INTERVIEW EXCLUSIVE! 10 Questions with TIGER RAID composer Dean Valentine
“Ventricular Beats”: Meet The Man Who Wrote The Tiger Raid Score!
Tiger Raid has just been released in the UK and we’ve got a very exciting treat to share – an exclusive Q & A with the film’s composer, Dean Valentine.
Damien’s latest film is a head spanglingly immersive, pitch black but beautiful thriller – a powerful synergy of masterful script, phenomenal performance and stunning photography. But the sublime original soundtrack, created by award-winning composer Dean Valentine, makes it hauntingly profound.
Building from ethereally dream-like to vividly gritty and back again, the Tiger Raid score has an intimate yet vast sound, the perfect soundscape for the intense close-up drama between the two main characters Joe (Brian Gleeson) and Paddy (Damien) and their colliding worlds, against the vast and unending desert landscape where their story is set. It’s also the emotional heartbeat of the film, both heightening and transcending its many twists and turns.
We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to put ten questions to Dean Valentine on his experience of working on the film’s original soundtrack. An experienced composer with an impressive body of work on both sides of the Atlantic, including scoring feature films (recently completing ‘The Viking’) and shorts (his latest, award-winning ‘Violet’), as well as monumental trailers (most recently ‘Captain America: Civil War), Dean tells us he learned something new while working on Tiger Raid.
Read on for more epic insights into to those “ventricular beats”, his creative process, and to the film itself.
10 Questions with Dean Valentine, Tiger Raid composer
DMF: Thank you for taking the time to answer 10 questions about Tiger Raid!
Q1: Going right back to the beginning, how did it come about that you landed the Tiger Raid score, and what was the deal – were you given free rein or was it a collaboration?
Dean Valentine: I think the guys found some of my music online through my agents site or my Soundcloud. This was very much a collaboration from the get go, the guys had a whole development package, script, mood board, links to electronic music, temp score. I then immersed myself in all that, absorbed it all, then I started to compose from instinct using all that information as a jumping off point. I ended up composing over 50 tracks as I kept searching..most of the emotional music that carries the third act was composed at the very end when I decided to try some last-minute ideas and themes.
I pretty much had free rein composing the tracks themselves, then Simon [Dixon, director] would have great ideas as to where they would work in the film. In the end he decided where every cue went in the film then I would make that work in the final score. It’s different on each project, this method worked out very well for this score.
DMF Q2: Elmer Bernstein once said, “I’ll get hold of a film at look at it 20 times. I’ll spend one week just looking at the time – once in the morning, once in the afternoon – until the film tells me what to do.” What was your creative process for composing the score both as an artist and technically?
Dean Valentine: Bernstein is the man, I’m a huge fan! But I tend to look once or twice at the film re-watching certain scenes.. absorb all the notes, direction, and then do nothing for ages, something clicks, then all of sudden I start to write music until I find something..I throw that back at the director, then, based on feedback, keep digging and digging in that direction. Once you’ve found the sound or heart of the film then (for me) the floodgates open and I’m off to the races!
DMF Q3: Tiger Raid is a very intense and affecting film, what was it like being so up close and personal with it, and as an experienced film composer did this job take you to new places, or bring out something new in your work?
Dean Valentine: My poor dog wouldn’t stay in the studio when I was working on Tiger Raid..very stressful with all the shouting and tension. I learned a hell of a lot on this film because Simon’s vision of the sound and his music links were very challenging for me at first, this ‘colder’ almost atonal electronic sound made me dig a lot deeper, as it totally went against my ‘warmer’ more organic sound. But eventually I cracked it with a track I composed called ‘A Thin Place’ – this was the perfect blend of both worlds and became the all important closing track in the film. I also have a new-found admiration for the amount of work that goes into composing an 8 min atmos/drone synth track that also needs to develop and evolve as it goes.
DMF Q4: Adapted from Irish playwright Mick Donnellan‘s play ‘Radio Luxembourg’, but set in Iraq, the film score’s flavour is both Irish (especially in the more ‘action’ scenes) and Middle Eastern (especially the vast desert scenes.) How do you manage to get that mix and was that reflected in the instruments / techniques you used?
