The Adventures of Laimar – Interview with Ivan Capillas
A few weeks ago we published news about the music composed by Ivan Capillas for his personal project ‘The Adventures of Laimar’ (read more), a work divided in 4 parts, which was recorded in December 2018 with the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra conducted by David Hernando Rico, and that was mixed in January 2019 in the studio of sound engineer Mikel F Krutzaga, where SoundTrackFest was invited (read more).
Gorka Oteiza spoke with Ivan Capillas about this project, its origins and the music, in an interview that you can read below.
THE ADVENTURES OF LAIMAR - AUDIO - BANDCAMP
INTERVIEW - IVAN CAPILLAS - THE ADVENTURES OF LAIMAR
Thank you Ivan for taking time to talk about your personal project ‘The Adventures of Laimar’ for SoundTrackFest’s readers.
It’s my pleasure to be able to share this with you!
The first question is quite typical, but it is compulsory to get to know you a little bit better. How does Ivan Capillas decide to become a film music / audiovisual music composer? Is it something that you knew you wanted to do since you were a kid? Is there any time you remember you said, “hey, I love this, I want to be a composer”? Or you got into the world of music and one thing led to the other?
Initially, I was going to be an engineer, because you know how parents are, music is fine but it did not seem like a viable profession to them (*laughs*). Since I was a kid I’ve been interested in music, and it’s not that I had any best friend who studied music or something similar, it’s just that I liked music. The thing is that one year for Christmas, my sister received as a gift a toy piano in my grandmother’s house, one of those wooden three-legged small pianos.
Well, my sister did not pay attention to the piano, but I was curious, and tried to play with one finger all the soundtracks of the cartoons that I listened to on TV… G-Force, Willy Fog, and I enjoyed it a lot! From time to time I also tried it with the radio songs that my parents listened to. All by ear. And that’s how I saw that I liked it, that it excited me, and I started asking to start taking piano lessons.
The reaction of my parents was something like “look how funny, he likes the toy… but he will forget about it”. (*laughs*). But the truth is that it did not happen. I was so innocent, that they told me “What do you want for next Christmas? A bicycle or piano lessons?” And I asked for piano lessons. And so, after asking for a long time, in the end, I got it!
How old were you at the time?
I started piano when I was 5 or 6 years old. Very young. I think I actually started with 6, but I had already been asking for it for some time (*laughs*). What appealed to me was the idea of being able to play by ear everything I heard in the cartoons I saw as a child. But in fact, as I got older and learned to play the piano, I realized that not only did I enjoy playing the music I was listening to, but I also wanted to be able to make music. There is no clear reason, simply my guts asked me to take that step. And that’s how I signed up for composition classes at the conservatory. There they taught me the classical and traditional formats… the sonata, the symphonic poem… but I was passionate about explaining stories, and not so much with the theory, but with the practice. And I found that the best way to explain stories was in the audiovisual world. After realizing that, I also studied orchestra conducting, because I thought that if at some point I ended up working in that world, I would need to have knowledge of how an orchestra works and even put myself in front of it to be able to conduct my music or to record it.
When I started with this, I realized that here there were very few options to study music applied to the audiovisual world, which was a bit exasperating, because what I had in the conservatory was a completely classical style.
One day I went to the conservatory, to the ESMUC, to look for some scores that I had to conduct, and I saw an ad that said that the SGAE (Spanish Rights Management Organization) was preparing a film music workshop in Madrid. In that workshop, they only took 7 people, and they put them in front of an orchestra, the Youth Orchestra of the Community of Madrid, to make a recording. I thought that being only 7 people in the whole of Spain, it was a little less than impossible to be selected, but I also thought that by submitting an application I had nothing to lose. So I sent the works I had done in composition, which were curiously very narrative, since I always composed music trying to explain a story, and I was lucky that they selected me. That was my first experience. That was approximately in 2005/2006.
The workshop consisted in making the music of a short film and live the whole process: compose, prepare the score, record it with a large orchestra, publish it… the closest thing to what would be the normal process, but it was something that we did not have here at that time. After this course, I was doing a few more things and I was presenting them here and there, in the few places where there were options, with the luck that they liked what I was doing and they nominated me for awards, which encouraged me to continue.
All these experiences have allowed me to write many short films, some documentaries, advertising, and even a low-budget feature film.
You could say that with all those projects you have been building a career, waiting for a great opportunity to arise…
There is one interesting opportunity for this year, but I cannot tell you anything yet. (*laughs*)
That’s a good policy… so you don’t get unexpected surprises! (*laughs*)
Yes, the truth is that you never know what will happen. For example, I usually publish the awards they give me all over social media and forums and so on. Well, with one of these awards, I posted it in forums where there are thousands of people, including directors, writers, and others, but without any particular intention. And shortly a producer in the United States contacted me for a very large production, which was going to be a trilogy, which had a very high budget… and they wanted me to make the music! Imagine my surprise! In the end, there were legal problems with the script, and the project is in standby. Maybe one day it will be done, or not, but as you can see, it is best not to say anything until the project is solid.
