October 20, 2010 | By

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When Sweden’s first vampire film, Frostbite, premiered at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival, audiences also got their first exposure to the film’s versatile composer, Anthony Lledo. Lledo’s music was a wonderful treat for genre aficionados, and film music fans in search of a refreshing voice in symphonic film composition.

In our Q&A interview, conducted via email, Lledo describes the uniqueness of his breakthrough score, and his position in being one of the few Scandinavian composers whose work is slowly reaching international audiences.



Mark R. Hasan: First off, how did you become involved with Frostbite ?

Anthony Lledo : __Five years ago I was delivering some music to a studio in Copenhagen. The sound engineer was a good friend of mine, and while I was there, I played him some demos that I had done. One of the demos was a short piece in the style of a horror film score, and we played it quite loud in the studio. All of a sudden, two Swedish guys who happened to be in an editing suite next door came running into the studio, asking ‘What is that music you are playing? –It’s awesome! Who’s the composer?’ They hired me on the spot for a horror film they were planning to make. However, that particular film never made it, and I didn’t talk to them for three years until one day I got an e-mail from the director asking if I would still be interested in composing for them. This time it was for a film called Frostbite.

MRH :    Was it your decision to compose a score for a full orchestra, or the director’s?

AL : They wanted an orchestral score for their film and were looking for somebody who could do it. Director Anders Banke and producer Magnus Paulsson are both huge film music fans, so I think they have always wanted to do a film with a real orchestral score in it, and with this film they had the opportunity to have one.

MRH :    In terms of the score’s style and design, did the director want what’s essentially a very classical horror orchestral score? And what specific ideas did he want you to follow?

AL : They were looking for something of the sort they had heard in that studio three years ago, and basically, I think that they had a lot of faith in me, and believed that I could pull it off. We had a spotting session where we discussed what the music should do for each scene — mostly painting the big picture, discussing general ideas. I then started to compose what I found suitable for the film, and luckily enough for me, they liked my approach right from the beginning. I don’t think that I redid a single cue.

MRH :    Unlike the genre films from the 1980s, the rock and electronic songs in Frostbite were basically source cues, restricted to car radios, headphones, or the party house where the massacre takes place, thereby allowing you to compose long cues for whole sequences. Did this level of freedom evolve as the score was being written and the film’s score demands were being assessed during editing, or did the director basically give you the bulk of the film to craft a whole score?

AL : You are right, the songs in Frostbite are used as source music, coming from a car radio or a stereo etc. rather than being plastered over entire scenes, thereby leaving space for me to compose the score.

The songs in Frostbite were already there on the copy of the film that I got for writing the score, so the director and the editor had already decided where they should go, leaving space for me to do the real scoring. I was of course very happy about their decision to let me score the film instead of just using the songs as score. Again, this is a good example of filmmakers that understand the importance, function and possibilities of music in a film — the score as well as the songs. Songs in a film can, as in this case, be really powerful if they are used the right way.

MRH :    I’ve also noticed that your score delves into some of the minimalist, idiosyncratic style ofWojciech Kilar – I’m thinking of his use of repetition, which he extends to create long swathes of tension – and I wonder if Kilar is one of your influences, or if you were making a rather discreet nod to the composer, who’s best known to North American audiences for his work on Bram Stoker’s Dracula ?

AL : Very interesting. I haven’t actually listened to Kilar’s Dracula score for many years, but it was definitely one of my favourite scores when it came out in the early nineties, and I still think is a great piece of work. It really added a unique feel to Francis Ford Coppola’s brilliant film. I grew up listening to Hollywood composers — and I didn’t really listen to European film composers at all. Even so, I don’t really think that the Frostbite score sounds like a typical Hollywood score — maybe you are right that it is somewhat similar to the style of Kilar — must be the European roots, I guess.

MRH :    How large was the orchestra you used?

AL : We had a 78-piece orchestra conducted by Englishman Allan Wilson, who is a great conductor and a really nice guy. The orchestra had just finished the recording of Christopher Young’s score to The Exorcism Of Emily Rose (also conducted by Wilson ) — one of the scariest scores ever, in my opinion. I talked about that score with the sound engineer there, and he told me that he had had nightmares every night while recording that score !

Apart from the orchestra, we had two twelve year-old choirboys singing on the score. I also added a few sampled things myself — like in the cue called “The Kitchen,” which is mostly sound design with a few added orchestral elements. I also used a sampled glass harmonica and percussion.

MRH :    Did you always intend on becoming a film composer?

AL : I started playing music when I was 9 years old, and almost from the beginning I became interested in composing rather than performing. When I learned my first couple of chords, I would compose song after song just based on the two or three chords I had learned.

I have always loved watching movies, and I think that I have always paid special attention to the music. I was a teenager in the eighties when movies like Indiana JonesBack to the Future and some of the Star Wars and Superman films came out.

I think that everybody knew those scores at that time, but it wasn’t until the late eighties that I discovered a soundtrack on an LP record. One of my friends had bought the soundtrack fromHellraiser by Christopher Young — my friend was a huge horror film fan, and I think he bought the album because it looked cool with Pinhead on the cover.

We would sit and listen to it, and I think it was then I realised that somebody was actually composing the music that was heard in the movies! So from the mid-nineties or so I started composing music for student films, short films and the sort, working my way up through commercial music, documentaries, and a couple of things for stage plays. My first composing job was actually for a stage play calledVampires !

MRH :    What composers do you admire (past or present)?

AL : There are many composers from the past one must admire – from the old classical masters to the film composers of the golden age — they made the foundation of what we build on today. Take something like The Planets by Holst which he composed in 1916, Carmina Burana by Orff from the thirties, Wagner’s leitmotif writing and so on — you can hear a lot in these works that is being used in film music even today.

