Tim Burton meets James Bond meets Nine Inch Nails is what we think of when listening to composer Antriksh Bali’s track, Inside the Palau. Bali’s use of minimalism and industrial sounds bring haunting, yet hip, tunes. His creations show knowledge of music, from legato to staccato, and passion for the craft. Follow along to learn more about the world of making music for horror films and this worthy person behind the mask.
With all the creative outlets available to you, why compose music?
My connection to music goes back to when I was a child. I started learning classical piano when I was 10. Over time, my connection to music helped me to process a lot of things in life I would find hard or difficult to deal with.
Being an introvert, I often keep a lot of things to myself and keep emotions bottled up for really long periods of time. When I started taking piano lessons, I found a medium of expression I could pour my feelings into. It felt rewarding and made it easier to cope with the hustle and bustle of daily life. This is the reason I compose music, it keeps me sane. More importantly, helps me to have a purpose and goals to work toward in life.
I’m an artist with a morbid curiosity and I have always liked to explore crevices and cracks of the human psyche which people tend to run away from. I started watching a lot of horror movies when I was a teenager. I’ve been a self-confessed ‘closet-goth’ ever since. As a composer, most projects I have worked on have horror or gothic influences.
What pushes me as a composer toward this genre, is it lends itself to experimentation and unconventional ways of thinking about music. Moreover, the dark and scary is what attracts me because I’ve always seen horror as self-exploration. If you don’t really understand what scares you, how are you going to find out what you love?
Tell us about your creation process.
Typically, it starts with a discussion with the director or filmmaker about what kind of music they’re looking for to include in their film. They usually send a copy of the script or a ‘picture lock’, which is a finished copy of the film without a music score. Usually, a spotting session follows, where the discussion continues about which places the filmmaker might need music or score in their film. This is followed by a first draft of the score, which is either followed by a few edits, or requests for changes. Eventually, the finalization of the score occurs.
Later on, I often try to find spots in the film where there might be clues to what the music is supposed to be like. Perhaps I notice a ticking clock or faint background tones of noise or feedback, which I then address. Sometimes the scenes are dialog heavy, which brings challenges. The music often follows the rhythm and pacing of the film, which also brings it’s own challenges. Sometimes the music gets faster or slower, depending on what the ‘plot-curve’ of the film may be.
I often see making music as a puzzle to be solved; there are a million different ways to solve a puzzle. In horror movies, I feel that a lot of times the stories might be the same, but how they’re told always keeps changing, which is quite exciting. I like to try everything that comes into my head and it’s a pretty wild ride!
Which piece are you most proud of, and why?
One piece I’m really proud of is a modified, heavily modulated, creepy version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, which I created for a short film I did some time back called Chintamani. The reason I’m most proud of it is because it presented me with a unique challenge. On one hand, it had to be scary enough to grab and grasp them suddenly, but on the other hand, it had to complement the singing happening in and around the scene in an early cut of the film.
How do you turn a nursery rhyme into something more deviant and dark, yet playful enough to keep people interested? I had to go through several revisions with the filmmakers before the entire score was finalized. While I think I might have modulated it to the point of it eventually sounding like the furthest thing from the original nursery rhyme, it was really cool to approach a happy song and to turn into something terrifyingly dark. That’s what I live for!
List some of your favorite composers or pieces and tell how your work has been influenced by them.
Some of my favorite composers/influences would be: Bernard Herrmann and his score for Vertigo (1958), The Haxan Cloak’s album, Excavation, featuring the song Mara, and Nine Inch Nails. I think Bernard Herrmann was one of the pioneers of incorporating elements of dissonance into orchestral scores. His work on all the Hitchcock films have always been a major source of inspiration.
The Haxan Cloak album in particular was interesting to me because I felt the concept of minimalism was used to create some truly terrifying soundscapes.
A lot of my music incorporates electronic, or industrial, music with orchestral elements, and NIN was the band that first got me into industrial music, so they’ve always been a source of inspiration too.
The Shining (1980) score by Wendy Carlos has also been a huge source of inspiration because synths play a major part in it. It’s always been a goal I work toward, to incorporate the sound of synths into my work.
Where can we find your work?
My composing work can be found on my website, and my music can be found at any of the following places:
You can find and follow me and my achievements at any of the following places:
What do you think of our interview? Who should we interview next? Check out some of our other interviews with Horror Artist John Clayton, or Horror Comic Author Jesse James Baer. Drop us a hint in the comments below or find us at the following places: