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From Hell

Interview with From Hell Composer Trevor Jones

by Kenneth Plume
October 20, 2001

IGN FilmForce interviewer Kenneth Plume recently had an opportunity to talk to composer Trevor Jones. Jones has composed scores for over 60 films in his 22-year career, including Excalibur, The Dark Crystal, Cliffhanger, Dark City, Thirteen Days, and most recently, From Hell. Trevor and Ken discussed much of his career, and you can watch for the full-length interview in the coming weeks.

In today’s segment of Ken’s conversation with Trevor Jones, Jones discusses working with the Hughes brothers and creating the score for From Hell.

Tell me a little about your experience on From Hell.

TREVOR JONES: It was a total blast. Fantastic. Allen and Albert Hughes are probably the most phenomenal producer/director people I’ve ever been involved with. They’re just so refreshing and exciting, and I can’t be more effusive about them. They’re visionary filmmakers. They’re people with their finger on the pulse of exciting moviemaking. Their whole ethos is entertainment and how to entertain an audience. They’re just terrific people to work with. They also introduced me to Absinthe, which is the alcohol drink portrayed in the film.

But that was strictly creative, right . . .

We were very creative. It was amazing. The weird thing is that we would listen to music, and the music that I’d written was so far removed from the music we would play socially—we’d have this wonderful rap and MC stuff, and I was scoring for a large orchestra. But I’d been involved with Allen and Albert for about 3 years prior to actually starting to work on From Hell. They called me and they said they’d like to come to London to meet with me, and they did. We had a social time together, and I was so enraptured of the whole idea of From Hell.

How did the Hughes’ know your work?

These guys said, as kids, their favorite movie was Excalibur—and they’d drawn this huge, almost tapestry, but on paper, of events of one of the battles in Excalibur with knights and swords and blood and armor and all sort of things. When they listened to the video, they said to each other that one day they were going to work with this guy named Trevor Jones, and he was going to score their movie. So I was rather thrilled that, years later—in my dotage—they should track me down and ask me to work on From Hell.

Stylistically, how would you describe the score of the film?

It is a fusion. I use electronics very sparingly. It really was quite a beautiful score to work on because there’s some wonderful opportunities for themes, with the women and so on, but it is a big orchestral score. And hopefully you don’t detect any electronics at all. It’s the closest I’ve gotten so far to being successful with a fusion score, I think. It remains one of my favorite scores, with Thirteen Days. Those are the two albums I’m really proud of having produced. Actually, the album of From Hell seems to have Marilyn Manson’s end credit song right at the start of the album—which is fine, it’s an interesting song—but I think it should really be at the end of the album with the credits. But that’s how the album was put out. I think it’s on Varese/Sarenblade.

Were there any difficulties in writing the score?

Not really, because Allen and I spent a lot of time together in my studio sketching, so everything I had by way of an idea I would put up and do on synth and ensembles, basically, and he was then able to assess what my intentions were with the scene. But these two guys are very, very specific about what they want. They are consummate filmmakers. They knew exactly what they wanted before I even came on the movie. I mean, two guys who do a script 3 years before they hire a composer—they really do their homework and make sure everything is in place. They’re perfectionists, and I really loved working on the movie. It has a fantastic look and feel, and we were very fortunate to be able to use such a fantastic lineup on the picture. Musically, I feel it’s one of my better scores in recent years. I hope people will see it as that.

If there’s one track—one cue—on the soundtrack album that you feel is representative of the score, which is it?

Probably the one after the Marilyn Manson track—the opening title. “In Memoriam”, I think it’s called—or it was when it left me. I think it’s probably the second track on the album. When I sit and listen to it in a continuum, I really enjoy it. It’s an album that I took a lot of care and trouble with, and it’s put together with a lot of love and gratitude. I just feel that it plays very well for me. I don’t know . . . Other people will probably hate it, but it was my best shot . . . What can I tell you? Allen and Albert have talked about a concept album for this movie with Marilyn Manson. I know there’s a market for it, and I know that these people are so brilliant at it that it would be something special. I’m going to send Albert an e-mail tonight and say that. I’ve talked to them about it before, and I’ve been trying to get them into the studio—we’ve even got a studio in Santa Monica that these guys can just go into and work in. But I think with the release of the movie, the next week or so is going to be very difficult for them. Even so, I think that even if they attacked it in the next few weeks, it wouldn’t be late. I’m sure they’d still catch the audience that the movie is after. The Hughes brothers have a great following, and I know that their spin in working with Marilyn Manson on a concept album would be something that people would find really interesting. It’s something that I’m still fighting for these guys to actually get into a studio and do.

I’m assuming you would have no problems working with the Hughes brothers again.

Absolutely none. I would be very lucky—I mean, everybody wants to work with Allen and Albert Hughes. I adore them. They kind of have this protective barrier that they put up—I suppose because they’re highly sensitive, highly creative people—and there’s this image of them that I don’t know how it came into being. Maybe it’s something that they promote. But certainly when you work with them, they’re very intense, creative people who are highly skilled in filmmaking. For me, as someone who’s been in the business for a few years now, I just enjoy young filmmakers who are consummate filmmakers. When guys are terrific at a young age, and you think, “God, they can only get better.” It’s very exciting. If I get a call from them, I would fall over myself trying to answer the phone.

-- donated by Theresa

-- photos added by Zone editors