The good thing is that I have maintained contact with these people, and although that project did not go on, they have been seeing the work I have been doing, and we have some other projects that can happen soon. As you can see, the nice thing is that when you least expect it, the opportunity arises, which leads you to very interesting projects.
Yes, that’s it, because in this world of film music, you never know how things are going to work out, so it’s best to work hard, try to do what you like, and be on the lookout for opportunities when they arise… Or to create them if you can!
That’s it. Many times they ask me how I organize my work, and the truth is that there is only one answer… I do not organize it! (*laughs*) I mean, I have no control over the projects that arrive and when they arrive! Once I’m working on something, there’s a plan and an organization, but between projects, it’s all very random. Suddenly I get an email or a call for an urgent job, such as advertisement music or something short, and I have to change my plans completely.
Now, for example, I’m a Film Scoring professor at the University of Girona, in a university degree, and also in a master’s degree in Barcelona, and next year we start with the next level… so as you can see, sometimes things come together, without even looking for them!
From what I see, you spend a lot of your time teaching, right? It’s funny how young generations are increasingly interested in learning composition for the cinema & audiovisual media, and the most experienced and veteran composers like you, end up dedicating some time to the world of education…
Yes, and the good thing is that consciences have awakened, and they have realized that there are many people who are now as I was a long time while ago… trying to find their way… Now there are people who are looking for options. Many people would like to study this, but they can’t because there’re not enough chances. But luckily, there are more and more options going on, including the possibility of studying music for the audiovisual in the university, like in many other countries. The thing is going slowly, but little by little, progress is being made in this aspect.
Speaking of training, now you give music classes for the audiovisual world, but formerly you were “other kind of professor”, right?
Yes. (*laughs*). I have always been attracted to computer science; I started assembling my first computers, and ended up teaching technicians how to repair computers, how to prepare networks and other things. All related to technology and information. It was a part-time job that paid well, and that allowed me to have time and money to devote to what I liked, film music, and to pay for my studies in orchestra conducting, and all these things that I have told you before. When my first child was born, my wife was also working, and we thought that it was not worthy to be away from home and to have someone taking care of the child, so that was the time to leave my job, and try dedicate to what I liked, composing. It was from that moment that I started doing things with more dedication and more seriously.
Well, Ivan, now that we know you a little bit better, let’s talk about your latest work ‘The Adventures of Laimar’. If I’m not mistaken, this project is something you’ve had in your head for quite some time, but the opportunity to do it didn’t happen… till now… right? Tell us…
Yes, I had always thought that when I recorded with an orchestra and I had some time left, I would use it to do something different and special. But that moment, did not quite arrive. The few times I’ve been able to record with a large orchestra, there was no time for more, we were always tight. And well, at the end of the last year, the opportunity arose with Manel Gil-Inglada, whom you already know well. He was going to Bratislava to finish recording a project with the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra, and he had an hour he could spare in his session, so he called me and offered it to me. The funny thing is that the conversation took place three weeks before the recording, and at that time I had nothing prepared yet. I started looking at my agenda, to see if I could fit those dates in my class plan and other tasks… and well… it was a bit crazy, but it was viable, so I jumped in and said yes. The recording was on December 20th and I gave my “yes” on December 1st.
How much music did you have prepared the moment you said: “yes, I’m going to go to Bratislava and record with you”?
Well, I had absolutely nothing prepared (*laughs*)
Was everything in your head?
Nope! (*laughs*). Let me tell you… the music was not defined, but the ideas had been hanging around in my head for a long time. The concept was there, although musically I had not thought or developed anything. But I jumped in, since it is the only way to make things happen. Coincidently, at that moment I just had to change my computer, and the new computer didn’t work… just when the time was running tight, was when technology began to play dirty tricks. So I had to park the new computer, take the old one again, and reassemble it and make it work…
So you used your computer expert skills in assembling and repairing equipment to make some magic… (*laughs*)…
More or less (*laughs*). Luckily I had not deleted everything on the old computer and had many things ready, so I could start working quite fast.
What can you tell us about music? What was your inspiration?
The idea was to make a 100% narrative music as if it were for a movie, in a style of music that I would like to be able to write from time to time. A classic, adventurous, melodic music, in a tribute to the composers of film music with whom I have grown up such as John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner, Alan Silvestri, … all those who in my youth have influenced me.
Also, I wanted it to be entirely orchestral music, because the last works I’ve done are not classical, they have electronic music with some classical elements. So I really wanted to do some 100% orchestral music.
