Conversations in Krakow – Interview with Łukasz Targosz
LOOKING FOR ŁUKASZ
Following the series of interviews conducted during the 9th Krakow Film Music Festival (Krakow FMF), here it comes a new “chapter” in the saga, but this one is different, as it was an unexpected chapter.
Łukasz Targosz, a well-known Polish composer, was not in the first set of interviews I had prepared to be performed during the festival, but listening to his music during the “alterFMF Gala: Drone Sounds”, so strong and so fresh, made me curious about his work.
I decided I had to try to get an interview, on the fly, so I approached him after the concert and talked with him. He was funny, humble and helpful, and he agreed to have a meeting next day in his hotel lobby.
So next day, I went looking for Lukasz….. but I ended discovering Lukasz.
Keep on reading this article, and discover this composer and his music with me.
Łukasz Targosz (20 February 1977, Krakow) is a Polish film composer and music producer. He graduated from The Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music in Katowice (Jazz and Pop Music Department) in 2000 and started his career as a session musician.
After writing music for a movie entitled Świadek koronny, he gained recognition, and later in 2010 he was awarded during Roma Fiction Fest for the best music written for a TV series (Naznaczony).
Films for which he has composed music are very popular in Poland: a romantic comedy entitled “Letters to St. Nicolas” that achieved box-office success and quickly reached gold record status; “Kochaj i tańcz” that is the first Polish dance movie with a record-breaking number of viewers; “Odwróceni” a thriller TV reviewed as one of the best Polish TV series; or the animation movie “The Game”, which he also co-produced, that was awarded during numerous international festivals.
He has cooperated with various well-known foreign artists, among them: Jennifer Batten, Bill Butler and Tina Guo, but mainly, he composes music for cinema, TV and highly artistic animated movies.
Hello, Lukasz. Thank you for agreeing to this interview with such a short notice. After your yesterday’s impressive concert “After FMF: Drone Sounds”, where you even performed many instruments on stage, I think it was compulsory to have a chat with you to get to know you and your music better.
I am more than happy that you enjoyed the concert yesterday and you found my music interesting. It is a pleasure to meet you and give this interview for my Spanish friends as well as for Asturias readers located all over the world.
First, tell us something about your beginnings. When did you decide you wanted to be a composer? What triggered that idea on you mind?
Well… When I was 4 years old my Grandmother wanted me to become a violin player, my Mom made me a guitar player, my Wife made me a movie composer… I am so lucky with women (laughs).
Seriously speaking, I have always been somehow addicted to music. It was present in my life as the main reason for going to church, or singing “The Final Countdown” in front of Europe’s posters when I was 10, familiarizing myself with the art of Miles Davis or listening to Chopin Competition broadcasted on Polish Radio.
When you are 15 and you have already decided to be a rock star, the choice is simple and it is called an electric guitar. If you live in Poland, love Slash, but you do not have curly hair covered with a hat and Gibson Les Paul, the choice is even simplier…It is still an electric guitar.
That is probably why I graduated in guitar from the Karol Szymanowski Academy Of Music in Katowice and started my career as a session musician.
I had a great honour and pleasure to cooperate with distinguished artists representing different styles and approaches. But I remember the day when I was doing some warm ups before the show of a Polish alternative diva Renata Przemyk. She passed me by and said: “Wow! Lukasz! The things you’re playing sounds like a cool film music”. It was the first time when I thought to myself that it might be an interesting direction.
And then I met that one and the only girl. The director. Magda… I am her husband now or if you prefer she is my wife… and the person who finally encouraged me to step into the world of filmmaking.
It all happened 10 years ago and since then I have composed more than 40 scores for feature movies, TV series and animations. Composing became the most sophisticated way of expressing myself. I am so thankful I can do this. It is my life!
Yesterday in concert we listened to your music, and something that surprised me was how many special or even experimental instruments were there on stage, and the way you used them to get the ambience and emotion you wanted to transmit, when playing your music live. How do you come up with new ideas, instruments, patterns… and use all those elements together to get the final result? (even mixing objects that are not “real instruments” like the typewriter).
Yesterday’s concert entitled «Drone Gala» was a great opportunity for me to present unconventional solutions and instruments, the sound of which are a fascinating inspiration for me when writing music.
