by Mike Brennan
Composer Ramin Djawadi gained recognition for his Emmy-nominated work on the hit FOX TV show "Prison Break" as well as his work writing additional music for composer Hans Zimmer on such films as Thunderbirds and Batman Begins. Most recently he scored the hit superhero film Iron Man for director Jon Favreau, and SoundtrackNet had an opportunity to talk with his burgeoning talent.
By now you have worked on a number of superhero films - Blade Trinity, Batman Begins and Iron Man - do you approach these any differently than other projects?
Not really. Every movie needs its own identity. I try to come up with a specific sound palette for every project that I work on. I just really enjoy superhero movies as I was a big comic book fan as a kid.
You also scored the "Blade" television series. How did that score and project differ from Blade Trinity?
Blade Trinity had more of a bombastic score in many sections whereas the TV series was kept a bit smaller. The series also had a female character Krista that partners up with Blade. She had several themes of her own and lead to a slightly different tone than the movie. However, some of the more electronic cues were reused from the Trinity score. We used them in the temp and decided that they worked well.
You started off your music career as a guitarist. How much did that contribute to the choice of a guitar-heavy score for Iron Man?
Not at all. It was a great benefit though, as I could actually write parts on the guitar. I don't play guitar as much as I would like to, so I always get excited when I play on my own scores. Most of the guitar parts were played by Aaron Kaplan though. I did play all the guitars on my Deception score. It depends how much time I have. I see it as a special treat to myself.
You have a heroic theme for Iron Man that, like Batman Begins, is used sparingly as the hero develops. I've already heard rumors of sequels. Do you have plans to develop that theme further or additional themes in future Iron Man films?
If I get to work on the sequel I would love to develop the material further. This first movie did a great job in setting up the Iron Man character. I tried to do the same with the music. A sequel would naturally require further development.
How involved was director Jon Favreau in the scoring process?
Jon was very involved. He kept mentioning the idea of rock guitars. I loved the idea as it would give us a different tone than other super hero movies. I started working on ideas before I had picture and Jon would come see as much as he could and we would just sit together and listen to music before we even went up against picture.
How was the Iron Man score recorded?
The orchestra was recorded at AIR Studios in London. The band was recorded here at Remote Control and everything was mixed here as well.
On the other end of the spectrum, you also recently scored suspense thrillers, Mr. Brooks and Deception. How are these genres different for you, or are they more of a challenge? Do you prefer one over the other?
On those two movies I was able to experiment with sound design that goes beyond the orchestral palette. I enjoy that process very much. I don't have a preference for one or the other as long I don't have do the same style again and again. I prefer the variety.
How did you get started working with Hans Zimmer and Remote Control Productions?
The connection was made through a good friend of mine in Germany by pure coincidence. I started working for Klaus Badelt doing arrangements and additional music and then eventually starting working with Hans on Pirates of the Caribbean.
How do collaborative projects work for you? For example with Batman Begins or Thunderbirds, how would you approach working with other composers rather than alone on a project?
I truly enjoy working with other composers. You can learn a lot from each other and it's always amazing to see what the other composer comes up with. It was simply an honor to be part of Batman Begins and to see how Hans and James [Newton Howard] interacted. I also had a wonderful experience with Heitor Pereira on Ask the Dust. We wrote most of the score together in the room. I think the important part is that you respect one another and are open to the other composers' comments or criticism.
Television show main title music is heard repeatedly over a show's lifetime. How did you develop the "Prison Break" theme and how much was dictated by the producers?
The only direction I had was to use a vocal and it should be percussion driven. The theme you hear at the end is my "mystery" theme which I had already written for the episode. I knew I wanted to incorporate part of that in the main title as I felt that that theme would carry a big part of the show. The rest of the main title was specifically written and I rarely use it during the episodes. In fact, I've only used it to close the entire season or during very special moments.
Moving into its fourth season, do you wish you could change anything in it?
We changed the arrangement for the third season and added a slight ethnic flavor to it. I have to admit I don't even know where season four is taking us, so I wouldn't know what to change right now!
How do "Prison Break's" changes in setting alter your musical approach, from inside the prison to on-the-run to Panama?
A lot of the music inside the prison always had to be small and sneaky. There was always a lot of planning which was really fun to score. Now on the outside there are a lot more opportunities to open up a bit more. The ethnic flavor is certainly also a nice change and it is fun to arrange previous themes with those new elements.
What influenced you to become a film composer? Are there any particular scores that inspired you?
It was Star Wars and The Magnificent Seven that made me aware of film music and that basically set the start for me to pursue a career like that.
Special thanks to Ramin Djawadi, Allie Lee at Chasen & Co., and Dan Goldwasser