Stefanos Tsarouchas: Can you talk a little bit about yourself, who you are and what you do?

Tuomas Kantelinen: I’m Tuomas Kantelinen, a film composer. I started as a normal composer, so to say. I was studying classical composition. Now I do a lot of music for films here in Finland and not only here. I done music for Swedish films and now one American film MINDHUNTERS also. This is coming next month or in May.

S. Tsarouchas: What kind of film is it?

T. Kantelinen: It’s a film by Renny Harlin, the Action director and he actually happens to be Finish. So he knew me from Finland and he invited me to score that film.

S. Tsarouchas: What kind of experience was that for you?

T. Kantelinen: That was very good. First time every thing was big (laughs). The orchestra was big. Well, I used big orchestras before, but it was the London Orchestra, a very good one and a lot of recording sessions, a lot of work also, but it was a very positive experience for me.

S. Tsarouchas: How much time did you have to write the score?

T. Kantelinen: Very little, but I have been used to that here in Finland also, It just happens, that I’m a little bit fast also (laughs) as a composer. So we basically had about three weeks or so, and every week we had to produce like17 or 20 minutes of music. So that’s why I had two orchestrators working for me. I had to use the help of orchestrators, but that was also very positive experience for me of course. I never used orchestrators before.

S. Tsarouchas: Oh, that would be my next question: Do you orchestrate yourself?

T. Kantelinen: Well, yes, usually, but now I understand, when the schedules are tight, plus, we must understand, that when we are doing mass product, like really something for main stream, it’s not very often, that you find a person, who knows all of this: a compositional skill, orchestrational skill, conducting skill and to be a musician too. You can not be an expert on everything. So I should say, that to have an expert in Hollywood orchestration was very good experience to have a person like that on board. Matt Dunkley is his name, and he has done a lot of films, orchestrated a lot of films. Usually I do it myself, but in a project like that I very much understand, it could be dangerous to do it alone, of course you couldn’t sleep maybe (laughs) for many weeks.

S. Tsarouchas: In what part of the filmmaking did you came on board?

T. Kantelinen: I came on board, when the editing was almost done. Editing was almost ready and it was really close to the final mixing. I knew about the project for a year, but then the final call just came really quickly.

S. Tsarouchas: Do you know what kind of temp track they used?

T. Kantelinen: Yes, I know. It was from many films. I followed the temp of the temp track like, here we have some, faster music and here some slower, but of course as we got used to my music, we used more and more every day more of that and of course the temp score and I had my own sound ideas there in the end.

S. Tsarouchas: How do you collaborate with the director?

T. Kantelinen: Always a lot of talking. They say, what they want and then you try to finish it. So, but with this director: he was very supportive. He was trying to make me feel that I’m on the right track. He was treating me very well.

S. Tsarouchas: What is so special about film music?

T. Kantelinen: It’s a very nice question. One of the special things is, it’s a collaborating art. A film has many artists working on it. You have a cinematographer, actors, set designers, costume, everything and music. So it is very nice to be involved in something, where many people are performing. It’s the same in Opera. You can say. I think, the best thing is to be part of that kind of collective experience, and I think, its something what people should do more. Do things also together (laughs).

S. Tsarouchas: How did you got to film music?

T. Kantelinen: First, it was just modern composition, what I did in the Academy, where I studied and then I just got to do short films. I liked it a lot. I tried to make that job as well as I could and then quiet quickly people started calling. Hey, did you do that short film? Can you do it for me also? And that’s how it started. Now, it has been about , I’m 35 now actually and its about 12 years, 13 years that I’m doing this.

S. Tsarouchas: What kind of status has a film composer in Finland?

T. Kantelinen: Oh, It depends whom you’re asking. If you ask my parents, they will say: oh, very nice (Stefos laughs) If you ask classical music composers. They have double ideas about this. Sometimes they’re: oh, what is this film music, cheap and not very artistic. But some of them are also: oh, very interesting. So, what kind of status has film music. I think it’s a little bit hiding this composer. It’s a good place to be in these modern times. If you’re a composer, there is a lot of cultural criticism in concert composing and film composers don’t get this. They’re just part of, they’re trying to entertain people. They’re doing nice things. They can do that work without many people noticing that. They can do their own thing, without cultural criticism and this is good.

