As a part of Bleeding Fingers Music, a joint venture between Hans Zimmer and Extreme Music in Santa Monica CA, Swedish-born Christian Lundberg thrives in a world of analog synths and devices, as a gearhead in the form of a multi-instrumentalist and composer, determined to unveil the machinations of composition, and concentrated on the fundamental components no matter the size or sound.
With degrees in audio engineering and music from UCLA and the Musicians Institute, Christian utilizes his experience to develop truly avant-garde scores and sound design. Most recently he scored the hit TV series Around The World In 80 Days (BBC One), starring David Tennant. He has enhanced the sonic experience of countless other projects including the groundbreaking new Apple TV+ series Earth At Night In Color, the hit crime comedy series Snatch (Crackle), Live PD and the critically acclaimed BBC World Service series 13 Minutes To The Moon (a co-write with Hans Zimmer which won them 2 Webby Awards). In this interview, Lundberg talks about working with Zimmer and his team.
Jason: Could you begin by telling us a little about your backstory? What led you to this career path in scoring?
Christian Lundberg: I was born and raised in Sweden and I was exposed to music growing up. I had piano lessons when I was little but then started playing guitar when I was around 12. That’s when I started to enjoy music.
Jason: Who have been some of your musical inspirations when you were deciding? Music speaks to my language and these guys, or women who started the fire in you.
Christian Lundberg: That’s a two-part question, because growing up I was obsessed with music of all kinds. I think the first albums I remember having were electronic, British, electronic pop music such as Depeche Mode, Howard Jones, Nik Kershaw, artists like that. This is before I started playing guitar and their use of industrial and synthetic sounds and the hybrid elements they had in their production. I didn’t know why I liked it. I was a kid, but funny enough, those elements are still very much part of what I’m obsessed with today. A lot of hardware is in my possession. Since I do a lot of sound design, I use a lot of modular. I’m still very much into some of those guys, today even, but with what I now do for a living, I think Thomas Newman was an enormous influence on me and his work from the ’90s, nineties and early 2000s. His work resonated with me. I think that directed me in wanting to do music for TV and film.
Jason: Most composers would say the late ’70s, late ’80s John Williams was their major inspiration.
Christian Lundberg: I didn’t have the experience when I was a kid and, watching Star Wars or, those big franchise, Williams movies. It came later for me, the drive to make music for visual media.
Jason: I understand as I’m a huge Thomas Newman fan.
Christian Lundberg: Yeah. I mean, who isn’t right? He has reached so many styles of composers like if we don’t mention him, it’s strange almost.
Jason: Who have been some of your mentors along the way, and can you share a story about how they may have affected you?
Christian Lundberg: In more recent years Hans Zimmer has been a mentor and Russell Emanual that runs Extreme Music and Bleeding Fingers. Music has this amazing dial for what’s s**t and what’s good, like the best I’ve ever seen. And that has taught me a lot, how he deals with all the music that goes through Extreme Music and Bleeding Fingers. It’s something that can’t be taught in school, just figuring out how can I make something, but how can I also finish it so that it’s a ready product? He’s been a mentor to me. Working with Hans, he has the resources that he has and the inspiration. That kind of everything that goes on campus there at remote control and bleeding fingers is very inspiring.
Jason: I’ve always been a huge Hans fan, even from way back early when he was doing the African-inspired scores, like Green Card, which I consider being one of the most charming scores ever.
Christian Lundberg: That’s right. Green Card, right? That’s the thing about Hans. He does these big hybrid action scores, but there’s a whole other side to it. That side can be super melodic and super…almost rooted in pop music a bit…very hooky. They’re just tunes, which is where he came from as well.
Jason: I fell in love with him when he was doing early ’90s stuff. Yeah. The African-inspired stuff and the big stuff too. Like he’d do a film such as Thelma & Louise and Backdraft in the same month and both are so incredibly breathtaking. I still listen to them all the time. When you were coming up in school, was he someone that everybody knew of or was it more if you were really into film music? Would you know who he was?
Christian Lundberg: I think at the time you had to be into film music. I think it wasn’t until The Lion King period and between Gladiator, people were like taking note, like they’d see his name and go ‘okay, that guy,’ but if you’re not a musician or if you’re not a composer, you really don’t know much about it. I guess now, with Hans, because of these live performances that he does, a lot of the young generation through generation basically went to see those shows and I’m like, ‘oh, I recognize that song that was from Pirates of the Caribbean or whatever.
Jason: How did your collaboration with Hans and Beeding Fingers, which is a glorious name. I’d like to know how that came about?
