FIVE QUESTIONS FOR DOMINK SCHERRER
One of the UK’s top composers, Dominik Scherrer has created award-winning music for some of the finest film and television dramas in recent years. He was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for Starz/BBC’s critically-acclaimed series The Missing, and recently won his second Ivor Novello Award for his score on Netflix’s Requiem, which he co-composed with Natasha Khan. Dominik first won the prestigious British Ivor Novello Award and received a Royal Television Society (RTS) nomination for his riveting score on Ripper Street, and earned two additional Ivor Novello nominations for Amazon’s The Collection and the British crime series Agatha Christie’s Marple. After recently scoring the new hit TV show The Serpent for BBC and Netflix, we sat down to have a chat with Dominik about everything music!
Give us a brief history of Dominik Scherrer - How did you start out and what do you think were the initial projects that propelled you to where you are today?
- Age 0 Born into a family of Bach fanatics. No day without a fugue or somebody singing from a motet.
- Age 6 learn recorder
- Age 8 learn flute
- Age 12 learn piano
- Age 16 I want to compose soundtracks
- Age 17 I learn all about Soviet film, as it’s the only book my library had about filmmaking
- Age 18 Saved up for a secondhand Polymoog Synthesizer.
- Age 19 I direct my own film, an ambitious adaptation of a 19th century novel, in order to be able to compose a soundtrack
- Age 20 Moved my band to Hamburg because the Beatles did well there
- Age 21 Started studying film in London
- Age 25 Compose and direct opera made for the screen starring New Wave star Lene Lovich
- Age 26 First music job: pianist at the theatre, every night. Soon I was allowed to compose for plays
- Age 30 Compose and direct another opera made for the screen, premieres at Sundance
- Age 31 Score first feature films, all arthouse films
- Age 35 more arthouse film scores
- Age 37 Score first major TV drama series, Agatha Christie’s Marple,
- Age 38 til now: more series and independent movies
As your career gained traction, do you think it has been more important to develop your own distinctive sound, or to be able to adapt to whatever comes your way?
DS: It’s the projects and soundtrack that I want to be distinctive, rather than my style. I am a strong believer in originality. It helps to connect a soundtrack with the drama and take the audience to a world where they haven’t been before. I the score is a pastiche or to clearly in a already know style, you kind of turn off the listener’s brain.
Your music has played a big part in countless successful TV series. Tell us about your approach when you start writing music for a drama series, and you maintain both musical consistency and interest across multiple episodes
DS: Starting on a series is the hardest. I try and start early, normally just after the read-through, which normally happens 2 days before the shoot starts and all the actors read through the script in realtime. I gives you a good idea of timing, and also how quick a moment in your life the normal episode length of 60 minutes really is. It gives me a sense of the tempi, and the scope of themes we will need. I started to bring along manuscript paper to these read-throughs and have written down tunes while the actors are still reading from the script. Further down the line, I just take one episode at the time. They have their own flow of narrative, their own themes. It’s nice to focus on just 60 minutes and create a dramatic flow. But it never really gets easier. You just have to make these stories work.
Do you find that you gain the most inspiration listening to music from other composers, or from other interests in your life outside of music?
DS: When you’re stuck, there is nothing better than listening to Tchaikovsky, Bach etc to engage the mind. Or look at some scores. Watching a great film, or going to see the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican, which is very close to my studio.
What was the last piece of music that you heard that you think everyone reading this should hear?
DS: I just heard a lovely song right now on the radio: By the River by Pi Ja Ma. Not sure who this is, a new French artist I think. Soulful song with a 1960s vibe. Check it out.
For more information about Dominik, visit www.dominikscherrer.com