Interview with Anže Rozman by Marie-Anne Fischer
Anže Rozman was born in Slovenia and is an award winning composer of music for media and classical music. He has written music for a range of feature films, short films, commercials, video games, musicals, events and ceremonies. Anže is currently working as a composer for - Bleeding Fingers Music - formed by Hans Zimmer and Extreme Music.
It was a privilege to have an exchange with Anže who generously gave his time to share and reflect back on his incredible journey as a composer.
I remember one of your highlights of 2014, the recording session at Air Studios in London, where you conducted the score that you wrote for a short animation by Chris Frost. You followed this by many more highlights, hours of composing, arranging, orchestration and working internationally, to where you are now living in Santa Monica and working at Bleeding Fingers Music.
Can you please tell me a little about yourself, where you come from and what were the key elements that made you become a composer of classical music and music for media and how you came to that 2014 moment, conducting at Air Studios?
I was born and raised in Slovenia, Europe, a tiny country bordering Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia. From that time I can remember that my grandparents would take me to classical music concerts of the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra and Opera and Ballet Orchestra of Ljubljana. After each concert the music would still be resonating in my head. At first, I thought this was just music I have just heard, but eventually, I realized my brain was improvising and producing music on its own. At around age 9, I started to feel the need to start writing down what was playing in my head. I struggled for many, many years, since I didn’t believe myself to have the best ear. But after about 10 years, around the age of 18, at the time that I also started my bachelor’s degree music composition and music theory at the Academy of Music in Ljubljana with my mentor Jani Golob. I was finally starting to understand how to write down note by note, what my brain has been producing inside me since my early childhood. During my years of studies at the Academy of Music in Ljubljana, I had my works performed by the Opera and Ballet orchestra of Ljubljana, Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra, the Tonhalle Orchestra of Zurich and the Symphony Orchestra of the Academy of Music in Ljubljana and also numerous chamber works by musicians world wide.
I was also interested in writing film music and luckily enough, I was able to write music for 2 feature films and several short films. In 2013, I started my master’s studies of Scoring for Film, TV and Video Games at Berklee College of music Valencia, Spain. The program was absolutely amazing, since It gave me and my classmates so many opportunities to write for live musicians. In December of 2013 we recorded remotely with the Budapest Art Orchestra and in May of 2014, as part of our final project, they took us to Air Studios where we each had an 18 minutes slot to record up to 3 minutes of music with a 54 piece orchestra. For this purpose, I wanted to create something that would have my name written all over it. Something, that I could be proud of for years to come. A « show piece » per say. From early 2014 on I searched the web for video makers that could supply me with a cinematic animation I could score to. After about 100 emails, I finally came across the animator and CGI artist Chris Frost from Berlin, who then produced the spectacular animation for me. It was a passion project for both of us and Chris’ work really inspired me. The piece Polyverse, which was recorded on 21st of May of 2014 at Air Studios, I roughly composed in one evening/ night into Sibelius. At the 18 min recording session we did 2 full takes and two punch-ins. I would say about 70% of what you hear in the final recording is from the first take. The London musicians are absolutely amazing to say the least.
On another note, Hans Zimmer and Christopher Nolan were at Air Studios doing their score for Interstellar at the same time! Berklee pre-booked Air studios, so Hans and Christopher were locked out of the main recording stage for two days. They did not seem too happy about that ☺ . But in short, that Is how I met Hans Zimmer. In June 2014, I posted the recording of Polyerse on vicontrol forum and luckily enough Hans caught the post and listened to my work and to my astonishment he loved it! We later chatted on the phone twice, mostly about Gladiator since I was doing a score analysis of it as part of my master’s thesis, but he also mentioned he might have plans for me in the future. Hans’ music had always been a big influence on me, so getting acknowledgment from one of my musical heroes was a very humbling experience for me. Needless to say, 21st of May 2014 was a very important day for my future and career.
Polyverse video : https://vimeo.com/98018025
Polyverse recording session video :
Can you please share how you felt at the moment when you were offered a position at Bleeding Fingers Music, and then what your life entailed leading up to the first day in your new studio?
Tough questions. I think I first have to explain in short how this offer came to be. After my studies at Berklee Valencia I went back to Slovenia. I worked as a freelance composer and I also taught as an assistant professor at the Academy of Music in Ljubljana, at the same college I previously studied at. In less than four years I felt I have achieved most of the things I wanted to pursue in Slovenia. I regularly worked with all the main orchestras in the country as a composer or as an arranger. I worked with the main pop artists and bands such as Laibach (https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8JZbjh10Ng), I composed music for films, tv adverts, video games, etc. I managed to climb to the top of the musical food chain of our small country in a very short period of time. I even built myself a new studio in mid 2017! I felt very comfortable….too comfortable. I felt, that I was not doing my best work anymore and that I was not being challenged enough. Not many projects made my eyes sparkle like they used too. I felt the need to try something new…. I had been applying to the ASCAP film scoring workshop with Richard Bellis for four consecutive years. In 2016 I got the unlucky « backup » position and in 2017 I was back at « best 10% of applicants ». For some reason this news made me write Hans if we can have a phone chat. Soon we talked and I asked if I could come work for a few months at Remote Control or Bleeding Fingers. It was a completely spontaneous decision and I wasn't expecting much. Never did I dare to think it would lead to a full time composer’s position at Bleeding Fingers.
