Stealing the Show – Q&A with Ivan M. Lacamara

Ivan Martinez Lacamara is an award-winning Spanish composer from a family of musicians. He began his musical studies at the age of 5 and trained throughout until he acquired his Music Professional Degree in 1998.

Since then, he has composed the original soundtracks of many television series, spots and short films, as well as additional music and arrangements in films, tours and records.

His most famous work featured in Netflix’ Money Heist (La Casa de Papel), which won the prestigious Jerry Goldsmith Awards 2019 for Best TV Series Original Soundtrack.

His other outstanding works in the field of TV Series include The Pier (El Embarcadero), Locked Up (Vis a Vis), The Boat (El Barco) and Un, Dos, Tres (Un Paso Adelante).

Please tell us about your childhood musical experiences and training.

My parents are musicians, my father is a singer and my mother is a musical teacher, so from my earliest years, I’ve been surrounded by music. I remember traveling with my father to many of his gigs, and watching him perform on stage. Memories of my mother are more vivid because she taught me to play the piano at home and I saw many students receiving piano lessons from her. They say that I started to play piano at 3 or 4 years with them. Later when I was 6 years old, I went to the conservatory and thereafter, I pursued my musical studies at school, high school and university.

How did you enter a career for TV composition?

There were a few coincidences. I met someone on an online chatroom in 1997, who was a video producer for a national TV channel. We became made friends and shared a common interest in musical technology and musical software.

At this moment my music ideas were focused in rock and new age music, and all my compositions were in that way. He listened to my music and he asked me to compose pieces for TV commercials and promos.

The following year, I decided to move to Madrid, to pursue my growing interest about music for audiovisual applications. I had met the film score composer Manel Santisteban in a Cubase seminar, a few months before moving to Madrid. He also liked my music and asked me to help him in a TV series he was working on when I moved to Madrid. Since that moment, I have continued to work on such projects for the last 21 years.

Can you describe a typical day at work or the process of completing a project?

I have the advantage of working from home as I have my own basement studio. I usually have on average 12 to 15 days per episode and I have to optimize the composition and mix process. I have an extensive instrument template with pre-selections so that I can get a lot of work done in pre-production as well as being able to design and search for new sounds.

There is no team, no assistants, orchestrators, additional composers, mixers or anyone else. All the music is composed by Manel and me. I would say that we are craftsmen of the music with the indispensable help of technology.

Congratulations on all your award-winning achievements to date, especially for Money Heist. How did you get involved with this?

We were working with Alex Pina during last 20 years in many other TV series.
When he founded his own production company, Vancouver Media, he called us to work on his new project, Money Heist and further projects down the line.

In Money Heist, were you given full freedom during your composition or do you have to stick to certain limitations set by the Director or Studio? Can you share some of your inspiration that influenced your composition?

The composition depends a lot on the director of the episode – that’s for all shows, not just Money Heist. There’s a different director for each season, and each one has their own musical tastes and ideas. This can be quite challenging.
Some directors who only want a temp track, and we are obliged to compose something very similar. I call this “The mock up syndrome”. Only a few trust us with full freedom. However, the studio has never yet criticized our music.

For this reason, much of our music isn’t influenced from elsewhere but if you asked me who’s music I loved, then I would say the melodies of Alan Silvestri, the delicacy and “simplicity” of Thomas Newman, the frenzy of John Powell, and the power and sensationalism of Hans Zimmer.

During Seasons 1-4, how did the soundtrack evolve?

There isn’t much evolution in the style but there have been some changes. At the beginning we used a more orchestral style. We made the first and second episode and they were approved. In the third episode a new director came and convinced the show runner to change the style of music to something more electronic. We decided to use the sounds of acoustic brasses and strings and set their analogue synth versions. It worked very well and from that moment, the sound of the show became more analogue electronic.

The songs in Money Heist are a great selection and really add to the mood of the show – how were the tracks chosen?

The writers and executive production decided the songs, and later the musical supervisor requested the licenses for the show.

But sometimes we have to adapt or cover a song (Bella Ciao is the best example), or record and produce the voice of the actors, for example in the 4th season when Berlin sang the song Ti Amo with a Gregorian Choir in his wedding. We arranged and recorded the background music and later he sang in the studio, and the choir were recorded in the filming set.

What can we expect for the final season?

A lot of action, frenzy and emotion! There won’t be any time to breathe!

Can you share any news on other projects we can look forward to?

At this moment I’m focused in the 5th season of Money Heist, and the 2nd season of Sky Rojo. There a lot of projects planned.

Are you involved in the post-production following composition?

A few years ago, I went to the sound mixing studio and I tried to keep the music at the correct level, but I wasn’t very lucky with this, so I decided to abandon this. At the end of the day, the mix doesn’t depend on my criteria.

Can you tell us about your studio?

In my studio, I use 4 Apple Macs with Steinberg Cubase and Vienna Ensemble Pro. My main machine is a Mac Pro 28-Core with 256Gb of RAM. The other three are Mac Pros 5.1 with 12-Core with 128Gb of RAM.

With this configuration I can load tons of samples on the secondary machines as well as the main machine, providing me with a really huge template and allows me to work faster.

For the last 10 years, my studio monitors have been Dynaudio BM-15 active speakers and I have other set of Focal Alpha speakers for surrounds.

All the audio signals are commanded by a Motu Audio Interface which manages the inputs for external synths and the outputs for monitoring, without external mixer.

Last month I added a UAD Octo Core accelerator card, but unfortunately this caused a lot of problems and system crashes.

Do you mix in stereo or multi-channel?

Money Heist music is mixed in stereo. We inherited the technical process of the production when it was aired for commercial tv (first and second seasons. When Netflix produced the new seasons, the sound mix was in 5.1 but the music remains in stereo. In postproduction, the sound-mixer creates a virtual surround mix using plugins.

What advice would you give to young people trying to enter your industry?

Versatility is the most important quality. You have to compose an orchestral score, synth music, a Tango song, Ethnic music, everything. The other important part is training. Good musical and technical training are necessary.

Finally, would you please tell us some of your favourite music tracks, TV shows and movies?

I have an eclectic taste in music: Queen, Michael Jackson, Sting, Toto, Christopher Cross, 80s music, the Spanish group Los Secretos, and many, many others.

For film and TV composition, I like both orchestral and electronic/hybrid style: Thomas Newman (all movies), Alan Silvestri (Back To The Future and Forrest Gump), John Powell (Bourne Trilogy), John Williams (Jurassic Park and The Terminal) as well as the film scores of Hans Zimmer and Harry Gregson-Williams.
I watch a lot of TV shows, more than movies. My latest favourites are The Morning Show and Ghosts, and older shows such as like Six Feet Under and Law and Order.


For more info – Money Heist Scoring

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