Paddington – An interview with composer Nick Urata

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Danny: Well firstly, I just want to say that I loved the film and the soundtrack…
Nick: Thank you.

Danny: You must be delighted with the success it’s had and the music being so integral to that.
Nick: Oh I really am.

Danny: With the film being so ultimately British, did you ever dream that it would be such a success worldwide?
Nick: Well I knew it would resonate with a lot people because it’s such an international story, from darkest Peru to London (laughs) and it’s such a very common story of an orphan looking for a home, so I knew that part would definitely resonate with everybody and I’m glad and so happy that it has found an audience.

Danny: Well it’s certainly deserved, as I thought it was a really charming, lovely film, and the soundtrack reflected that. But how did you find it working with director Paul King? Was he very specific with the kind of sound he wanted, or did he sit back and let you do your own thing?
Nick: Yeah I mean you know there’s always a lot of trial and error with these things, so we had a lot of stuff that worked and some stuff that didn’t work, and Paul is very musical which is really great. He knew exactly what he wanted and when it didn’t work, he was able to get in there with me and sort off bang out the notes until we got it right, so he was very hands on in that way and really fun to work with.

Danny: That’s great to hear and I know strings and a choir were used quite often throughout, were they recorded live? and how much input did you have on that front?
Nick: Yeah that’s all recorded live there in beautiful London, and yeah I was pretty much in charge of that stuff. When it came down to it, I was there to make sure that it would all go right and sound good.

Danny: I loved how the calypso band were used as well and some of the soundtrack is of a similar style. Was that a deliberate thing?
Nick: Oh yeah, the calypso band was definitely a deliberate choice and I loved the style, and I think that there’s just that common theme or underlying theme in the story that London is this big welcoming international city made up of immigrants that are all looking for a home, and I just thought that the calypso band really spoke for that.

Danny: Another thing I loved was the sample of the Mission: Impossible theme used towards the end of the film (Nick laughs). Were you involved in making that decision at all?
Nick: Yeah, I was just telling someone else who asked about this earlier that it was one of those things that we weren’t sure if it was maybe too cheeky or not. We had some test screenings and screenings for families and friends to test it all out before the film got released, and that bit always got a lot of laughs so we kept it in there and we weren’t able to use the original recording so we had to do a re-record of it, so I had to whip up the orchestra to do the Mission: Impossible theme, which I have to say was pretty fun.

Danny: Yeah I thought that was genius. Anyway moving on and going back to your roots: as a New Yorker yourself and with Paddington being such a British movie, was it a challenge to find the right sound for the film?
Nick: Well I try not to think about it but I feel like I’ve always been in love with British culture and with British fans and British films, so it wasn’t that much of a stress, but really I just tried to get in touch with the character and bond with the story, and that’s kind of where the music comes from I guess initially. I don’t know if that makes sense, but I’ve always been a huge fan of British films so maybe that helped.

Danny: Were you able to visit any of the locations during the shoot to get an idea of the imagery and visuals for the score?
Nick: Well the great thing was that most of the score was written over in London as they brought me over when they were finishing up the shoot and I started writing there, so I was very immersed in the town and I think that really subconsciously helped a great deal.

Danny: So were you given any footage to help you compose or did you have to rely solely on your imagination?
Nick: No the film was almost there, but the bear wasn’t quite done, but the acting was all done, so I had to use my imagination with Paddington sometimes, but the rest of the film was there at least in various forms.

Danny: Have you visited London quite a few times before then?
Nick: Oh yeah London’s one of my favourite places to go, I’ve been there with my band many times and it’s been a fun place to play concerts.

Danny: Of course, you must like performing with your band DeVotchKa quite regularly, but have you managed to find spare time in-between composing to do this?
Nick: Oh yeah I always try to at least take the weekends to get together with my band and play a show or 2 to keep the juices flowing. You don’t want to spend too much time in your little closet (laughs).

Danny: Your previous scores were for films targeted more at adults like Ruby Sparks and I love you Phillip Morris. So I suppose this must have been quite a new challenge for you, but how did you find composing for a more family-orientated movie?
Nick: Well I have to say that I loved it, it was such a pleasure because with adult films, you always have to pull back the reins on the soundtrack and sort of stay out of the way, especially with comedies or romance: if you go too far in one direction, it can sound terrible. But with Paddington, the music was almost allowed to speak louder and be somewhat cartoonish and funny, so it allowed for a bit of musical exaggeration, which for me was such a pleasure and I feel like there was a strong emotion at the core of it, so I could kind of go both ways and be emotional and funny at the same time. It was probably the funnest one I’ve done yet.

Danny: Do you have any plans in the future to compose scores for films of a similar ilk?
Nick: Oh yeah I’d love to, I just love any sort of fairytale or fantasy piece.

Danny: Yeah it had a real magical and enchanting feel throughout…
Nick: Yeah and that’s a really inspiring thing to write music to.

Danny: So in terms of the future for you, Focus has recently hit our screens and Indiscretion is currently in post-production; can you tell us more about what you have coming up?
Nick: We’ve just started working on the next film with John and Glenn who directed Focus and I Love You Phillip Morris. They’re just finishing shooting a film with Tina Fey that takes place in Afghanistan, so I’m gonna score that one.

Danny: Great and finally, there’s talk of a Paddington sequel, can you shed any light on that? And would you be interested in returning to score it?
Nick: Of course I’d love to, but I haven’t really heard any facts about it; I don’t know anything about a sequel if I’m perfectly honest. I can only hope that they would bring back Paul King and that he’d still want to do it; I think he was such a huge part of what the movie finished up like.

Danny: Would you like to work with Paul King in the future then?
Nick: Yeah I’d love to work with Paul again, he’s such a fun guy to be around with and he’s a genius.

Danny: Nick, it’s been a pleasure talking to you. Thank you so much for your time.
Nick: Thank you so much Danny, take care.

Paddington is out on DVD and Blu-ray now, and you can read our review of the film here.

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