Tag Archives: Dominik Scherrer

RIPPER STREET 5 interview with composer Dominik Scherrer

An exclusive RIPPER STREET interview with composer


Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017
Photography by Peter Podworski

Brick Lane, London E1 and looking out ​of the Meraz Café, onto Hanbury Street (header image)

DAMIAN: Before we start to go into too much detail about Ripper Street and update the reader on what you’ve been up to since our last interview in 2014, I’d like to just spend some time talking about what it’s actually like to be a prolific composer for the screen. Can you talk me through an average day in the life of Dominik Scherrer please?

DOMINIK: It’s great being creative all day long. But the pressure is huge as one has to be creative all day long, and come up with ideas, if inspiration strikes or not.

After breakfast at home I cycle to my studio. It’s an easy ride, and it’s great to go past all the places in Shoreditch when it’s still very quiet, before all the hip crowds arrive. I aim to be at my studio around by 8.30am. The morning is the precious creative time for me, and I work interrupted only by a short coffee break until 2pm. This is when I compose music, write themes, write individual cues, i.e. scoring individual scenes. During that time I only answer the most urgent emails and phone calls.

Dominik Scherrer’s studio in the Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane.

Then follows a brief lunch, maybe from a nearby Sushi place or Bagel shop perhaps with one of the other composers who are nearby. The afternoon is perhaps the more workmanlike time. This is when I do the revisions that directors and producers ask me to do, or I deal with newly edited versions of the picture and conform my existing cues to that. I’ll deal with all the emails regarding scheduling, organizing recording sessions, dealing with orchestration. I listen to music from Spotify when I do all the admin.

Late afternoon I may do a two or three hour recording session with a soloist, for example a cellist. They come to my studio and this is often a time to experiment with how something is actually played, or finding the perfect key for a piece. Sometimes these little sessions help to put together demo versions of themes that I can then play to the producer or director. It’s more exciting for them to hear real recordings as opposed to digital mockups of sampled instruments.

I finish around 7pm and we may all have drink at the legendary Spitalfields pub The Golden Heart, followed by a curry at Meraz Café.

With Dominik’s favourite Spitalfields restaurateur Sam, of Meraz Cafe in Hanbury Street.

Back at home, I may play piano for a bit and then go to bed thinking about the challenges of the next day and which pieces to write. Sometimes the ideas or solutions come in my dreams, or are magically solved overnight.

Other days will be more eventful to an outsider, with perhaps orchestral recording at other studios, travelling for meetings to Dublin, Manchester etc, or long morning meetings at Soho cutting rooms, with lots of coffee.

DAMIAN: So, since our last interview then, your work on Ripper Street was recognized with he prestigious Ivor Novello Award for best television soundtrack which was also released as an album and you’ve worked on various new projects including two more BBC dramas, The Missing (2014 & 16) and One of Us (2016). Do you ever worry that you might become almost typecast as a composer and too closely associated with dark and gritty psychological thrillers?

DOMINIK: I am not worried. The music to these shows is so radically different. While you could class these, including Ripper Street, as gritty crime, half the music deals with the emotional side, and follows the same approach as scoring a non-crime drama. Also, I have scored romantic comedies in the past, last year did a big Amazon series The Collection which was about a 1940s Paris fashion house, and had a kind of glam jazzy soundtrack, and am currently working on a Near Future and a supernatural drama.

DAMIAN: I’ve had problems with my hearing for most of my life which ranges from significant conductive hearing loss in one ear to frequent bouts of tinnitus and that dreaded underwater sensation. It was with some interest then to experience your score to The Missing which seemed to capture all those aforementioned unpleasant sensations with such accuracy. What effect were you hoping to achieve by this?

DOMINIK: In The Missing Series 1, it was important to convey the enormous sense of loss (of the child) that the parents experienced right from the start. I played around with very plain and high pitched glass harmonica sounds. They was not really meant to represent tinnitus but they signified a painful emptiness of the characters.

DAMIAN: What can you tell me about your latest project Requiem?

DOMINIK: It’s a six part Netflix / BBC drama directed by Mahalia Belo. The rest is secret!

DAMIAN: I’d like to ask you some questions about the Ripper Street soundtrack album. Was it Silva Screen or yourself that decided on which tracks to include and their running order on the album?

DOMINIK: It was largely my decision, with some input from Silva Screen. It’s a hard decision, and takes time to choose the right pieces from amongst the hundreds of cues. Sometimes we needed to combine or split up some pieces.

