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A Chat With Harold Faltermeyer

Harold Faltermeyer is one of the most iconic composers of the 80s, with hits such as Beverly Hills Cop, Fletch and Top Gun on his resume. We had a brief chat with the man himself, about various nuts and bolts in his career.

The interview is conducted by Faltermeyer connaiseurs Jon Aanensen and Tim Partridge. Be sure also to read Jon’s extensive walkthrough of Faltermeyer’s career for film and TV.

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J&T: Tell us about working with Giorgio Moroder on Midnight Express, American Gigolo and Foxes  between 1978 and 1980. Is it correct to say that Sylvester Levay took over your job in 1982/83?

HF: Midnight Express was my first collaboration with Giorgio and this lead to further and very successful projects. Both him and I had close to zero experience with scoring. It was more or less “try and error”, but the outcome was tremendous! It earned Giorgio an Academy Award and myself a first recognition in the industry.

American Gigolo was indirectly the beginning of my career. I met Jerry Bruckheimer for the first time! Foxes was work in-between various Moroder projects. Levay took over, that’s correct. I had to take a break from the offers of the day.

J&T: How did you get involved in Didi Der Doppelgänger in 1983/84? How did you and co-composer Arthur Lauber work together?

HF: I only contributed the main theme.

J&T: How did you experience the great success of Beverly Hills Cop

HF: Heaven on earth! It was unexpected. Especially that a patchwork of score pieces became one of the most successful themes of all time.

J&T: You went straight into doing Fletch in 1985. Had Tom Scott written a full score for the film? How did that score sound and why didn’t the filmmakers want it?

HF: I have no idea!

J&T: Fans are still waiting for the Top Gun score album. Will it soon see the light of day?

HF: Might take a while…

J&T: You have mentioned in other interviews how Top Gun was somewhat inspired by the idea of air pilots listening to Billy Idol. While working on Top Gun you had performed synths on Idol’s Whiplash Smile album. Did this inspire you to have Idol’s guitarist Steve Stevens play the «Top Gun Anthem» solo?

HF: Steve is one of the greatest guitar players alive. I thought it would be cool to ask him.

J&T: How much of your early to mid ’80s work was scored in Munich? Top Gun‘s «Memories» is listed in the album sleeve as a Munich recording, and you made albums such as EG Daily’s Wild Child there.

HF: Basically, the majority of scoring was done in LA. The fact that I am based in Munich led to some composing there. EG  Daily was recorded entirely in Munich.

J&T: You scored a quadrilogy of films with ski filmmaker Willy Bogner. How did you become involved with the energetic theme song to 1986’s Fire and Ice? I have read that you originally had asked Donna Summer to sing the title song.

HP: That’s right, but Donna was not interested. First of all, I didn’t want to do it at all, but being a ski enthusiast, I was easy pray for Willy. This led to a long friendship.

J&T: You’ve acted in several music videos, including «Axel F» and Fletch. How did you find these experiences?

HF: Well, it was part of the deal. I had to do it. But I’d rather work behind the scenes!

J&T: 1987 was a very busy year for you, with Beverly Hills Cop II, Fatal Beauty and The Running Man. How did you cope with doing so many films in such a short time?

HF: It was too much. This was the time I found out that I didn’t want to start a music factory!

J&T: Your score for Fatal Beauty is sadly still unreleased. Do you know why the soundtrack album doesn’t include any of your music? Had it anything to do with the fact that the score didn’t have a strong theme like «Axel F», «Fletch Theme» or «Top Gun Anthem»? 

HF: I didn’t even know that there was a soundtrack album!

J&T: In 1987, Andrew Lloyd Webber released an album inspired by Starlight Express, on which you did a very creative, sample heavy arrangement of «The Race». How did you become involved with this project?

HF: It was the idea of my record company. Pretty cool project!

J&T: Also in 1987, Girogio Moroder started his MusicTeam film music company, featuring you, Keith Forsey, Tom Whitlock, Mack and Richie Zito. Was this a short-lived adventure? In many ways it was kind of a forerunner to Hans Zimmer’s Media Ventures company from the 1990s.

HF: I didn’t know that. At that time, I was not working for Giorgio anymore.

J&T: Tell us about the Worldhits album with your versions of older famous songs, also released in 1987. Was this music recorded in the 70s?

HF: This was way back in the beginning of my career. It was first intended for release with the binaural head technology and quadrophonic recording.

J&T: You continued writing and producing pop albums for other artists through the 80s, meaning you couldn’t take on too many film projects, like Levay for instance who scored lots of TV. Was this a decision you made, that you needed that kind of variation between film and album/pop work?

HF: Yes, I didn’t want to go into TV scoring.

J&T: How was the experience doing the Harold F. album in 1988? Was this a wish from the record label, or a labour of love from you? Also, did you at any time in your career consider releasing an instrumental solo album? 

HF: With all that hype around me, I got a record deal from MCA in ‘86. It took very long to sit down and start my own album. Especially with various other projects involved.

J&T: Long time collaborator Keith Forsey co-produced all of Harold F, and you co-wrote all songs with him and your Fatal Beauty song composer Scott Wilk. Had you all wanted to make an album together before Harold F?

HF: No, Keith was the designated singer on my album. The fact that he worked with me on Fatal Beauty was because we needed songs.

J&T: In 1989, you recorded the Wimbledon song «The Challenge» with Chris Thompson. You would work with Thompson across various great projects for the next few years, including the charity song «Yes We Can». How did that happen?

HF: Chris is not only a great singer but also a great writer. We got along very well and lot of great songs saw the light of day back then.

J&T: Did you have any contact with director Andrei Konchalovsky while scoring Tango & Cash?

HF: Not that I know of.

J&T: Did you receive scoring offers that you had to turn down during that “golden” 1984-1989 period in Hollywood? Did Scott/Bruckheimer/Simpson want you to do Days of Thunder, for instance?

HF: I only got offers in the direction of buddy cop movies and silly action movies. It was time to move on. Days of Thunder was the first collaboration with Hans and the “Golden Boys”, I believe.

J&T: Did you have any contact with other composers who worked in the same “style” as you in the 80s, like Tangerine Dream, Jan Hammer or Sylvester Levay?

HF: Only Sylvester… we are longtime friends!

J&T: Why did you perform the theme for Blaues Blut under the alias Network?

HF: It was intended to start a group with this name.

J&T:  Fire, Ice and Dynamite (1990) is a great score, tell us how you worked on that music, both the score and songs. Is there any chance there will be a release of the score one day?

HF: It was a huge project. I had various arrangers, songwriters and lyricists involved. I don’t think there will be a score album released.

J&T: When did you decide to open Red Deer Studios?

HF: I opened it in 1986.

J&T: What are some of your favourite pop records that you have arranged and produced and why?

HF: I have to say Behaviour by Pet Shop Boys, plus Bad Girls and «On The Radio» by Donna Summer.

J&T: Are you in any way involved in the forthcoming Beverly Hills Cop 4?

HF: No!

J&T: How does your musical future look? Can we hope for more (film) music from Harold Faltermeyer?

HF: I have many ideas. But right now, I am leaning back and enjoying life!

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