INSPIRE ME – with TV & Film Composer – Simon Lacey

Simon Lacey is a Composer for TV and Film. Some of his recent credits include The Railway Children, Long Lost Family, LapLand and Above Suspicion. 

He is working on his own very exciting new project called ” A Quarter of a Million Miles ” inspired by Command Module Pilot on Apollo 11, Michael Collins.

Part 1 ” The Thought of Floating in Space ” can be viewed on the new website, so once you’ve had a nice dose of musical inspiration here courtesy of Simon – do pop over and have a watch and listen. Details at the end of this interview …

You compose music for TV and Film  – how did you first get involved in the media world ?

Well, I’d been in various bands, done a bit of songwriting and had scrabbled together a little studio with an Akai sampler and a Mac which would both be in a museum now. Around that time I met the founders of RDF television, which was just starting up at that point and they asked me if I wanted to write the score for their first documentary commission. I did the job for the price of a bag of chips, but I instantly loved writing to picture, the documentary seemed to go well and I became a bit of an in – house composer for them for a while. That gave me a lot of very useful experience and after a few years I managed to get my first drama job.

Originally, you were a front man in a band – how does it compare to with writing for others ?

I think front man is putting it kindly. I was so not suited to that job, much happier hiding behind banks of keyboards and writing stuff.  Writing for others’ projects requires a certain lack of ego, whereas I’d suggest being a good front person is all about ego, confidence and projection. When you write the score for a drama, it is not your baby, you are one of many elements in the production and sometimes your view of what is good will differ from the director’s.  In the end of course they make the decisions and sometimes a favourite piece can end up on the cutting room floor or you find that a cue you’ve written has been cut around and edited without you knowing.  It’s no good being too precious about all that as no one wants to hear the composer whining at the back of the dubbing theatre and, to be fair, most directors I’ve worked with are very charming and reasonable people ( in case they’re reading this… )

What inspired your latest work – A Quarter of a Million Miles ?

I’ve always been interested in space and astronomy and I was inspired to write the music having read the book ” Carrying The Fire ” by Michael Collins.  He was the Command Module pilot on the Apollo 11 mission who orbited the moon while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin went down to the lunar surface. He was said to have known loneliness like no other human before as he went out of radio contact on the far side of the moon, circling on his own. I’ve always thought that music and space were a great combination and the lyricism of his book triggered a lot of music from me.

Who else is involved in this project ?

The violinist Jack Liebeck is playing solos on some of the pieces. He is an amazing player who has recorded a stunning version of Dvorak”s violin concerto and has featured on Dario Marianelli’s scores to Jane Eyre and Anna Karenina. Natasha Marsh has released 2 very successful solo albums and sings the soprano parts. Her voice works so well on the pieces so I was thrilled that she was interested in the project.  There are a couple of other collaborators I have my eye on for the remaining pieces still to be recorded – let’s hope I manage to reel them in.

I should also mention Charlie Phillips (editor of Sherlock) who did a brilliant job editing the films from the NASA footage.

Having listened to the first piece ( which I found really enchanting ) how long did it take you to develop from an idea into the finished piece ?

Thank you. I wrote the piece on piano, as I often do, and as far as I remember it was relatively quick.  A couple of concentrated sessions. To get to the finished piece, I did a demo version, tinkered around with arrangements and orchestrations and then did all the notation for the actual recording session with strings, harp and me on piano.

There is a “Quarter of a Million Miles” album on the way soon – will there also be more film ?

Yes, there are 3 films all finished and ready to go. The next one is a piece called ” Galaxies ” featuring Natasha Marsh singing. The footage this time is quite different – grainy 16mm film from the Apollo missions. I love the quality of it and it’s a must for space nuts – you can play spot the astronaut. It will be on the website soon – as soon as I have an exact date I will announce it on our Twitter and Facebook pages. As far as the album goes, I need to raise the rest of the money to finish the recording so the purpose of the website and films is to introduce people to the music and hope that they like it enough to want to hear more. I’m talking to some very interesting potential partners at the moment, but I may well also try and finance it through crowdfunding, so am really hoping for people’s help in spreading the word and recommending to friends.

Can you offer a little bit of advice for someone wanting to become a professional composer ?

The best thing I can think of is try and find a unique ( or at least unusual ) aspect to your work that will set you apart from the crowd … and make friends with directors.

Thanks so much, Simon. 

To see Part 1 and find out more – the website is www.aquarterofamillionmiles.com. Do spread the word too.

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