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Esteu aquí: Inici Magazine Interview with Zacarías Martínez de la Riva, 2018’s Lifetime Award

Interview with Zacarías Martínez de la Riva, 2018’s Lifetime Award

Barcelona, 1972

This year, Animac 2018’s Lifetime Award goes to a musical goldsmith, as this is the main theme starring our present edition: the composer Zacarías Martínez de la Riva. His exemplary career busts the myth that an artistic path always comes by vocation or is something innate. If anything, it illustrates that one can always forge their own path. Unlike other composers, De la Riva was about to become a telecommunications engineer, but the twists and turns of life took him to Boston, where he studied a double degree in Composition and Soundtrack at the Berklee College of Music.

De la Riva has always had a special predilection for genre films and the animated medium. In 2004, he wrote the score of Tadeo Jones’ first short film, directed by Enrique Gato and awarded with a Goya. From 2006 and on, he initiated many fruitful collaborations: with producer Elías Querejeta to score his documentaries, and with genre directors Carles Torrens, Manuel Carballo, and Gabe Ibáñez – with whom he’ll continue to work side by side in many projects.

The animated feature films Snowflake, the White Gorilla (2011) and Un gallo con muchos huevos (2015) include his soundtrack work, but De la Riva is an indispensable key member of the Tadeo Jones franchise: he composed the soundtracks for the two feature films “Tad, the Lost Explorer” (2012) and Tad the Lost Explorer and the Secret of King Midas (2017), as well as all the multi-awarded short films stemming from the character.

Animac Magazine: Thank you very much for being here with us today.

Zacarías Martínez de la Riva: It’s my pleasure – thanks to you guys.

AM: We’re really curious about your origins. Where does your passion for music come from? Your bio tells that you were studying to become a civil engineer! Was music a late discovery or a dormant wish?

ZMR: It is a curious turn indeed. I really didn’t take music seriously until… I started studying telecommunications engineering. During that first year, a family misfortune happened – my sister passed away in a motorcycle accident – and that made me want to reconsider my life path. It’s true that music was always with me since I was a kid: I used to play the piano, I took some musical theory classes, I composed some pieces… I was a self-taught person. But I always considered it a hobby, I was never truly serious about it. And during that freshman year, I realized I didn’t like at all what I was doing. What I always liked and still like is making music – and I love films as well!

AM: What brought you to Boston to study composition and soundtracks?

ZMR: When I left college I went to Barcelona’s Musician Workshop, and there I met a teacher who had studied at Berklee’s College of Music, in Boston, and made me aware there was a film soundtrack degree. Was that possible? Yes indeed, right there you were taught a bunch of tools to compose music for the screen. And I left. Four months later, I was in Boston. I wasn’t admitted because I wasn’t skilled enough in harmony, music theory… I knew very little! [laughs] I was persistent and, in the end, I got them to admit me.

AM: After that, you went back home and started working with many directors. In fact, your work as a composer tends to gravitate around genre films (and you’ve collaborated with many interesting, young directors like Carles Torrens or Gabe Ibáñez). Do you have a special preference for genre films? Which genres allow you to be more playful or expressive?

AMR: My work for horror films started by chance. When I was back from Berklee, my first contact with the industry happened thanks to a bunch of short film I scored for a friend of mine, Ibón Cormenzana, and I also worked on his first feature film, Jaizkibel (2000). After that, I worked on a horror film called La Monja (2005), by Filmax. In fact, I also contributed to the score of Filmax’s big animated feature, El Cid (2003). I was getting known as a film composer thanks to that, and I was offered other Filmax projects under their Fantastic Factory seal. Horror is a film genre that I love to explore because of what you suggested, precisely: it’s so expressive. It offers you the chance to experiment with many sounds and timbres, it gives you the challenge of how to build up tension in a brand new way…

AM: So it was El Cid the film that lead you to horror, and later it all goes full circle and you come back to the animated medium with Tadeo Jones. How did your professional relationship with Enrique Gato come about?

ZMR: Tadeo’s short film is another odd story. I was offered the job because the previous composer – Roque Baños – couldn’t take charge of the soundtrack. And he recommended me. The producers came to me and that’s how our fruitful collaboration began: I scored the soundtrack of all three short films and both feature films – the whole of Tadeo Jones’s franchise. And I owe all of it to Roque.

AM: Do you believe animation has the same expressive potential as horror? What’s special or unique about animation for a composer?

ZMR: Animation has a lot to offer, especially with films like Tadeo Jones, and it gives me the chance to compose big & orchestral adventure music, so epic and dramatic at the same time. And the Spanish industry doesn’t offer many feature films like these. Besides, my childhood influences are precisely soundtracks of that kind, like the work of John Williams. So, animation has granted me that wish.

AM: How’s your creative process like? Do you start with a main theme or do you work around the characters and their leitmotifs first?

ZMR: It depends on the project, every film is a different experience. What I usually do is to watch the film first, even if it’s a rough, unfinished cut. I don’t usually read the script because it conjures a different film in my head that’s far from the actual result. Its thanks to that cut that I get inspired and start working on a series of leitmotifs. Musical motifs that I play with my piano and then use in the film. There are around twelve to fifteen leitmotifs in Tadeo Jones: one for Tadeo, another one for Sara, or Paititi, or the villain and sidekicks… They’re tools I use to then slowly build the soundtrack.

AM: That’s all! Thank you so much for your time!


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