Composing music for movies takes alot of skill and dedication. It is a craft that many have conquered successfully and others that have used it as inspiration towards other genres of music such as classical and jazz to name a few. Music always transcends the idiom that it is written for and could always be on the minds of many soon after for years and decades to come. In the case of composer Tony Morales, he is one of those composers that has shown the drive and dedication to be one of the best in the industry.
Tony is a skilled composer who for the last few years has worked with Oscar nominee John Debney, one of the finest composers of this generation and under his guidance, Tony has proved that he has the mettle to write memorable music like his film music forefathers have. After collaborating with John on the memorable mini-series "Hatfields & Mccoys" writing a terrific score together, Tony now has the reigns of his own film with the upcoming Blu-Ray/DVD release of "Enemies Closer" starring the muscle from Brussels Jean-Claude Van Damme, who reunites with acclaimed writer/director and former journalist Peter Hyams ("Capricorn One", "Outland") after two successful hit films in "Time Cop" and "Sudden Death" which is being released on March 11th by Lionsgate Films. He also recently collaborated with fellow composer Edward Rogers of "Warehouse 13" game for the upcoming thriller "The Bag Man" starring Oscar Winner Robert DeNiro and John Cusack for Universal Pictures which will open next week theatrically.
For this very special interview, Tony candidly shares with me his passion for film music, writing the score to Enemies Closer along with working with director Peter Hyams, the upcoming soundtrack release on Lakeshore Reocrds, and his working relationship with John Debney as we take a look back at "Hatfields & Mccoys" and his upcoming film projects which should thrill his fans. So sit back and enjoy the musings of this very well spoken and cool composer.
Tony, please tell the readers about what made you become interested in music.
TM: Good question. Not sure I can pinpoint what exactly made me interested in music but I can just say that I’ve loved music since I was a little kid. I started playing the guitar at age 9 and that’s when my musical journey began.
Let’s talk about your recent work on the film “Enemies Closer” that will make its’ Blu-Ray debut in March by Lionsgate Films starring action megastar Jean-Claude Van Damme. What got you interested in this project?
TM: This project happened from a referral from my friend, John Debney. John has been a long time collaborater of Peter Hyams and thought I’d be a great fit. Once John mentioned the project to me I was excited at the prospect of working with such a legendary director like Peter.
This is the first time working with Director Peter Hyams great films such as Capricorn One, and Outland and working with Van Damme on two of his best films, TimeCop and Sudden Death. After you spotted the film with him, did he tell you exactly what he wanted the music to sound or did he tell you before hand what he wanted from get go to make things easier for you?
TM: Peter had a vision for the score and was very helpful in articulating exactly what he wanted. We seemed to be on the same page from day one.
After hearing the score, which is excellent BTW. I honestly couldn’t tell if it was recorded with an orchestra and not electronic. Do you feel that the latest technology has helped you to musically achieve a lot as opposed to twenty-years ago which a score like you composed wouldn’t have sounded like a real orchestra such as this one?
TM: No doubt the latest technology has had a positive impact on what you can achieve when working with a limited budget. I wouldn’t have been able to produce this type of sound twenty years ago without the benefit of recording a live orchestra or at least a handful of musicians to sweeten it with.
Was it your choice to it electronically or was it mostly because of budgetary reasons?
TM: Budgetary for sure. I always prefer working with live musicians if possible. But that’s not always something that is attainable on every job.
How much music did you end up recording for the film?
TM: I wrote, programmed and produced roughly sixty minutes of music for Enemies Closer.
What was it like working with such a distinguished director like Peter Hyams?
TM: It was a great and invaluable experience. Working with a director who has such a rich history collaborating with legendary composers the likes of Jerry Goldsmith, John Debney and Mark Isham was a tad daunting at first. But from the start he was very supportive and insighful which was a tremendous help. From there our work process flowed naturally and was a real pleasure.
