04 Oct Meet Award-Winning Film & TV Composer: Russell Thornton
We caught up with Melodie composer, Russell Thornton, to talk about his journey into music, latest projects and writing process.
Russell Thornton has worked on a diverse range of projects for the screen, including children’s television and animation. He’s been awarded an APRA Screen Music Award (Best Music for Children’s TV – “Get Ace”) as well as a Bronze Lion at Cannes, 2004 for the Red Cross Australian TVC Campaign “We Gave Blood”.
Melodie: Hey Russell! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. What have you been working on lately?
I recently finished composing the music for an animated series here in Australia called Space Nova, along with providing production and library music to a local reality series.
How did you first get started in music?
I knew around 16 that I wanted to pursue a career in music, and eventually screen music composition. After studying Music Composition at University, I worked on a variety of short films and got my first break composing the music for a Red Cross Australia TVC. From there I worked for a Music and Sound Company in Sydney on a variety of Television Shows before finding my niche in composing music for animated series’. When the studio closed, I became freelance and have been so since.
Can you take us through your writing process?
I often write in a through-composed style, just starting somewhere and responding to where the music wants to take me. I often think in terms of harmonic progressions first.
When a brief comes in, I take a lot of time setting up a unique template for that project and often set a rule for myself to compose to. This may be to explore a new sample library or “sound world” within the palette, or varying my writing style, or applying a particular mixing approach to achieve an emotion effect or whatever!
I read an interview Trent Reznor gave once saying he followed a set of rules when writing and producing Hesitation Marks and I really connected with that approach. I tried it on my next project, and I’ve stuck with it since! It gives me something to answer to and can often help inspire new ideas.
If I am composing for a series, I like to get a core group of themes established very early on and then I compose from the first frame to the last, rather than going to key scenes or moments. I just find that easier to work to. My sequences are often extremely long as I just compose one cue for the whole episode.
Which DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) do you use?
I use Digital Performer and host my libraries and samples within VE Pro.
What do you like doing outside of production music?
I enjoy exercising, surfing poorly and fixing my natural Golf pull! I love a good craft beer and started learning how to do slow-cooked smoked meats during the lockdown. I am quite passionate about Music Education as well.
Favourite band/artist and why?
I have a couple if that’s ok! U2’s Achtung Baby changed my life along with the Zoo TV Tour (in a past age I wanted to be Bono, and probably still do quietly). Billy Joel is another as I learnt a lot about chord progressions from playing his music. The Beatles because they are the Beatles – one of my favourite albums is the Cirque du Soleil LOVE soundtrack! Also, many of the well-known screen composers are up there for me too.
What was the first album you bought?
I think it was either Storm Front (Billy Joel) or Achtung Baby (U2).
Favourite track of yours in the Melodie library and why?
Ignite the After Burners is one I am particularly proud of as I worked quite hard on getting a lot of spatial clarity and textural variety within that track – I wanted to feel like you could sonically reach into it. Having it be nominated at the 2022 PMA’s obviously helps it to be a favourite as well!
Watch HYPNOTISE: Life On A Shipwreck, a short film by Ste Everington featuring Ignite the After Burners by Russell Thornton.