Dominic Lewis is a British-born composer with sensational talents that have catapulted him to the forefront of music in television and film. Dominic is currently scoring the third season of Amazon’s Emmy-winning series “The Man in the High Castle.” Additionally, Dominic scores Disney XD’s revitalized “DuckTales,” Sony’s “Rough Night” and “First Fight,” and several other films including “Free Birds,” which got him nominated for an ANNIE award. He’s also contributed to scores on “How To Train Your Dragon,” “Wreck-it Ralph,” “Captain America: Winter Solider,” and countless others.
I was able to talk with him by phone, but unfortunately the audio isn’t great so I have transcribed our conversation below. It was a wonderful conversation. He is down-to-earth and it was a privilege to interview him.
How did you get into film composing and has it always been a goal of yours?
Music’s always been the end goal. Both my parents are musicians. They were both very supportive, but there was one moment where I wanted to be sportsman, whether it be cricket or rugby or some other sport. But, music has always been the beacon speaking to me, although it wasn’t always film music. At the very beginning I wanted to be like dad and play the cello and then I found rock music and then wanted to be a rock star.
When I was 11 or 12 I started writing songs for a band and then my dad tried doing film scores, playing in all the movies. I sort of got introduced to film music in that way. I’d always been aware of film music, but then I went to secondary school with Rupert Gregson-Williams’ stepdaughter. So having a new outlet through dad and eventually going to hang out with Rupert, around 11-15 I was figuring out that this would be an awesome career to have. From 15 till I left school I would go down to Rupert’s studio and watch him work and he would let me play around and help me program samples and that kind of stuff. When I went to the academy to study film composition he would send me his stuff and ask me to arrange it and things.
Was there a particular composer than inspired you?
Other than the classical greats like Strauss and Debussy and Stravinsky, it was John Williams and Alan Silvestri that really lit that spark for me. Specifically Back to the Future and The Mummy Returns from Silvestri. I would listen to them in the car on long journeys, I had a compilation CD of all my favorites. I also got into Alfred Newman, Jerry Goldsmith, all those older guys.
I’ve been listening to your work on Man in High Castle and I really like it. It also seems to be among your most popular works.
It is. It’s a real sort of meaty, dark thing that I’ve been able to get my teeth into. I really relate to dark period stuff. I’ve got two ends that I really relate to. On one end I’ve got really dark period stuff, I’m kind of obsessed with the history of the 2nd World War. Obviously Man in High Castle is a different history but it falls into that. But on the other side of things I’ve got the happy animation. It keeps me balanced.
I’m just finishing up two things right now where I try to mix those two things. It takes the traditional orchestral stuff and mix it with weird, creepy stuff.
Do you think that’s your favorite thing that you’ve done?
On that side of things (TV) I’m very proud of it. On the movie side I’m really proud of Money Monster, which was kind of a crazy electronic sound score. Free Birds was the first time I did a full orchestral score and I really liked it. But Peter Rabbit is probably my favorite movie score in terms of traditional orchestral stuff.
Did you get to name the tracks on Free Birds? I absolutely adore when Michael Giacchino does punny track names.
A few them yeah. I’ve done a couple of them on the Peter Rabbit score as well. There are a couple of really terrible dad jokes on that one.
After reading your bio, I was introduced to the concept that more than one composer works on a film, even when the ‘Score By’ attribution only includes one name. It kind of blew my mind because I consider myself to be a bit of a film score buff. How does that work generally?
Over the last 10 years or so the idea of a ghost writer has become less prevalent and they just change the name to ‘additional music composers.’ Slowly people have been getting more attribution as time has gone on. But some of these big hollywood movies are such massive undertakings with so many notes coming in from directors and producers there’s so much to deal with. The process has changed so much since the days of John Williams, everything has to be demoed up now to sound pretty much how it’s going to sound eventually. So we have to create the score before the score is recorded and mixed. So that’s a huge job and basically the role of an additional composer is just to assist that main composer in getting the job done. You kind of become an extension of what they do and that can range from doing doing an arrangement or taking maps of stuff that the composer has done or actually writing a chunk of the score. It just depends on what’s happening. There are some scores that are done mostly by additional guys and some scores that it’s more of just a contribution.
Interesting. Obviously John Powell’s score for How to Train Your Dragon is among the greatest animation scores ever. Did he do the motifs and then you helped implement them or what?
Oh yes. Very much. That’s John’s baby. The guys who helped out with that are just there to help. He’s written all the the themes, he’ll give us a good idea of what he wants. At that point we are just simply coloring it. John Powell is, I think, if we’re taking John Williams and those guys as one generation, then I think John