RADICAL FEED

Award winning composer and music editor Stephen Gallagher meets Sound Radix

Stephen Gallagher.jpg

Stephen Gallagher is an award-winning composer and music editor. He works in film, television, and other media and is currently based at Park Road Post Production in, Wellington, New Zealand. He wrote the song 'Blunt the Knives' for Peter Jackson's 'The Hobbit': An Unexpected Journey, and has composed music for every size of production, from Hollywood blockbusters to independent documentaries and online web series, from all around the world.
He has worked on projects with Peter Jackson, Brian Eno, Ed Sheeran, and Nick Cave.


Stephen, please tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a composer and music editor for moving images. I live in Wellington New Zealand and I’ve been working in film and tv for the last 15 years.
I’ve been lucky enough to work on projects like ‘The Hobbit’ Trilogy, ‘District 9’, ‘Mortal Engines’, and ‘The Lovely Bones’ amongst others. I am currently working on Peter Jackson’s new Beatles documentary ‘Get Back’. In addition, I have recently worked on a soundtrack album for a documentary called ‘Kimana Tuskers’ coming out via MovieScore Media.


How did you get into the world of sound?

It was kind of an accident. I started off playing keyboards in bands when I was about 13 or 14 years old. I was obsessed with synthesizers but I couldn’t afford one, and I borrowed or purchased every book or magazine I could about synthesizers.

Hutt Valley High School, where I attended, had an old Roland Juno 106 in their music department instrument cupboard. I think the VCF chips were a bit fried on it but I was always trying to play on it. A lot of lunchtimes I would spend trying to program the thing. I loved that synth. I was playing in bands all through school mainly covers bands, playing pubs and bars.
I went to study composition at the New Zealand School Of Music and it was really an incredibly challenging but hugely inspiring time. When I was there I met some people who were studying in the theatre and film department. We started collaborating and the power of music in narrative / dramatic arts took hold! I started designing sounds and composing music for theatre shows and then went on to assist the brilliant composer David Long on a few tv show scores, and then I bounced around town working as a dialogue editor and a sound effects editor for tv whilst trying to develop skills as a composer for soundtracks.

I kept knocking on the door at Park Road Post Production. Eventually, thanks to my friend Chris Ward, I had the opportunity to work on a film called ‘The Lovely Bones’ as a music editor. I had no idea, prior to this, that a music editor was even a possible career in New Zealand. Working on that film with Fran Walsh was incredible and it taught me a great deal. Working with Brian Eno score was a dream. He was (and still is) someone I very much admire.
I just got very very lucky.

What excites you about your job?

Working with good people. Having challenges and trying to find solutions. Helping storytellers tell their stories is a huge privilege.


Do you usually work on your own, or do you have an assistant?

I usually work alone. Although, thanks to the New Zealand School of Music’s Masters program, I have had a couple of interns working with me, on and off, over the past few years. That has been excellent.

Can you talk about your studio and working environment?

I have had the great fortune to have been working out of Park Road Post Production, in Wellington, since about 2008. It is an incredible building filled with lovely people. At present, I am in a 7.1 edit room surrounded by my synthesizers, guitar pedals, microphones, and also conveniently close to the coffee and tea-making facilities. It’s a dream!


Auto-Align Post being native to Pro Tools is just excellent. The software saves so much time around phase and time alignment in a dynamic fashion. It is a simple concept done very elegantly.



What are you currently working on?

Currently, I am working on Peter Jackson’s Beatles documentary ‘Get Back’

The Beatles: Get Back - A Sneak Peek from Peter Jackson

Can you describe your workflow?

It depends on the needs of any particular project. I can’t talk about the current workflow but, as far as music editing or composing are concerned, the earlier I have the opportunity to be involved, the better!

What state is a typical dialogue file in when you receive it?
At the moment, on this current project, we are dealing with dialogue recorded in the late ’60s on Mono Nagra tape recorders. It is...erm...noisy.


And how would you describe a good dialogue recording?

At the moment, anything that does not require a deep dive into audio repair software.


What makes a good dialogue editor in your opinion?

I have had the privilege of working alongside some amazing dialogue editors – Chris Ward, Martin Kwok, Polly McKinnon, Mike Hopkins to name a few. They are all very much focused on detail and storytelling. All of them, a joy to work with.


What are the challenges you experience in your work?

It is dependent on each project. A common challenge is having a compressed time frame in which to complete a lot of work. I think that’s something that is familiar to a lot of people who work in moving images. Constant picture recuts and updates, conforms, intimidating time constraints...
I guess that’s just the usual for many of us, isn’t it? A bigger challenge common across all projects is balancing work and family. This is a huge challenge. It is one that I am constantly trying to work out. I do not always get it right.


How long do you usually get to deliver a project?

Composing on TV scores, usually about a week for every episode. On films usually some months (although, sometimes only a few weeks!).
Some films have been longer, and I spent almost 5 years on The Hobbit Trilogy for example.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey | "Bilbo Baggins Hates" | Warner Bros. Entertainment


How would you define a successful project?
Well, if the filmmakers and storytellers are happy, then that is a success to me.
Ideally, I would like each project to be a good journey. A journey that I can learn new things from.


What is your work-life balance working like during a project?
Dreadful, although I think it is slowly getting better. It is something I need to work on constantly.


How did you discover Auto-Align Post?

A friend recommended Auto-Align Post to me.


Which problems does Auto-Align Post help to fix?

It helps me to fix anything involving microphones that are moving during a recording!


Please tell us about your experience with Auto-Align Post.


Auto-Align Post being native to Pro Tools is just excellent. The software saves so much time around phase and time alignment in a dynamic fashion. It is a simple concept done very elegantly.


What was your job like before you had Auto-Align Post?

Longer! Much longer amounts of time spent trying to line things up manually.


What advice would you give to newcomers to the industry?

Find good people to work with. Keep learning. Be brave.


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Discover Stephen Gallagher's Filmography on IMDb