I thought that a piano teacher was somebody who was going to teach you all that crazy noise I was hearing in my head, how to make that come out of my fingers, but that’s not what piano teachers do. They teach you how to play other people’s music. I didn’t want to play other people’s music!
Everything is shifting all the time: like in the 90s everybody wanted to have an end title song. Now, whenever anybody says, should we have an end title song? I’m just thinking… that’s so last century.
You know that hideous sound we made in Inception? It was a story point in the script. It’s all about what happens if you slow time down. It’s a story point, but it ended up in all of these people’s trailers. Where it’s not a story point, but they’re just like using it to be able to cut from one non sequitur to the other. That’s a bit like those songs. The song has nothing to do with the movie, and it’s a marketing thing.
You know everything about it, as opposed to the way I like working, which is to give you a glimpse at something. I’m not even going to tell you what it is, and I’m just going to invite you in and let you discover it. I’m going to let you be part of this world. Sometimes I’m going to mislead you a little bit, and I’m going to make it all a little scary.
I see Chris, and I can tell he’s making the idea up as he goes. He’s saying “What if I were to send you one page, just describing something, but I won’t tell you what the movie is about. Will you give me one day and write whatever you get from that page?”
I got this beautiful, type-written letter which describes what it meant to be a father. I sat down Sunday morning and I, in turn, in a funny way, wrote a love letter to my son, what it meant to me. I’ve done a lot of movies, but every time I sit down, it’s like blank page. Oh my god, I have no idea what to do.
I finished at around 10:30 p.m. with this really fragile, personal piece and I phoned Chris’ house and his wife answered. He comes over and I play him the thing, finish it and turn around to him and I go “So, what do you think?” He pauses for a second and goes “Suppose I’d better make the movie now!”
Then he starts to talk to me about space. He talks to me about all of these things and I’m like “Hang on a second. I’ve just given you the tiniest, fragile, discreet, little piece of music. What has that got to do with all this ‘epicness’?”
I didn’t work through it, I just took refuge in it, which I didn’t realize. I wouldn’t be in music if this hadn’t happened, because it was two things. It was a complete refuge, to just lose yourself in playing and the other thing was, you know everybody is trying to keep a brave face when tragedy hits.
The only thing that would put a smile on my mom’s face was when she heard me play the piano. I knew that I was being a good boy when I played the piano, and that I could make her day a little brighter. In a funny way, it was sort of helpful to me, because I realized that it wasn’t until The Lion King. My daughter was six-years-old. Weirdly, it was around the same age (as my father passed away). It’s a story about fathers and sons. And you know, the father dying…
The advantage of not having a musical education is that I always have to invent, and I have to write from the heart. I don’t know where else to write from. In music I have to be completely honest. I don’t know how not to be, and I have to bare it all. It’s a bit… complicated because you have to make up your mind, how much you really want people to see you.