British composer John Powell began his career in the advertising world writing music for commercials. Growing up in a musical family, you could say it was in his blood and it wasn’t long before he left the jingle world and headed to Los Angeles after being recruited by Hans Zimmer. While there, he worked on titles like The Prince of Egypt and The Road to El Dorado before being groomed for his first big solo outing: Face/Off.
Talk about making an entrance. Powell came out swinging – to match the ballet of bullets and boat chases in the John Woo actioner – but he also gave the film lots of heart by tapping into the emotional connection between Archer and his family. The track ‘Homecoming‘ still carries a lot of weight nearly 25 years later.
Powell has seen a lot in his career. He’s been the animation guy (Robots, Ferdinand, Happy Feet), done lots of sequels (Ice Age, Kung Fu Panda, the Bourne series), developed working relationships with some of the best directors in the business (Doug Liman, George Miller, Paul Greengrass) and has some huge hits to his name (Chicken Run, Shrek, How To Train Your Dragon).
In 2017, Powell began writing the score for Solo: A Star Wars Story along with galactic maestro John Williams. The music is incredibly respectful of Williams’ work on this saga (with Williams himself writing the main themes) but Powell really pluses the experience with big percussion, bright brass, and interesting instruments; it’s lively and very, very fun. In fact, listen to the last three minutes of ‘Into the Maw‘ (or ‘Kessel Run in Less Than 12 Parsecs‘ from the Deluxe Edition) and be treated to a cue that is dizzying, frenetic and an altogether enjoyable mad waltz.
One of my favorite Powell scores is Blue Sky Studios’ Robots because of the amazing palette and the colorful compositions, but across the board, we admire his work because of his tendency to over score the film. That extra oomph makes many, many films resonate and as such, a number of titles on his resume have gone on to be fan favorites.
We spoke with John for an hour and talked about his famous father, his stint playing trombone and viola, the early days with Hans Zimmer, the slew of opportunities he’s had (starting with co-composing giant DreamWorks films) and charting his own course. We also get into some very technical bits about sound and the recording process as well as the Mondo vinyl release of the score to Solo.
So strap yourselves in as we make the jump to lightspeed with John Powell!
And for you fans of vinyl, you can get your copy of SOLO from Mondo – click this link to be taken to the product page. First the first time on vinyl, this limited edition two disc release features amazing new artwork by César Moreno, and is pressed on 2x 180 Gram in a “Hyper Space” color variant.