COMPOSER FOR FILM, TELEVISION AND COMMERCIALS
Composer for Features, Television, and Commercials.
Lasse Elkjaer is a Los Angeles based Danish composer, orchestrator, song producer, and multi-instrumentalist (guitar, bass, piano, violin, guitarviol, world percussion, amongst others) with over 20 years’ experience in the industry, and a resume of over 70 films. Elkjaer was recently awarded for his score for the movie Sticks (2018), a gothic scare ride where Elkjaer worked with Hollywood cellist Tina Guo, whose cello can be heard frequently on scores by Hans Zimmer, such as The Lion King (2019).
Elkjaer is also a longtime collaborator of five-time Emmy winning composer Jacob Groth, Dead Man Down (2013), The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009) and Golden Globe-nominated composer Christopher Young, Spiderman 3 (2007), Swordfish (2001), and Hellraiser (1987).
Since moving to LA in 2013, Elkjaer has worked on movies such as Dead Man Down (2013), Bad Santa 2 (2016), and the Chinese epic block buster Monkey King 2 (2016). Elkjaer also did additional arrangements for the suite "Suite Dreams," with music composed by Christopher Young, from the feature film A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 - Freddy's revenge (1985). The suite was released through Varèse Sarabande Records, and was part of the massive 8 CD box set of the "A Nightmare On Elm Street" series (2015). Elkjaer’s TV credits include NBC supernatural TV series Midnight, Texas (2017-2018), and Netflix TV series Lost In Space (2018-). Recent projects include working as a suite arranger on the world premiere of the Drag Me to Hell suite, composed by Christopher Young, and performed by the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra, at Fimucité’s “My Favorite Fears” concert in Tenerife, Spain, When it Strikes (2019), which premiered at the Nordic International Film Festival in New York, and Viking Blood (2019), a US/DK feature film currently distributed on all major streaming platforms worldwide.
2019 was a very prolific year for Lasse Eljkaer who added two feaure film scores to his film credit list, and was selected as winning composer for the Live Score Music Festival in Los Angeles, performed by the Helix Collective Ensemble at the Barnsdall Theater in Hollywood. Elkjaer’s work for the horror film Sticks (2018) was selected for the Fulbright Film Festival at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles. Recently, he completed music for an educational animation series by ClassDojo with tens of millions of viewers worldwide. Elkjaer just started a series of lectures with Industry Club for Film and Media Composers in Denmark (BFM), and is currently working on releasing his back catalog of film scores.
"Sticks has an extremely exciting soundtrack, where both sound and music carry the horror to the point of excellence." Filmkraft 2018 (DK)
Five-time Emmy winning Danish composer Jacob Groth, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009), brought me onboard to do music arrangements for his TV series Midnight, Texas. Midnight, Texas is an American supernatural drama broadcast on NBC, and based on the book series by the same title, by author Charlaine Harris, who also wrote The Southern Vampire Mysteries, the series of novels that the True Blood TV series is based on.
FABLE is the pitch I wrote for a gothic horror film. I chose to work with the Budapest Art Orchestra, and record with an ensemble of 60 players. I wanted a dense sound, with 4 horns, a large string section, and woodwinds. FABLE embraces both the epic and grueling, but also the romantic and ominous. Continuing the tradition of recording scores with a live orchestra
My love story with horror goes back to the 80s, when I as a kid in the middle of the VHS boom, watched Hitchcock’s The Birds for the first time, and then spent entire weekends for several years, devouring horror movies. The first music that was played in my car, was a soundtrack by Golden Globe-nominated composer Christopher Young: the epic, yet romantic and ominous soundtrack to Clive Barker's supernatural horror feature Hellraiser (1987). When I moved to Los Angeles, I was incredibly honored to meet Christopher Young, who eventually became my mentor. I spent several formative years working with, and learning from Christopher Young. This Academy Originals video gives a unique insight into how Christopher Young worked with me and the rest of his team, from original idea to final composition.
As a fan of the score for the 80s American slasher Freddy's Revenge (1985), and growing up with the Elm Street movies, it was a special treat to work in close collaboration with film composer Christopher Young, using original recordings and previously unreleased cues. I did additional arrangements on the suite "Suite Dreams,” which consists of music from the feature film A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 - Freddy's Revenge (1985). The suite was released through Varèse Sarabande Records, as a part of the massive 8 CD deluxe package box set of the "A Nightmare On Elm Street" series (2015), and released on a limited edition of 2000 copies.
