11.04.2008 2008-04-11
Batman Score, Frost/Nixon, Concert Tour Keep

By Michael White

Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer was struggling to find the right music to represent the Joker in «The Dark Knight», the new Batman movie scheduled for release this summer.

Zimmer, who wrote the scores for «The Lion King», «Gladiator» and more than 100 other films, had already composed a two-note signature for the fiendish character, played by the late Heath Ledger. But he wanted to expand that sound to symbolize the Joker's penchant for anarchy.

Film composer Hans Zimmer poses at his studio in Santa Monica, California, on Feb. 15, 2008. Photographer: Jamie Rector/Bloomberg News

«I've been sitting here all night trying to find out what else to do with those two notes», Zimmer said during an interview last month at his Santa Monica, California, studio.

Zimmer, who collaborated on the score with James Newton Howard, said Ledger's death from an accidental drug overdose in January wouldn't change his musical approach to the Joker. The composer said the best tribute would be an accurate reflection of Ledger's portrayal.

«The worst thing I can do is stray from that course and not be rigorous about his performance», the tall, balding composer said in a German accent that reflects his native country.

Zimmer, 50, is having a busy year. He recently completed the score for Ron Howard's «Frost/Nixon», about former President Richard Nixon's interviews with David Frost, and he's also working on two animated comedies, «Kung Fu Panda» and «Madagascar: The Crate Escape.»

When Zimmer wraps up his movie work, he'll start preparing for a worldwide concert tour, his first full-length performances in eight years.

«You have to risk everything from time to time», he said. «The death of creativity is getting set in your ways.»


Zimmer, a self-taught musician who grew up in Frankfurt, moved to London in the late 1970s and played with Buggles, a pop band whose «Video Killed the Radio Star» was the first music video shown on MTV.

But Zimmer always wanted to be a film composer. After leaving the band, he worked as an understudy to «The Deer Hunter» composer Stanley Myers. He got his big break in 1988, when was hired to score «Rain Man», which earned him the first of seven Oscar nominations.

Zimmer composes at a console in a large, den-like studio at Remote Control Productions, just a few blocks from the Pacific Ocean. The walls are covered with wine-colored paper and lined with bookshelves, film artifacts and musical instruments, including Japanese armor from «The Last Samaurai» and a Moog synthesizer, a 1970s-era instrument that Zimmer uses occasionally to create orchestra sounds.

Comfy Studio

Zimmer, who lives in Los Angeles with his wife and four children, built the studio so he would have a comfortable place to compose. There's a fireplace in one corner and candles burn at his desk, which features five large computer screens and a custom-made keyboard. One screen records notes as he composes. On the others, he can look at film footage or convert his composition into sheet music.

Remote Control includes smaller studios rented to other composers and musicians, including frequent Zimmer collaborators such as Brazilian guitarist Heitor Pereira.

Film composer Hans Zimmer plays the piano at his studio in Santa Monica, California, on Feb. 15, 2008. Photographer: Jamie Rector/Bloomberg News

Zimmer's parents introduced him to Beethoven, Mozart and Bach at an early age, but he bridled at formal lessons, preferring to work alone at the piano.

Wagner was considered «kitsch» in the Zimmer household.

«I came from one of those German families that was very snobbish and structured», Zimmer said. «Wagner, Liszt were completely out.»

Wagner's Cycle

As an adult, Zimmer grew to admire Wagner's music. «Siegfried», one of Wagner's four «Ring» operas, became an inspiration for the «Gladiator» score Zimmer wrote with Australian singer-composer Lisa Gerrard.

«He was a great film composer, he just didn't know it», Zimmer said. «There's a sense of fate in his music that lends itself very well to what we do in film.»

Zimmer said he likes collaborations that bring both composers into the studio to write and discuss the music. He invited Gerrard to work on «Gladiator» after hearing her work with the band Dead Can Dance. She also sings two tracks, «Elysium» and «Now We Are Free.»

