Prompted by his involvement with the Tiger Bay Brawlers and the rediscovery of old local band ElSid within my iTunes I discover Phil’s Soundcloud, a beautiful mix of soundtracks, collaborations, old bands and new beginnings.
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Phil Brookes and I’m a musician and a composer. Everyday I’m alive I like to create, and music is the form of expression I’m most at ease with. I can use it to collaborate with other peoples artistic visions so I guess that’s what made me a composer. I also perform record, arrange and produce all of my own material too.
At what point did you decide to start making soundtracks and venture into other areas of music aside from Elsid?
I’ve always been fascinated with free form jamming. When I first picked up a guitar I didn’t try and play anything I’d heard before, I just tried to play. When I eventually put on a CD to jam to, I was never turned on by playing the main riff; I’d just make my own parts to the song that was playing. I then started recording myself playing and tracked myself against it to create new parts. From that I had these songs I called “quiet classics” as a kid and they were like guitar infested mood music. So I guess I was into composing before I was into bands. Man, what a loner!
Professionally though, I stumbled into it by chance. In university I turned up to a screening of animation student’s project films. They were pitching their work to us because they needed music. That’s where I saw the animatic to The Crow That Wore A Suit & Went To Work In An Office and met the incredibly talented and super nice guy Eirik Grønmo Bjørnsen.
Do you think you’ll ever start another band or are those days behind you? Have you seen yourself evolve musically?
I don’t think those days will ever be behind me. Just the priority I used to give being in a band has changed now I have evolved as you put it. I’ve started a new heavy blues based rock band and we’ve written an entire set of music I’m hoping to record and play live this year. Bouncing off amazing musicians is what helped me grow from being something I wasn’t sure of, into a confident musician who now composes for film and other media.
I think I’ve evolved in the sense that I’ve taught myself other instruments and production methods to carry my material much further than it would have ever gone in a band. As far as creating music, I’ve always done it, it just so happens I’ve realised it fits other mediums.
Tell us about the latest pieces you’ve worked on – Tiger Bay Brawlers and But Milk Is Important, such different genres but executed greatly. Do you find you have a favourite style? How do you put yourself in the right mindset to write?
They were both so rewarding to work on and a lot of it is to do with the people I made the music for. Anna Mantzaris and Eirik Grønmo Bjørnsen are amazing talents and really fantastic people. Their artistic vision encapsulated parts of my own and their hard work inspired me to push beyond what I may have expected from myself. The Tiger Bay Brawlers are incredibly passionate people who believe whole heartedly in something that they’ve been building from the ground up and that’s something I relate to so completely. With that in mind both pieces of work came very naturally. There’s not a second of the day I don’t think about music and few moments that go by without me creating some. So I’m pretty much in a creative mindset constantly. I wrote the majority of the music to the Brawlers anthem in my wife’s car after we talked about what a good idea it would be. It’s always embellishments like producing and mastering that take up more of my time.
What have you got going on at the moment?
I’m writing another sports anthem for an undisclosed American university (undisclosed is my code word for I won’t mention them in case I write something they hate and they don’t use it), recording a promotional video for a track I’ve recorded called “Memory Box” with Christopher Axworthy who has directed some awesome music videos and I’m creating sound effects and music for a flash based web game that’ll be on the Newgrounds website soon.
On the other hand I’ve written a number of songs for Leanne to perform on and a set of music for the yet un-named previously mentioned band I’ve recently started too. I’ll throw in that there’s a chance I might be making some music for an advertising company in the next couple of months as well. Maybe.
Any plans for you and Leanne Jay Brookes to release an album?
At the moment we’re both concentrating on quite a few other things, but it’s something we’ve both aspired to do. I’ve written and recorded quite a few tracks of her singing to just a piano and we’ll most likely release it as an online EP in the near future.
What has been your favourite piece to work on?
There are all sorts of nostalgia attached to The Crow Who Wore A Suit & Worked In An Office. It really sparked something for me and lead to the most rewarding project so far (But Milk Is Important). I made the whole soundtrack to “Milk” in my flat in Cardiff and to have it played in festivals in Norway and Spain and eventually a Cinema in Oslo, it was such a good payoff for the months of work. So they’re joint winners. Tag team champs.
Where would you like to see yourself in five years?
Miles Davis said his future starts when he wakes up every morning and every day he finds something creative to do with his life. I’ve never been a 5 year plan kind of guy and if I was I definitely wouldn’t be a composer. I know I’ve always wanted to be a professional musician since I picked up a guitar at 13, but composing came along very recently. I would like to think that in 5 years music will be my only income and I can dedicate my whole life to it.
Who’s your biggest musical influence?
That’s tough as I’ve always been into every aspect of music. I could tell you who I’ve listened to most consistently throughout my life so far though and that’s Prince. He’s a multi-instrumentalist, producer, composer and genius.
I learnt a lot from Jimi Hendrix, Ray Charles, Miles Davis, Metallica, Pantera, Crosby, Stills & Nash and Sarah McLachlan too.
Guilty listening pleasure?
Christina Aguilera. My wife is an awesome vocalist so she’s into other awesome vocalists. Linda Perry’s a sweet song writer.
Is there a noticeable difference between playing in a band and composing soundtracks? What would you say is the hardest thing about the current business?
For me, personally, there is only one similarity and that’s where the music comes from. Whether I’m in a band or composing I give to the situation what I feel at that point in time. Apart from that I find they’re completely different. Writing a song with a band can take an hour, where as completing the score for a scene may take days depending on the situation, the project and the deadline. In Elsid we’d write a song and play it live the next day, something I wouldn’t do for a soundtrack. Probably because I’m getting paid!
Music is the core of who I am and trying to make a business out of that is hard. I’ve always been too busy making the music to ever perfect networking which is why the band thing really isn’t a priority more than an outlet. Thankfully the success I’ve had composing so far is because I’ve happened to meet some people who’ve worked just as hard as me and are just as passionate in their art as I am in mine.
Lastly, a question we ask everyone – If you could go back to any era which would it be?
I just read an awesome one on the Soundscape website about a favourite Batman actor and I want to answer that one too because Michael Keaton is the best.
As far as eras go, I’d love to have been in the deep south of the United States at the turn of the 20th century to have my mind blown by the birth of the blues. Nothing that emotive, raw and real has been born in my lifetime. Accept for 1989’s Batman performance by Michael Keaton.