Dan Watts interview part two – his favourite science fiction soundtracks

DAN WATTS’ love of science fiction soundtracks started young, but even then the Sarah Jane Adventures composer went above and beyond the call of geek duty.

“Star Wars was my biggest love and as a kid I taped the audio of the films from the TV onto a load of cassette tapes,” he said. (A much loved but now mostly forgotten art – Scyfi Love Nostalgia Ed)

“I had a Sony Walkman and took those tapes everywhere with me, so that interest in the soundtrack was always there.”

Of course that passion has now developed into Dan’s career, and during our chat (you can read part one by clicking here) I got him to put his expertise to further good use by picking his favourite science fiction soundtracks.

But first of all, just what makes a really good soundtrack?

He said: “A good soundtrack is a real black art and a bit weird. When that works it is almost like the audience shouldn’t notice it, but just react to it. Sometimes a scene can look flat, but if you add the music it lifts it.

“The idea is to create something that perfectly complements what you can see on the screen, that helps to create a mood and a feeling for the audience. For instance on Poltergeist, Jerry Goldsmith‘s music is very childlike, but add in the picture and it is so creepy. That’s a very clever score.

“When it doesn’t work – if a soundtrack is overwritten or out of touch with the visuals, it can ruin the whole scene or jarr really badly.”

Dan added the great thing about science fiction as a genre for composers is the sheer variety of options available to elicit the desired effect.

“Science fiction used to mean strange sounds, mainly created by an instrument called a theremin,” he said. (Check out this awesome theremin video with probable sex pest and Mr Charisma himself, Thomas Grillo)

“Sam (Dan’s brother, and fellow SJA composer) actually sneaked a theremin sound into a Sarah Jane episode, where the Androvax is building a spaceship on top of a genetics lab. It was a joke really as the spaceship looked old fashioned, but they loved it so in it stayed.

“Then you had the synthesiser being used alot and John Williams fully orchestral Star Wars score and the Blade Runner soundtrack, all of which pushed the boundaries that bit more.

“Computers and synthesisers made a huge difference, because there are any number of programmes you can use to get all different types of sounds. Anything goes really because it is science fiction and not based in the real world.”

So, if Dan were to pick his favourite science fiction soundtracks or pieces of music, what would they be?

The Imperial March from The Empire Strikes Back

“This is probably my favourite film of all time and John Williams really set an incredible standard here. Powerful, moving and evocative.”

On a related note, this was the encore when I went to see Star Wars in Concert and while the rest of the show was poor, this remained double awesome. To buy the soundtrack, click here.

Blade Runner

Vangelis‘s work really added to the world that Ridley Scott created, another beautiful soundtrack to a great film.” To buy the soundtrack, click here.

Aliens

“I’m a huge fan of James Horner and I think this is his best work. It is a fantastic score, while James Cameron and everyone else connected to this film were on top form too.” To buy the soundtrack, click here.

Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan

“James Horner again, with a more nautical score. Khan’s Theme is my favourite piece (at this point Dan started singing the theme down the phone to me)” To buy the soundtrack, click here.

Wall-E

“Thomas Newman is a true original and his work on Wall-E is breathtaking, with so many interesting and unique  ideas and textures to the music.” To buy the soundtrack, click here.

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