DAMIAN: I hope you’ll forgive me for saying this but I could have lived without the two music hall source tracks (15: Eight Little Whores and 16: Blewett’s Pavilion of Varieties) or at least you could have included them as bonus tracks at the end. I wonder to what extent you’d agree that they detract from the overall mood and listening experience of the album?

DOMINIK: I appreciate what you’re saying and maybe those tracks don’t fit in. For me though, music hall is an important component of the whole musical landscape of 1890s London, and stylistically, informed also the score itself, albeit perhaps in a more twisted manner.

DAMIAN: It gives me a genuine thrill to blast out the main theme (Track 1) and some of the action cues and pieces such as The Toff (4 – often used over the end credits during the first two series), The Amorality of the Mob (11) and it’s also a treat to venture into Ennio Morricone/Spaghetti Western territory with tracks like Telegraph (8) and The Judge Stink (14). However, the sheer haunting and aching beauty of I Need Light (6), Become Man (12), Threads of Silk and Gold (17), The Beating of Her Wings (19), The Weight of One Man’s Heart (7) are the tracks that I’ve played the most. Can you talk me through the genesis and ideas behind one of these pieces?

DOMINIK: The Beating of her Wings, as a theme, was written based on the scripts for series three, before I’d seen any of the picture. I wanted a theme that embodied Reid’s broodiness and at the same time his driven nature, be that in the drive to find his long lost daughter or the obsession with clearing Whitechapel of criminals. The theme starts with a lyrical cello solo, but in its lowest register. Normally you’d use the mid or higher cello register for such a lyrical tune, but I was determined to keep it broody and low. Morricone did that once, but I can’t remember on which score. After much cello broodiness a solo violin joins in, with a fluttery sequence of notes. It was very hard to play. Janice Graham, a top violinist and leader of the English National Opera Orchestra, nailed it perfectly. It develops with the same incessant energy that drives Reid. When they were cutting the The Beating of her Wings Episode (S3 E02), Andy Wilson, the director, told me that they started using this during the edit, and it fitted like a glove. In the end I did some changes to the theme, actually making it even longer, and matching the dynamics around the dialogue and the action. It was a satisfying experience. The script inspired the music, the music inspired the cut, the cut inspired the music again.

DAMIAN: Some tracks such as The Weight of One Man’s Heart are often reused again in other episodes. Is this because the piece is so powerful or are you limited to how much new music you can write for each episode?

DOMINIK: It’s important to have themes that run through the series. Sometimes the themes appear in different cloaks, i.e. orchestration, tempos, keys. At other times they may reappear as clearly recognisable reprises. I try and not attach themes to individual characters, as that can quickly become a bit Disney-like, and can create trouble if those characters cross paths. I try to link emotional states and underlying psychological themes, as if Whitechapel was a giant single organism, and the score traveled through its synapses.

DAMIAN: What is your own personal favourite track from the album?

DOMINIK: Perhaps The Good of this City. We semi-improvised this live at my studio early on during scoring the first season. I felt, for the first time, we nailed the aching Whitechapel atmosphere in an interesting way. The use of the Hardanger fiddle, which is also featured on the title tune, helped to give it a unique sound.

Multi-instrumentalist Sonia Slany playing the monochord for series 4. The monochord was one of the more unusual instruments introduced for the last two series.
Slany also played the Hardanger fiddle of the title theme, as well viola, and old style gut-strung violin.

DAMIAN: I’d like to be able to enjoy more of your score from the show but what are the chances of a second album?

DOMINIK: There is certainly plenty of material that could be released. There has been talk of a second album, but nothing is confirmed.

DAMIAN: Do you often go back to listen to and revisit your music after it has been recorded?

DOMINIK: Once it has been mixed, once the dub (mix with dialogue and FX) is over, I don’t generally listen to it, unless we need it for reference for another episode. Once a season is completed I may only return to it after 6 months. I think “Maybe this isn’t quite as bad as I remembered”. Listening after a year or two I think “Some of this may actually be quite good.”

Recording series 5 at Angel Studios, Islington.

DAMIAN: I’ve often said that I believe your main theme music over the titles of Ripper Street represents a perfect marriage of sound and imagery which is possibly one of the most distinctive opening credit sequences of recent television. Why have you changed it for this fifth and final series?