I strongly believe that searching for the original sound can be not only a duty but also, and above all, an adventure for a mature artist. I am completely crazy about searching for inspiration everywhere.
Let’s take Yaybahar as an example. I heard it and saw it for the first time in a contest for the most unconventional instrument announced by the website Synthopia. What Gorkem Sem was doing with the instrument that he constructed by himself was absolutely out of this world. I realized I had to meet this man and his work. I tried to invite him to collaborate with me last year but unfortunately I did not get any response. As it turned out Gorkem was then in the process of improving Yaybahar and it totally engaged them both.
With full awareness I say «them both» because Gorkem considers himself and his instrument as one entity. Rehearsals for the concert were not only an amazing musical experience but also a deep spiritual sensation.
You mentioned the typewriter. I was fully aware that the international audience may not be familiar with the plot of the series The Pact. The protagonist is an investigative journalist who tries to solve a case, which ruins his career and family relations. He needs to deal with the pact based on a spiritual blanket of silence. Thus, the idea for the usege of a typerwiter has roots in the reality of The Pact.
Array Mbira was another instrument that you could hear last night. Although I have been enchanted by its sound for some time already, I kept putting off the decision to order it. And then my delay haunted me, it was delivered less than three weeks ago. I hope it was not heard during the concert…
It was designed by Bill Wesley who handcrafs mbira with his friend Patrick Hadley in San Diego. I wanted to thank both gentlemen for their support and changing production plans so that my mbira was in Poland on time. Generally, it is an African mbira impressively redesigned. I am so excited to be a Array Mbiras’s lover among other lucky lucky users as Imogen Heap and Sting!
I can imagine your studio, full of many kinds of different instruments…
Have you ever been on a musical junkyard? (laughs) To be quite frank, I am lucky enough to have two places where I can realize my musical ideas: a home-cave and a professional complex of studios in Warsaw&Cracow.
I love it the most to work in my cave where I compose and prepare for recording sessions, which are finalized in the studio strewn with guitars, sitars, bouzoukies, moogs and all that stuff.
I love that creative mess and that is why my friends often joke that the sentence which I say most frequently is: Where is my / my… But.. I believe that the connection between the electronic world and natural acoustic sounds define my style.
That’s true, yesterday we had a great mix of organic and electronic sounds on stage.
The ability to connect a symphonic orchestra with modern technology based largely on vintage sounds of analogue instruments is an amazing experience and an excellent adventure. It is a kind of my trademark as well.
During the concert, we listened to some of your latest works, with suites from “The Pact”, “Pitbull” and “Secret Service”. Let’s start with “The Pact”, how do you get to the project, how does it develop and how do you find your musical way into the atmosphere of the series.
The Pact is a Polish HBO TV series. Two or three days ago they started shooting the second season, and that is why the music you could hear last night was a kind of a medley of themes from the first season and some recently composed pieces for the forthcoming premiere. I will tell you in secret that some tracks performed during the concert were not presented to the director and producers yet, what makes yesterday’s performance the most important rehearsal before the premiere…
Each season is an integral and closed story. Unlike True Detective where seasons are independent stories, The Pact depicts adventures of the same character in a completely new reality.
The second season of The Pact will be broadcasted in Autumn and because a completely new story will be told, I am working on a different style of music. In the first part we would listen to dark ambient music complemented by a lyrical piano and a cello of Tina Guo; in the second season I want to focus on a greater role of an orchestra and traditional instruments.
It’s curious that you mention “True Detective”, as it was the impression and reference that came to my mind yesterday when I saw the pictures and opening titles of “The Pact” coming into the screen.
Both opening titles might be similar because of HBO’s styling or stamp of quality. As a curiosity I can tell you that the music to the opening titles of The Pact was written before they started shooting the series. Personally, I think it is of great value when the idea of music originates from the script and is a kind of the trademark of the series.
That’s nice! Now tell us the story behind “Pitbull” and “Secret Service”.
Pitbull. New Orders is a continuation of a very popular film, a classic movie for most Polish people, screened almost 10 years ago. I think it is no exaggeration to say that this is the best feature movie which reflects the reality of Polish police.
