Hans Zimmer Debuts 'The Electro Suite' With Johnny Marr: Exclusive

Lester Cohen/Getty Images for City of Hope
Hans Zimmer at City of Hope's Music, Film and Entertainment Industry's Songs of Hope Event on Sept. 28, 2017 in Sherman Oaks, Calif. 

As an Academy Award-winning film composer, Hans Zimmer's natural habitats are the studio and the screening room. But when he steps out on stage -- documented in the new CD and home video Live In Prague, whose "The Electro Suite" is debuted below -- he's filled with a purpose that dovetails with the work he does in smaller rooms.

"I was on a mission," Zimmer, who took an opulent stage show, 72 musicians strong, to Europe and also played at the Coachella this year, tells Billboard. "One of the things I'm constantly worried about is that orchestra music is becoming irrelevant, and we're going to lose the orchestra, and losing the orchestra would ultimately mean more than a lot of really beautiful musicians being out of work. It would create some weird rift in humanity and our culture and who we are. So I keep thinking, 'How can I make the orchestra relevant?'"

The answer: Put one on stage, playing music from some of the more than 150 films the German-born Zimmer has scored, including The Lion King, The Thin Red Line, the assorted Pirates Of The Caribbean and Batman films, and many more. "I just wanted to use this film music as a conduit, as a bridge, a good way of showing an audience that this is still relevant music," Zimmer explains. "I was repurposing the film music a little bit to do my mission of, 'Hey guys, orchestras can be fun. They're not stiff and boring.'"

Live In Prague comes from a May 2016 show where Zimmer and his ensemble, which included former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, his collaborator on The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Inception. The shows did without a formal conductor, with the orchestra and choir performing more like a [huge] band, and Zimmer eschewing using images from the movies. "In the films, (his music is) all subtext," Zimmer explains. "My job is to show you what's in the picture. For [the concerts] I thought, 'What happens if we make the subtext the actual text?' and make the musicians the focal point. That was the idea that propelled me forward."

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Zimmer, who played in rock bands before moving into film scoring, laughs as he recalls the experience of returning to the stage. "The musicians around me kept saying, 'You've been sitting in a dark, windowless room for 40 years. There comes a point in your life you have to actually look at the audience in the eye and you have to see how things work in real time," he says. "It's an adventure, and it makes me a better composer. Doing things in real time very quickly lets you know what works and what doesn't.""

"The Electro Suite," which weaves together themes from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 -- which were also written with Pharrell and Junkie XL -- is one of Zimmer's favorite pieces from the concert.

"I can honestly say it's not my piece. It's our piece," the composer says. "Electro" is strictly in the set because we had so much fun writing it. In a funny way it's the story of this whole tour; It's all the musicians I managed to work with over the years -- some of them from 40 years ago, some came later, some different parts of this rather long career where they don't seem to have entirely found out that I'm a fraud yet. I don't know a musician or an artist or a writer who doesn't think that sooner or later they're going to be found out. That's the big fear. But ["The Electro Suite"] in a peculiar way really represents the longevity of the insanity."

Zimmer, of course, hasn't been "found out" yet. His work this year alone includes Dunkirk, Blade Runner 2049, The Boss Baby and the second season of Neflix's The Crown, while his Lion King music will be used in the 2019 live-action reboot of the Disney smash. There are other projects he won't divulge, and he's interested in the prospect of performing live again, although there's nothing on the books yet. 

"Right now I'm back to my day job and working on movies," Zimmer says. "I will do something when I have a good idea. If I or somebody around me comes up with an idea where we can go and legitimately do something different -- and by different I want an audience to come in and have an experience -- I'd love to do it. So I just hope I'll have a good idea that then motivates me to go on a tour. But if I don't have that idea, let's not do it."


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