DOMINIK: Season five has an overall different feel. It started with us experimenting with a more aching, melancholic version of the theme tune for the third episode, as the existing one was slightly at odds with the feel of that particular episode. We liked the result and felt it was an appropriate feel for the entire series. It’s the same tune, with different tempo and orchestration, and it starts with a new counter melody, only to reveal the actual melody of the original theme a bit later.

DAMIAN: In our previous interview I asked if you thought your music had a distinct sound and you replied “More than aspiring to have my own style I hope I can come up with something new every time. I am always trying out new ways of composition, orchestration, production… Saying that, sometimes my colleagues listen to my music and say ‘this is very Dominik!’ so maybe there is a style. Perhaps it’s a certain cheekiness or directness in the melodies”. Well, when I spoke to composer Matthew Slater about his music for Endeavour, I asked which film and television composers had inspired him and he told me that in addition to Danny Elfman, Thomas Newman and James Newton Howard, “Dominik Scherrer also has a sound that’s completely different which I find intriguing and has influenced me a little”. High praise indeed but I wonder if fellow composers keep track of each other’s musical accomplishments and if there is perhaps ever a little rivalry or healthy competition?

DOMINIK: It can sometimes be difficult to watch films and TV shows without listening out for the score. It can be very interesting to analyze other composers’ approaches. It’s too often that I watch something and think “This is too good, why didn’t I come up with this?” So yes, we all constantly challenge each other, which is great. In recent years, perhaps thanks to the internet and social networking, film composers have become a lot more organized and I am now regularly at events where we exchange ideas or just chat.

DAMIAN: And we’ve talked about how you wanted your score to be non-classical and have an urban element as though it had emanated from the streets of Whitechapel but presented with a contemporary cinematic feel while also reflecting points from the period or locale either compositionally or orchestration-wise. Ripper Street has taken the audience from 1889 to 1899, how has your music reflected these passing years and how do you think you have grown as an artist?

DOMINIK: I feel I am evolving from one day to another. Almost every step I take is slightly into the unknown, which keeps everything exciting too. The Ripper Street score definitely evolved over the five seasons. It’s not so much about the time span from 1889 to 1899 but how the story acquired an epic breadth, and ended on an almost metaphysical plane. The nineteenth century and the Victorian age come to an end. The music became broader too. The episodes became less about solving crime but more about the fates of the characters. I used bigger forces in the last season. A string section of forty and a full male choir.

In the control room at Angel Studios, recording the first episode in series 4, with director Kieron Hawkes.

The very last Ripper Street recording session, with solo violinist Janice Graham, who played many of the violin solos throughout the series.

DAMIAN: I wonder if you found it difficult to compose the music for the very last episode knowing that after working with these stories, locations and characters for five years, it was your last chance to revisit them? – was it hard to say goodbye?

DOMINIK: Yes, scoring the last episode was emotional. Over the years, even for me, these characters have become almost real. But it also meant that four years of inspiring and enjoyable collaboration in the Ripper Street team was coming to an end. But also, the last episode had an unusual structure that made it a challenge to score, and it allowed me to musically go to completely new places. So it was not only about the melancholy but there was something forward thinking about it too.

DAMIAN: Dominik, thank you very much indeed.

DOMINIK: Thanks for all your interest in Ripper Street over the years Damian. It’s been a pleasure.


My original interview with Dominik can be found below:

Crimson Noise: The Sound of Ripper Street

All the interviews and articles on this website are original and exclusive and I would ask that the copyright be respected. Therefore, please do not use quotes or any other information contained here without permission. Thank you.


Crimson Noise: The Sound of RIPPER STREET

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2015
Photography copyright © Peter Podworski/Dominik Scherrer

In an exclusive interview, Damian Michael Barcroft talks to the prolific film and television composer, Dominik Scherrer. We discuss Jack the Ripper, East End history and his stunning music score for Ripper Street

DOMINIK SCHERRER composes the majority of his innovative and often delightfully unconventional music at Crimson Noise Ltd. This is his recording studio at the Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane in Spitalfields, London.

