Hans Zimmer, the creative force behind some of Hollywood's best loved film music, including the Oscar-winning Lion King score, adjusts his chair in front of a sleek black instrument that looks something like the control panel of a stealth bomber.
He raises his hands to the monochrome keyboard and presses gently. A familiar strain emerges from it: the opening lines of the Dark Knight theme, but today it sounds unlike it has ever sounded before.
"I didn't start in Germany. I could never get a job there since I hadn't gone to music school, and they wanted to see references from an Akademie.
I was playing in bands in England - pups, colleges, workingmen's clubs, strip-joints. Always late with the rent, and worse - always ran out of shillings for the electricity meter. Makes it a bit hard on the electronic wunderwerk when it all gets dark in the middle of a riff.
Lived mainly off the kindness of friends (it is important, as a musician, to be entertaining enough that people take you out on a regular basis for expensive dinners). Always owed the bank money - but the bank manager sort of believed in me, and let me overdraw. Borrowed synth from the good people at Argent's Keyboards and Syco Systems. Fell in with the jingle crowd, which was a regular check (I used to do two or three a week, sometimes as a composer, sometimes as a synth programmer for other composers)
Started working with an equally poor Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes. Made a song we couldn't give away. Went to number one the week before my twenty-first birthday. Still waiting for the royalties.
Got fed up with the world of rock 'n' roll. Started working with Stanley Myers (The Deer Hunter) as his assistant. He showed me how the orchestra worked, I made excellent espresso. Fair deal.
It was actually quite good not to be on the road anymore. I used every second to get better with equipment. I would loiter at the studio after I was done with my session and learn from engineers like Geoff Emerick, Flood, Hugh Padgham (actually, he was the bass player in my first band).
Built a studio in London with Stanley. It was tiny, but sounded great. Soul To Soul, a lot of KLF and other experimental stuff, endless disco... Learned what a "hook" is. Beethoven knew... Mozart and the Stones knew...
And the commercial directors where starting to make TV movies. Our friends Tim Bevan and Sarah Radcliffe started a film company called "Working Title". No money, but a vision. Suddenly we where doing movies. Our movies where edgy and funny and usually under-financed before we even started. Mostly cut above strip joints or brothels in London's Soho. It was all just a different form of the world of entertainment, and the rent was cheap. Still owed the bank a fortune. I kept telling them that a synth could buy a house, not the other way round. That One idea, One tune would make the difference between ruin and being able to pay the banks back. And since I had no other qualifications, they didn't really have a choice.
But I knew my stuff. It was limited - I was into electronica - but I could go up to any synth, any mixing console and work with it. I never took a day off. I was glued to all the synthporn magazines, hung out for years at Syco systems, who sold the Fairlight and the Linn, and eventually was offered a movie in L.A.
And while we - due to lack of money - had really made what little technology we had (ok, I had a Fairlight by then... don't ask how we got it or paid for it. Sometimes you have to be lucky. Thank You, Stanley Kubrick!) work for us brilliantly, Hollywood wasn't at all the technological fab place I imagined it to be. It was very talented people writing on paper, with their arrangers and orchestrators in some dingy back room with neon lighting and cottage cheese ceilings. Not really my thing. Stained, cracked linoleum floors and water-damaged ceilings ("but that's where Orson Welles cut 'Citizen Kane'!", yeah, great, but can you at least change the lightbulb?") So I built myself another studio and other people wanted to be part of it, like Mark Mancina, Harry G-W, John Powell... and because we had all that rather cool, yet primitive technology, directors actually liked coming over and hearing mock-ups of a score, discuss the music to picture without a hundred piece orchestra waiting outside. And we had an excellent drinks cupboard.
But the main thing was - we all had an insane work ethic (I remember feeling guilty leaving at 4am one morning, because everybody else's car was still there.). We surrounded ourselves with the greatest music editors like Adam Smalley and Bob Badami (look up their credits!) and changed their way of working to be more like record producers. We got recording engineers like Alan Meyerson, who could effortlessly move between orchestra and fuzz-box.
If we had an idea, we'd build it. We still build our own samplers, put unfair pressure onto companies like Steinberg and Avid (Logic is too corporate now. It's not how long it took to get this last update. When do you think the next one is coming out?)
We very much worked like a firm of architects. One main designer, with us all helping each other out. People are still confused about the "additional music" credits. If it sounds like me, it's probably me. Head Architect. But how can my collaborators ever get a career going if they are just "Ghosts"? If it sounds like John Powell, it's probably him... same rules apply.
Personally, I couldn't give a flying f@&$ about credits. I'm in it for the process. That's the part I love. I have a deal with one film company where they pay me next to nothing for the music, but a shitload of money for doing press. Press is hard work, parties scare the living day lights out of me, and premieres are only great for being in amongst a big audience for whom, ultimately we made it, and enjoying the movie with them. The party after is just some sort of Irish wake, where we say good bye to the joy we had making the thing.
The only thing between you and a career is singleminded stubbornness, hard work and sweat, tempered with social graces and a true compassion for your poor director, good ideas, recklessness, humility and an insane work ethic. You have to have talent in all of these fields, plus, obviously, music and story telling. You need to be a proud servant of the film, and be respectful and a little bit in love with and of your audience. I'm not big on awards. They usually get it wrong. "Shawshank Redemption" should have won the Oscar, in my opinion. My learned and generous peers obviously had a different opinion and gave it to me for "Lion King". Made no difference to my career, or the trajectory I was on.
The only true compliment I feel is, when someone goes out and spends their hard earned money on one of my movies or soundtrack. Real people, who have a choice, wanting to be entertained and moved and think I can do that. The only thing I'm interested in is that I'm having some weird ongoing dialogue through my music with people I've never met, who are moved or provoked by my music, that something from my heart resonates with their emotion or brain - all over the world, whatever culture. And I'm interested that some guy with no education from Frankfurt can make it in Hollywood. Because that means anybody can."
‘Batman vs. Superman’ Hans Zimmer On Whether He’ll Score the ‘Man of Steel’ Sequel
Hans Zimmer’s drum-tastic score for Man of Steel ranks among his most impressive work in recent memory, but there’s been some doubt surrounding his potential return to provide the music for the Man of Steel sequel – not least of all, because the movie will include Batman, who’s a comic book character that Zimmer previously helped bring to life when he scored director .