S. Tsarouchas: How did you got involved with PELICAN MAN?

T. Kantelinen: I had done one documentary with the same director (Liisa Helminen) and producer (Hanna Hemilä) before and they just called me and said again: Come and have a meeting. We’re going to do a children’s film and we would like you to be involved. We had a nice meeting and here we are: the film is ready, everybody is happy.

S. Tsarouchas: I was a little bit amazed, because it had a kind of different approach to music, because I think it was more like an american film ...

T. Kantelinen: Hm, yea, maybe but …

S. Tsarouchas:  ... what I saw and the music ...

T. Kantelinen: Well, this time, you have to also say, there was Tchaikovsky and Mozart and I had also had to consider the sound have to be also somehow relative to that, that there are not completely different music. I think, it was a nice experience and I think it came out quiet nicely.

S. Tsarouchas: Yeah, I think so too. That’s why I got in contact with you (laughing) because I liked the music and, t was really kind of different, to the other children’s movies at the Berlinale. They had little music

T. Kantelinen: This is also a fairy tale. So it was a good background for a lot of music, like the nice little bit fantasy music.

S. Tsarouchas: How did you collaborate with Liisa Helminen? Did she said to you, I would like to hear that kind of music or did she just let you go?

T. Kantelinen: Well, its like always with the directors. First they tell a lot of suggestions and then, when you are alone, you try to understand yourself, what is the best for the film, and then, when you meet again, you show them some tests and demos and then if they like it: Yes, yes, this is nice and that I don’t like, that I like. So, that’s how it goes. There is a lot of examples. I have to make samples, and just show them to the director before the recording and usually there is a lot of commenting. It goes quit naturally, actually.

S. Tsarouchas: There is also a song in the movie. Is the song also from you?

T. Kantelinen: Yes, it is. That’s the Pelican Tango

S. Tsarouchas: How did you got to Gorfaine and Schwartz?

T. Kantelinen: Oh, that is another story. It’s a long story, but I try to make it short. I had tried many, many years ago (laughs) to get there, but no reply. I went to meet them. First I send them a CD and they called me back and said: Hey, let’s meet. After half an hour they said, how would you like it to be one of our clients. And I said okay, very nice. Let’s start cooperating and we are slowly starting. They’re trying to figure out, what kind of jobs would be good for me and we will see.

S. Tsarouchas: I hope, you have luck with them. (Tuomas Kantelinen laughs) I wish you the best. You know now the difference between working in the US and in Europe. What is the difference?

T. Kantelinen: I should say, there are a few differences. One thing about working in America is, that there is a lot of believe in miracles and in fanatsies and if you are really in right place at the right time, this old saying, it is still true. Oh, hey, who are you, in the street? Oh, you look right for my film! Hey we need music! I have music! Oh, you have music, come here. Let me see that. Oh, yeah, you are the man! You are hired. You know, there is a lot of that sort of quick decisions going on. Just quick and sudden and all of that. Europe, it could a little bit more like that. Here you have to be established quit a lot and you have to fit in. In Europe maybe you have to first have a lot of, that’s also true for America, I meant that also you have to have some credit of what you have done, but its also a land of still, you can get the chance. That’s one thing. Take this guy. He’s young. Let’s use him, let’s try out what he can do. I think that’s fantastic. It’s not very bureaucratic in that way. That’s one thing. If I say one more thing, in Europe of course people are maybe more attentive here. They listen more. They know more about music and they are more subtle. They are not so black and white like in America. Hey, where is the melody, can I whistle the melody? In Europe it could be, is it melodious that is the big difference. That other one might be, harmonic and nice in Europe, but in America it has to be, like really some singing melody. Those are some differences. There are many other also.

S. Tsarouchas: Do you think that they have also a different approach to film music in general? That, sometimes in American film music is just like another actor and in European films we have little music in films.

T. Kantelinen: This is also true. This is also true. I don’t know, what is the reason, why is it like this, but its just maybe in Europe we are more careful about that. Not use to much music.