The 50-odd minute long, zombie action/horror film Opstandelsen (2010), quickly became a resume-building passion project of mine. We are talking about ultra low budget, and generally unexperienced cast and crew, but we were all very committed and respected the Director’s vision for the horror in the movie. Even though I feel that this little gem belongs to the past, it needs to be mentioned, because it led to me being admitted to the Danish Conservatory to study film composition, and eventually meet film composer Jacob Groth, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009), who hired me as his orchestrator for several projects. Opstandelsen also brought me to the United States, to take part in the Chicago Horror Film Festival, which encouraged me to move to Los Angeles. Interesting fact, is that I recently found several online reviews for Opstandelsen, and learned that the movie has gathered momentum and status as a hidden indy-horror gem.
Before starting out my career as a film composer, I spent several years playing in rock and instrumental prog metal bands. This caught the attention of Danish genre film director Shaky González, Det grå guld (2013), Angel of the Night (1998) who commissioned me to write the music for teasers, acting as pitches for two of his fantasy horror feature film projects, Demon Slayer (2011), and the supernatural Bollywood love story Rakshasa (2010). Even though the features never got into production, the teasers managed to tour major genre film festivals in Denmark, and act as a fun throwback to the synth and 80s guitar driven Grindhouse days.
Q: Name 10 classic must-see horror movies
The Exorcist (1973), TCM (1974), Alien (1979), Cannibal Holocaust (1980), An American Werewolf in London (1981), Poltergeist (1982), The Thing (1982), The Entity (1983), The Fly (1986), The Gate (1987)
28 Days Later (2002), The Hills Have Eyes (2006), Cloverfield (2008), Trollhunter (2010), The Cabin in the Woods (2011), The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016), Train to Busan (2016), It (2017), Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019), Midsommar (2019)
Q: Which horror movies did you grow up watching?
I primarily grew up with horror movies from the 80s, 70s and also a bit from the 60s. I recall a lot of Hitchcock as a starting point, which grew into movies like Carrie (1976), The Omen (1976), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), Cujo (1983) and then it just took off from then. Mostly American horror till we got satellite TV in the 90s, which opened up a whole new world to international movies, especially from Italy and Japan.
Q: What is your experience writing for horror?
Early on in my career, I did an experimental low budget horror movie Opstandelsen (2010) and a handful of short movies, with horror elements to them. When I moved to Los Angeles, I began to work for film composer Christopher Young (Hellraiser (1987), Drag Me To Hell (2009), Sinister (2012), Pet Cemetery (2019) as Lead Assistant, which got me involved in a string of genre related projects, with emphasis on horror. I have done music arrangements on the supernatural drama television series Midnight, Texas which got broadcast on NBC. I recently won an award for my score for the Danish horror short movie Sticks (2018), and then I would love to release an instrumental album, with suites based on horror soundtracks l composed.
Q: What are the most valuable lessons you learned working with Christopher Young?
To make sure to organize yourself, create a solid team around you, and care about the music you write.
Q: How did you feel, as a fan of the horror genre, going into scoring your first horror project?
It was quite an experimental film, so it was a bit hard to prepare myself for it. But I helped out quite a bit with the production. So when I got to the actual scoring process, I was familiar with everyone, and just continued with the same helpful attitude, as we all had on set.
Q: Has horror always been something you seek out?
Since moving to Los Angeles, it has definitley been very high on my list, and something I’ve actively been seeking out as a composer. As a moviegoer, it’s been with me since I was a kid, and as a teenager I plowed through most of Stephen King’s books; this before I replaced them with orchestra scores and music theory books. Now I enjoy following Tom Savini and Rick Baker on Instagram, and checking out their artwork. I’m a fan!
Q: When starting out as a composer, were you specifically looking out for horror movies?
Based on the fact that I was located in Scandinavia, where the majority of the film projects is drama, I then mostly scored Scandinavian dramas. But whenever I got offered a horror related project, or a drama with psychological horror aspects to it, I was always very interested.
Q: What is it about horror, that’s exciting for you as a composer?
It’s many times a multilayered genre, where you as a composer really are able to express yourself in exciting and untraditional ways. You can go from playing tender melodies, to pretty much smashing the instrument, and it’s still valid as music. Then I’m also just a simple fan of the genre, and have a long list of musical sounds and concepts, I’m very interested in committing to picture.
Q: Do you feel horror gives you the chance to experiment, more than other genres?
There are of course also other movie genres, that give you the space to experiment and express yourself in unique ways. But genre movies have a tendency to leave more room for sonic insanity than others.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about, how you experimented with the mellotron, on your score to the film Between Heaven & Hell (2015)
The Mellotron is maybe mostly famous for being used on the Beatles’ song Strawberry Fields Forever, but I decided to use it in a slight different way, and got all these low pitched wobbly drones out of it. It’s an analog instrument, so you have a chance to get a lot of unpredictable and unique sounds out of it, which were perfect for the high tension scenes in the film. It’s a great instrument rarely used in film music, but definitely worth trying out to add something extra.
