LONDON — Simon Boswell, who takes part in Raindance Film Festival’s In Conversation event on Friday Oct. 2, has been composing for film since 1985. Although his early work mainly comprised international horror and fantasy projects (notably Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 1989 cult classic “Santa Sangre”), Boswell wasted no time in diversifying, branching out in the early 1990s with Danny Boyle’s home-grown black comedy “Shallow Grave.” Since then, the London-based composer, now 58, has worked in romcoms, comedies and serial TV drama, learning, perhaps more than anything else, that the old maxim “less mean more” is definitely true of film scoring. “You have to understand that the director, the producer, the actors, me and everyone else, we’re all making a delicate sandwich,” he laughs. “And sometimes music may just be a leaf of lettuce rather than a big chunk of meat.”
You’re very prolific. When you started, did you realize that film composing would become a career?
I had absolutely no idea at all. Obviously I was aware of music in film, but I had no interest in being a film composer. It all came as a bit of a shock. I’d been in bands and I was working as a record producer in Italy, in Rome, where I was introduced to film director Dario Argento, who’d seen my band play. It was his idea. He just said, ‘Look, I’m doing this film, “Phenomena,” with the two guys from my band Goblin. It’s too much for them — would you work with them?’ I said, ‘Yeah, sure.’ I had absolutely no idea what to do or how to do it.
So you were thrown in at the deep end?
I was indeed. Fortunately, the first directors I worked with were very open to doing things in a new way, or in a less conventional way. I mean, Argento was completely into heavy metal music, which I never really liked. I tried to persuade him to use more British Goth music! But as for my stuff, it was a weird hybrid of early synthesizers and guitars. I’m very embarrassed by some of it when I listen to it now, but I’m also proud of it, because it does sound fresh.
How did it become a career?
It was definitely through word of mouth in Italy. There was a very thriving Italian film industry in the 80s, which there wasn’t in the UK. So I did a film for Dario Argento, then Dario was producing a movie for Lamberto Bava — son of Mario Bava, the famous horror director — and I worked on that. Then I did a film with Dario’s assistant director, Michele Soavi [1987’s “Stage Fright: Aquarius”], and it just went on like that. But what was strange was, “Phenomena” was the only movie I actually did in Rome. Early on, I’d fly out, meet the director in the cutting room — “Santa Sangre,” Alejandro Jodorowsky’s film, was a good example of this — and talk through the film, and they’d give me a VHS. I’d take it back to London, then bring it back and show them where the music went. Or just post it back…