Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with Germany’s Amaury Laurent Bernier. Together we discussed being a self-taught musician, their love of cinema, their influences, and their recent score for independent film TOTEM. This interview took place prior to the premiere of TOTEM.
1. Mustard is grateful to have you join them. How are you doing today?
Hi Mustard, please do know I am also very grateful .
I am great, thanks! Had definitely a blast today, having a a day off In Amsterdam and enjoying some of the wonders the city has to offer . Tomorrow is the premiere of TOTEM, the last movie I scored, and the film will open the Cinekid Festival. Very excited for that as well.
2. You’re a self-taught musician. Which instrument did you teach yourself first? How did this develop into you becoming a multi-instrumentalist? What advice would you give to those looking to teach themselves an instrument?
That is a very long story that needs to be cut very short. I did start with a dusty guitar that I found on top of a shelf, that happened to belong to my older brother. I was just using the first two strings at first..Which was enough to play the riff of « Come as you are » ( it was in the 90’s so I was obviously caught in the Seattle sound as a Teenager ).
I always preferred to play instruments than having to call a musician each time, because, apart from obvious Budget reasons, I have always felt better being on my own, and am definitely too shy to play in front of someone ( very few people know that and it’s probably gonna surprise a lot as I was a professional musician doing so many gigs a year before being a composer ).
I will never be a Maestro, or a Shredder but I make sure I can play good enough to record what I have in mind. One of my first heroes were Jimmy Page and Brian Jones and they played a lot of instruments themselves. I am also an organic kinda guy and will always record something than using samples.
I would though, feel quite arrogant to give any kind of advice – apart from never ever give up and be very critical with yourself.
We have the chance now to have so much knowledge available instantly, thank to the Internet that I feel anything can be self taught.
You just need to want it, and be curious and persistent.
3. From an early age you have been in love with cinema. Could you describe the first film that you really connected with? Is there a score from a certain movie that inspired you to want to begin composing for film?
I did..and I feel so lucky I was born in the 80’s and grew up in the 90’s because there were so many good film music, Composers were given so much freedom, with themes you could remember instantly, and not only in American movies!
I was very fan of French slapstick old comedy when I was a kid ( mainly scored by Vladimir Cosma ),and would definitely quote a Film like « La chèvre » or « Le grand blond avec une chaussure noire » with this incredible theme made by a Flute Pan and a Cimbalom. It was intended as a joke by Cosma, who actually wanted at first to make a parody of James Bond, using these two ethnic instruments .
Apart of course from John Williams, I have to say the music of Back to the future had a huge influence on me.
I watched again the Films with my daughter few weeks ago : Today in the lego store, she saw the Delorean and started to hum the main theme….well done Mr Silvestri!
Same for Danny Elfmann’s early works. Edward the Scissorhands and Beatlejuice were also part of the soundtrack of my childhood.
I am still to date very much inspired by some new composers. Some famous like Michael Giacchino and his score for « Up », some less famous . I love the work of Lucie Treacher because it is so personal, colorful and original.
Also : I do not think i could have done the music of TOTEM without meeting and having some musical shenanigans with Hannah Von Hübbenet, who apart from being a very talented composer, showed me the path of trusting myself and not being afraid to explore new horizons. I recommend you hear both of their works as well .
4. Mustard loves your motto: “There’s a Sound for every Story. And I’ll help you find it.” Could you elaborate more on your motto? What are some of your favorite sounds?
I think music is a silent power to a Film. It helps to better understand the story, convey characters feelings whether it is by using themes, or suggesting moods.
Using also no music at all, or very sparse and particular sounds or noises can be a very powerful tool as well.
And this is what I meant with it : I believe every story can be even more powerful using sounds, even if it’s the sound of silence.
All my favorites sounds are organic, but nothing is set in stone; It is like talking about who is my fav artist or band : I could give you 50 names, and the top 5 would change daily, regarding my mood. I can tell you though they all have an organic core in common.
For the last Soundtrack TOTEM, I was looking for something very special, organic, magic and ethnic, and ended up bowing my Mandolin, and dressing the rough sound with a special plate Reverb, going into a delay, having a parallel distortion treatment on it, etc…
I also ended up playing Kora, which is an African harp and even a Cello though I have never played it in my life before. Of course I never intended to do licks, or even slow legatos, but I think I found my own sound on these instruments, which is more important. You always should give a personal touch to a score. In that sense, i would say my favorite sounds are the one which sounds personal.
