4BR Interview - Phil Lawrence rides again!


Phil Lawrence has been up to his neck with music, aliens, pop and rock and getting his next belt on his quest for Karate expertise. Anthony Banwell caught up with him to find out what he has been up to.

Phil LawrenceAnthony Banwell:
Last time we spoke you had just got your red belt in Karate, so what has happened since?

Phil Lawrence:
Indeed, but three weeks ago I got my yellow belt (1st class), and I'm now looking to take my orange belt in four weeks. I'm averaging a belt every eight weeks since I started in January, but it will slow down as the grades become harder - a bit like instrumental grades. But I aim to take it in my stride and go as far as I can!

Anthony Banwell:
So, you are off to Cannes in May with a new film you have scored. Can you tell us about it?

Phil Lawrence:
Well, it's been a great experience for me, but it's not my first film, it's my fifth, but in fact it's my second feature!
Funnily enough they have both been martial arts films with a twist, so those who might think I've been getting into the role so to speak by taking up Karate would be both right and wrong!

Anyway, "Intergalactic Combat" is a vision of a great director named Ray Brady who has been making the film for the last four years! I started work on it last Christmas, and the musical brief was huge, ranging from orchestral tracks of the Carmina Burana (Orff) style, thrash/slash guitar tracks, Japanese drum and bass, German punk drum & bass, Eric Clapton like guitar solos, Japanese koto music & drumming, a bit of Brit pop Blur/whinge vocals, 1980's retro funk, mixing hip-hop & koto drumming, some very mellow dance vibes, and a brass band fanfare recorded by Fairey's (at the same time we recoded the 4bars podcast theme, now named "4bar Blues")!

But at the time of recording I didn't really know if it would be used or not (and still not 100%).

Anthony Banwell:
That's a real style mix! You are known for your brass band work amongst us, so how did you cope?

Phil Lawrence:
Like anything else, one had a life before writing for brass bands, and playing the trumpet professionally in more than one guise gives you insight.

As a teenager in the late 70's I was into all music from Maynard to Stravinsky to Barry White, and I wrote/composed then for anything that would play my stuff! I played in a soul band covering Stevie Wonder/Average White Band/Earth Wind & Fire/K C & the Sunshine Band/Blood Sweat & Tears.  I loved this stuff I did both trumpet and keyboards! I also played in Edge Hill British Rail Brass band and the Merseyside Youth Orchestra. I really crammed it in!

A little later a started the club circuit with a few local but successful singers, and all of that music went from the 1940's to the 1980's, I also joined a 21 piece jazz band for some time doing all from Glen Miller to Kenton. So all the styles/trends, the way to play and the way to arrange and compose were constantly digested.

When I moved on to the RNCM we had a great group there formed by the brass lads called "Brass Injection".  5 trumpets including famous names now like Paddy Adinall, Mark Mosley, Phil Cesar, John Spence and myself, 4/5 bones. These included Steve Barnet (leader) Dave Allen, Adrian Dawes, John Langford & Simon Mansfield on bass troms, and Any Cresci Tuba (Bournemouth Symph), with Dave Adams (a trombone player) on kit (now in The Lion King), Ken Heggie on guitar and Jaffa on keys.

There were others along the way that joined as others left, but we covered what we liked to do, Maynard, EWF, Steely Dan, and the lads also composed stuff for the group, our greatest venue was at Ronnie Scott's!

I love music of all genres and my CD collection reflects this. From Irish folk (Chieftains) to Tavener, to Vince Mendoza, Buddy Rich, Indian Tabla, Brian Eno, Michael Jackson, Oscar Peterson, Clark Terry, Cold Play, Kylie, Birtwistle. It's not often you hear those last two in the same sentence, but I've got ‘em, and I listen! I've improved my skills on the ideas through this film, and I will get another chance to go back to some of the tracks that have been a little rushed.  I'm really getting into the Tarantino retro stuff from "Kill Bill 1 & 2" and I can see some wide viby Mariachi trumpet solos going on once the film has bounced back from Cannes!

Anthony Banwell:
Can you tell us more about the film itself!