Dean Valentine: Well the percussion was a mix of live ethnic drums, bodhrans and samples which gives a sense of place, but I didn’t really focus on any of that too much..for me this story could be set on the moon, it’s the story and characters that matter most. What I did was add that Irish mournful tone here and there, then I coated everything in a layer of dirt and distortion to give that gritty brutal sound, which then played off the more sublime, ethereal moments in the film.
DMF Q5: The film is full of juxtapositions and layers – darkness and beauty, damnation and redemption, dramatic intimacy and vast emptiness – and the score you’ve created is integral to that texture and for adding more dimensions to the characters and the story. There are moments which evoke an almost other worldly or between worlds feel, as well as something almost sublimely celestial. Can you speak to that?
Dean Valentine: Wow, thanks so much for that.
I responded to the emotional side of the film.. Shadha’s plight, Joe’s tortured soul, Paddy’s twisted love for Shadha, the stunning scenery.. so I composed a bunch of emotional tracks with organ, solo boy’s soprano voice, cello which I then coated in this layer of gritty electronic ‘dirt’, I wanted it to sound like some ethereal and emotional music that had been put through the grinder by life and came out the other side ‘changed’ by it all. All of this fed off Simon’s electronic music links, which were also invaluable to cracking the atonal, cold and tense side of the sound we needed so badly under dialogue and reveals when Paddy and Joe were both slowly coming undone.
DMF Q6: It is also a powerfully moving score, elevating the emotion and becoming the soul of the film. How deliberate an aspect is that, or is it something that transcends your conscious control during composition?
Dean Valentine: I have a slight empathy disorder 😉 I just can’t help it.. to me a character who does terrible things is quite tragic because of the life they could have had, it’s that whole ‘banality of evil’ thing, it’s all so f***ing futile, wasted lives and all. Joe in particular was a perfect example of that, so the tone of the music represented the loss of that life and what could have been, not in a tragic way, but in a way that was moving and brutal (a solo boy soprano weaves in and out of the dark grit in the score to represent that loss) the open shot on the truck (with organ) hints at the bigger picture, the sunset (for me) hints at Shadha. Also, it’s just lovely to score moments like that where possible to be honest.
DMF Q7: What was it like seeing the completed film with your score for the first time and which part are you most proud of?
Dean Valentine: It’s exciting and also nerve-wracking, you feel very exposed, but it’s much worse for the director/writers who’ve been nurturing this baby for several years, and then the actors up on screen with nowhere to hide. For me it’s those moments where the film ‘breathes’, like the sunset and the final cue – with that Paddy and that Joe moment – leading into Shadha’s main theme. (There are also one or two really short cues, one involving Paddy, that are my favourites, but I’d totally ruin the story if I described them.)
DMF Q8: We asked Simon Dixon to describe Tiger Raid in 3 words and he said:
Personally: Amazing. Challenging. Humbling. As a film: Visceral. Tense. Provocative.
What would your 3 words be, personally as the composer and as a film?
Dean Valentine:Personally: Intense. Challenging. Creative. As a film: Un. Ex. Pected.
DMF Q9: Congratulations on the Tiger Raid soundtrack, it really is beautiful in its own right, an exquisite and hauntingly penetrating score. We’d love to put it on our Christmas list.. will it be available to buy any time soon?
Dean Valentine:Thanks so much!
Yes, I think so, everyone just needs to find some time to sit down and plan it out.
DMF Q10: What are you working on now and what is coming up next for you?
Dean Valentine: I just completed a (pretty big) orchestral score for a film called ‘The Viking’ (I literally just delivered the final score last Thursday!) It’s a truly incredible film with a great story, great acting, stunning visuals, with some massive set pieces and battles. We recorded the whole score with the Orchestra Of Ireland (with renowned conductor Gearoid Grant at the helm.) I’m starting another film score later this month (about Tomi Reichental, who survived the Holocaust) I’m also collaborating with a number of brilliant electronic/Indie artists who are based in LA and the UK..I can’t wait for this music to be released to the public. I also compose music for trailers, which is an ongoing thing, with the incredible guys at Pusher over in LA.
Huge thanks to Dean Valentine for his time and for sharing such amazing insights into the film score. We have everything crossed for the release of the Tiger Raid soundtrack, soon!
To listen to a selection of Dean’s tracks from Tiger Raid, visit the official film website here