Interview with composure Yannick ‘GoldenZen’ Zenhäusern
By Jole Aron – Geekosis.com
Haling from alps of Switzerland is none other than the talented composer Yannick ‘GoldenZen’ Zenhäusern. I crossed paths with Yannick’s work while listening to new scores and compositions of James Bond (fan made) music and I knew right away he had a talent and passion for what he does. He has self-produced over 10 albums all in the realm of James Bond films and video game scores, and he’s been involved in countless projects from trailers, films, games, and more. Yannick’s work speaks for itself. If you haven’t heard his work, then you’re in for a treat. Let’s dig in and learn more about Yannick ‘GoldenZen’ Zenhäusern.
Where did it all begin – how long have you been producing music?
First of all, thank you very much for having me and for the amazing introduction. I’ve started to get in touch with music at about 7 or 8. I learned to play the piano then abandoned it cause I was fed up with all the theory and talking about music instead of playing what I wanted. Perhaps that’s why still to this day I refuse to get a proper formal music education. Music is all about emotions and creativity. Something no school can teach you in my opinion. I’ve rediscovered my love for music a few years later when I found the blues. Since then, I truly enjoyed playing again. I was about 11 when I bought the GoldenEye soundtrack. I was so disappointed because many tracks from the movie were missing. So I tried to recreated some of the cues with my crappy little keyboard and a bad microphone. Can you imagine how that sounded??? Nonetheless that was the starting point of it all. My first big project was at age 16 after a friend suggested me to hand in a track I’ve created to the GoldenEye: Source mod. From then on it went up. Slowly but steadily!
What is your drive for producing Bond related music? Is it your passion for music or being such a fan of James Bond?
Bond has always been there for me. The often cited ‘escapeism’. Pierce Brosnan introduced me to the world of Bond and did hell of a job if you ask me. Whenever I see a Bond movie or I hear a bond theme song or a soundtrack I get such a special feeling inside. Shall I say, a bigger than life feel. The Bond composers were great teachers to me – figuratively speaking. John Barry has created outstanding compositions that were easy sounding but very complex at the same time. So I learned the basics of how to come up with different components for a theme, how to repurpose elements that are established, how to create themes for locations or character and so on. Good music is versatile and can be turned into whatever you want as they say. Goes to show that’s true if you look at how much variety all the Bond soundtracks offer.
I believe many of your recent works are a nod to the 1970’s Bond era with Roger Moore. How long did it take to achieve such a sound you liked and can you elaborate on some of your process into composing your pieces?
Haha, good observation! I was always a big fan of music ranging from the great fifties all the way to the nineties. I love rock’n’roll, I love soul, I love synthesizer music. To me it’s always a matter of what I feel like doing. It seems I had a 70’s/80’s phase recently. Also I got some requests which pushed me in that direction. Now, because I’m such a big fan of those old records, I’m quite familiar with the sound and the basic structure of the songs from those time periods. I listen to a lot of music. Half the time I enjoy just listening and half the time I analyze exactly what’s going on. How the sound is, how much hall, panning of the instruments and so on – all the time! That’s my kind of education. To achieve that authentic sound I’ve also equipped my studio with some really old vintage synths. Rolands and Yamahas from those times. Those devices are a real treat to work with. Then I usually have a very brief listen of which soundtrack I want to recreate. But just briefly cause I know many of the Bond soundtracks very well and I just need a reminder of which melodic elements and which licks made those soundtracks memorable. From there on I start to compose and incorporate those elements to my liking, where-ever it fits. I think that’s the key to how my tribute suites and soundtracks sound resembling of the original works without being straight copies. Other than that, there’s no standard approach. Sometimes it’s a bass riff, sometimes it’s a drum sequence and sometimes it’s an idea for strings I start with. Sometimes I look back at the first idea and think to myself: “Wow, that escalated quickly”. When you develop a whole 5 minute suite out of one small riff. That’s always very rewarding.
Can you tell us a bit about GoldenEye: Source for those who may not be familiar and tell us how you became involved with that project?
When I came up with the first halfway decent composition at age 16 my friend suggested me to send this to the GoldenEye: Source team and apply as a composer cause I was totally into Eric Serra’s music at that time. I did and after a trial phase I was accepted. That was great. I made a couple of songs and since the GoldenEye: Source community was quite big at that time it had already got a lot of attention. This was amazing! That first track can still be heard in the soundtrack today by the way. It’s the one in the library map. Nowadays I still contribute songs every once in a while. You never forget your roots.