Phil Lawrence:
Well without letting too much out the bag, it's a martial arts film with a massive twist. Set in the future, there are no more wars and each country has a combat team instead. We see from the start how the games are played, and how our UK team is formed (a little like how we get to see each of the "Magnificent Seven" before they become seven). Each has a past and reasons why they are into martial arts. Some are 2nd/3rd Dan's, one (an ex from "Eastenders") is a female bouncer in a club.

They all have past, demons to exorcise, and skeletons in the closet. You get to know them all and how they are chosen for the UK team. Just when all seems like a level playing field, aliens turn up. Of course, they are friendly on the surface who would just like to join in but they have already recruited spies on Earth in human form with racist views.

The film has it all really: the action, the soap dep, the aliens and all the computer graphics, fighting/sport, thick plot! And as the feature is designed as a pilot for a TV series the plot, the characters have acres of room for development, and the viewers get a chance to cheer on the UK!

Anthony Banwell:
Cool stuff then, if a little way out!. How do you go about this technically?

Phil Lawrence:
Ah, the expensive toy stuff! After 7/8 years of using a whole room in the house, 2 years ago I built a studio in Norwegian pine at the bottom of the garden. I have a control room and a live area where I can sit around five musicians.

I get all the movie clips as iMovies and import them into my Mac G5 (1.5 gig of ram) dual processor, 120 gig internal and two external HD's at 120 gig each also. I open my music programme (Logic 7 pro), and just play in the ideas via the synth/keyboard, which is also hooked up to 5 other sound modules (each sporting around 3,000 sounds each).

In the G5 I also have an internal sampler as well as several plug-in synth's, guitars, choirs and drum machines. I have around 8, 000 samples from Swiss yodellers to anything ethnic plucked, banged or blown, to whole symphony orchestras sampled as sections, soloists, loud, quiet, short, long, portamento, vibrato, without vibrato (quiet a concept there), trills, fx - you name it!

Then once the idea is on the way, I fly in the movie from the HD, and when the music starts from bar 1 so does the movie, or from where ever I want it to start from. If  I stop the movie the music stops and vice-versa and backwards, so you can pinpoint in frames where ever you want your triangle to ting as she lights her cigarette (poor example there)!

Anthony Banwell:
How long did it take to get your head round this stuff?

Phil Lawrence:
Well before I'd written a note commercially for brass band I'd racked up over 180 tracks for TV/Radio & film.

My first break came in 1992 (I'd been at this studio stuff with meagre gear from 1990) when I landed a "Times" (as in the news paper) commercial, and then after that I worked for them solid for 2 years, then came along Ibuleve, Wrigley's Gum, Smarties, National Savings, my own projects like "Victorian Virtuosi" Classic fm logos/idents, when they needed new ones when broadcasting from the USA, Oz, Singapore, Edinburgh Festival, C4 and Nike.

And I did most of this stuff on an Atari 1040stfm 1 meg of ram, no HD, which I still have. So I have a history there with studio gear, but it sure was a learning curve plus going to Mac G5 & Logic with a Yamaha O2R v2 digital desk. Just compare the ram now from the Atari 1040 of 1 Meg removable floppy to the Mac 1.5 gig of ram! Jeeze, the recording industry has moved the fastest I reckon out of most!

Anthony Banwell:
So what now and immediate future?

Phil Lawrence:
Well, orange belt! Working on the film again once back from Cannes, and then hoping it sells as a pilot to a TV series, and then I'll be working on that.

I'll be working on something with Fairey's later on in the year. I still look forward to the Kwango in Perpetua/the faceless few perhaps choosing one of my works for either 1st or 2nd section as I now have some out of exclusivity clause from commission which I am sure these sections would love after some of the stuff dished out to them over the last two years or so.

Already looking forward to the National Finals and the Masters, wondering what might be the fayer for the Albert Hall? I might go to the contest in France in June depending on hol's. Looking for commissions, now that "Blaze" is well out there, perhaps a soloist might commission me, trombone, euph, tuba?

I've a master class in Liverpool on April 29th 9am Liverpool Institute (next to the Philharmonic). Some cycling, London to Cambridge, might do London to Brighton. Do some shooting (my other hobby) and enter a competition at National level (targets). What with the karate, & the shooting, when I retire I'm thinking about becoming a part time assassin getting contracts from bands on those in the box, I reckon I'd clean up?

Anthony Banwell:
You're a funny dark horse Phil Lawrence - whatever next?


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