An Interview with Nathan Furst, MoL Composer
Thursday, October 2nd, 2003 at 1:31am by Kelly, BZPower Co-Owner
The young composer responsible for the orchestral soundtrack of BIONICLE: MASK OF LIGHT recently talked with BZPower about working on the LEGO Company's first movie. See how this musical wunderkind liked participating in the project.
Furst has been a professional composer for five years - starting in his late teens. He's worked on other CGI animated projects, notably Max Steel, Starship Troopers, and Dragon Tales. He got his professional composing start on a direct-to-video production "Baby Huey's Great Easter Adventure" directed by his father (well-known actor Nathan Furst), which also featured brother Griff.
Having grown up in a household so involved in the film industry, Nathan Furst always knew he wanted to be involved in a creative way. He started drum lessons at age 10, but got bored and started teaching himself to play the piano at about twelve or thirteen. Within a couple of years he was writing his own original music, and started recording it using a cheap PC and music software. He also pulled stints in a couple of bands with some friends, but everyone said his original music sounded like it belongs in a movie. "Okay, that works," he says. Unsurprisingly, Furst grew up passionate about movies, so by his mid-teens he knew he wanted to be a film composer. So he started putting together some demos.
Furst began developing his own style by listening to his favorite film composers: John Williams ("Star Wars," "Indiana Jones," etc.), Alan Silvestri, Bernard Herman ("Pshycho"), Jerry Goldsmith. He didn't even have a studio put together by the time the animatronic Baby Huey project got underway, but he managed to write some songs for the movie. He continued to develop his own musical style, which leans toward big orchestra and electronica, with lots of synth and electronic hard-driven stuff as textural color.
Which was pretty much what the producers of Mask of Light were looking for.
Like nearly everyone associated with Mask of Light, Furst is fiercely enthusiastic about the movie. "It's mind-boggling," he says. "It's got this huge scale and the visuals are phenomenal. It's very cool."
In his mid-twenties, Furst had never heard of Bionicle before the Mask of Light project found its way to him. "Bioni-what?" he recalls thinking. He got a call from friend Tim Borquez, who suggested he give Sue Shakespeare, the movie's producer, a call about doing the score. Initial discussions went well, and he wrote a track that the moviemakers loved. He got the job.
Before continuing, he started his Bionicle education by visiting Bionicle.com and read up on the complex universe LEGO had created for their hot product line. "It was amazing, I was floored when I saw how complex it all was," he says. "I was surprised that kids could follow this." He then went back for more talks with the movie execs. The wealth of material available, plus the detailed insight into the feel of what Bob Thompson and the creative team were looking for, helped nail down the eight or nine themes he created for the film. "We'd talk about what had to be accomplished, what the scenes were about, and I'd go write it and present it. They'd make comments and I'd adjust it," until the process was complete. This process carried through from scene concepts to the entire picture. He had quite a bit of freedom by the movie makers, he says. "It was a great collaborative effort."
The overall score for the movie is "grand orchestral," but it includes a very heavy ethnic and tribal element. He used elements of African, Polynesian, and Eastern European music to lend it an island feel. He also incorporated music within the action itself, whenever he could - for example, the drummers of Le-Koro are responsible for some of the theme during a part of the movie, it's not just an unassociated soundtrack laid over animation. The final result recalls a definite echo of the Mata Nui Online Games, although he hadn't heard those themes before completing the score.
Being younger than many other composers in the field may have helped him when it came time to create the score. He found himself able to accept the make-believe world of Mata Nui as it is, and not as a kitschy two-dimensional comic book that it might have been. And unlike his time working on Max Steel, the toy was the last thing that was emphasized during the creative process. The enthusiastic producers of the movie proved very involved and interested in their project, which helped him (and everyone involved) take the movie seriously.
He saw the final mix of the movie the day after the final dub. "It was huge scale and the visuals are phenomenal. It's very cool," he says. The action is "amazing."
With more Bionicle pictures in the works, it's possible we'll be hearing from Nathan Furst in the future. "I'd love to work on sequels," he says, although he hasn't yet been approached about it.
BIONICLE: MASK OF LIGHT went on sale in the US on Sept. 16, in the UK on Sept. 29th, and non-English countries will have it available as early as the first week of November.
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