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Esteu aquí: Inici Magazine Interview with Ben Locket, composer of Gumball and Revolting Rhymes

Interview with Ben Locket, composer of Gumball and Revolting Rhymes

Ben Locket is an Australian composer based in London with over 10 years of experience creating music for film and TV. His work in animation includes Cartoon Network’s BAFTA and Emmy winning series, “The Amazing World of Gumball”, for he was nominated for ‘Best Music in a TV Production’ at the 2012 Annie Awards in Los Angeles and the 2014 UK Music and Sound Awards for Best Title Sequence. His score on the BAFTA winning “Revolting Rhymes” recently won best original score at the Sapporo Film festival in Japan.

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Animac Magazine: Thank you so much for being here with us.

Ben Locket: Pleasure!

AM: As you know, we’re big fans of The Amazing World of Gumball – we even had Ben (Bocquelet) and Mic (Graves) here in Animac, back in 2014.

BL: Yeah!

AM: We would love to know how do you approach the score of Gumball. It’s such a crazy, anything-can-happen show that we feel your musical work reflects that. Do you start with themes for characters first? Do you need to consider season arcs?

BL: There is a certain “sound” that we created for the opening theme song of Gumball. And this became my iconic key signature sound of the show, in a way. Once we began season one, the idea was to get that same sound and use it and spread it through the show, but we found out that it didn't work that well. You can’t have an action sequence with a banjo, so we had to use a more traditional approach: the usual orchestral ideas we usually see in standard feature films, because Gumball always has a large third act with a big action sequence!

Still, there are some elements in all seasons, where we use certain themes and expand them and contract them, you know? For example, if you have in mind the end credits of Gumball, sometimes I like to use that theme and invert it, or play it slower, or just play a part with the piano to give the scene a different emotion… We do try to establish certain motifs through the show, but the genres keep changing so quickly on Gumball! One day, I have to write a hip-hop track, another I have to write a rock and roll track, and later a classical piece of music. So it constantly changes and there's never enough time to develop true long lasting themes.

AM: All of that makes us think that you’re always involved in subversive projects, like your latest success Revolting Rhymes (congrats on the award!). It’s all about subverting tropes of folk tales, but this one has more of an orchestral scope. How did you approach that project from the musical side?

BL: That was a really different scenario compared to Gumball, because I knew that on Revolting Rhymes we had a lot more length, so it could be treated more like a feature film and we could establish melodies and themes for characters.

In Revolting Rhymes we had to marry all these different characters over the whole arc of the film, and once their themes were developed we could then work out ways to piece the whole film together. Revolting Rhymes has two parts, so we could it's nice to hear the themes come back and evolve. Let’s take a look at Red’s theme: when we first see her she's a little child in the fields with the young wolves, but then there’s a big finale in film two when the Wolf and Red meet again as adults. So it’s nice to bring their theme back and draw the attention that there is something they’ve had all along together? And you can do this through music.

But practically, I knew straight away that we were going to use the orchestra and we needed a certain sound palette that was very different to Gumball. In Gumball, one week Ben rang me out and said “hey, this week you're doing this 1980s pastiche”, and next week he needed something like Beethoven but different, and then a hip-hop track. That was never going to happen in Revolting Rhymes – it was a very different approach.

AM: Tell us more about your Australian upbringing! Which musical influences did shape you as a composer? Did you have a classic musical education or were you self-taught?

BL: I studied jazz for a while, and there was a certain point in my early years where I thought I was going to be the next big guy in jazz guitar. But, of course, I'm not this guy and none of that ever happened! But I learned harmony and music theory, which would become really important to me although I didn't realize it at that time.  In parallel, I was hanging out around many film schools – I was getting into cinema a lot – and I realized that, oh, you could write music to pictures and you could build a relationship with an audience through the amazing media of cinema and animation and all. So, soon I knew what I wanted to do. My musical influences are really broad and I think you have to in order to do this job – my record collection is schizophrenic.

AM: You're making us think of The Avalanches, also eclectic Australians with an insane record collection (and they built they sound by sampling all kinds of music like a collage).

BL: Yeah! I remember seeing them a long time ago when they first started in Melbourn: they were really inspiring because they always swapped all kinds of instruments and this felt fresh, you know? Melbourne has an amazing music scene, it's very strong, it’s very sure of itself. Any night of the week you can go to Melbourne and see any type of music you want: on a Monday night you can go see some strange Afghan jazz and then, the following night, you find about this new metal band.

AM: So, what brought you to London in 2001, and how did you end up into Cartoon Network shorts program? Were you involved with Gumball since its very first pilot?

BL: When I realized what I wanted to do, I felt like I'd run out of road in Melbourne and I knew that I needed to travel to pursue my career seriously. Sometimes, if you choose to follow a certain path – soundtracks, in my case – you might need to leave, so I moved to London. That didn't really work straightaway, and in fact, I didn't think about music for two years or so I just want to forget, but I enjoyed London, tried to fit in this whole mess, and get serious about it.

Fast forward two years: I'd done a couple of jobs with Pete Candeland, Gorillaz’s music video director, so he rang me and said he was pitching for Cartoon Network. Once I pitched on his project, Gumball was also happening at the same time, and I ended up doing the music for three or four different projects. And then, Gumball was the one that got picked up, and Ben asked me to score the whole first season.

AM: Of all the episodes you’ve done for Gumball, do you remember a particular one that was really challenging or maybe Ben has such a specific request and you’re like, I don’t know how to approach that?

BL: Well, I feel like this happens on a weekly basis on Gumball! Which is what keeps you going and it's always exciting. Just when you think you’ve got it all worked out, suddenly new ideas come by and you think: how am I going to get a hip-hop singer and record the orchestra and write this gentle piano theme in the next two weeks? But, of course, you work it out and you do it. I think one of the reasons I love working on Gumball is its wide musical range, where you get all these different opportunities. When I think back over the seasons I remember lovely “The Shell” episode and how we used the orchestra that way. It was an episode that had a lot of heart, cause as mad as Gumball is, it also has this lovely warm message. In season six, we've been doing some really cool things like including a really big 1960s band and all sorts of stuff like that.  I'm really looking forward to getting that out there next year.

AM: One last question – for the Gumball fans. Who’s your favourite character?

BL: It’s Darwin for me. He just has two qualities at the same time: he’s wonderfully positive, and yet he always seems to have one eye open on what’s really happening. While Gumball, who I love dearly, he just goes straight into something without thinking. And Darwin always seems to see past all of this and knows how all is going to work out. And how can you resist Darwin? He's just great.

AM: Thank you so much!

BL: Thank you!

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