Interview with composer Pedro Bromfman, from Far Cry 6. Audios in Portuguese, text in English.
Hoje temos um convidado especial na nossa série de entrevistas com compositores: um conterrâneo, o brasileiro Pedro Bromfman! Muitos de vocês podem até não reconhecer pelo nome, mas certamente já ouviram algo de seu trabalho. Pensem nas trilhas sonoras de filmes como o gigante nacional Tropa de Elite (2007) ou o remake do clássico hollywoodiano RoboCop (2014), e de séries famosas como Narcos (2015), da Netflix, cuja primeira temporada foi protagonizada pelo ator brasileiro Wagner Moura.
Nascido e crescido no Rio de Janeiro, Pedro iniciou um relacionamento sério com a música ainda na adolescência e nunca mais largou. Aos 18 anos foi para Boston estudar na Berklee College of Music, tornou-se compositor e produtor, e se especializou em trilhas sonoras principalmente para cinema. Sua parceria com o diretor brasileiro José Padilha na franquia Tropa de Elite o impulsionou para o mercado mainstream e desde então ele vem transitando pelos mais diversos projetos, mas sempre carregando um tempero latino que virou parte de sua assinatura musical.
Embora não seja o foco de sua carreira, de vez em quando o compositor empresta o seu talento musical para a indústria de games, e recentemente ele trabalhou na trilha sonora de Far Cry 6 para a Ubisoft. Pedro gentilmente aceitou conversar conosco sobre este trabalho, mas também sobre vida e carreira. Vocês podem conferir a entrevista abaixo com áudios em português e tradução para texto em inglês.
ENTREVISTA | INTERVIEW
— Pelo que pesquisei, você “foi introduzido à música muito cedo”. Como se deu isso?
— From what I’ve researched, you were “introduced to music at a very young age”. How was that?
I started playing the guitar when I was around 11 years old. My mother was very musical, she’s always said she’d wanted to be a singer. Unfortunately she passed away when I was 10, and on my next birthday I asked for a guitar and started taking music very seriously. I think somehow music has always connected me to my mother. Even though she is no longer with us, it’s a strong point of connection.
— Pode nos contar sobre o papel que a música teve na sua infância e adolescência, o que o fez decidir que, mais do que uma paixão, era uma carreira que você queria seguir?
— Can you tell us about the role music played in your childhood and adolescence, and what made you decide it was more than a passion but a career you wanted to pursue?
From the beginning I took the guitar very seriously. I started playing and evolving quickly, and had to change teachers. I went to study with a teacher who was very interested in jazz and he kinda led me this way, showed me more sophisticated music, I started transcribing solos and getting more interested in composition and improvisation. Some years later, when I was around 15 or 16, I started studying with other teachers as well and preparing to study music in the USA. My father had always given me full support to study music, even though we weren’t a musical family, but in his opinion I should study abroad, go to college, really take music seriously. That’s what happened. Not so much my childhood, but my adolescence was very dedicated to music, jazz and musical studies.
— Você sentiu algum choque cultural quando se mudou do Brasil para os Estados Unidos?
— Did you feel any cultural clash when you moved from Brazil to the United States?
No, there were many Brazilians at Berklee, I’d already moved to go to college. I mean, obviously the culture is very different. The weather was very different in Boston, particularly at the end of the year, I’d go home for New Year’s Eve and it was 104°F, then I’d go back to Boston and it was 14°F, that was a real clash. But in terms of cultural clash, not really. Berk was a very open college, with students from all over the world, and it was a great experience just to play all kinds of music and start getting interested in different music from different parts of the world.
— Como já havia dito entrevistando outro compositor, embora vivamos numa era globalizada, acredito que as nossas origens sempre moldam as nossas sensibilidades de alguma forma. Você sente que ser brasileiro tenha influenciado a sua sensibilidade artística?
— As I’ve said interviewing another composer, even though we live in a globalized era, I believe our origins always shape our sensibilities in some way or another. Do you feel being Brazilian has influenced your artistic sensibilities?
It certainly influences a lot, not just by studying the guitar and Brazilian music from an early age, it’s become a great source of inspiration that I keep coming back to each time I’m composing. I think the harmonies too, the syncopated rhythms, the sophisticated Brazilian rhythms are very present in my music and have become part of my signature. Not just Brazilian music, I’ve always been very interested in Latin music in general, my wife is Argentinian and I’ve studied a lot of tango [more recently, not in my childhood or adolescence], I’ve always been very interested in Caribbean music1, salsa, montuno cubano, so I’ve always been a Latin music enthusiast and I think – for better or worse – this helps me in my career, at the same time I end up being called a lot to work [on projects] that have to do with Latin music. But Brazilian music runs in my blood and it’s in my heart, it always resurfaces. For example, even scoring RoboCop, a movie that has nothing to do with Brazilian music, somehow I managed to put the berimbau and the cuíca in the percussion disguised and processed. I always return to Brazilian music and its instruments.
