Composer Trevor Morris currently lives and works in Santa Monica, his writing studio resides as part of Hans Zimmer's state-of-the-art Remote Control Facility. Trevor spent 2 and a half years working closely with Hans as studio designer, engineer, orchestra wrangler, technical supervision, producer and co-composer. They collaborated in this capacity on blockbuster films such as "Black Hawk Down," "Shark Tale," "The Last Samurai," "Pirates of the Caribbean 1 and 2" and "The Ring 1 and 2." Many trips to the scoring stages of Los Angeles, and London, England would follow, allowing Trevor to compose, produce and conduct the best players in the world of feature film and television work for both Hans and Trevor's own projects. He is currently working on the network Television series "E-Ring" and "Justice" for Jerry Bruckheimer, as well as Need for Speed: Carbon for Electronic Arts.
M4G: What is your musical background? How did you get started in composing music to picture?
Trevor Morris: I’ve been involved in music since I was old enough to crawl onto the piano bench and bang on the keyboard. I studied voice, violin and piano as a child, but ultimately composition was my calling. My career started in jingles, composing for television and radio commercials is how I really learned my craft.
M4G: You’re currently based at Hans Zimmer’s music production house. When did you first connect with the Hollywood composer / music producer and how has this influenced your scoring career?
Trevor Morris: I moved from my native Canada to Los Angeles in 2001 to pursue writing music at the highest level I could. Very early on, my unique set of engineering, production skills and composition lead to me work with two of my musical heroes, James Newton Howard and ultimately Hans. Hans has since become a close friend, surrogate father, and certainly my musical good taste ambassador LOL. Hans’ influence is hard to put into words, but it spans many areas of my life, some of them beyond music. He is simply put, the most intelligent human being I have ever met. He is a tough customer, and has been equally hard on me as he has been supportive of my composition career.
M4G: How did you get involved with NFS: Carbon? Were you familiar with the Need For Speed series prior to working on Carbon?
Trevor Morris: I got introduced to Electronic Arts through my agent and friend Maria Machado, who has a great working relationship with that company. I am a huge car guy, and fan of NFS. I’ve played all the car racing games at some point, from my youthful days back on my Amiga. The EA gang seriously rock at cars, they totally get real car dynamics and the feel of understeer and oversteer. I’ve raced my cars recreationally on the serious tracks in Canada and in California, so I know. Trust me, NFS Carbon is going to kick serious ass. There are also things in this game that I have seriously never seen before. I think they may be setting some visual trends that will certainly appear in feature films down the road.
M4G: How would you describe your music for NFS: Carbon and how many minutes of music did you write for the game? (Is there music in-game or have you written music for the cinematics only?)
Trevor Morris: Well, the first thing the EA team and I talked about is not wanting to do just another video game score. So there is a lot of lateral thinking happening. There are huge sections of the game that are just Japanese Taiko and Shakuhatchi Flutes. We kind of visualized a remixed pumped up version of “The Last Samurai.” We did around 40 minutes of totally interactive in- game music, recorded in layers known as “stems” as well as in emotional chapters. John Morgan at EA in Vancouver kind of surgically dices my music into these modular cubes, they are in turn triggered interactively by the gaming events. I also got to score in a more traditional manner to picture, 13 little cinematic FMV movies. That was fun for me, and it’s what I do best, “Tell story” musically as we track the progression of the characters. I love helping turn characters from benevolent to evil though music, it’s so much fun.
M4G: Do you think it’s necessary to play video games in order to understand how to write music for this media or do you treat it the same as film/TV? Do you see any differences at all?
Trevor Morris: Well I do play games, but I still learned a lot about “interactive music” on this project. There are many similarities to writing for Film & TV, but it is certainly a different discipline. The gang at EA were really patient about nurturing me through the growing pains of thinking of music in 3 dimensions. It has to do with thinking low, medium high…as well as foreground, middle ground, back ground. Then picturing how those bits may work in conjunction with each other in ways you never intellectualized!
M4G: Music in games is more integrally linked (reactive to gameplay, creating immersion) to the overall experience than music in a film. What do you hope gamers will feel or anticipate when they hear your music in the game?
Trevor Morris: Well, although the delivery medium is completely different, music’s job to me remains the same…convey emotion. Music can help tell story, be it interactively or traditionally in a unique, abstract and wonderful way. I would hope the user doesn’t notice my music sometimes, but yet feels their pulse rise as they come closer to the edge of a canyon cliff. At the same time, I want them to absorb and experience my music when the time is appropriate in a more immediate way.
M4G: How did this experience compare with your previous projects in film and television?
Trevor Morris: I had a total blast. It was a different experience mentally for sure. Thinking non-linear and in a modular way was very challenging, it hurt my brain a lot. It was an adrenaline rush at times, and a story telling exercise in minutia at others. It was just as much music as a feature film.
M4G: What does your studio environment consist of? What are your essential equipment and software tools for writing and producing scores?
Trevor Morris: My studio environment is growing out of control! I think I need therapy or something. For faster paced projects like television or interactive, I sequence in Logic. It has a wonder feel for production-based composing. I have 10 dedicated PC’s running Giga-Studio, which houses my on demand orchestra, percussion and instrument “farm”. Think of them as digital musically vending machines. However a lot more of my work is being done “inside the box” within Logic using software synths and plug in effects to create sounds that are fresh and new to me. It all gets bussed into a Pro-Tools HD rig, running 5 cards in a Magma chassis and 10 Digi-192 interfaces. Essentially my mixer and layback mastering system are all in one. I listen and monitor in 5.1 with B&W 802D’s and Classe amps, a seriously stupidly amazing monitoring environment, but one that continually inspires me and allows me to surgically sculpt my music (something I find increasingly important in production-based music.)
M4G: A lot of composers associated with Hans Zimmer have recently scored games. Do you envisage a time when he might consider actually scoring one himself?
Trevor Morris: You never know. I think Hans would enjoy the experience of thinking about music in the interactive 3 dimension way. He would definitely kick ass doing it. Unfortunately he is a little busy these days doing his small little movies like “The Davinci Code” and “Pirates of the Caribbean 2.”
M4G: What are your ambitions for the future? Do you see yourself scoring more video games or are you more focused on film/TV projects?
Trevor Morris: I am completely and admittedly greedy that way. I completely enjoy writing music for different mediums, and sincerely hope to never get type cast as a “film composer” or “television composer” or “interactive composer.” They all offer different challenges musically, and I enjoy them all equally. I am barely finished with Need for Speed, and I am already looking forward to the next one!
M4G: Are there any ideas, concepts, or techniques that video games can embrace from the film or TV industries to assist with game music’s continued growth?
Trevor Morris: I think allowing music to be delivered in 5.1 would be a big first step. At the moment the surround elements of gaming are largely dedicated to the sound effects. The sonic depth and height of music shouldn’t be underestimated in terms of delivering emotional impact. TV & Film are incredibly efficient mediums at telling story and conveying emotion, and I think there could be more of that in the interactive world. It may sound corny, but I don’t see why the interactive experience can’t have the same potential to make people laugh, cry, sweat bullets as well as scream out loud as Film does. I would love to play a game that “transports” me in the same way a great Bruckheimer film does!
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