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Interview: Joe Ng – Music for Gone Shopping

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Gone Shopping finishes its three-week run tomorrow and we close the sliding doors with a Q&A with the film’s music composer, Joe Ng.

Junbin (JB): First of all, how did you land the job as music composer on Gone Shopping?

Joe:
Li-lin was an old acquaintance of mine, and about two years ago, she talked to me about her film Gone Shopping.

Joe NgSoon after she shot three teasers to secure funding for the feature. Alex Oh, my long time collaborator, and I, worked on the music and sound for these teasers, and when the feature came around, we found ourselves in the same position – except now we only have to focus on the music. The sound was now handled by the good people at Yellowbox Studio. And of course now, Li Lin isn’t just an acquaintance anymore.
JB: Walk me through the process of scoring for this film – did the music come after the visuals were produced or…? I understand that usually composers are shown a ‘rough cut’ – was this the case for you?

Joe:
I am not sure how other composers do it, but for me, it starts with the script. From there we, Alex and I, will work out some demos and themes. Li-lin then hears it and adds dialogue, fine-tunes the compositions or even create new ones. Even at the point when the visuals comes to us – if something doesn’t work for her, or for the visuals, we will throw it out. One cannot be precious about these things: Music must serve the film.


JB: How did you come to work with Alex Oh on this, and how was the work distributed amongst the two of you?


Joe:
Together we have worked on more than a dozen projects through the years. Usually I map out the musical direction; we compose together and Alex then does the music arrangement.


JB: How long did the entire process take?

Joe: Usually I will need a bare minimum of two months. Even 2 months is pushing it. For Gone Shopping, due to scheduling issues, we had to complete it in less than two months. We manage to complete it in 6 weeks by slogging nonstop (even on weekends!). I’ve never done anything like that before; it was crazy!


JB: What were the instruments you worked on to compose the tunes?

Joe: Alcohol, voices, handphone recorder, memories, sleep, jogging, guitar, bus rides, rain, finger snapping and a beautiful woman.


JB: Since the film is dubbed as a ‘darkly comical’ one, how do you create this ‘feel’ in your music, especially the tracks that underscore the moments that are more humorous than melancholic?

Joe: This was achieved by the use of irony in the musical phrasings, as well as in the choice of instruments. For Renu’s scenes, she had classical pizzicatos while Ash had dub-reggae guitars. Put these two together over a groovy jazz trio structure, slab on flutes and an oboe and you’ll get a rather delightful yet off-centre musical atmosphere.


JB: What are your inspirations for scoring for this film?

Joe: The solid script!


JB: Off the cuff, list ten composers you are currently listening to/like very much.

Joe: Currently I’m listening to these on repeat on my iPod:
Patrick Wolf
Great Spy Experiment
Blonde Redheads
Sympathy For Lady Vengeance OST
Simian Mobile Disco
My friend’s new songs
Einsturzende Neubaten
Pagan’s unreleased tracks from the late 90s
Compilation of oldies- Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett, Nancy Wilson, etc
Martha Wainwright

Composers that I Like Very Much:
Zbigniew Preisner
Neil Young
Suicide
Arvo Part
Patti Smith
Joe Hisashi
R Sakamoto
Cui Jian
Einsturzende Neubaten
Brian Eno


JB: One last thing: what are your thoughts on Gone Shopping?

Joe: The sound of aircon cold seeking warmth of the heart.

Download the free track titled Epilogue & Endroller in mp3 format here! (Courtesy of Joe Ng).

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