— Como é a sua relação com a cultura agora e como esta informa a sua mentalidade criativa?
— How is your relationship to culture now, and how does that relationship inform your creative mindset?
In fact, I’ve been living in the United States for longer than in Brazil now. I lived in Brazil until I was 18, after college I went back for a few years, but nowadays I’m as immersed in American culture as I’ve been in Brazilian culture. I’ve been living in Los Angeles for almost 21 years. Not just that, but I consume music and film from all over the world and have always done so. I think this is a positive force in my career as a composer for film. I believe that the more experiences you’ve had, the more musical styles you’ve played or composed, the better for a composer’s career. Each project is different, requires a different instrumentation, sometimes ethnic instruments, rhythms and inspirations from different countries, so having a comprehensive musical and cultural knowledge is very positive for this line of work.
— Pelo menos para nós conterrâneos, não é um exagero considerar a sua primeira colaboração com o José Padilha um divisor de águas na sua carreira, certo? Tropa de Elite te impulsionou internacionalmente, então vieram outros grandes projetos como RoboCop e Narcos.
— At least for us fellow Brazilians, it’s not a stretch to consider your first collaboration with José Padilha a watershed event in your career, right? Elite Squad boosted you internationally, then came other huge projects like RoboCop and Narcos.
For sure, Padilha was my career’s breakthrough. Luckily I met him and we actually started working together before Elite Squad. We’d made a documentary for National Geographic that never aired, soon after came Squad, which was initially going to be a documentary, then José decided to make it a motion picture. He didn’t really know how much of it’s soundtrack was going to be original or produced, he wanted to re-record several well-known Brazilian songs, and the fact that I also had experience as a music producer was very positive in that regard. He wanted me to re-record songs with artists, to score the original soundtrack, to help with the song selection too. It was a collaboration that started with the first Squad, and it was very positive, the movie went on to win a Golden Bear at the 2008 Berlinale, and it continued with Squad 2, RoboCop, and to this day we’re great friends and collaborators. But I was really lucky to be in the right place at the right time knowing José and obviously being prepared to do the job he needed me to do when I was called in. But a little luck is always needed in the beginning.
— Você pode elaborar um pouco sobre essas fases na sua carreira? Como foi o começo, quando você ainda estava tentando vencer na indústria, e então se tornar um compositor renomado de cinema e TV?
— Can you elaborate a bit on these stages of your career? How was the beginning, when you were still trying to make it in the industry, and then becoming a high profile film/TV composer?
I went back to Brazil when I finished Berklee and started working mainly as a studio musician. I had an instrumental music band and recorded my first album, played in other bands as well with other musicians, and started to produce instrumental music without having the slightest idea I was going to end up scoring for film and TV. It wasn’t what I’d studied at Berklee, there I studied composition, arrangement, performance, but didn’t imagine I would end up working with moving images, film and TV. When I moved to LA, my wife (who was then my girlfriend) enrolled at the UCLA film program and she and her friends always needed soundtracks for their short films, so I became the group’s composer. I quickly saw it was something that interested me a lot, that my vast experience with different musical styles, composition and orchestration was very positive for that, and I also enrolled at UCLA but for the film scoring program. I started studying, recording with college musicians and finished it quickly, it was a 1 year course. Then I started working with composer Jeff Rona doing additional music for him. I remember right at the beginning there was a documentary about Pelé that I ended up doing a lot of the themes, then I got into advertising and trailers here in LA. Occasionally I went back to Brazil and talked with production companies there about the lack of professionals specialized in making music for film, that there were a lot of talented musicians but few specialists. I started visiting the production companies and little by little work started to appear in Brazil. One of these early jobs was that first documentary with Zé Padilha. As you’ve said, Elite Squad gained track and opened other doors, I started getting more work here [in the US] and one thing led to another without much planning at the beginning, but with a lot of preparation.
— Após uma carreira bem sucedida em cinema e TV, o que te levou a trabalhar com jogos? Qual foi seu primeiro projeto de jogo?
— After a successful career in film/TV, what led you to work on video games? What was your first game project?
My first involvement with video games was Max Payne 3. They’ve watched Elite Squad 2, which was the most successful Brazilian film abroad, and they called me to do Max Payne 3 which was set in Brazil. I‘ve composed more than two hours of music for the game but they also hired another band who ended up doing the main soundtrack, but it was really my first experience with video games. Recently I scored Need for Speed: Heat with EA, and then Far Cry 6 with Ubisoft, on which I spent almost two years and a half working.
