Tom Holkenborg AKA Junkie XL talks about the Mortal Engines film score

Tuesday, August 7, 2018
mortal engines composer

Film composer Tom Holkenborg has had a rich vein of form in the last decade scoring for movies such as Mad Max, Batman V Superman (Wonder Woman theme), Tomb Raider, Dead Pool and the forth coming films Alita: Battle Angel and Mortal Engines. 

Tom took a turn on Score's podcast in which I think this is the first time he himself as actually publicly confirmed that he has composed the score for the Peter Jackson production. 

Somethingorother at the Mortal Engines Discord Server have transcribed some of what was said for your reading pleasure:

Tom: At Christmas, it’s in the same week as Alita comes out (This is a mistake, it comes out the week before) which is Robert Rodriguez directing and James Cameron producing movie. But what’s interesting for me working on these two movies, working with these directors and producers, is I have the freedom to really explore all these new things which is really really great. And it feels also to me like a new time period, like where you are growing into a new level of what you’re capable of, and better combinations of styles and elements, and that’s always great to feel, that you grow as a composer or as a musician in general. 

Host: I think that you also are working with two filmmakers who actually exemplify the visual aspect of what we’re describing. They use both computer generated imagery, and actors, parallel to synthesis and orchestra. So you are working towards a new way of making art. 

The other thing you said that’s really interesting is you said they both allow you an amount of freedom. Isn’t it amazing that the directors who are the top of their game are the ones that allow you freedom where it’s the young ones that are the most nervous, ‘I don’t know if the composer should do this’ ‘I don’t like that’ ‘Is that right’ The guys that they hire an artist and I’m sure you get notes and there’s conflicts on certain things, but it’s just wonderful to hear they give you freedom. 

Because you think wow a guy who’s that big, James Cameron or Peter Jackson, they’re going to have specific ‘you do this, don’t vary from my idea’. It’s wonderful to hear you say you have freedom.

Tom: Well I have been very blessed actually, to be honest, because I always get a lot of freedom. What usually happens with me is that they let me develop the initial concept of what the score is, the themes, the sound, and I make these really elaborate pieces that I sent to the directors and they give me feedback. 

What I usually would ask is ‘do you recognise your movie in this?’ and with one or two exceptions they embrace immediately the concept that I come up with. And so that’s what I mean by creative freedom. Now when it comes to actually scoring a cue to a scene, that’s where the director becomes very important in guiding you to what he’d like to see and what is important for him and what is not important for him. And like I said I’ve been very lucky to have been able to work with directors and studios who are very open minded and even if they were not happy with stuff they were always able to very easily let me see what they would like to hear there, and what was important in the storytelling. 

And because I really noticed that I liked films so much that I tried to make that transition into film from 2000 on or so, we can chat about that a little later, but what I really understand, from the beginning, was that if you are going to be good at this, you’ve got to be a filmmaker. You can’t just be the music guy. That’s very important. 

Host: You’ve just articulated what makes the greatest composers. And I learned this from someone I know you’ve worked with and we’ll talk about in a minute.

Check out the full pod cast, the ME discussion begins at the 34 minute mark. 


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