Looking out of the window of Dominik’s office, you can see Christchurch and the Shard hiding behind it. In addition to the bells of Christchurch, there is also the sound of the Muezzin from the East End Mosque in Whitechapel and Chinese tap dancers outside. As the sun departs this significantly historical part of the city so beloved by Ripperologists, the evening presents its own distinctive soundscape including drunken revellers and the nightclub below pumping out dance music late at night. At this precise moment there is the sound of someone beatboxing at Brick Lane Market and I wonder to what extent these evocative sounds influence and inspire Dominik’s music…


DAMIAN MICHAEL BARCROFT: Dominik, your studio has been here for almost 17 years and you have been based in the East End for more than 22. Crimson Noise is in an old Georgian house on Brick Lane which is of course the same area where Annie Chapman, Jack the Ripper’s second victim was murdered. I must confess that I take ghoulish delight to consider that the music score for Ripper Street was conceived in such a significant location. Can you describe what attracts you to this area and how its environment and atmosphere might flavour your music?

DOMINIK SCHERRER: Indeed as I left the studio last night there were four competing Jack the Ripper tours visiting Annie Chapman’s murder site. It’s the most I’ve seen and I fear that we have been part of reviving interest in this dark chapter of east end history with Ripper Street.

I landed in Spitalfields in the 1990s when studio spaces were affordable. Artists and musicians came. My ancestry is partly Huguenot, so technically I’m one of the last Huguenots to settle here, 250 years after the French silk weavers arrived here.

Times have changed and Spitalfields is now less trendy but has become more mainstream. Artists have moved further out. But drastic changes are part of the area’s history and there is always buzz here. The sheer amount of live music available is inspiring. For a while I was writing and producing for Bengali artists, both for the UK and the Indian market. It was enriching to explore Indian music and exciting to combine it with my own western musical background.

DAMIAN: I understand that you are interested in local history and this was part of the reason that you wanted to get involved with Ripper Street. Did you actively pursue the project or were you already asked to write the music for the show?

DOMINIK: I already had a happy working relationship with lead director Tom Shankland who put me forward. It struck me as a great show and I did my best to pitch good ideas.


DAMIAN: At what point did you become creatively involved with Ripper Street, were you given the script to read or was there a particular discussion with series creator and lead writer Richard Warlow?

DOMINIK: When I came on board, the first two episodes had already been shot so we could immediately try out ideas. Richard Warlow, Tom Shankland and Will Gould, the executive producer for Tiger Aspect, came for creative meetings to my studio, and we started to bounce around ideas.

DAMIAN: I consider your music score for Ripper Street to be not only richly atmospheric in its own right but also an important contribution to the identity of the show. For example, your main theme and the title sequence is a perfect marriage of sound and imagery which I believe to be one of the most distinctive television opening credit sequences in recent memory. What were your initial thoughts and ideas on how the music should sound?

DOMINIK: My instinct was for the score to be down to earth and non-classical, as if it emanated from the streets of Whitechapel – but presented with of a contemporary cinematic feel. Richard, Tom and Will had similar feelings so we started to experiment. I normally let the opening titles of a show emerge gradually during the writing of the episodes’ scores. We may then pick up on certain themes and develop them further. For example the opening titles music evolved from the theme for Maude Thwaites, the very first victim in episode 1. She was a violinist and hence had a solo-violin theme. In the end the Maude Thwaites theme is not really recognisable in the title tune, but nevertheless was the actual starting point.

DAMIAN: I must say that the themes and their orchestration were rather a bold and pleasingly unconventional choice which extends to your choice of instruments including the fiddle and banjo. I’ve had quite a few conversations with Toby Finlay (collaborating writer on all three series of Ripper Street) about the influence of Western films and history on the show. Was your sound and choice of instruments also a deliberate attempt to evoke the genre?

DOMINIK: Absolutely, Richard Warlow was a great advocate of the Western feel for Ripper Street. It’s not inappropriate to portray Victorian Whitechapel as a kind of Wild West. Conversely though, the use of banjo is historically appropriate. Guitar would have been exotic in Victorian London, whereas banjo was popular in music halls. Still, the Daily Mail complained about the use of banjo and fiddle and suggested that the sound of a barrel organ would be appropriate for 1890s London. There is in fact a little bit of barrel organ in the score, but scoring an action scene or a romantic scene with barrel organ just wouldn’t work.

DAMIAN: There are certain sounds in Ripper Street and some of your other scores that I can’t quite put my finger on but are more like sound effects rather than conventional music and this also reminds me of many Western scores especially Ennio Morricone’s early work. Do you particularly enjoy experimenting with music to create different sounds?