I also wanted to explain a story, and here we return to what I mentioned before of the narration, and thus I wanted it be able to explain the different moments through which an adventure happens: the heroic and adventurous initial moment, the most intimate moment, the moment of solitude, the moment of tension where there is a problem, and how all this is resolved in the end… to summarize it quickly.
In total you have composed 4 movements, right?
Yes. There are four pieces (Adventure / Alone / Just there! / Final) with less than 7 minutes in total. Keep in mind that in an hour, we didn’t have time to record much more. Normally you record 10 minutes in 4 hours, and I wanted to record 6 and a half minutes in an hour (*laughs*).
Full throttle! (*laughs*)
Well (*laughs*), we did not need dubbing of strings or other instruments, and we did not have a click-track either, because we did not have to synchronize with any image, which made everything easier and more organic.
I marked more or less the tempo I wanted, and we worked on that basis. In fact, I sent them previously the score and a mockup, so that they could see more or less what I wanted to achieve. That was what made us record so much music in one hour, which in fact was not really an hour but three quarters because we had a break.
The truth is that the whole project has been very tight, right? From December 1st that Manel tells you that he has one hour available, until December 20th that the music is recorded… you have been running all the time…
Yes, the truth is that I had three weeks to compose, orchestrate, prepare the scores, the parts, prepare the mockup, and finally go to Bratislava to record everything.
Let’s talk a little bit more about the composition itself. Because I think that the title has a special meaning… Could you tell us about it?
(*laughs*) Yes… the name of Laimar has a reason… I had to name the work, and it was clear that they had to be someone’s adventures, and since I could not think of anyone in particular, I thought of my children… who are called Marc and Laia, and it occurred to me the name ‘Laimar’, and since that sounded pretty good, in a mysterious or cool way, well… I took it!
It’s a beautiful legacy you leave to your children, music that carries their names “hidden” in an Easter egg!
Tell us more about the work and its structure…
Both the title of the work and the names of the tracks, try to suggest an adventure. The titles are quite generic (Adventure, Alone, Just there!, Final), so that everyone can imagine their own “movie” with this music. Even more, there are people to whom I’ve shown the music, that they have told me different stories that they have imagined with it.
There are people who thought that the music was associated with a movie or a short film, and they told me a possible script that was suggested to them by the music, since they did not know that this is really a personal project of mine. The interesting thing is that despite telling me different stories, everyone captured those moments that I have tried to reflect.
In addition, I also wanted it to be a piece that could be programmed by an orchestra, like a suite, and that can be easily performed in a concert. So I had to accomplish many different things, because the intention was also to show what I can do with an orchestra, so that they know me with another style of music, different from the one that I’m usually commissioned to write.
How was the recording in Bratislava with the team?
Although I knew absolutely no one from the team, I trusted them 100%, because it was the team with which Manel had worked before and had very good references from them, both David Hernando and the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra, and Mikel Krutzaga for recording and mixing. Initially, the first idea I had was to conduct the orchestra myself, but then that idea was quickly removed from my head, because it was crazy to try to conduct an orchestra that you do not know, especially when you have such a short slot. Also, David did great and I’m very happy. It was the right decision. The truth is that I was very calm there… I was not nervous at all. Maybe I should have been! (*laughs*) Getting there, and see that everything works well, was a joy, although in the end, we did have to run a little bit.
After the recording came the mixes, in Mikel’s studio, where we were a few weeks ago.
Indeed. Mikel F Krutzaga did the mixing, and the truth is that everything went very well. Once again, I am very happy with the result.
And now, you’re finished, and it is time to distribute the music. How do you plan to make that distribution? How are you going to get your music to the public? Because there is not a movie or a short film behind… so you’ll have to find other ways to make people know about the music, right?
Yes. The distribution will be digital. The music is already available on Spotify, and it’s also on Amazon Music, and soon it will also be on iTunes. I also have it on my Bandcamp page, which is linked to my website. In fact, all that I have on my website, where I have examples of all kinds of jobs that people can listen to, are links to Bandcamp, where you can listen and buy my music.
I’m also going to send the music to people who have asked me for things like this one a long time ago, so they can see what can be done, and will be kind of my “demo reel”. And on the other hand, I also intend to pass it to some bands and orchestras.
And from now on… whatever happens with the music… we’ll see! Let’s see how far it goes!
Well, from SoundTrackFest we hope we have helped a little bit to the diffusion of your music with this article, and to give people more information about your project ‘The Adventures of Laimar’. And hey, who knows, maybe it happens the other way around than with a movie… someone likes the music a lot, and decides to build images based on the music. Maybe an animated short film will be created!
That would not be bad! But if someone likes the music very much, and wants to make an animated short film based on what I have composed, I would not mind composing the music again together with him/her! After all, it would be a new opportunity to explain stories with my music…
Cool! We wish you good luck with this project Ivan!
Thank you for helping to spread it!
Interview by Gorka Oteiza