Luke Das, Wednesday 04 July 2012
Paul Reeves opens his front door and welcomes me into his Surbiton home.
Wearing a kindly smile, a smart pair of glasses and a button down shirt it is fascinating for me to put a face to his name. Many people will have been exposed to Paul’s music, however, as a commercial composer his identity is relatively unknown. ‘It is great to have that anonymity,’ he says. ‘As composers we are almost part of a secret underworld!’
I think about all the occasions I have flicked through television adverts and later hummed the melodies back to myself as I get up to make a cup of tea. Paul’s client base is vast and when he plays me some samples of his work my ears immediately prick up. ‘You may recognise this one as the Dulux advert score,’ he says and straight away I am reminded of a loveable shaggy dog selling me paint and wallpaper.
I am eager to ask about Paul’s creative process and how he is able to write such memorable pieces. ‘A client will send the advert as a film reel. So my first impression is based upon the visual aspect of the advert,’ he explains. ‘Then I will write something down or play something on the piano. I will get my first gut reaction down. From there I flesh it out a bit and live with it for as long as I can manage before the submission deadline.’
Technological advances allow Paul to work with a range of exotic instruments. ‘I did an advert for a Chinese cooking sauce. I used instrument samples on my computer because I am not a Chinese music specialist at all. When I went to the client’s office they envisaged that I would bring all my traditional Chinese instruments but it was all done on a computer!’
Many successful television shows have featured Paul’s soundtracks. 1990s sitcom Friends and more recently teen drama Gossip Girl are some impressive examples. ‘I find it very creative to write production music. I will write an album that has a theme, for example adventure music, and I have no idea what context that music will be used. It is painstaking to arrange an orchestra but very rewarding. It is amazing when you hear your piece played back to you for the first time. It still never loses its thrill.’
At the age of thirteen Paul’s first summer job was playing the piano at a Torquay hotel. He read music at Kingston University and decided to settle in the area. Initially, he wanted to play in West End productions and jazz bands but an apprenticeship with film composer Richard Harvey inspired a career change. ‘You really have to believe in yourself through the tough times. It took me about five years to develop my career. I was teaching, gigging and playing at weddings. Then dashing home to compose production music,’ Paul recalls.
‘I think composers have to be prepared to compromise in order to survive. Mozart was a great commercial composer of his day. I am very lucky to do what I love. Sometimes I pinch myself to remind myself that it is ‘work’! I like to do a bit of work, then some gardening, maybe go out swimming and then suddenly I find that elusive melody!’