I remember that after the projection of the first edit I asked myself: what is really this new Pitbull about? When trying to look for an answer I came to the conclusion that all the raids of a SWAT team filmed with such impetus, daring pursuits or this documentary brutality of the image serve as a springboard to expose a man. A man who is repeatedly deluded, flooded with suffering, living on the edge of where the good blurs with the fearsome evil. And this search for the man seemed to be the most interesting for the score which I had to create.
In this trip to the interior of the characters I significantly limited electronics in order to expose acoustic instruments and their articulating capabilities. This is a remarkable advantage of this score as the vast majority of sound result from individual sensitivity of the musicians with whom I had the honour to work and not from the resulting algorithm of an advanced music device.
It is worth mentioning that the film was surprisingly well received in the UK and was distributed by Odeon.
Secret Service, as the title points out, is a story of a group of Polish secret service agents who perform operational tasks in different parts of the world. And again, as in movies directed by Vega, a lot of brutality and drama.
You’ve had projects covering many different media and genres like movies and TV, with animation and real motion pictures. Do you approach a project in a different way depending its media or genre?
I have to admit that I do not see a significant difference in composing music to a feature film and TV series. Especially that nowadays the quality of TV series often matches the quality previously known only from the silver screen.
The biggest difference lies in the number of music themes and the time of their completion. For example, the second season of The Pact will be made available on VOD on the exact date of the release of the first episode of the new series. This means that according to the established deadlines, the image edition will be finished about 7 weeks earlier. And that means we will have to finish episodes on a weekly basis, which is associated not only with talent but also with the discipline of the entire team responsible for the final sound, the composer obviously being an important member of this team.
It looks a bit different in animated films because here music can create the entire world of sound in which the action takes place. Usually I receive a silent picture and the post-production team begins working on it at the same time. It is a good moment for a long meeting and a conversation with the director, and the rest of the people involved on the climate that we want to achieve.
A lot of means which are impossible to achieve in a live action movie, excel in animation. Recently I worked on a film for children entitled Agi Bagi. In one scene, a big yellow bird walks in the jungle and it was so incredibly fun to accompany him with a xylophone. Wouldn’t the world be more friendly if Terminator had such xylophone walks?
I have seen that most of your works, if not all, are based in Poland. Did you do some work in other countries in Europe, co-productions maybe? What about working abroad? Are you planning to address American projects?
You’re right. Until now, I had the pleasure to work mainly in Poland. Among the films that you can watch outside my country you have Limousine directed by Jermoe Dassier and Bill Butler as a cinematographer is worth mentioning. The main role in this film was played by Christopher Lambert, best known from the film Highlander.
The animation for children, which I am also co-producing, is broadcast in more than 60 countries around the world. Soon Channel4 will air HBO’s The Border in the UK. Several films and TV series are available in European distribution.
I do not complain about lack of proposals. Their number encourages me and makes me feel absolutely ready for new challenges. That is why I am working on a representation outside Poland and Europe.
And now, just to finish this interview, tell us about your present and future projects. What’s coming in the next weeks/months?
Well, now I devote myself to the creation of a new musical language for The Pact, which as I already mentioned will be broadcasted this fall. Then I am going to focus on the next part of Pitbull. To cut the long story short, it will be about women in the realities of the Polish police.
In addition, I will continue working with the creators of the TV series entitled Second Chance carried out for TVN, one of the most respected broadcasters in Poland. Early spring will mean coming back to HBO with a new season of The Border.
Soon I will also start composing music for the animated feature movie The Flying Bear and The Gang – it is about a group of friends trying to save European legends from cybernetic power of Pixel Cyber.
And that is more or less my plan for the next 8 months. And I promised myself to have a Christmas break this year (laughs)!
That would be nice (laugh). So, Lukasz, thank you very much for your time, and now that your concert is over, you can relax and enjoy the rest of the festival.
Thanks to you for your interest in my music, and I hope you can listen to more of my future works soon.
Meanwhile, you can check my Soundcloud page for some old but good tunes:
We’d like to thank Łukasz Targosz for dedicating his time to this interview with such a short notice, conducted during the Krakow Film Music Festival, to Michał Turnau for his disposition to make it possible, and to the Krakow FMF team for their help.