Q: When you worked with Tina Guo on Sticks, did you do any experiments with her cello?
I love to pair up instruments, and create different kinds of colors. In the case of the End Credits for Sticks, I had Tina’s very expressive cello playing in unison with a voice that was panning around the cello melody. I also pitched her cello down several octaves and processed it in different ways, to create the sound of the monster.
Q: Who is your favorite horror director, and why?
I think it’s undeniable to say, that when William Friedkin directed The Exorcist (1973), he then created a stroke of genius.
Q: Are there horror subgenres you prefer?
I grew up with the tales by the Grimm Brothers, so horror fairytales are something I really love. It’s always fascinating to discover horror tales from all over the world. Japan, Russia, Germany, and Italy they all have some very fascinating stories.
Q How closely do you work with the directors, to get a feel for the music?
Creative space can be good, but opinions that lead towards the actual musical point, are extremely valuable. Based on conversations, and possible listening sessions, I like to be able to prepare a showcase, and then we together can massage the music, and iron out the edges. If the director is hands on, and involved in every step of the creation of the music, then we might risk losing the “ears of the audience.” I create that, when I have time to get away from the music, and listen to it with fresh ears. But that’s where I usually am using the director. When you listen to a piece of music for the first time, usually oddities stick out way more, than if you’ve been included in the creative process.
Q: What is the process of embarking on a new movie, and what do you feel is important to prioritize?
I usually say, that it all starts with a conversation. So to have a bit of time, to walk through the project and get to know each other, can be very valuable. Sometimes it takes a bit of time to find each other, sometimes you have chemistry right away, and sometimes, you already have a relationship going on you are able to build on. I’m really fond of fully understanding the emotional core of the film, and maybe listening to some music together. Maybe I already wrote some music in advance we can have a conversation about. In all, it can be good to go through some kind of process together, before I start writing the actual music. Then it’s nice to have some creative space, but always very eager to share, and discover how we can push concepts even further. But an overall priority is for me to understand what I’m dealing with!
Q: Does it happen that you write the music before watching the movie?
If the movie is very heavy on themes, I like to get a head start on that. The same is if the movie needs unique musical colors and soundscapes.
Q: Which sample libraries do you use, and do you create your own samples? Do you have a secret sample library, that you created yourself?
Q: What determines if you’re going to use live musicians or not?
Usually all the scores I compose, have some sort of live instruments in them, except for those who are purely synthesizer based. One or just a couple of live instruments can make a huge difference, and make your sampled orchestration live up in a more realistic way. But it all comes down to a conversation with the director, and maybe also a bit of experimentation, to hear what really is needed.
Q: What is the typical day in the life of a composer, and how long does it take to write a score for a feature film?
My day has always been prepped in advance, so I know exactly how many minutes I need to write, and what I need to start my day with. I divide my day up in three sections and in the first and last, I do the majority of the writing. The block in-between is open for meetings, working with my assistants and practical chores.
Usually I get between 1 month, to 3 months to do a feature film score. That said, some productions drag on so I get more time, and with some, I am able to write music before starting the actual scoring process to picture. I prefer to know about the given project, as early as possible, so I can begin to live with the movie in my head for a while before writing the first note.
Q: How was it to write the score for Sticks (2018), pretty much being a silent movie, with no dialog and only with support from sound effects?
It was very much about figuring out the dynamics in the score, and make sure to make it breathe, and give space to the right moments. But it was also agreed that we wanted the music to play a primary role, and we even had the voice of the monster produced by a musical instrument.
Q: Given your past as a guitarist, do you get asked to include a lot of guitar or rock sounds to your scores?
I have primarily been working on classical instrumented scores, but most people know I can play the guitar, so they do not hesitate to ask if a guitar sound is needed. I usually end up doing some kind of hybrid score, when I’m asked to do a guitar oriented score.
Q: Let’s talk about the teaser for Rakshsa, a Bollywood horror musical. Can you elaborate what you were asked to do, and what your reaction was, to working on a Bollywood project?
I was very excited to do the project, and especially because I got in touch with some great singers for the project. I have a background in writing musical theater songs, and I have been watching my share of Bollywood movies, so it was pretty interesting to do this. The director asked me to write a couple of songs, before they began the actual filming, and explained the premise of the genre they wanted to achieve. So when I got the actual footage, I already had been writing quite a bit of material.
Q: What can a composer do, to make the life of a director easier, and what can a director do, to make life easier for a composer?
For both parties, it really helps to be as organized as possible, and be able to speak openly about opinions. But most important, is for the composer to make sure to listen with both ears, understand the director’s vision fully, and meet his/her deadlines. It’s appreciated if the director can give some creative space to the composer, and then it’s just about making sure to have some good fun together.