BAFTA winning and Grammy nominated Craig Armstrong chats to Audient about composing with his ASP8024 mixing desk.
Tell us about your studio set up, and how the ASP8024 is incorporated into your studio?
There are basically two elements to the studio set up. One which is logic based where we use several music programmes most of these are of an orchestral nature and some are more synthesiser based.
At the same time I have hardware instruments which are largely classic synthesisers as an example, Roland Jupiter 6, Prophet VS and some vintage synths like the EMS VCS3 and the ARP Odyssey. Especially when recording for a film score, solo instrumentalists are often recorded in the studio – e.g vocalists, string players, percussion etc.
“warmth and quality of sound”
I have found that the ASP8024 has been an indispensable tool over the years for all these three elements of sound. I feel the warmth and quality of sound from the desk has been very helpful and important in the compositional process.
Usually the first thing that happens in the process of making music for film is meeting the director. At this stage you usually see some of the edit and if you are compatible and the right choice for the job you would then discuss the approach the music will take.
As an example with Far From The Madding Crowd, the director Thomas Vinterberg wanted a very pure orchestral approach, whereas my most recent project Frankenstein (director Paul McGuigan) involves orchestra and early synthesisers, which reflect the film’s early experiments with electricity.
There is often travel abroad depending on where the film is in production but usually the vast majority of the work is done in my Glasgow studio until we get to the scoring stage. I normally record at Air Studios in London with engineer Geoff Foster. At these sessions the collaboration between composer and director is at its most intense and it’s also very exciting to hear the score come to its final stage.
What are the advantages that you find doing it in this way?
I think like a lot of other artists it’s advantageous to work in your own environment, while at the same time it can be exciting to work in L.A or with Baz Luhrmann in Sydney. Usually my projects are divided between working abroad and home.
“very well made and easy to use”
You won a BAFTA for the film score for Romeo & Juliet, can you tell us how you approached that project?
Romeo and Juliet, Moulin Rouge and my most recent collaboration with Baz Luhrmann, The Great Gatsby – which was Grammy nominated for the score – all share a particular musical approach because they contain current songs from the particular decade in which the films are created. One of the elements when working on the scores for Baz is also incorporating music of the time.
This of course fell into different forms in each film but recently with The Great Gatsby I integrated bands like The XX, Florence & The Machine and Lana Del Rey into the score. In each of these films especially Moulin Rouge and The Great Gatsby there is lots of room for original score as well, so these two elements always have to integrate seamlessly.
How do you approach new composition projects when they first come in?
In my work I compose over quite a large area of musical form. Film obviously is the most collaborative, whereas my solo albums are generally more personal. If there are collaborations, they tend to be with a songwriter or singer, and my classical works are really solo projects that I compose either on piano or in my studio. For each of the three main areas I have quite different approaches however they are all linked by my musical language and sound.
What drew you to the ASP8024 in the first place and what are your favourite features?
Having a looked at a lot of various options I found the sound quality from the desk through my PMC speakers was particularly great. There was also room on the desk for me to incorporate all my analogue equipment and classic synthesisers. The desk itself other than for its sound quality is very well made and easy to use.
What is coming up for you (that you can tell us about)?
I am recording the score for Frankenstein directed with Paul McGuigan and featuring James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe for Twentieth Century Fox in February 2015. The score for Far From The Madding Crowd is completed and the film is being released in May 2015. I am completing a new solo recording I have made for solo piano and string ensemble.
“very impressed with how well we were looked after by the Audient team”
If you have anything else you would like to share with us, please do!
I was very impressed with how well we were looked after by the Audient team. After years of the desk running perfectly, we had a small amp issue which was immediately fixed, it was very much appreciated, the speed with which this was done, as we were in the middle of a film.