In Convesration - Andrew Skeet gives us the lowdown on working with Anthony Phillips on the Seventh Heaven album and other projects.
TWR: According to the biographical notes in the booklet to the album, you have certainly been involved with a great many interesting projects and artists. Tell us a little about a few of them and how did you first become interested in music and who are your musical influences?
AS: Well, I started in professional music as a boy singer through my school - we were booked to do all sorts of projects from the relatively high brow at Glyndebourne Opera House to TV commercials for breakfast cereals! At that stage I probably mainly liked Classical music but I was so busy actually playing and singing that I don’t remember obsessing about any music at all until I got my first guitar aged 14. Then it was all about discovering the older bands form the 1960’s and ‘70’s. When I left music college in the 1990’s I put this ll together by working with bands of the time on their brass and string arrangements - Sued, George Michael, The Boo Radleys and other small Indie bands. From that point on it has been, as you say, very eclectic, and expanded to include my own compositional scores for television and orchestrating many film scores for other composers and working with directors like Ridley Scott and Danny Boyle in the process.
TWR: How did you become involved with Anthony, and how does working with him compare to some of the other people you have worked with?
AS: I was booked as an orchestrator to work with Ant on a double album of library music for Atmosphere in 2007 I think it was/ We immediately hit it off from the first ‘phone call and after that project we looked for other opportunities to work together. On a personal level it was and continues to be one of the greatest pleasures of my career working with Ant for reasons both musical and because of his generous spirit and unique sense of humour.
TWR: How did the collaborative process work between the pair of you? Was it a case of working on an idea one of you had or putting the ideas together, together as it were…?
AS: Usually the ideas begin with Ant but they can be anything from just a seven note repeating pattern he has found that he likes, to a fully worked out piano composition that just needs orchestrating out and everything in between. Sometimes he has written effectively a “verse” and I might write a “chorus” and then later I sometimes cannot remember exactly who wrote what which I think is a good sign.
TWR: I know that many of these pieces were designed as library music, how does that process of working to film actually work? Is it easier or harder than working purely on compositions of your own?
AS: Well, Library music is tricky because it is for synchronising to picture as you say, but with no idea what that might be - unlike a score that is commissioned. So you have to tread a fine line and it is harder in a way than just doing your own piece but also perhaps you don’t agonise over it quite as much either.
TWR: Where did the ideas for some of these pieces come from? It is obvious that you both had specific ideas in mind for some of them, and one in particular: Old Sarum Suite, tell me a bit about the story behind that one…
AS: Actually, you would have to ask Ant about that - I did orchestrate but I can’t remember anything about the idea behind it (which was Ant’s). I know it’s awful but I have written or orchestrated several thousand pieces of music and I move on so quickly to new things each time that I forget what was behind some of them.
TWR: Did the orchestrations come first, during or after the piece was composed?
AS: Orchestration after in the case of the Old Sarum Suite if that’ what you mean. The early 2007 material I worked on with Ant was actually pretty complete in terms of compositions and the further we went on working together the more material I started to write or add.
TWR: Whose idea was it to use the City Of Prague Orchestra and Choir and why did you use them instead of an orchestra closer to home?
AS: It was Universal’s decision but I may have suggested it because I have recorded there about fifty times They are good and experienced but it really is a boring question of the ease of buying out the rights of the musicians there and also it is a lot cheaper than recording in London.
TWR: Did being in Prague have any influence on the music? It is a beautiful city after all…
AS: It is very beautiful… I think it did have an influence on the project in a rather intangible way but less because of the beauty per se of Prague, and more because that was just part of the story for the first project I ever worked on with Ant. We had such fun out there, it was inspiring and musically fulfilling and I seemed never to stop smiling, so I think that “vibe” maybe found its way in.
TWR: The album contains a great deal of music, was there anything which either you or Ant would have liked to include on it which there wasn’t time/space to do?
AS: More Ant’s area than mine - he selected the material to go on.
TWR: Are there any further collaborations with Ant in the pipeline and what other projects are you currently working on yourself?
AS: There will be but I am not sure yet what that will be and when. I have just finished writing the score for a three part series on Netflix about a serial killer which has been great actually (also recorded in Prague recently with many of the same musicians). Then In the autumn, I am touring the UK and Europe with the band I play in - The Divine Comedy - we have a new album out called Office Politics.
My thanks to Andrew for giving up so much of his time to answer these questions. I hope you find it interesting.