Sunday, 23 September 2018

Interview with Tan Onwimon

Love Music : Tell us a little bit about yourself & Why you decided to work as a film composer?

I have been a musician all my life. But I have a dream to become a filmmaker, so in 2008 I decided to go to film school and did music works on the side as a saxophonist and musical theater assistant in Bangkok. Doing so made my film classmates starting to have an impression that I could write music for their films (about which I had no idea by that time) Later on, they gave me an offer to do music scoring for their films and I went for it. This first step of film scoring opened my eyes to the new aspect of storytelling. And I fell in love with it right away because it combined both film and music, the arts I love most together! I got to learn and gain more experience and kept getting more films to score after I graduated. It was until 2014 that I decided to go a step further by applying for and getting accepted into the Berklee College of Music for Film Scoring program. This opportunity has changed my life forever and it leads me to Los Angeles where I start my professional career.

Love Music : We have been hearing a lot about your work, so we notice you are starting to gain a lot of attention how does it feel?

Becoming a film composer is the career path that takes much time, effort, and patience before reaching the recognition. For the past ten years of dedication, it has been an honor to have received increasing attention and to have heard of numerous compliments about my compositions. Each project has its own unique challenges. And you have to work closely and harmoniously with the director of every film. Each director has his unique visions, and you have to respect that. That means working in every film is a complete different lesson learned. Receiving a compliment from the director is probably the best thing I can get and I feel truly humble about. It means you have done your job perfectly.

Love Music : Any upcoming project?

I am currently working on a sci-fi/action series called “Yolkman.” Writing for this series is definitely a fun ride. I am more of an orchestral music composer. So working for a sci-fi/action is a new experimental experience on electronic upbeat music. It was extremely fun to render a fusion between analog and digital realms. My upcoming project is NHK’s documentary film called “Duck Academy.”

Love Music : What is your composition style & signature?

I like writing the main theme first. The main theme is the heart of everything that will capture the essence of the film. Coming up with the great themes instantly helps you finishing 40% of the work. The main theme can be for any character, story, location, and etc. It gives you the right mood and tone to hold on to it. Also, my compositions usually have a slight touch of jazz chords with some tensions like 7th, sus4 or 9th chords. I didn’t realize this until I already delivered my work and gave it a listen after a while. This may be because I am a saxophonist, so jazz sounds can be a part of my composition anytime.

Love Music : Do you compose for any other media apart from movies? What is the differences?

I also write for video games, television, commercial and musical theatres. Each media has its own style that I have to adapt. Last month I was lucky enough to work for a musical called “Sonn : a New Musical.” It was a different experience because, for theatres, you have to know the nature of each performer and his/her voice. You have to go through the screenplay and understand the story, unlike movies where you can simply learn about characters through provided video footages.. And the melody has to fit with words. Every single detail like vowels and accents matters. And for video games, they are  similar to film. The only difference is that a video game has interactive music. Each decision you make in the game affects the music, so the music has to have options and layers, instead of ordinary linear storytelling.

Love Music : What is your goal in life you want to achieve next?

Films are always my passion. I would love to write and produce a film one day. My best friend (who is a filmmaker) and I are working on building a studio one day. And it is also my dream to write a story and music for a new Disney’s movie! I don’t know how this possibility is going to be like, but that would be once-in-a-lifetime achievement I can dream of and chase after. I already have a story in my head, and I will never give up on that dream.

Love Music : What motivates you to do your best work as a film composer?

Listen more…listen as much music as you can. Sometimes I like getting a classical music score and study it. You will be surprised how it affects your music vocabulary. The more you listen, the more you know. I also like to listen to other kinds of music, such as Irish, Tango, Latin, Hindi, EDM, and Jazz music, you name it. It motivates me by pushing the limit of my musical knowledge. It also helps refreshing my ears from what I have been writing each day. However, the best motivation for me as a film composer is the approaching “deadline.”

Love Music : What kind of training have you had, if any ?

I had my training at Berklee College of Music. In the Film Scoring Program, they start off by teaching you fundamentals, such as Ear Training, Theories, History and Conducting. After that you start learning to write by getting to write a short cue. In some cues, you will get to record a live player. Each semester the scale of each project will get bigger, and it gets harder too. My first project was a 1-minute music cue with 4 live players. My final project was a 12-minute short film with full orchestra. It was the hell of a ride by the end of my senior year!

Love Music : What is your favorite thing of being a film composer?

Standing in front of the orchestra, listening to them playing my music live on the scoring stage is the best experience I could dream of. Right at the very first moment when they started playing, it was like my exhaustion from work was all gone. The recording session was more like a reward for a composer. The hardest part of film composing is when you write at home and that part is done. So the recording day is the day for me to relax and witness the product of my hard work.

Love Music : Who is your inspiration?

My number one has to be the legendary John Williams. I grew up with his Jurassic Park scores which literally give me chills until today. And I love everything about Harry Potter including the original scores. I can recognize every track of every album. It has been my secret mentor in orchestration. John Williams is definitely my role model. He is already 86 years old, and he is still writing for Star Wars Episode XI. He rocks!

Find out more info about Tan's composition work at his website:




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