— Você cresceu jogando? Se sim, isso influenciou a sua decisão de entrar na indústria dos jogos?
— Did you grow up playing games? If so, has that influenced your decision to enter the games industry?
No, just as I’d never planned on making music for film and one thing led to another, it was the same with games. I’ve never sought that industry, they simply looked for me, the work I was doing generated these invitations to work on games. I was never really a gamer. I remember playing the Atari when I was a kid, the NES, but have never been hooked on games. I was never interested in FPS games, it’s something that came along with my current work. I’m obviously interested in playing and knowing better the games I score, but I wasn’t a gamer growing up.
— Como a experiência de trabalhar com jogos difere de trabalhar com filmes e TV para você? Sente alguma diferença na sua mentalidade criativa ao compor para um jogo?
— How does the experience of working on games differ from that of working on film/TV to you? Do you feel any shift in your creative mindset when scoring a game?
There are some mechanics of working on games that are very different from working on film. When you’re doing the cinematics it’s similar, an edited scene that will always play the same, and the question is deciding what the music should do: when does it enter, where does it need to ascend, how does it go out — what do you want to establish with the music. It’s exactly like working on a movie or TV scene. Now, most of the work on a game… I did 3 hours and a half of music for Far Cry 6, for example… It must’ve been 50 minutes of cinematics and the rest of the time I was working on the open world and the missions. In such a case the dynamic is quite different, mainly on the missions you need 2 or 3 minutes of music that can loop because the player may take 2 or 10 minutes to complete the same sequence, so you need different ways with which to transform these loopable 3 minutes into an interesting music. You have to be able to introduce new elements every so often, to remove elements that were already present in the music, and you need to vary the dynamic a lot, the intensity of the music. If you’re fighting one or two enemies the music has to be much less intense than if you’re fighting twenty enemies and planes and choppers and tanks. You have to be able to make the same music play small or with enormous intensity, the way we do that is building the music with total intensity then dissecting and reducing it, and separating it in different stems that are released by the game according to the [moment’s] required intensity.
— Há algum desafio específico de compor para jogos que é empolgante para você?
— Are there any specific challenges of scoring a game that are exciting to you?
The challenges are mainly those. Being able to make music that is loopable yet sounds interesting, varying elements, making the music sound like something new although it’s always the same 3 minutes playing over and over. I consider myself a film/TV composer, film is my big passion, so being able to work on the cinematics of a rich game like Far Cry 6 that has a huge story — it must be an hour and a half of cinematics — it’s basically a feature film inside a video game, with all the characters’ backstories, and making the soundtrack for that part is what I identify with the most. And it comes at a time when we’ve already defined all of the characters’ themes, the soundscape of the island and its different regions, the main themes for the revolution and the oppression, the themes of Antón, Clara, Diego… I mean, it’s a moment where you have a huge amount of music to draw from and use in the cinematics. It becomes easier to creatively decide how you want to use the music within each scene.
— Como você acabou compondo para Far Cry 6?
— How did you end up scoring Far Cry 6?
I did a teaser for Ubisoft — for another game they were preparing that was set in Brazil — with Simon Landry, the music supervisor at Ubisoft Montréal, he really liked my work and when we were finished he told me there was this game set in a fictitious Caribbean island that he thought I could fit perfectly with my Latin-American musical profile and my experience with Narcos. He asked me to prepare a demo to send to Far Cry’s audio director, I didn’t even know it was the sixth game at the time. Two weeks later I was hired and already started working on the game. It was very organic.
— Far Cry 6 é ambientado em uma fictícia ilha caribenha, e você não é estranho aos sons latinos. De onde tirou inspiração e como foi o processo criativo?
— Far Cry 6 is set in a fictional Caribbean island, and you’re no stranger to Latin sounds. Where did you draw inspiration from and how was the creative process?
We wanted to ground the music in a Caribbean island, in Latin-American music, use the instrumentation and the basic sound from that place, but not having Latin-American rhythms playing all the time. The idea was to have that side represented in the licenced music and the in-game street musicians, and my job was more in creating the characters’ themes, telling Yara’s story, its soundscape to the players. So the idea was using the instrumentation and inspiration in Latin-American and Caribbean music, but inventing something completely new based on that. It was a long process of experimentation, of recording and processing organic instruments with different sound effects and various elements inside the studio to find this sonority that was modern yet rooted in that initial inspiration, that Latin-American sound. We also wanted to differentiate the three regions of Yara; although I obviously tried to maintain a musical cohesion for this world, we tried hard to musically differentiate these three regions. West is much more acoustic, organic, what you could listen to in Cuba; in the central region there’s a hip-hop band, it’s the more urban area of Yara; and the Eastern area is where the factories are, where they produce the island’s medicine, so the music is more industrial, with a lot of sound processing, long reverbs, more metallic sounds. It was a big experimentation process to find Yara’s sounds with the inspiration in Latin-American music.