Somehow, I think that the music you grew up with will always have a special influence on you. I grew up with the music of John Williams, Alan Silvestri, Christopher Young, James Horner, and Danny Elfman to mention a few, so they are all very special to me, and I still listen to their music.

MRH :    Most North American film music fans can cite several European composers from England, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, but Northern Europe is still poorly represented on CD, and I wonder if the situation is similar to that of Canada, where there exists local and national productions, but only a few native composers have managed to cross-over to the American and international markets. Swedish and Danish composers are certainly able to practice and develop their craft, but is working on projects beyond international borders still a tough hurdle to overcome?

AL : Scandinavian movies often have very small budgets, and because of this, big orchestral music is unfortunately quite rare in these films — there might not even be financial room to hire a composer, or perhaps the producers will choose to spend their money on something else.

Often the entire soundtrack for these films would consist only of pop songs, as the producers often get these songs for free as promotion from the record companies or from the artists themselves. This is of course much cheaper than hiring a composer and an orchestra, and they might even be able to make some extra money by releasing a soundtrack album with the songs.

Also, very few of the films being made are big fantasy films or adventure films, not to mention vampire films (Frostbite is actually Sweden’s first vampire movie ever!). Most films are about the everyday lives of ordinary people, sometimes made to look like documentaries to make them seem more real; the music in those films would obviously have to reflect that — meaning no big orchestral scores.

In Denmark, some of the established directors came up with a concept known as ‘Dogme,’ which is basically about making films based on certain rules. One of the rules is that there can be no music added to the film in postproduction — meaning that if there should be music in the film, it has to be played live while shooting or come from a source on location, like from a radio.

This is an interesting idea, but not so great if you’re a film composer! Furthermore, the majority of Scandinavian films are not released outside of Scandinavia, so audiences in the U.S.A. would never be acquainted with these films and their respective scores, making it much harder for a Scandinavian composer to get heard outside Scandinavia.

I was lucky that the director and producer of Frostbite wanted a real orchestral score, and that the film has now been sold to more than 40 countries around the world, including the U.S.A. as well as most of Europe, including England and Russia. This has given a large number of people the opportunity to see the film and listen to my music. I even won a prize for Best Score at the Screamfest Horror Film Festival in Los Angeles, and I didn’t even know that the film and the score were in competition!

Since the release of Frostbite, I have been in contact with a couple of Danish directors that really liked the score and now want similar music for their films. Some of them actually told me that they put on my music when they write their scripts, so hopefully we will hear more of this kind of music in Scandinavian films.

MRH :    Because music labels often regard soundtrack albums as niche products, the production costs of CDs mandate that the film itself should be (ideally) quite prominent or have a strong recognition factor among genre fans. The fact your score exists online means those old prejudices and traditional distribution headaches are minimal, and the music can basically stand on its own. Since Frostbite has debuted as an MP3 album from MovieScore Media, what has been the response to your work?

AL : You are right about the CD process being a rather costly affair, and what Mikael Carlsson from MovieScore Media has done is a great idea. Many of these scores might not otherwise have been commercially available, so it’s a great opportunity for the composers and also for the film music fans. I have had great feedback and really good reviews from all over the world, so with digital distribution, geographical distances are really not a problem anymore. There is, however, a very limited Frostbite CD release available at the Frostbite website (

MRH :    I wonder if you could briefly describe the scores you composed for prior films: John Howe: There and Back Again (2004), a documentary on one of the top illustrators of Tolkien books; Med ret til at dræbe (2003), a documentary series made for Danish TV; and Omveje til frihed (2002).

AL : The film about John Howe was done by the people behind Frostbite and is a one-hour documentary about the famous illustrator John Howe. He talks about his work on the Lord of the Rings books as illustrator and on the films as art director, his illustrations, and his interest in the medieval period. In many ways he lives in a world of fantasy and magic, so I composed a score that reflected that.

Med Ret til at Dræbe With a Right To Kill was a two-hour documentary on the Danish resistance during World War II, which won the prize for Best Documentary in Denmark the year it came out. This particular score was a mixture of sound design, electronics, a lot of percussion and acoustic guitar. Omveje til Frihed Detour to Freedom was another documentary I did some years ago — a very ambient score with a piano theme and big synth pads.

MRH :    Do you find your work on diverse documentaries was an important training ground for tackling fiction genres?

AL : Well, yes and no. Yes, because every time you compose for something you get better and more experienced; not only in terms of music, but also in dealing with the filmmakers, finding new ways of doing things, etc. And no, because I think that composing for documentaries is very different from composing for feature films.

In documentaries, you will often find that the music cannot get too dramatic or too over the top, while at the same time it has to remain very much in the background all the time. Also, there is almost always a narrator or somebody else speaking all the time, and the music must not interfere with that. It’s a good exercise, though, but you can’t really compare it to scoring feature films.

MRH :    And finally, are there any plans to release your prior work, and are you working on a new film at the moment?

AL : I don’t think any of my older scores will be released commercially — so you will have to wait for something new.

I have a couple of projects lined up for this year. I can’t tell you much about them at this time, as they are still in pre-production, but I can say that once again I will be dealing with the darker side of things….


. would like to thank Anthony Lledo for answering our keen questions, and Mikael Carlsson for facilitating the interview.

Buy the original score to Frostbite as a high quality MP3 album from MovieScore media HERE.

Check out the official film site HERE.

All images remain the property of their copyright holders.

This article and interview © 2007 by Mark R. Hasan


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