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24 September 2014

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Matt Berry on the Music of Snuff Box

Hand with double-length finger playing guitar

Matt Berry on the music of Snuff Box

Q: You composed, scored and performed all the music in the series yourself. Was that always the intention?

A: Yes, definitely. I composed and performed the music for the BBC THREE rock opera AD/BC last year, and although it was a large undertaking, I realised I could do it. That was twenty-eight minutes of non-stop music, so six half hours was going to be a further challenge. I played all the instruments myself - not because I'm a control freak but because I tend to work at around 4am, and realised I would have trouble getting other musicians to join me at that time of the morning. I always knew due to my own tastes that music would feature heavily in Snuff Box. Music is a very important aspect in any visual idea, but it seems to be something of an afterthought in TV at the moment.

Q: Did you approach the composition of the incidental music in a different way to the dance set piece numbers?

A: Not really. I've always been a fan of noticeable incidental film music (the James Bond films and Yan Tiersen's score for Amelie spring to mind) and never really subscribed to the theory that incidental music should pass unnoticed so the viewer is not distracted. I think the viewer can deal with the two sensations at once and separate them. As for the set pieces, I kept them as 'showy' as possible and always incorporated the title theme. I always liked the Dennis Potter music set pieces. But unlike Potter, instead of using existing music (which I feel to be the perceived approach) I was intent on using my own songs.

Q: What composers influenced the Snuff Box score?

A: There would be quite a few, but in terms of orchestration I would say that I was listening to a lot of Ronnie Hazelhurst, Ron Grainer and Tony Hatch, whom I incidentally phoned to ask advice on brass arrangements. I had always been a huge fan of how Hatch used and featured brass, especially the pieces such as Sportsnight - and even what he did with Petula Clark's Downtown. What he did was make the best of a small amount of musicians in a small room with a small amount of money. Hazlehurst and Grainer to an extent never sacrificed melody when composing incidental music, which is a rule I shall try and stick to. I also realise that due to the nature of the show (certainly not to everyone's taste) I may never get the chance to score or produce my own TV series again, so I approached the music as I would a film score. Why not?

Q: Finally, what is the Snuff Box score?

A: Easy, two chords: D Minor7 and G9. That's all it is for six episodes - the equivalent of three hours. What a swizz!

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