“Seeing my name on the Oscars website next to many of my composing heroes such as Alan Silvestri, Mark Isham, John Williams and Hans Zimmer, was an amazing feeling,” Swiss-born, Australian based composer Ronnie Minder told Cinema Australia.
His first feature film score for Matthew Holmes’ The Legend of Ben Hall is one of 145 scores to be shortlisted for this year’s Academy Awards.
“I selected Ronnie for The Legend of Ben Hall because he could deliver the one thing many composers seem light on – melody,” director Matthew Holmes told Cinema Australia of his film’s composer. “From a director’s perspective, working with Ronnie was a dream. Not only is his talent extraordinary, his passion for what he does is immense. He is a total professional in all that he does.”
We recently caught up with the passionate and down-to-earth composer to discuss his career so far.
“Thinking back, Ennio’s music was always present during my childhood and it took a long time for me to realise what a major influence he actually was.”
Interview by Matthew Eeles
When did you first hear of The Legend of Ben Hall film and how did you become involved in the project?
I became involved in the film after watching Matthew Holmes’ short The Artifice. It takes a lot these days to freak me out when it comes to horror films, mainly because I’ve pretty much seen them all, but his film did and the moment it was over, I just knew I had to work with Matt. Both of us being massive fans of themes and theme driven scores, we instantly clicked and talked endless hours about all our favourite composers. He told me about a film he was working on, The Legend of Ben Hall, and asked if I wanted to score the trailer which led to scoring the film itself. I hadn’t heard of the bushranger Ben Hall before working on the film and I’m honoured to be part of his history now. I stood at his grave before the day of the World Premiere in Forbes NSW and I told him, “I scored your film, Ben.” I’m very lucky!
How did working on this film compare to working on some of the other projects you’ve scored?
All the projects I’ve scored before The Legend of Ben Hall were mainly sci-fi or horror. I was waiting for a project like this to come my way for a long time. The story, the look of it all, the tragedy and drama throughout the film, was right up my alley. I’m a big fan of Sergio Leone films and I’ve always wanted to score a Western. The film also has a Tarantino’esque vibe to it, which I love. There was definitely more pressure working on this film due to the scale of the project. The story needed an epic sound and I was very excited about the film’s need for a theme-driven score. It was like being a kid in a candy store.
Your career was inspired by Italian composer Ennio Morricone and Greek composer Vangelis. What’s your earliest memory of hearing these guys?
Ennio Morricone and Vangelis were a major influence on me, especially Ennio’s score for The Thing, which is very dear to my heart. Back in Switzerland when I was a kid, we had a caravan on top of a snow-covered mountain, and one night I accidentally found this untitled VHS tape, not knowing the horror I was about to watch. I grew up listening to the scores Ennio composed for Sergio Leone’s films and the Nobody movies starring Terence Hill. Thinking back, Ennio’s music was always present during my childhood and it took a long time for me to realise what a major influence he actually was. I remember again finding a VHS of a film called Antarctica. It was the saddest movie I have ever seen, still haunting me today and Vangelis’ score broke my heart. And then of course, his Blade Runner score, my all time favourite. I often have ‘Blade Runner Blues’ on replay for hours and what I love about Ennio and Vangelis is that you don’t need to see the movie to know their themes. I aspire for my music to achieve the same and to create scores that leave a lasting impression. Even when it comes to non-theme driven scores, I always try to have an element that sets it apart, something that makes people go, “This is Ronnie!”
Do you listen to much commercial radio or music? What’s hot on your playlist at the moment?
I’m not listening to much radio or commercial music. I love rock music, heavy guitars and I would have loved to have my own rock band but being nearly 40, I guess it’s a bit late for that now! I’m currently listening to Korn’s new album and I’m a big fan of Disturbed, Audioslave and especially Filter’s old records. I also listen to a lot of 80s music and love artists like Prince, Keane, Oasis and Mike Oldfield. I’m playing Alan Silvestri’s Predator score quite a lot recently and the incredible The Perfume score is still running hot on my iPod.
Oscar winning film composer, Hans Zimmer, once said he regretted having no formal education in music. What’s the extent of your training?
Like Hans, I don’t have a formal education. Through my years in creating electronic music, I found I had an intuitive approach towards melody and the emotional effect it has on people. So my education has really been the experience gained over the last two decades, having my music released all over the world. Since 2014 I have decided to solely score films. As soon as I made that decision, it all happened very quickly. I often think it would have been great to have a mentor in film scoring, but it wasn’t meant to be. In hindsight I think my electronic past and approach to scoring has helped shape my own sound, which is what I’ve always wanted.
Speaking of Oscars, you were recently shortlisted for a Best Original Score Oscar for The Legend of Ben Hall. Tell us how you felt when you found out.
I’ll remember that day for the rest of my life. Russell Cunningham, one of the producers of The Legend of Ben Hall, let me know that my score was on the list. It blew me away! Seeing my name on the Oscars website next to many of my composing heroes such as Alan Silvestri, Mark Isham, John Williams and Hans Zimmer, was an amazing feeling, but I’m being realistic and to actually get a nomination, that will be tough. I still can’t believe I’ve made the shortlist, it’s surreal. Now I know what being an underdog feels like.
What film, or genre of film, do you hope to work on going forward in your career? What would be your dream job?
I’m a big fan of sci-fi, fantasy, horror, action and dramas, but as for dream jobs, I’d love to work with Ridley Scott, Neill Blomkamp, Darren Aronofsky, Quentin Tarantino, Zack Snyder, Guillermo Del Toro, Peter Jackson and David Lynch just to name a few. As for the moment I’m really looking forward to scoring Matthew Holmes’ two upcoming projects The Legend of Frank Gardiner and The Legend of John Vane. I’m also planning to move to Los Angeles in 2017 to speed things up and jump right into the middle of it all. I’ve got so many ideas and themes in my head, they need to get out!
The Legend of Ben Hall is screening in select cinemas now. You can keep up to date with Ronnie’s career at http://www.ronnieminder.com