S. Tsarouchas: Did you have ever problems with sound design?

T. Kantelinen: No.

S. Tsarouchas: That the sound is louder then your music

T. Kantelinen: In my first film I had that experience, plus, not problems. Let’s say, we have many compromises. And this is true, but if I would say, they are problems, that ment that I don’t have solution for them, but there is always a happy ending in my working situations and in my life. I don’t believe in , that is difficult and that is so difficult and let’s see. We will see. case by case.

S. Tsarouchas: What kind of ideals do you have?

T. Kantelinen: My ideals are not only musical. Music ideals, but music it’s just one thing what I do. I’m more experienced in life then music. I’m more of the time living than composing. So what I mean is, my ideals are people, who have taken priority in life that, let’s find out what this adventure is about and it can be a musician or a composer or you know, some other worker. I’m more interested in spirit. Those are my ideals. Ideal persons. I have yeah.

S. Tsarouchas: We have big discussions here in Germany from the major labels about pirating. Is it a problem with you or in Finland?

T. Kantelinen: No, not for me. I don’t make CD’s.

S. Tsarouchas: Why not?

T. Kantelinen: There is no reason. I’m to busy start the next project. So, my music is not very long. It’s only in the film. There is one pirate maybe somewhere in Russia, but, I don’t know, is it danger? I don’t know. Is it a danger, that I loose money ore something? No, because I think, I have all the things that I need, but I understand of course the question is more about honesty and its criminals who usually do this pirate thing. It’s not some school boys. It’s really usually mafia guys, who are really trying to make money out of that. So, in that way, let’s say it’s no danger for me. It is dangerous for them (laughs). For those who pirate its dangerous.

S. Tsarouchas: How do you usually work? Do you get the script from the movie or do you wait for a comment from the director?

T. Kantelinen: I have many ways. Sometimes I get the script. Sometimes I see the images or the rough cut and very seldom nowadays I get involved at the last minute. Usually I know about it before.

S. Tsarouchas: How do you compose? On a PC, did you sit before a piano and just think about it?

T. Kantelinen: Yes, I have a PC. Usually I sit down with my computer and just do some demos there and testing and then little by little start writing the notes, when I know that this is the right tone.

S. Tsarouchas: And now I think a difficult question. Can you give me your definition of film music?

T. Kantelinen: Oh, its really easy to say. Music, that is in the film, purposefully put in the film (laughs) I should say, that this is film music. If you would ask, what is the meaning of film music that is another question, but what film music is.

S. Tsarouchas: And the meaning of film music (laughs)?

T. Kantelinen: The meaning of film music as I see it, is the same as in any other job. Is to teach the one who is doing the job a lesson, many lessons. I have learned from working like that, plus also give something constructive to one who is looking at my work. If my work is destructive, than it‘s not good. There is enough destruction in the world. Music should make you whole. I have done nice and sort of sweet things also, but now this American film, it’s a horror or thriller, that’s like the last frontier. I don’t want to give bad ideas to the people who go and see it. It’s true, that there are all kinds of horrible things in life. I mean in drama you must sometimes show, there has to be a happy ending. So, otherwise it’s really not a good thing at all. So, I hope and I wish that my road will take me somewhere where the films are constructive. I now many composers had to go through all kinds of B-movies and all kinds of stupid movies to be able to be where they are now. It’s like a road and I just wish that there would come meaningful films my way. They wouldn’t be films that I waste people’s time and money and making them afraid or making them to much sad. So I think that’s a lot of job to be done as a film maker. They would do good films for people. In that way I don’t say it is a nice job film composing, because sometimes you’re involved in a film, which is not very elevated. So, what can you do than? You close your eyes and do your job. Maybe some person, who is working a shop and has to sell cigarettes and beer, is thinking the same. My goodness I don’t want to do this, but this is just the system also now. So, we are also bound by this society. If we want an ideal society, I should get to know nice film, you know, nice film people, call them and I do. I call some people who have done nice films and know I’m a film music person and we want to meet. I try to make those connections. You just have to take what comes, but I try to choose also. You know, it’s important and in my personal life, I also try all the time to go towards the more, more clear, more pure, life, you know.

Creative Commons License
Interview with Tuomas Kantelinen by Stefanos Tsarouchas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at