Music Fergal Lawler interview

‘All Hope Is Never Lost’ is the debut solo album by the drummer and founding member of The Cranberries. The style of composition is inspired by soundtracks. “I am trying to paint a picture with sound rather than enhance a visual image with music”, Fergal tells Thierry Somers.

200%: What makes you interested in writing soundtrack music?
Fergal Lawler: I have always had a fascination with soundtrack music. My father was a collector of Classical and Opera vinyl records so there was always music playing in the home when I was growing up.  The first soundtrack album I bought was Gabriel Yared’s ‘Betty Blue’. I played that over and over and still listen to it occasionally more than thirty years later. More recently I have been listening to Max Richter, Ólafur Arnalds, Mogwai and Ben Frost quite a lot.

200%: Are the songs on ‘All Hope Is Never Lost’ written for films and documentaries?
FL: No, originally I had planned to create some music that I could send to directors and producers as a ‘showreel’ but as the tracks developed I found the music taking on a life of its own and that maybe, it could possibly become an album.

200%: For which films or documentaries have you composed the soundtrack?
FL: I have just finished the soundtrack to a short film named ‘You’re Not Home’ by director Derek Ugochukwu. It’s a horror story about two brothers in a direct provision centre. Currently, I am composing music for a film called ‘Haven’ by director Maureen O’ Connell. It’s both sweet and sad, but very beautiful.

200%: The songs sound like drone songs. Why is that?
FL: It’s just the way the music naturally progressed. I find the ‘drone elements’ to be very soothing but also have a darkness to them which draws me in. The drone is the foundation, the heavy earth from which little melodies emerge and grow, in contrast to where they originated from. I like music that has an underlying darkness and depth, like peeling away layers every time you listen. It’s almost like looking at a painting for a long time and discovering new images you hadn’t noticed at first.

200%: Why did you want the music to be removed from your work of The Cranberries? 
FL: This was not a conscious decision. The Cranberries were a band of four individuals creating music together. It was more ‘song based’ whereas the music I create is instrumental, I’m not thinking “verse, chorus, middle eight”. When I begin a new piece of music I’m thinking more like “how can I create and express various moods and emotions”. It’s almost like painting with sound.

200%: Does film music offer the opportunity to compose more ‘panoramic’ music (for instance ‘Apollo’ by Brian Eno or music by Godspeed You! Black Emperor) 
FL: It greatly depends on the type of film. In some instances a specific scene will push me to go in a direction outside of my comfort zone and I end up surprising myself by creating something unexpected. Other times, I will finish a film project and feel like I want to be totally untethered and create something “just for me”. In this situation I have more time to experiment. It is these pieces that I feel are more ‘panoramic’ because I am trying to paint a picture with sound rather than enhance a visual image with music.

200%: Could you talk about your creative process of how you translate a script into music?
FL: The very first time I read a script I will take notes of specific emotional feelings I get when I read a scene. I will then sketch some rough ideas usually on piano, guitar, synthesizer or perhaps a string arrangement and send these to the director. After they have listened to these sketches we will run through the entire film discussing various scenes and deciding if they require music or not. From that point on I will write more sketches and constantly update the director with refined or alternative versions.

200%: Are you interested in writing soundtrack music for a particular film genre?
FL: I enjoy the challenge of working on various genres. Music is about creating moods so I will speak at length with the director to try to find the correct mood for a specific scene. Mostly what I attempt first time works, but sometimes I will provide a few different options and we will discuss which one works best.

200%: Which film director may give you a call to write the soundtrack for their film?
FL: The most important thing for me is having a script that I can relate to, with a story that moves me emotionally. I probably wouldn’t be suited to writing music for an action film starring Jean-Claude Van Damme or someone like that 🙂

All Hope Is Never Lost by Fergal Lawler
Cover photography by James Guerin