— Você tomou essa abordagem temática, criando estilos musicais distintos para cada região de Yara. Teve que fazer alguma pesquisa histórica ou trabalhar próximo aos game designers e roteiristas para garantir a coesão temática?
— You’ve taken this thematic approach, creating distinctive musical styles for each region of Yara. Did you have to do some historical research or work closely with the game designers and writers to ensure the thematic cohesion?
There wasn’t much research on my part because I had a lot of experience with these musical styles. What happened was a big immersion in Yara’s world: meetings with the narrative director where he told me all of the island’s story, each character’s story, what each character represented, how they would end up in the future even after the game’s ending; receiving images, early designs; it was a process of really understanding the story, which characters needed themes, what were the important themes for that island, the revolution and the oppression, and creating themes based on these important words that represented Yara. The nice thing was that I entered this process so early that I was not only understanding Yara better, but at the same time creating the music and sending them, and the music helped them understand these characters even better. It was a really nice collaborative process and a great exchange from the beginning.
— O que inspirou a sua criatividade em geral?
— What inspired your creativity in general?
I think the initial process of understanding the story, talking with people so passionate about the story and the game, and starting to feed on this process of what is Yara, images… This initial process of experimenting in the studio to find Yara’s sonority inspired my work a lot.
— Quais são suas maiores fontes de inspiração na música?
— What are your biggest sources of inspiration in music?
Film scores in general. Nowadays I listen to a lot of soundtracks, not just contemporary ones but from the past as well. I think my great inspirations in terms of composers are Ennio Morricone, I watched Cinema Paradiso when I was 13 and how that music and the movie have influenced me! Morricone has done everything from westerns to love stories to big Hollywood movies, he’s really a great inspiration. John Barry is also incredible, Out of Africa, Somewhere in Time, James Bond 2; a guy who navigated different styles but always with a sensational musical quality.
— Pode citar mais de suas trilhas favoritas?
— Can you cite more of your favorite scores?
Cinema Paradiso is probably my all-time favorite. Morricone’s The Mission, or The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. I really like Thomas Newman, who scored American Beauty. Latin composers like Santaolalla3, who revolutionized what can be used in film, making movie music with the guitar, the ronroco (or charango) and opened the doors to many Latin-American composers making different music, those of us who aren’t John Williams.
— Você pretende continuar trabalhando em jogos?
— Do you intend to keep working on games?
I’d love to keep working on games! Especially after the work on Far Cry 6, it was one of the best jobs of my life in terms of collaboration, of freedom, of feeling protected and confident to be able to create something new. Freedom to experiment without the fear of making mistakes, to experience a new track and find something new. So yes, I’m definitely interested in continuing working on games, it’s a great medium for composers.
— Você tem algum projeto futuro que queira compartilhar?
— Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to share?
I’ve got some projects I’m starting to work on. There’s a project with Netflix later on that I can’t talk about yet. But there’s a special project that’s being developed by my wife and she’ll also direct it, which is an official biopic of Xuxa 4, a mega Brazilian star. It’s going to be eight episodes, we start filming next year. I’m very excited about this project.
— Por último, mas não menos importante: conte-nos um pouco sobre a sua relação com a música do nosso país! Que tipo de música e/ou músicos brasileiros você gosta?
— Last but not least: tell us a bit about your relationship to your native country’s music! What kinds of Brazilian music and musicians do you like?
I’m a Brazilian music fanatic. Everything from Bossa Nova, which has influenced me a lot; I’ve always loved jazz, and those albums of Tom Jobim and João Gilberto with jazz musicians; sophisticated musicians like Hermeto Paschoal, Egberto Gismonti have influenced me a lot. A great inspiration of mine passed away last month, Sebastião Tapajós, a wonderful guitar player who made a guest appearance on my first record, we did a duo together, and he’s always given me a lot of support when I wanted to be an instrumentalist. Brazilian music is very present in my life, my daughters are growing up here [in the US] but Brazilian music is always playing in my house. The quality of Brazilian musicians and the sophistication of Brazilian music, the harmonies, the rhythm are very present in my work as a composer and a great source of inspiration to me.
Muito obrigada, Pedro!
Torcemos para que venham muito mais convites para você compor trilhas de jogos. 🙂
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Gosto de entrevistar pessoas e matutar sobre o meu, o seu, o nosso jogar.