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Interview with score mixer and producer Gareth Cousins (Gravity, Suicide Squad)
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Interview with score mixer and producer Gareth Cousins (Gravity, Suicide Squad)

Over his 30-year career, award-winning British engineer and producer Gareth Cousins has been a part of some of the most groundbreaking film music in recent history, including the BAFTA and Academy Award-winning score for Gravity (2013), and scores for such blockbuster titles as Baby Driver (2017), Suicide Squad (2016), American Assassin (2017) and Notting Hill (1999).

What inspired you to become a Producer and Composer?

I was always fascinated by the concept of recording music, and how sound can be manipulated as part of the recording process. Whilst still at school I built a small microphone mixer, really just so I could record my band. It became clear very quickly that I was more interested in the arts of recording, producing and composing music than I was in performing it.


What are some of your earliest influences?

I first became aware of what might be possible in music production through the music of The Beatles. From there I listened to a lot of progressive rock, Genesis in particular, and artistes such as Kate Bush. I grew up in the seventies, so there was a huge variety of new music styles all coming through at the time - punk, prog, rock, new wave, disco, reggae, ska, electronic music, and of course film music all had some very important formative years during that time, and I feel lucky to have heard all this new music as it was being released.


What would you say have been some of the biggest technological advances in recent years and how have they helped your work?

The ability to complete instantly recallable, highly complex film mixes 'in the box’, at a higher quality standard than was achievable even in the best commercial mix rooms prior to computer based mixing, has been invaluable to me.


How have you integrated the Apogee Symphony I/O Mk II into your workflow?

It is the main hub of the studio for i/o and controls my 5.1 monitoring. The sound quality of the a/d and d/a is superb, so all recording and monitoring now passes through that.

There was a blurring of boundaries (on Gravity) between the score and sound design, and I was encouraged as part of the music production team to push for something original, innovative and immersive at every stage of my involvement.

Could you discuss some your most rewarding works and the reasons why?

I have been very fortunate to have developed a great working relationship with the composer Steve Price. I have mixed (and in many cases recorded) all of his film scores, for which he has been nominated for a Grammy, won two Baftas and an Oscar. The most obvious film score to mention would be Gravity, as it is one of the first of his film scores that we worked on together. It was an incredibly rewarding project - Steve was at all times (at the request of the director) striving for something different, both in his composition and in terms of the sound. There was a blurring of boundaries between the score and sound design, and I was encouraged as part of the music production team to push for something original, innovative and immersive at every stage of my involvement. Ultimately I won a Cinema Audio Society award for Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for a Motion Picture, so it was an amazing time for me - to be given the opportunity to try to help create something original, and then be recognised by my peers for that work.


Do you have a project that you are most proud of?

Apart from Gravity, I was very pleased with the score for The Hunt (which won a Bafta). I was very proud of recording and mixing the Chesney Hawkes album 'Buddy’s Song' which resulted in the single 'The One And Onl'y as it happened very early in my career, and I still think the single stands up well now, over 25 years later.

Always try to be original, no one will remember or respect you for copying someone else’s style, however good at it you may be. And always remember, everyone is replaceable. Never stop reading and never stop listening.

Would you be willing to share any difficult lessons you have learned?

The most obvious one is that there are no shortcuts; you have to to put in time and effort into every project you do. Believe in your own opinion - if you don’t like what you’re doing you can’t expect anyone else to. Always try to be original, no one will remember or respect you for copying someone else’s style, however good at it you may be. And always remember, everyone is replaceable. Never stop reading and never stop listening.


What advice would you give somebody looking to become a professional Producer or Composer?

Are you sure you want to do that? It won’t happen overnight. Be prepared to put in the time and effort it will take to learn the skills you will need, and make sure you spend as much time as possible in the company of people who are good at those skills.


If you could work with anybody who would it be?

When I first started in the business I had three artistes I wanted to work with. I was very lucky to work with the first, Kate Bush, early in my career as an assistant engineer at Abbey Road. Later on I had the opportunity to work a fair bit as a recording engineer with Phil Collins, who was also on the list. I’m afraid the third artist has eluded me, but I would still love to work with Peter Gabriel. Hopefully that will happen at some point!


What are your plans for the rest of 2018 and beyond?

I am currently mixing the score for an 8-part landmark documentary series of films, which will take me into 2019. I am also in the middle of a run of albums for the Royal Shakespeare Company and have just completed a project with Dame Evelyn Glennie and Dave Price, producing the album of their score for Troilus and Cressida, which was a fascinating experience. Into 2019, I hope to spend a little more time composing, if the right opportunity comes along. Other than that I look forward continuing into next year working on new film music and album projects.

Thanks to Gareth for answering our questions. You can find out more about Gareth Cousins at www.garethcousins.com.

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