Paul Englishby

Paul Englishby

Paul Englishby has had a great 2012 as he has picked up an Emmy and has been nominated for an Ivor Novello for his work on political drama Page Eight.

We caught up with composer to chat about his work on Page Eight as well as what lies ahead.

- Congratulations for you EMMY win last weekend for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music for Page Eight so how did this project come about?

Thanks, Helen. Well I got a call from my agents asking me to go and meet David Hare about a film he was making. I was intrigued and a bit nervous to be honest.

David is a living great and giant of the British Theatre, I knew his work and it felt like a huge honour to be asked just to meet regarding Page Eight.

I needn’t have been nervous, David turned out to be very charming and very funny. His film looked great and I was delighted to get the job of scoring it. The whole experience was a joy.

- The movie was written and directed by David Hare so how closely did you work with him for the project?

We worked very closely on every detail of the score. At first we wondered whether the whole score should have a Jazz flavor, as Bill Nighy’s character, Johnny Worricker, is a jazz loving spy.

We tried all sorts of things and ended up with an orchestral thriller score book ended with Jazz pieces for the opening and closing titles.

- Page Eight is a political drama so how do you go about reflecting some of the ideas of themes of the movie in the music?

Well, as I mentioned, Jazz came into it as a sort of character study of Johnny, but there was also what I call commentary score, heightening the tension and suspense, on strings, harp, percussion and guitar.

The romantic friendship between johnny and Nancy (played by Rachel Weiss) was scored with soft woodwinds and strings mainly.

At one moment in the score where Johnny drives off with Nancy after avoiding special branch, David asked me to write the best tune ever written! I’m not sure I did that, but it’s quite a good one..ha

- Did you take any musical influences from elsewhere as you were developing the score?

Because Johnny was probably into 60’s Jazz, I was influenced by my love for the music of Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan and Tubby Hayes and wrote a variation on one of the spy themes from the score using those flavours.

We even recorded on 60s mics straight to tape, as those records would have been.

- How do you begin working on a score for TV or Film do you need to spend some time on set do you just work from script/scenes from the film?

Sometimes I’m on board at script stage, in which case I’ll start with that. For An Education, for example, I wrote Jenny’s theme after reading the script and before anything was shot, and it remained in tact throughout.

Often I’m booked when there is a lot of edited material already in some shape, so I’ll take inspiration from the style of film making and characters on screen.

- And how closely would you work with any of the actors that are involved in a project you are working on? How much do you enjoy the interaction with them?

I only work with actors on set if there are musical elements on camera. If an actor has to play an instrument, I may help with that,(Nicolas Cage, Hugh Grant, Jennifer Love Hewitt) or if there is a band featured, or it’s a musical, or there is singing involved, I would pre record those elements with the characters (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day with Amy Adams), and it would be mimed to on set.

- As I said you won an EMMY and you were nominated for an Ivor Novello so you must be delighted with the way the movie and the music in it has been received?

Yes absolutely. Page Eight had a special feel about it. David brought in amazing actors he had known throughout his career and I wanted to make the score sound as beautiful as I could, so I booked the best players around and recorded in Abbey Road studio 2. The whole experience was lovely.

- You have written music for TV and film over the years so how much does the process change for each medium?

I also write a great deal for the theatre and dance as well as concert music, and I love to mix it up so I’m not doing the same job consecutively.

I try to approach each gig in a completely fresh way. I like to stretch different compositional muscles.

- I was reading that you began composing from a very early age so where did you love of music start?

My mum bought a piano when I was 8. She was a primary school teacher and wanted to learn to play for assembly and plays etc, and I absolutely LOVED it = you couldn’t get me off. I even enjoyed scales... which is lucky.

- As well as a composer you are also a conductor so how do you find that your experiences in this field impact on your writing/composing work?

Conducting is a great way to learn about the ins and outs of musical performance and orchestration, and how many colours you can get from the same piece of music if tried in different ways.

I’ve always conducted my own work, but equally love conducting other composers music and analyzing how it is put together and bringing it to life.

- You have found success as a composer and a conductor so is there any other musical avenues that you would like to tackle in the future?

I’m very happy with my amazing job and lucky to be doing it for a living, and it already keeps me very busy. I try to keep exploring within it.

- You famously helped Nicholas Cage and Hugh Grant learn to play the guitar for roles that they were working on so can you tell me about those experiences?

I had a ball with both of those brilliant blokes. Nicolas has a really quirky sense of humour, and is also extremely generous.

He treated me to a trip to Venice while we were shooting Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, and I got a rare bottle of Whisky for my Birthday (which didn’t last long).

Hugh is hilarious and utterly charming as you would imagine. Both of these actors, however, are top professionals and work extremely hard, putting the practice in and making my job as coach easy.

- Finally what is coming up for you?

I’m doing a film called Sunshine On Leith, a play for the Royal Shakespeare Company with lots of music called The Orphan of Zhao, and the Third seires of Luther amongst other things.

FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw

by for
find me on and follow me on