EXCLUSIVE ‘24/7 VALENCIA’ INTERVIEW
24/7 VALENCIA: Please tell us about your soundtrack concert at ‘Teatro Principal’ with Jove Orquestra Generalitat Valenciana ?
OLIVIER ARSON: It was myself with the young ‘Orquestra’ of the Community of Valencia. Quite a lot of the films and series have been directed by Rodrigo Sorogoyen. We played a good selection of my soundtracks including ‘El Reino’ and ‘Antidisturbios’ and ‘La Zona.’ We also be played music from ‘La Mala Familia’… a feature film that has not yet been ‘premiered’ yet, which should be intriguing. It was a blend of electronic music, directed by myself, along with a young orchestra from here in Valencia. It was a lot of people…about 75 musicians in total. We tried to maintain the nature and spirit of my soundtracks, which is distinctive as it is not actually symphonic music. So, it was an interesting challenge! It’s very precise regarding textures and emotional too…with lots of highs and lows. Actually, I think it was quite powerful!
The film ‘The Beasts’ (in English) was presented at the Cannes film festival. Describe the process of composing the completely acoustic soundtrack for ‘As Bestas’? Is there a ‘Straw Dogs’ influence to the film?
I had the script for a very long time before the film was shot on location in Galicia. We were struggling a little bit to find the right tone until I then visited the region whilst the film was being made. Yes, you are right…there is an element of ‘Straw Dogs’ to the film regarding the cold and harsh environment and the violence too and some hostile locals. I lived for 5 years in Iceland so I know about cold and harsh environments already. So, I am already very aware of this side of ‘nature’, which is not romantic at all…it’s harsh and it’s unpredictable and it’s difficult! (Laughs)
The setting of the film in Galicia definitely influenced the music and we went for something much more raw. I wanted a sound that was not “pretty” and we sometime asked the musicians to play in ways that were sometimes a little bit out of tune, producing a type of music that was very rough. The soundtrack was completely acoustic, which is what I really wanted. I was a bit worried about the outcome but I like a challenge! The composition process was very natural and we worked a lot with the ensemble and the arrangements were by Álvaro Domínguez Vázquez. Instruments included double-basses, violas, cellos, flutes and clarinet.
Could you describe your creative partnership with the film director Rodrigo Sorogoyen?
Yes, it’s a pleasure to work with him and the creative partnership is getting stronger and stronger. The fact that we are continuing to work on projects makes the process much quicker because I know what he is thinking… and he knows what I am thinking! Both of us like to challenge ourselves. For example, ‘As Bestas’ featured some non-actors and that was new for him. He is very precise and demanding. At the same time, he is really good at leaving you some space to be yourself as a composer and be creative and to give something of yourself regarding your own interpretation of the story. It’s really a gift for a composer to have a director who is just giving you a direction but leaving it up to you how to get there. He is very respectful of that, which is wonderful. Sometimes I’ll finish a piece of music, which I think is good enough…and Rodrigo will push me more and more and get me going to places I didn’t know I was capable of getting to. I really like that. I’m really happy with the collaboration that we have, it’s very inspiring. Also, I’m lucky that I am making music for films that are very well-crafted and well-written. It’s a pleasure because you really don’t have to fix anything. It’s about making things better and stronger with the music.
How does Spain compare to France?
I left France over 20 years ago. I was in Iceland and then moved to Spain 15 years ago. I really fell in love with Spain, which is a wonderful country in many aspects. There is an energy and joy in Spain, which is maybe not as present in France. I think I had a love-hate relationship with France…probably more hate at the time, which is why I left. However, these days, I do miss some things about France and I go back to visit as much as possible when I can. Sometimes, I miss perhaps the structure and organization and professionalism you find in France. Regarding cultural events, I find France is a bit more serious in that aspect from what I understand. However, I can only go on what I hear or from visits… as it’s so many years that I have not lived there.
Tell us about composing the soundtrack for ‘The Realm’, about corrupt politicians, which won you a ‘Goya’ for best original score and was filmed in Madrid, Pamplona and Valencia. In Spanish, the film is called ‘El Reino.’
It was very straightforward as Rodrigo was very clear in his mind that he wanted music by machines and of the 1990s era. He wanted music that was bold and not to have music that was just ‘filler’. We didn’t want a sophisticated score as we didn’t want to portray these politicians and their entourage as part of the elite. We wanted to show them as rather ordinary people and some of them as a bit vulgar too. They were basically delinquents without being a mafia. So, the nightclubbing music created a compelling contrast with the people talking… and wearing suits.
I knew the script beforehand and I composed the music before seeing the images. Like an imaginary DJ session, I would work on one theme and see if I could create a narrative arc…with a beginning and a middle and an end. It would get darker and darker and then thinner, stripping elements along the way. So, I did a lot of sessions like that and that made the editing process easier as I already had set the pace of the music. Once we saw the images, we would adapt the music to the colour and tone of each scene. It was a lot of work but a very natural process. In retrospect, I would say 80% of the music was composed before seeing the images.
What is your impression of Valencia?
I’ve been to Valencia many times to play live music and also to Cinema Jove, a few years ago, to present ‘The Realm’. I enjoyed visiting and I really like being here, it’s a beautiful city. I know the main spots and L’Albufera too. I just wish I had more time to get it know better.
Valencia is known as the Land of music…
Yesterday, I worked with Jove Orquestra of Generalitat Valenciana and they were young and brilliant, astonishing in fact. So, musically-speaking, there definitely is something well done and working well here in Valencia.
Tell us about your solo project ‘Territoire’?
I crave the time to make music for myself on a new ‘Territoire’ project as soon as possible, having been involved with so many other projects like soundtracks for films and television series! It could be electronic or acoustic … I would define ‘Territoire’ as music with sound, which is the main focus and a music that tries to create a universe and a context for the listener to create their own adventure. It is often quite dark and atmospheric music and it has a sense of purpose to it. However, I try not to guide the music too much and to leave open spaces for the listener…
Interview by Will McCarthy
Article copyright 24/7 Valencia