INTERVIEW: Film Composer ROB Talks New Score For Horror Film “Gretel & Hansel”

How were you drawn into the world of music?

Music was my first love, since I was little, and though I studied fine arts in Paris, I finally went back to music as soon as I could. It finally became my full time thing when I turned 19.

Did you always intend to become a film composer?

As far as I remember, musical emotions are related to pictures, movies or cartoons… it feels that the association of music & image always moved me.

It was of course completely subconscious when I was a kid, but I understand today that I’ve always been fascinated by the score. I remember listening to Mission’s score (Morricone) in my parents’ car, full volume, literally moved to higher spaces!

Japanese cartoons as well have a lot to do with my actual job. It was a big thing in the French 80’s and synths were a huge part of the charm of those programs… my love for these sounds might come from there too.

What is it about horror films that draw your attention the most?

Scoring horror movies is a fantastic opportunity for composers. You’re being asked to dive very deeply in crazy and unexpected emotions, with a lot of emphasis. It’s rare to be asked for less in horror, but rather for more! It generates a huge field of experimentation, and let you create your own vibes.

I find more freedom in the genre. Although it has its own codes, I find more freedom in the horror genre as I love to explore my own fears, inner feelings, melancholy etc…

Speaking of which, let’s talk about Gretel & Hansel – how were you drawn into this project?

I’ve just been called from LA. I heard of the project before and was already very interested. It didn’t take me long to accept it.

Having scored a new rendition of a well-known project as it was the case of Maniac – did jumping into this new take of a popular fairy tale feel like somewhat familiar?

Gretel & Hansel is my first take on that very specific fairy mood. For sure, it has nothing in common with Maniac, either in the color nor the inspiration.

Although I of course knew about this classic tale, Osgood Perkins’ very original touch on it made me think again of all my intuitions. I immediately fell in love with the very dry tone, the rawness and the beauty of the pictures.

One of the greatest aspects of Gretel & Hansel is the very artsy take on the story, very A24. However from my understanding you went for a much electronic score – why did you choose to go on this direction?

It was Osgood’s first choice to go electronic. The idea simply was to avoid any fairy tale automatism. This is nothing like The Beauty and The Beast for instance. There’s no eery element, nothing seducing… again, it’s very raw and dry, and the whole movie lives in its own time and space, very unique.  So I guess, going electronic was a good way of finding its own musical colors.

Were you any tempted to go for a much typical orchestral or did you always intend to go for this take to the score? Was it easy to blend the artsy, sublime imagery with the synth driven music?

To me, electronic music has nothing to envy to orchestral. There really is a personal way of having very expressive and emotional synths. The fact that one creates very unique sounds can be very helpful to match the artsy imagery. At the same time, finding a global musical feeling that would reach that level, puts great pressure on the shoulder of the composer. But it’s always great to be challenged.

Nevertheless, next to the electronic sounds, I also need some organic sounds as well, to warm up a bit the tone and reflect the intimacy between brother and sister. For that I used a lot of old school mellotron, flutes and vocals. Those sounds push you instantly in some kind of sweet nostalgia. I needed that too.

Your work on the Maniac remake had this great electronic score as well – so did you borrow from this work or is this completely different?

I think it’s completely different. Though my approach towards electronic is the same: just play it like any other instrument, with feeling and emotion. Electronic does not necessarily mean ‘cold’ or ‘mechanical’ to me. It’s rather another level of expression and complexity.

From what I heard, the only instruction Oz gave you was for the score to be humorous. From what I can see in the trailer, there was no fun elements in it – so did you rely on any mickey mousing or what was your take on the whole “humorous” aspect?

It’s true this was Oz’s only call on the score. Humour doesn’t necessarily mean fun! It was a little surprising at first but I finally understood he just meant the music needed to always put a distance between pictures, ideas and emotions. It sounds a bit blurry but it was meaningful during the process. It was a way to express that the music should always have a third dimension to the movie. Actually that is something good for any movie, and it’s the opposite of Mickey mousing! Never follow what you see but try to add what’s not to be seen.

What would you call the most challenging aspect of this gig?

The world created in the movie is very unique. Nothing like a classic fairy tale, nothing realistic, but still very tangible and true.

To create a score that would fit this world was the real challenge. It was a very haunting process, and I loved that.

What else is happening next in ROB’s world?

Run Sweetheart Run, directed by Shana Feste, just premiered in the Midnight category at Sundance festival. Another side of horror films, social horror as they say! I love this movie too.

And Papicha is on its way to an American release, it’s an Algerian movie about the Black Decade of the 90s in Algeria. It is a very intense and beautiful film, directed by Mounia Meddour. It got selected at Cannes Film Festival 2019 in the ‘Un Certain Regard’ selection.

The original score to Gretel & Hansel by ROB will be available on CD & digital platforms on Friday, January 31st, as well as a pre-order for an exclusive vinyl issue with an artwork by Sara Deck.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

Check Also

INTERVIEW: Werewolves

Werewolves welcome to VENTS! Can you tell us a little about your new album, Enjoy …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.