I enjoyed the videos explaining your process, progress and letting us hear along the way. How long does it take to compose your own music from start to finish?
Thank you very much! That’s hard to say. It depends on many factors like inspiration, motivation and time. I have a day job and sometimes that gets a hold of me and I can hardly create any music at all. But I was part of a few projects that required me to be real fast with some quite frightening deadlines. Those were good experiences though. It makes you focus on things and get on with the job as fast as you can, which has become the industry standard also.
What are your top 3 favorite compositions you’re proud of producing versus what you are most known for online?
Oooh wee, that’s a tough one. But OK, I think if you’ve never heard any of my music before what you shouldn’t miss is the GoldenEye movie rescore, still my best selling album. The score to ‘A Bond For Life’ and one of the suites. Goldfinger, The Man With The Golden Gun, For Your Eyes Only or Bond 78.
Do you have any advice for someone wanting to get into composing their own scores?
Just do what you like the most. Don’t go public with it too soon and be patient. Also try to be unique. I don’t want to come off mean but the world really doesn’t need another Hans Zimmer copycat. If you love Zimmer music and you want to create stuff like he did, that’s fine, but don’t expect the internet and the industry to go crazy about it. Don’t let anybody take away your motivation and if you want to be taken seriously, take it seriously yourself. You should never forget that once something is out there, it won’t come back for a polish. Also be prepared for many hours sitting by yourself at home while your friends are out having fun. But if you truly love making music, you will have a lot of fun too. I hope this helps a little?
Tell everyone where we listen to your work and anything else you’d like to promote.
Cheers! Just follow my Facebook and YouTube account and keep informed there. I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank all my fellow followers and the people who comment on my productions and give some likes. I know the internet can be an incredibly cruel place so I feel very blessed I was spared a lot of the hate so far – I mean that!
Let’s talk about Bond, James Bond.
Some of these are quick and short questions to let our audience know your Bond favorites… we’re really diving in deep here, tackling those hard hitting questions, ha. No really, from one Bond fan to another, I’m curious.
Who’s your favorite actor to play James Bond and why?
Pierce Brosnan. Suave, sophisticated, debonair, slightly over-the-top but that’s the way I love it the most. That’s why I’m a great fan of Roger Moore too. Dalton and Connery do it differently but great as well. Connery of course as the inventor. I reckon it depends on the mood I’m in.
What are your favorite Bond film themes, scores and/or composers?
GoldeneEye is my favorite Bond song. Favorite composer Eric Serra. GoldenEye is what made me aware of how movies and soundtracks go together the first time. The a-ha moment! And all of the other composers did hell of a job too. Except the newer ones. I didn’t enjoy those at all. To me Die Another Day had the last real Bond soundtrack in my opinion.
This may be an obvious and a silly question by now, but what’s your favorite James Bond video game? Any other noteworthy games?
No, it’s not silly at all! GoldenEye. Nightfire is also quite cool and probably Agent Under Fire.
This August 25th will be the 19th anniversary of GoldenEye 007 on N64. Can you share any of your favorite memories you had of playing the game?
One in particular: I wanted to have an N64 bundled with GoldenEye for christmas. My parents then got me the bundle with Star Wars Racer I think it was. I was so upset and angry – Haha, what a spoiled brat! After getting the game a few days later I just remember countless hours of playing and enjoying it.
When the franchise starts looking for a new Bond the rumor mill starts churning at an all-time high and in the end they’ll probably choose someone we’re not expecting. The names that are currently being thrown around are; Idris Elba, Tom Hiddleston, James Horton and many fans would even like to see Henry Cavill take a stab at the role. Who would you choose to play Bond if it were your decision and why?
Oh man, I neither care for all the rumors nor who’s gonna play it next. Frankly, the last four Bond movies were absolutely not my cup of tea. I’m not saying they’re bad, a lot of people seemed to have enjoyed them but it’s not Bond how I like him anymore. I hope it’s just a phase and the next direction is gonna be more to what I like again. But let’s wait and see.There’s enough material to go back to and enjoy. Fortunately, I don’t mind watching the Bond movies over and over again.
A big thank you to Yannick for doing this Q&A and sharing a little behind the scenes with us. If you’re not following Yannick’s work already, then do yourself a favor and follow him on social media for updates at one of the links below.