Over the last few years, composer Atli Orvarsson has been one busy composer when he's writing music for his own assignments or helping the likes of Academy Award Winner Hans Zimmer and others. With The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Atli has pretty much tackled the fantasy/horror genre for this year and with great success as his "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters" soundtrack going over extremely well with soundtrack afficionados and "Mortal Instruments" soon sharing the spotlight as well.
After successful past projects such as "The Eagle" starring the now mega hot Channing Tatum, the Vin Diesel Sci-Fi thriller "Babylon A.D.", the thrilling who done it "Vantage Point", Nicolas Cage's adventures in "Season Of The Witch" and the Mila Jovovich supernatural thriller "The Fourth Kind", along with the just released, "A Single Shot" starring Sam Rockwell and William H. Macy, Atli has really had a diverse group of films that have shown directors and producers throughout Hollywood about his versitiliy and willingness to tackle a variety of different projects with the greatest of ease.
For this interview, Atli has shared his experiences on working on "The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones", in working with the film's director Harald Zwart ("The Karate Kid" remake, "The Pink Panther 2") and why he became a composer. So sit back and read on about this fresh and exciting voice in Hollywood today.
Hello Atli, how are you and thank you very much for taking the time to conduct this interview with you today inspite of your really busy schedule. It really is an honor to do so.
AO; Hi Danny, I’m doing just great thank you!
Please tell the readers about what made you become interested in music and what led you to become a a song writer/composer.
AO: I was raised by musicians so I had a very musical upbringing. I once tried to quit music but that lasted for about three weeks so somehow it’s just always been what I do. It was really while I was studying at Berklee College of Music that I started taking composition more seriously and when I tried to writing music for films I new I had stumbled upon my calling in life!
Let’s talk about “The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones ” which just opened. How did you become involved with the project?
AO: I happened to run into the director of the film, Harald Zwart, at the premiere for another film I scored, "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters" and he was so impressed with that score that he immediately approached me to do this one.
Was it difficult or easier for you to find a tone for that music that you wrote for this film?
AO: It wasn’t too hard really. Somehow, I immediately knew what I wanted to do and also, I only had just over two months to complete the score, so there really wasn’t much time for second guessing!
Did director Harald Zwart specifically give you an idea of what he wanted musically for the film?
AO: Not so much musically, but he was specific about dramatic terms, the scope of the music and instrumentation. Harald is a dream director to work with as he is very knowledgable about music but knows when to direct and when to step back and let me do my job.
What were the recording sessions for the score like?
AO: In a word, terrific! We had quite a large orchestra which I had the privilege to conduct and then we recorded a choir and several soloists separately. The recordings were done at the legendary Abbey Road studios in London. So really, it was about as good as it gets!
How much music did you write (in total) for the film?
AO: I believe the total minutes of music was 118 minutes, all told and of course that’s not counting music that was tossed out or revised so, it was quite a bit of music!
The score album (not to be confused with the subsequent song album) that was released, was released by Milan Records. Please tell the readers how you put the album together and what made you decide to put on the CD together the way you did?
AO: Usually when I finish a score I don’t really want to listen to it for a long while afterwards (!) but this time around I was about to go on holiday right after I finished so I basically started assembling the CD on the plane back from recording and mixing in London. I always try and make the most listenable CD I can and don’t really worry too much about the order of the cues in the film. To me these are two separate things.
Is it hard for you to put together a soundtrack of your work for a specific film?
AO: Good question, it actually is! Often times, you’re too close to the material yourself but in this case it wasn’t too hard for some reason. I pretty much knew what I wanted to do and the nature of the score is such that it needed very little editing, most of the cues feel like complete little pieces on their own.
MovieScore Media/Kronos Records will be releasing a couple of your soundtracks this fall, can you please tell the readers all about that.
AO: Yes, I’m really excited about these and I think people will hear a whole new side of me that they perhaps didn’t know about. In fact, it’s two different sides of me, one of which I didn’t even know I had! The first is called"A Single Shot" and it’s a very dark crime drama set in a small American town. It’s a bit like "Fargo" meets "Twin Peaks" with a healthy doze of "No Country for Old Men." The director of that film, David Rosenthal, is like a walking dictionary of modern concert composers and he presented me with a very intimidating playlist of music he thought should inspire me by the likes of John Tavener, Ligeti, Philip Glass, Arvo Pärt, etc. So a daunting task indeed!
The other one is a Holocaust love story which takes place in Auschwitz Birkenau so something completely different again and on this one I really got to flex my romantic, melodic muscles - so both scores I’m really excited about but couldn’t be much more different!
What is your favorite film that you have scored to date?
AO: That’s a very difficult question. When you’re in the thick of it, this films are, and have to be, your favorite films! Having said that, I probably had the most fun doing the score for "The Eagle", largely because it required an interesting journey of discovering old Scottish and Celtic music I didn’t even know existed.
Do you have a dream project you would love to do?
AO: I have many but I really would love to get my hands on a good animation!
Please tell the readers about future upcoming projects that you may have.
AO: There are a few things brewing but too early to talk about... Then, of course, sequels are planned for both the "Mortal Instruments" and "Hansel & Gretel", so hopefully I’ll be invited back on these!
Very special thanks for Atli for being gracious for his time in his very hectic schedule to do this interview with me. It's really an honor! Also, very special thanks to Stefan Karrer for hooking this interview up and for his generosity! You're the man!!!
Please head on over to Atli's official webpage on Facebook for updates on his latest film projects and soundtracks at: https://www.facebook.com/AtliOrvarssonOfficial
The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones" Score Album is now available on Milan Records: http://milanrecords.com/releases/releases.php?release_name=THE_MORTAL_INSTRUMENTS_CITY_OF_BONES
The Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters Soundtrack is available on La-La Land Records: http://lalalandrecords.com/HandG.html
Atli Orvarsson's bio courtesy of Wikipedia:
"Atli’s credits include composing and orchestrating music for some of Hollywood’s biggest projects, including the Pirates of the Caribbean series. He has contributed music to films from "Angels and Demons" to "The Holiday". Atli's film scores include "The Eagle", "Vantage Point", "Babylon A.D.", the Morgan Freeman caper "Thick as Thieves (The Code)","The Fourth Kind", and the Nicolas Cage medieval fantasy, "Season of the Witch". Atli’s most recent credits include fantasy epic "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones", historical romance Colette the dark and edgy film, "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters", the drama/thriller, "A Single Shot" starring Sam Rockwell, the hit NBC series "Chicago Fire", and working with Hans Zimmer to contribute music to the Zack Snyder Superman reinstallment "Man of Steel" (film).
Originally from the small town of Akureyri, Atli became established in the local music scene at a young age. He earned three platinum and two gold records as a member of the Icelandic band Salin hans Jons mins before studying film composing at Berklee College of Music and the North Carolina School of the Arts. He excelled in composing and was awarded the Pete Carpenter Fellowship, which brought him to Los Angeles. He began working alongside TV veteran Mike Post on NYPD Blue and three Law & Order brands. Atli soon caught the attention of composer Hans Zimmer, who extended an invitation to Atli to join his team at Remote Control Productions."