Phoenix for flute and orchestra : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vurEpRUuHx8
How did you adapt to your new working environment in the USA? What equipment and technology do you currently use and how does it differ from the gear you had in your studio in Slovenia?
Work wise I adapted fairly quickly. Emotionally wise I am still coping to adapt. I am very fond of my homeland and it was extremely hard for me to leave behind the people and places I love. I use a 2012 MacPro with 64gb of RAM as my sequencer and a 2016 PC with 128GB of RAM as my Vienna Slave. I use the Komplete Kontrol full keyboard by Native Instruments and as my audio interface I have the UAD Apollo. In my studio in Slovenia I only had one PC with 32GB of RAM, but my studio space was a lot bigger and brighter haha. It was also in our family house which is tucked into the forest. I miss that very much….
But all in all, I am extremely thankful and humbled to be here and work with such an amazing team! Its truly a life changing experience. While it is not easy, I am very happy to be here.
Anže’s studio in Slovenia
Do you compose your music first and then orchestrate it or do you orchestrate as you write? Would you please share your personal preference on this topic?
I like to orchestrate, arrange and mix as I go. This is how I work the fastest and am able to produce the best works I think. I like my music to flow directly from my subconscious into the DAW with all its integral parts. Since I was always mainly interested in orchestral music, orchestration and composition are one and the same for me in my process. I rarely do sketches, but I do recommend new composers to do them. Are you able to share some of the projects you have been working on since moving to Santa Monica? The first project I worked on here was a BBC documentary called Super Powered Falcons, which I really enjoyed writing since I love birds of prey. Then I also composed all the music for the first episode of Big Beasts; The Last of the Giants for Sky Network, a documentary about the largest animals on the planet. I also wrote music for the documentary Wild Dogs for PBS and a few tracks for Netflix’s Roman Empire; Region of Blood and a pilot episode of Elemental for National Geographic. And till now probably the most notable project was music for the last episode of season 28 of The Simpsons, which I co-composed with Bleeding Fingers composer Andrew James Christie all under the great Bleeding Fingers team! Very humbling indeed…. I am now involved with two very large scale documentaries, one of which Is my favourite project I have worked on here so far. It is going to be recorded with live orchestra in late autumn, which I am super excited about. So far, I think I have written roughly about 4h of music since I began my job here in early February of 2018.
When you are working for long stretches at a time in your studio, how do you manage balancing your time effectively between work and your personal life?
Well, the short answer is, that I kind of left my real personal life in Slovenia. So far I am not managing my personal life well at all, or I don’t really have much of one. I think it speaks for itself that in the 5 months since I started here I have taken only 5 days off… But I do try to keep healthy. I work out every day and cook healthy food everyday and try to get some sunlight and fresh air. I came here to pursue my passion and craft, so that Is what I am doing. I enjoy writing music and when I write, it keeps my mind off the struggles of leaving my homeland. I believe this is the only time in my life when I can solely focus on my music and that is what I am doing. I think not many people on this planet are able to understand this way of thinking… We composers are very strange and unique creatures in this sense.
You once wrote: “A composer fears nothing more than ‘writer's block’. But when inspiration returns, your heart fills with joy! There is almost no greater feeling than when your brain spontaneously comes up with melodies and chord progressions you did not even know you had them in you! It is like you are possessed by something else. All you then need to do, is write down what your brain is handing you generously, thank it and wish, that the writer's block will never return. I am far from a super-naturalist, but sometimes I really wonder what makes me tick.” Do you have any advice on how to get through writer’s block?
The only advice is to compose, compose and compose some more. As my mentor Jani Golob always said to me : »Treat composition as if you were an instrumentalist. Instrumentalists practice everyday, so you have to compose everyday. » The more you compose the easier it is for your brain to produce stuff for you. I rarely get writers block now… I just have better days, when music flows and worse days when I struggle to get something decent out.
Please can you tell us where you get your inspiration and what energizes you?
Well, as a media composer, my inspiration is usually the picture I am given. If the picture speaks to me, I am able to be inspired by it. And if it doesn’t, I have to find a way to make the picture speak to me ☺ Currently cooking a great meal energizes me. But I am a very sleepy person in general. So sleepy, my coworkers jokingly call me « Anže the sleepy «.
Is there any advice that you can give to new composers that you wish you would have had when you first started out?
Ok, this is going to be a controversial one. Don’t think you need to go to school to become a full time professional composer. If you know from an early age, that composing is your number one passion, you will probably be able to achieve a sustainable income from music faster if you do not got to school than if you go to school. Since I was interested in orchestral music, I would have chosen my path again, but for many young composers out there I think it would be more logical to just stay at home and focus on their music day in and day out. When they are in their early twenties they will already have a career. I have numerous friends that have chosen this path and it worked out for them… In the end it just depends what your goals and motivations are.
Finally, I ask this question to everyone and would appreciate your thoughts: What is your favorite Soundiron instrument?
Hands down it’s the Symphonic Brass co produced by Native Instruments. I use the ensemble brass sustains and the trombone sustains in almost every single orchestral piece I do! It has become a crucial staple in my template. Such warm and big sounds, that I could not find in any other library out there so far. Big ups for this one!
What would be your ultimate scoring project?
I would love to eventually score a scripted sci-fi show such as Dark, WestWorld or Game of Thrones!
Thank you very much for being part of this interview, I really appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to share this information with us.