DOMINIK: I spend a lot of time creating special sounds for Ripper Street. It’s certainly enjoyable but it also gives the show an individual feel. The main challenge is to create sounds that are tense and driving without being too massive in origin – again to fit in with the street music concept. Then we use a lot of special recording techniques and postproduction techniques to shape the sound try to keep it earthy and organic at the same time. And there is a wealth of European and exotic solo instruments: Mandolins, Mandola, Kemençe, Sethar, Dobro. The solo on the theme tune is played on a Norwegian Hardanger fiddle. Those instruments are played by excellent, creative musicians. And often an entire string orchestra is playing too – for added gravitas.

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DAMIAN: I think it was Howard Shore who used whale cries in his score for The Silence of the Lambs to disconcert the audience. Have you ever used nonhuman performed instruments or sounds in any of your music?

DOMINIK: Good idea, I’ll book a few banjo-playing cetaceans next time.

DAMIAN: Like your scores for the sixties-set Inspector George Gently series, the music for Ripper Street avoids the clichés of its period setting, was there ever a temptation to write something rather more conventional or typical of the Victorian era?

DOMINIK: A film composer will always use some aspects of the period and locale, compositionally or orchestration-wise and makes them part of a modern cinematic soundscape but to directly compose in the style of music-hall, Gilbert & Sullivan, classical composers like Parry or Elgar would be tricky in a crime-drama context. It’s frustrating that the supposed anachronism of identifiable instruments such as banjo and fiddle is more readily criticised, compared to music played by standard orchestra. For example, my colleague John Lunn’s (excellent) Downton Abbey score is a modern composition, and musically quite distant from Edwardian England. Still, it is not questioned perhaps because it’s played by string orchestra and piano – a more universal instrumentation.

DAMIAN: Some fans of the show have commented on the similarity in style of your score for Ripper Street and the music from the recent Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes films composed by Hans Zimmer. Was the signature style of those two films ever discussed as a possible sound to explore?

DOMINIK: Hans Zimmer really nailed his beefed-up folky style for the Sherlock Holmes films and initially we made it part of the portfolio of many inspirations for the new soundtrack. In any genre of music you build on previous achievements, you don’t re-invent the wheel each time. Other influences were the aforementioned Morricone, as well as a lot of baroque music, especially some baroque string techniques. There is also an ‘urban’ element in the Ripper Street soundtrack – perhaps evoking the spirit of hedonism in todays east end’s nightclubs, perhaps similar to the abandon of the late nights of the 1890s. The Victorian east end’s significant Irish population is also an influence, with Celtic elements, and there are more oriental influences brought in from overseas via the docks. With all these influences, and with the input of our great soloist, the soundtrack then goes on its own journey and asserts its own style.

DAMIAN: You started composing quite early and wrote the soundtracks to the short films that you made as a teenager. Do any of these shorts still survive?

DOMINIK: They survive and I am also making films now. For example I shot a film called Hell for Leather in the east end, conceived as an opera for the screen. It’s a biblical story with motorbike gangs. It got a surprising amount of attention and became part of the touring YBA “Sensation” exhibition. I am developing further music-driven film projects at the same time as composing for the screen.

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DAMIAN: I believe that in addition to playing the piano, you were originally a trained flautist. However, before specialising in soundtrack work, you moved here from Switzerland to study film and I was wondering what your initial career plans were at that time?

DOMINIK: Music and film can both deliver great energy and combinations of the two even more so. I think it’s that electrifying, spine-tingling energy, the thrill that makes your hair stand on the back of your neck that I’m excited about. I am constantly trying to educate myself further in music, film, and the arts in general and I am happy to be working across the disciplines – composing for the screen or the stage, performing music on stage, writing opera or musical theatre. London offered itself as the best place to pursue all these activities. We have an openness here that allows everyone to transcend the boundaries of style and discipline – I know many top classical musicians who are equally at home in jazz or pop for example.

DAMIAN: Can you remember the first time you yourself noticed soundtracks and became aware of the artistic possibilities of the synthesis between sound and screen?

DOMINIK: Because of my parents’ involvement with music I regularly attended orchestral rehearsals as a child and had a heightened awareness of music. My childhood’s soundtrack key moment was, like for many of my generation, Star Wars. It was not only John Williams’ heroic-romantic themes themselves that got me so excited, but also the confidence of the presentation, the all-out energy in the way the music is used. Let’s not forget it was with Star Wars that many of us experienced Dolby Stereo for the first time, with its heightened dynamic range and surround channels. It had a clarity, punch, scale, good tunes, spaceships and Princess Leia. The Wagnerian experience of Star Wars in the cinema would almost literally blow you away as a child.

