Can you describe to us how you came to this project?
It was mentioned to me that there was a Welsh Arts Council project i.e. a feature film based on The Mabinogion and I remember The Mabinogion from studying them in school. What I remember about them from school was that they could actually mean anything you wanted them to mean ... that was the fun of them. But trying to fit it all into a feature film seemed like you'd have a bit of a job so I was intrigued to find out how they would incorporate them.
So what exactly was your brief?
To do the film score for a feature-length animation and I knew that that was going to be a chunk of work because with animation, more than feature films, you need wall-to-wall music. So whether we were going to cover characters, whether we were going to give individual people their own "place in the sun" with a melody etc., that all needed to be determined. I read the script but I waited until the gels were done before actually tackling it. The way the film was constructed made one thing very easy for me in that the dialogue was set, was locked in stone, so nothing changed in that respect, so the amount of time you had to really create a personality or underline something was definite all the time. So whatever I started with, as we got closer to the dates for doing the recording, there were only minimal changes that needed to be done. But I wanted to get a mixture of whatever I could of hip-hop in there as well as romantic score so there were certain ways in which you could record it. You recorded the strings separately from all the other woodwind and brass to give you a little flexibility and in Dolby 5.1 surround you've got room for more effects. If you have an orchestra all together in one room then it's very difficult to "isolate" - whatever happens in one area reflects in another, so we went at it in a modular way so that we could have more independence and control over the parts.
As your first experience of animation, how different was this to all your other projects?
You get dependent on colour a lot. Some of the movie was done, some of it wasn't, some of it wasn't quite back from Moscow, so when you're working with pencil drawings or line drawings, as things progress, you get more and more colour and you suddenly realise how important it is to really finish off a scene. For instance night-time scenes may not be quite as dark as what you'd thought they were. I think the flexibility you get with modern recording studios and production facilities open up a whole new universe for you for what you want to do.
Tell me about your experience of working with the National Orchestra of Wales
One of the things about the way this has really progressed in the past week, which is very rapidly, from the time that I took the scores to Cardiff and I recorded the orchestra ... I have some experience of working with orchestras and how unpleasant playing something in isolation is e.g. for a woodwind player not to have the strings there, but it was done very, very well. We've got beautiful results from the orchestra and it sounds like a million dollars and I think I put together a team that was really excellent. The studio in Cardiff (Air Studios) turned into the cockpit of a plane - everybody was sitting and staring at numbers and calling out numbers and we had a lot of work to do in three days and it worked very well.
Looking back at your schooldays and the early lessons on the Mabinogi and now your experience with this film, how has that coloured your experience and your reaction to the stories?
I think of the Mabinogi as one of these things that can really just go anywhere and this film goes in some very interesting places, there are all sorts of interesting post-nuclear, modern connotations, but I still think there's a lot in the Mabinogion.
Can you describe what you've been doing in Air Studios?
Having come here with a team that I thought was really very good for one particular thing, when you come to Air Studios you find a team that's very good for doing something else. I remember Air when they were in Oxford Circus and it's just the spirit of the place that really helps you work. All these people are "alive": they're musicians and technical people at the same time and I'd forgotten all about it from spending years in New York but it was just a real joy to work in here.
Do you see yourself working on another animation project in the future?
Absolutely, why not? I mean they're a challenge, you've got different layers and different things to consider e.g. the dramatic element is not quite the same as with real people.
Are you happy with your side of the project?
I think the score sounds beautiful, I'm really happy with the results I got from the National Orchestra of Wales and the conductor Chris - he did a really excellent job - so altogether I think this has turned out very, very well.