Sound Advice: Hans Zimmer (Aug. 3)

click to enlarge Hans Zimmer at 2017's Coachella - Photo: Joe Eley
Photo: Joe Eley
Hans Zimmer at 2017's Coachella

Before movie composer Hans Zimmer was winning Grammys and an Oscar for his film-score work, he was a working musician. The German-born/Los Angeles-based artist played keyboards with British Hard Rock band Krakatoa before moving to The Buggles (featuring future Yes and Asia members Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes), then Italian New Wave outfit Krisma, Helden (with former Ultravox drummer Warren Cann) and Shriekback (with ex-Gang of Four bassist Dave Allen). His last Rock related project was co-producing The Damned's "History of the World, Pt. 1" single, credited by the band as "Overproduced by Hans Zimmer."

While in London, Zimmer wrote ad jingles before pairing up with veteran film scorer Stanley Myers to create the Lillie Yard recording studio. Zimmer and Myers collaborated on a number of movie scores, and it was here that Zimmer began exploring the combination of synthesized sounds he had used in the Pop/Rock realm with typical orchestration. Zimmer's first solo score was for the American comedy Terminal Exposure in 1987, around the time he co-wrote the theme song for the long-running British game show Going for Gold.

Zimmer's big Hollywood breakthrough came with his synthesizer-based score for Rain Man, earning him his first Academy Award nomination, followed by his similarly constructed but oppositionally themed score for Driving Miss Daisy. Zimmer's Rock leanings paid off on Thelma & Louise in 1991 when he tapped Climax Blues Band guitarist Pete Haycock to provide the soundtrack's slide guitar signature. Zimmer's first animated feature score was Disney's The Lion King in 1994, for which he won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and two Grammys; his subsequent animation work has included all three Madagascar films, The Simpsons Movie, The Prince of Egypt and Megamind, among others.

Perhaps Zimmer's greatest work has been in the live-action cartoon genre, including the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, the second Andrew Garfield Spider-Man film and the Superman reboots Man of Steel and Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, which he announced would be his last superhero score. Others with epic scores by Zimmer include Mission: Impossible 2, both Sherlock Holmes films, Black Hawk Down, Gladiator, Inception, 12 Years a Slave, the Da Vinci Code franchise, Hidden Figures and his most recent, Dunkirk.

Zimmer has returned to his performance roots with his first North American tour, featuring 34 selections culled from 17 of his most famous scores. With a full orchestra, an atmospheric choir, a Rock band and wildly evocative back projection, Zimmer mixes his most hair-raising movie music interspersed with fascinating stories of how some of his greatest scores came to be. Hans Zimmer's three-hour tour of his film career may turn out to be one of the most compelling music presentations of the year. 


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