DAMIAN: Do you think that film/TV scores get the respect and recognition that they deserve from either audiences or the industry itself?

DOMINIK: Definitely. Almost too much. On Classic FM you’ll hear a lot of film-music that was conceived to be heard with the film, and may sound simplistic on its own. But it’s perhaps the simplicity that’s appealing. I have the feeling film music is more popular than ever and it can be surprising to see Howard Shore topping Mozart in the classical charts.

DAMIAN: From my own personal point of view as a passionate admirer of film/TV composers and a collector of soundtrack CDs, I feel increasingly disappointed and actually rather cheated by the state of both record labels and many aspects of the music industry in general. For example, the few shops that actually do stock a respectable selection of soundtracks are massively overpriced in comparison to other albums and while the internet has made it easier to purchase more diverse and obscure titles from all over the world, it has also contributed hugely to the amount of piracy that is of little interest to enthusiasts such as myself and has forced specialist shops to close. The other issue is that studios and record labels continually take advantage of a limited market of consumers by releasing a substandard soundtrack album with little material when a film is released and then producing another “special” or “collector’s” edition with all the music that they could have released in the first place so that collectors have to pay for the same title twice or even several times in some instances. What do you think should be done to improve the availability and standard of soundtrack albums?

DOMINIK I share your irritation about the unavailability of some soundtrack recordings. The problem is that soundtrack releases can be complex legally. The rights of the recordings may be owned by several production companies at the same time. The publishing is administered by a number of other companies. All those parties will have to agree and sign the soundtrack agreements. In the US the contracts with the orchestras may restrict the release of original soundtracks. We are facing some of these problems for the Ripper Street soundtrack release but we are working on it!

DAMIAN: I know that you enjoy and take inspiration from a wide variety of musical genres including classical, pop, rock, jazz and world, but if you were to introduce someone to the art of film and television composition, which particular composers would you recommend they listen to?

DOMINIK: Bernard Herrmann, Danny Elfman, Alberto Iglesias, John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Mychael Danna, John Barry, Thomas Newman, Alexandre Desplat, John Brion, Franz Waxman, Dario Marianelli, Jerry Goldsmith.

DAMIAN: I understand that you develop themes on a piano at first, write them down on manuscript and then produce electronic mock-ups which are presented to the director before recording them. I imagine this can be quite a nerve-wrecking process and I was wondering if you can tell immediately if a director or producer is pleased (or not!) with the sound that you have created for them?

DOMINIK: If they are in the same room to review the draft scores, there is an immediate, intuitive understanding, even before anything is said. Music can sometimes be tricky to talk about and being in the same room helps. Apparently communication is largely nonverbal, and this really applies with music. Reviewing drafts in these situations also helps me as composer – sitting back and looking at the whole score from a distance.

DAMIAN: The American giant of film music Alex North famously had his score for 2001: A Space Odyssey rejected by Stanley Kubrick and a more recent example of this would be Howard Shore’s unused music for Peter Jackson’s King Kong remake. Have such “creative differences” ever had a significant impact on your work?

DOMINIK: Alex North’s 2001 score did get a release on vinyl subsequently and I have that album. He basically composed pastiches of the Ligeti, Richard Strauss, Johann Strauss pieces which obviously must have been used as ‘temp’–  guide music laid during the picture edit. In the end Kubrick decided to use the ‘real thing’ and abandon North’s score, possibly also because Kubrick was unscrupulous about the rights situation. Ligeti was famously neither asked permission nor paid for the use of his amazing choral, textural, music in 2001.

Composers are frequently fired, and more so in the US. Touch wood, it hasn’t happened to me yet, but it can happen that I have a favourite theme that is finally never used in the film.

DAMIAN: Many film/television composers have a distinct and instantly recognisable sound to their music, perhaps John Barry and Danny Elfman are good examples of this. Would you say that there is a particular Dominik Scherrer style?

DOMINIK: More than aspiring to have my own style I hope I can come up with something new every time. I am always trying out new ways of composition, orchestration, production. It’s what keeps me excited. Saying that, sometimes my colleagues listen to my music and say ‘this is very Dominik!’ so maybe there is a style. Perhaps it’s a certain cheekiness or directness in the melodies.