5. Who (or what) influences you?
Everything is an influence. Whether its other musicians; composers, films, books, your partner, your kid, your dog, the nature, some random news you read on the newspaper ( like Lennon and Mc Cartney did with « A day in the life » ).
6. What is your creative process?
It really varies. Lately I have found myself finding my best ideas while walking my dog, whistling or humming an idea, and directly recording it on my phone. I am sure every modern musician knows that, and all of us have a phone full of silly ideas.
I love to tidy up this mess in my voice recorder twice a year : Sometimes I save an idea, but most of the time I have absolutely no idea of what I was trying to do! 🙂
Which is fine, cause the best ideas are the ones that are spontaneous. Music, like a picture, is frozen in time : exactly like a photography of a certain moment of your life. The song you write would be totally different if you would write it 2 weeks later. That is why I like to write and produce a lot. I could not just put two or three singles a year, I would feel like I am missing out on something and wold not feel comfortable and honest with myself. I have never release a single to that date, and i do not think i will do it. I know it is very bad Business-wise, algorithm-wise, whatever-wise….but it is not who i am.
When you paint a picture, you do not give the public a part of the sky, two weeks later a bit of grass, and after few months the other details. I prefer to give the entire painting.
8. Next week is the release of the TOTEM Original Motion Picture soundtrack in which you composed the music for. What was it like to compose music for this film?
Oh that was so, so great, and from the beginning. I really fell in love with the storyline, and after reading the script I automatically knew I should be the composer ( At the time I was just in the pitching round).
It was so much work though, I think I wrote more than 2 hours of music, and we ended up with more than 75 mins of music on the movie ( which is a LOT for a film and tells how important is the role of the music in that project ).
The process also was very particular, and so interesting, because I started to write after reading the script, then had another writing session at the beginning of the editing with few pictures and scenes, and then it was a back and forth between the editor and I!
It is rare…usually your work starts after the Picture lock, and that way we could give the music a special treatment.
Creatively wise, I have been given so much Freedom and trust from the director and production and I think that is the reason why the Soundtrack is also special.
It was such an adventure as a human being as well and I tried to challenge myself very hard. I discovered and learned a new culture, and new instruments ( Mostly West African ones) .
We had to make sure the score had mainly some Western colors with Orchestra, making it modern by destroying it sometimes, but also blending little by little African colors as the main character starts to accept her African culture. And I ended up recording a Kids choir singing in Wolof for the last cues of the Film. That was absolutely fantastic.
9. TOTEM will be premiering in a few days at the Cinekid Festival. Will you be in attendance for the premiere?
The Premiere is tomorrow and of course I will!
A premiere is so great because you gotta see all the people who worked on the same project than you, without any stress. So you can get to know them as human beings.
The Cinekid Festival is the World’s biggest Festival for family and entertainment, and I am looking forward to see how it looks like. I am expecting a big party for kids, which is great cause my daughter Phoenix gonna tag along:)
10. Where will readers be able to watch the film? Will the soundtrack be available on all streaming services?
The movie will be internationally distributed from February 2023.
But they can wait patiently hearing the Soundtrack…which will be available of course on all streaming platforms from October 19th!
We will prepare some surprises also, in the meantime, like music videos.
11. Where can readers listen to your music?
The best is to check my Instagram, amaury_bernier and see the link in Bio, or go to my Website http://www.amaury-bernier.com
Also, I am part of a big artist Family called NAS – or New Artist Spotlight -, full of amazing Indie talents. You can find me on there, and check out awesome music while you’re at it.
Lately we have been trying to make people aware of how bad the music business can be for Independents Artists. Daily, people reaches at you trying to make you pay for having more streams, or followers, being on certain « Playlist » and the worse of it is that big guys like Spotify support that in their own way.
It is a real struggle so if you have the chance to check a bit of the music on there, that would be a win for us. Check also out the Hashtag #stoppayola for learning more about it.
I believe it would be worth an entire article, from every independent blogs out here.
It has been such a pleasure, and I am sending to you all positive energy and happy thoughts.