Let’s talk about the soundtrack album upcoming on Lakeshore Records. How did you manage to get it released?
TM: I approached Lakeshore Records through my publicist Beth Krakower with CineMedia Promotions. Lakeshore was excited to team up for the release and the rest fell into place.
Please tell us about how the album was assembled?
TM: The album tracks are sorted in order of appearance in the film. Although, I intentionally started the album with a suite of the score to preview a few themes and motifs.
Are you happy with the way the album ended up and do you think fans of the film will enjoy it?
TM: I couldn’t be more excited about it since this is my first soundtrack release as a solo composer. I was able to include the majority of the score from the movie on the soundtrack. I hope the fans of the film will enjoy it!
I loved your score for “Hatfields & McCoy’s” in which you worked with your friend and mentor, John Debney. It was a lot of fun. What was it like working with John on that project?
TM: That was an incredible experience. John and I had met a few years before and had developed a great relationship. Hatfields was the first time we co-scored a project and it was an honor to work side-by-side with him. What I didn’t anticipate was how valuable it would be to experience how John skillfully navigates the entire process of creating and producing a score beyond the actual writing.
In regards to putting together the score, were you both on the same page from the very start or did you both agree to score specific scenes to lighten the musical load sort to speak?
John and I were both at the first meetings when the creative discussions began with the producers. From there we jumped to the theme exploration process. Once we had the various themes approved by the producers, we pulled from them for the scenes we worked on separately. During the whole process we were in constant communication, sharing the cues we’d written and giving each other feedback.
What were the recording sessions for the score like?
TM: They were a lot of fun! As you know this was an intimate, soloist type of orchestration. We had sessions with the various instrumentalists at different stages of writing to replace and add to our demo mock-ups. John and I both played the guitars on our demos which ended up staying in the final mixes.
Did you and John improve any of the score when needed?
TM: Improvements were made once we got to the revisions stage for sure. Also, once we started the recording process and the musicians brought their voices to the music.
Were you both happy with the end result of your collaboration?
TM: Definitely. It’s one of my proudest moments as a composer to date.
If you and John were to work together again, what movie would you want it to be and why?
TM: Haha, good question…I think I’m stumped! I’d be thrilled to work with John again regardless of the project.
Please tell us about working with John Debney, who’s one exceptional composer.
TM: John is such an amazing talent. I’m truly grateful for the relationship we have. The experience working with him has been instrumental to my growth as a composer, from both creative and business perspectives.
What is your favorite film score that you’ve written?
TM: Well since it’s fairly new, I’m really excited about my score for the upcoming indie feature “In Your Eyes.”
Who is your favorite director that you’ve worked with so far in your career?
TM: I’m not sure I can put that info in print!!!
Please tell the readers about your future upcoming projects.
TM: The Bag Man, which is co-composed with my friend Edward Rogers, is getting a theatrical release on February 28th. After that I have “In Your Eyes”, written and produced by Joss Whedon, coming up. Then later this year, we should see a short I scored for DreamWorks Animation called “Rocky and Bullwinkle” starring June Foray reprising her role as Rocket J. Squirell. The film was directed by Gary Trousdale who also directed Beauty And The Beast and Atlantis.
Very special and heartfelt thanks to Tony, a good friend and kindest of musical geniuses for his generosity and grace to share his time with me to talk about this film. Remember the more you keep writing great music, the more interviews we can do! Also a very special shout out to Beth Krakower who's on the mend right now and I hope you get better fast! You're the best!
Enemies Closer will be released by Lionsgate Films on Blu-Ray, DVD and Digitally on March 11. It is now available for pre-order @
Tony's engaging soundtrack to the film will be available digitally on February 25 on Lakeshore Records with a CD release following soon after. Pre-orders are already available on Amazon and iTunes. https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/enemies-closer-original-motion/id818805374
Please feel free to visit Tony's official website @ http://tonymoralesmusic.com/ for the latest updates and musical samples of his work.