And your favourite track you’ve written and why?
Brian Tyler – I can’t pick one track. But look out for “Decimation Proclamation”, “Requiem Epilogue”, “Opening Titles”, and “End Titles.” Why are these my favorites? Because they rule. Haha. I don’t know. I just am very proud of them.
Brian Tyler conducting the orchestra
AvPGalaxy – Composing for a film has to be one of the most unappreciated roles in production. From an outside point of view. It can be very stressful and challenging. What scene/track has been the most challenging for you on AvPR?
Brian Tyler – Well, there is a section of the movie that is 44 straight minutes of music. To tell the story musically and have ebb, flow, dynamics, while continue to ratchet up the tension is extremely difficult. But of course, that is why composing films is such a great job.
AvPGalaxy – We can describe some of the other scores in the franchise with single words. Aliens/Predator – Militaristic, Alien3 – Organic, AR – Romantic. What word would best describe your score?
Brian Tyler – Insane
AvPGalaxy – Once again, thank you for the interview. Any last words before we sign off?
Brian Tyler – Humans prepare yourself.