His collaboration with Howard on «The Dark Knight» followed the pattern set with «Batman Begins», spending hours together in the studio writing the score.

«It was like four-handed piano. There wasn't a single bit we didn't influence each other on», Zimmer said. «By the end, it became fairly unclear who came up with what, which was nice.»

«Thin Red Line»

Zimmer rarely reads scripts, preferring to discuss a film's story line with the director and visiting the set when possible. Director Terrence Malick took an office at Remote Control when Zimmer was writing the score for his World War II drama «The Thin Red Line.»

«He felt comfortable around people who were making things», Zimmer said.

Gerrard may join Zimmer on his worldwide tour next year. In the meantime, he's trying to pare down a preliminary set list that contains eight hours of music.

«I've done more than 100 movies», Zimmer said. «I should be able to find some pieces that are enjoyable to play and listen to.»

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael White in Los Angeles at Mwhite8@bloomberg.net.

Last Updated: March 31, 2008 00:01 EDT

source: bloomberg.com

18:36, 11.04.2008
posted by Fabrice

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Written comments to this news

Mahesh | 10.04.2015 | 06:04 | New Zealand
I love Hans work especially Dark knight and Interstellar. Looking forward for much more from Hans. Thank you very much for spellbound music.


Anthony | 18.02.2013 | 05:35 | USAAnthonyU
I loved your music in The Simpsons!

SizovMS | 17.08.2012 | 14:04 | Russia
Your music is what force me to live sometimes. The inspiration, courage, will, strength, everything of that i can find in your tracks. Thank you so much!

huy ousa | 17.08.2012 | 10:09 | phnom penh, cambodia
Dear Hans

I love your music compose style that are great. i never know your face ever seen on music tracks now i can see you and i proud your talent. in cambodia i´m sound editor so i always like your all music. if possible i want your signature to take. anyways could i keep you a god in music.



IvR | 07.06.2012 | 17:32 |
We thank you for giving us the "air of this beautiful music"

JOHN BRITTO | 27.05.2012 | 11:54 | INDIA



Will | 16.01.2012 | 11:02 |
Dear Hans,

I have built a software sampler based on a 1776 Johannes Pohlman square piano, recorded at a local museum. It is currently in a Reason/Refill format and I was wondering if you would be interested in a copy. You can let me know by emailing me, if you want a copy I can send it to you. My email address is spinonthat@btinternet.com.

Best Regards


Witzwald | 05.09.2011 | 19:08 |
Thanks to God for the talent who was born in you.

UApasha | 22.08.2011 | 14:37 | Ukraine
I from Ukraine and I think its super puper mega ultra cool music

xemxi | 25.03.2011 | 10:32 | Malta
Hans... your music is simply AUSOME!!

Steven | 13.02.2011 | 14:03 | Munich
You touch my heart and my deep inside

Thank you

sanka | 30.01.2011 | 04:20 | Sri Lanka
I have no words to express about mellifluous of your musics. thank you millions times for endowing such a great musics for us

Fabrice | 26.04.2010 | 16:23 | Switzerland
Nice to know, and now? We are just a fansite and not the official website from Hans. But if you could insert and publish our website hans-zimmer.ch everywhere, we wouldn´t say NO.

Mehdi | 26.04.2010 | 16:10 | USA
I am doing a research paper about Hans.

kaydee mahesh | 22.03.2010 | 12:34 | sri lanka
you are great sir !!!

LIGHT | 16.12.2009 | 16:58 | Los Angeles
WE love Hans!

JOHNBRITTO | 03.06.2009 | 23:41 | INDIA

JOHN BRITTO | 03.06.2009 | 23:35 | INDIA

Kenanborg1435 | 25.05.2009 | 23:16 | Greenland
Man, this guy is awsome!

~/Sir Electro/~

chris dudding | 12.01.2009 | 16:50 | usa
u rock man! ur like my idol.

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