Christian Lundberg: Well, I had been working, writing music for visual media, including some film work. I did independent projects, and I made most of my income from writing music for commercials. I was looking for a way to get into placement for TV and a good friend of mine introduced me to Russell and we hit it off. I started writing at the time for Extreme Music, and this is right when Bleeding Fingers first got started. I got on there as a staff composer and I got a few opportunities to work with Hans. One of them, we did the BBC 13 minute podcast 13 Minutes To The Moon, which turned out to be one of the most listened to podcasts ever. It was about the moon landing and I did two seasons of it and we did the theme package together. That was the first time that I worked with him. There’s so much going on in his world all the time. Yeah, I don’t know how he’s able to come up with the output that he has, but a lot of it has to do with these side collaborations he does.
Jason: Do you like to read scripts before exploring musical ideas or do you prefer to see a movie or television project once it’s all put together?
Christian Lundberg: Ideally for me, but this is usually not the case, is that I get the script and I get maybe some stills from the film shoots. This happened on 80 Days when I realized I didn’t remember the book. I read the scripts. I think, all I had was some still shots from the location shoots. I started writing themes. I just kept those on stills on a monitor. A few lines from the script made sense to me. It gave me some guidance what I felt that character theme should be. What’s great about that is that you are not bound by what’s going on in the picture. You’re not trying to lock yourself into something that already exists.
Jason: What knowledge or insights have you discovered, like working with this team?
Christian Lundberg: one thing I wanted to answer from your last question as well, was that the lead editor, Adam Bossman, and I’ve never worked this way, it was a true luxury where I started writing to the scripts and pictures I had been sent them over. By the time Adam started editing, I would say over 50% of the episodes came back with my music in it, which was wonderful. Most times’ editors will put in Hans’s music from Inception or Interstellar in the temp, and then they’re like, hey, just replace this, which is an uphill battle from the start. If you can get some music in there and those early cuts before they send it to you, that’s phenomenal and also helps with a cohesive sound for their early cuts when they try to sell it to whatever the network is, the people with the money.
Jason: Many composers, like John Williams being the obvious example here, work alone on his piano. Do you believe in that method or is it more like you prefer the collaborative process? Is that more rewarding for you?
Christian Lundberg: I think when you compose, you’re not sitting two people in a room to come up with an idea. I come from playing in bands and stuff, and then you might sit a few people in a room and work on ideas, but I would say for 90% of us, it starts out by ourselves in a room. Once you have an idea, then it might become a collaborative effort. With music, I think that’s hard, that kind of relationship between close relationship score producers and the creative direction is, I think is very helpful.
Jason: What was the experience of working Around the World in 80 Days like for you?
Christian Lundberg: Looking back at it now, I can’t say that it was easy the whole way around, even with the early cuts that I got, they didn’t send them to me until after I started writing but they had done a lot of work on them, so they looked great by the time they got to me and I felt the acting, was phenomenal. It was inspiring from my background, what I think the client wanted as far as a palette of sound for the show was perfect. I mean, I use a lot of orchestras when I compose, but I always, if I can, we’ll play my guitar, and, and this score became what, like, what good at just kind of ended up happening is a thing that works for the show. So that was wonderful.
Jason: Just wondering what you would consider it to be a perfectly scored movie?
Christian Lundberg: That’s a good question. Let’s see. I mean, when we’re talking about these, big-budget, Thomas Newman or, James Horner or someone like that, it’s not that hard to pick quite a few, I think A Beautiful Mind. Like if you don’t get that connection with the music and that story, I think there’s just something wrong with you. I think that’s one of my favourite films where the music does the job perfectly, where even the soundtrack can stand on its own. You can listen to it without the film, but it also works perfectly in the film without over-scoring it. There’s room for the music to be majestic and romantic in that film.
Jason: If you just tell me if you have any interesting, exciting projects coming up that you’re working upon working on upon,
Christian Lundberg: I did a show called Earth At Night In Color for Apple TV+ that led straight into Around the World in 80 Days. A lot of my weeks were 60, 70, 80-hour weeks for almost two years. Right now I’m putting together a theme and a theme package for a crime show and I’m doing some pitching on some themes for a Natural History documentary series. And, and I have some other very cool things coming up, but I can’t talk about them yet.
Jason: What would you like audiences to feel when they hear your music?
Christian Lundberg: Well, if they can take away goosebumps, that’d be a plus. What’s the word I’m looking for? Just that instinctual feeling of, if you can get that from someone when you play them a piece of music, I think that’s the most wonderful thing. And, obviously, it’s different if you’re writing an action piece of music or an emotional piece of music, or just a tune, a piece of music for something else. I think if you can make that connection with someone, then that’s always the goal.
To learn more about Christian Lundberg visit https://christianlundberg.com/home