DAMIAN: I would argue that your music has a certain versatility not always found in other composers where their scores occasionally overpower or dominate a production which is sometimes detrimental to the integrity of the overall meaning of the sound. You seem to be comfortable writing for various genres such as action/adventure (Primeval) or horror (the 2006 production of Dracula) but I was particularly interested in your compositions for foreign language films such as Tutto parla di te and I do actually think your sound often has a more European quality reminiscent of such World Cinema composers as Philippe Sarde, Jean-Claude Petit, Karl-Ernst Sasse, Georges Delerue, Jurgen Knieper, Louis Crelier and Nicola Piovani. Is this a particular aspect of your music that can be more fully expressed when writing for films not in the English language?

DOMINIK: Possibly rather than the language, it may have to do with the type of production. They are arthouse movies whose scores are not genre-bound and may have a lighter touch. The story lines have less death, crime and destruction. I am indeed a fan of Nicola Piovani and went to see him live at Chelsea Old Town Hall recently. It was great see the man in the flesh perform his music but interestingly I was perhaps missing the pictures that go with the music!

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DAMIAN: Many productions, particularly those from Hollywood, suffer from wall-to-wall music which regardless to the quality of the actual music itself, suffers from overuse and having to compete with dialogue and sound effects. Some of the best director-composer relationships are those in which the music is discussed creatively throughout the entire production as oppose to just sticking the music on in postproduction. Perhaps the most celebrated illustration of this sort of creative collaboration is Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann (for example The Birds doesn’t even feature any original “music” but is still a stunning soundtrack). However, I particularly admire the relationship between David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti and it is evident that they both have an interest and passion in the sound of film beyond that of the music score. I was wondering if, in addition to the writers and directors you’ve worked with, you collaborate with sound departments including the sound designer, sound effects artist and dubbing mixer etc?

DOMINIK: The picture edit is a creative period, as the music can also influence the cut. I help the director to find the atmosphere and a language of the film. After the cut is locked it’s inspiring to collaborate with the sound postproduction department and we sometimes bounce ideas back and forth. I give them my draft music and they can shape some of the effects accordingly. Because their workflow doesn’t normally require presentations of draft ideas I often don’t get to hear their work. I am often a bit in the dark about their work and it can be a bit surprising what you finally get to hear in the dubbing theatre when all the dialogue sound effects and music are finally combined.

DAMIAN: I presume it must be a creative advantage for composers to own their own studio, was all the music for Ripper Street recorded at Crimson Noise?

DOMINIK: On a score like for Ripper Street it’s great to compose and record as you go along. Some of the soloists’ amazing performances can have a ripple effect on the score. You may suddenly discover new approaches or you may simplify ideas drastically, because the performance of a particular musician is so strong that you decide to cut out everything else. It helps when you have the flexibility to record at any time. I can mix the score to a high spec at my studio too and I hire in mix engineers who work at my studio. This way I’ll have the flexibility to revise at short notice later during the late stages in post production. I record all the larger ensembles at the lovely Angel Studios in nearby Islington. We have an established workflow and they specialise in these kind of recordings. They are large wood panelled rooms where the instruments can really sing out. All of Ripper Street’s larger strings ensembles are recorded at Angel Studios.

DAMIAN: We’ve discussed the idea of allowing music scores to breathe and you have had twenty-four hours worth of screentime to explore the sound of Ripper Street. How do you think your music has evolved throughout its first, second and third series?

DOMINIK: Over the 24 episodes the score has developed its style and become more individual. The musical themes started to cross-feed and I have found a method to continue the themes but at the same time keep an individuality for a particular episode’s storyline, or guest character. I am perfecting our expanding library of special sounds and favours.

DAMIAN: Dominik, thank you very much indeed.

DOMINIK: It’s been a pleasure, Damian, thanks!

FW 4578More information about Dominik and his music here: http://www.dominikscherrer.com/

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The Ripper Street soundtrack album will be released June 15 in the UK and is available to pre-order now:


The US release date is June 23 and can be pre-ordered here:



RIPPER STREET: Best TV Soundtrack

Congratulations Dominik Scherrer!


Damian Michael Barcroft

dominikscherrerThe 59th Ivor Novello Awards took place on Thursday 22 May 2014 at the Grosvenor House, London. The Ivors celebrate, honour and reward excellence in songwriting and composing. They are presented by BASCA and judged by the writing community.

Ripper Street, composed by Dominik Scherrer won the prestigious Best Television Soundtrack Award. The other nominations were for Mr Selfridge composed by Charlie Mole and The Thirteenth Tale by Benjamin Wallfisch.

I spoke to Dominik earlier today who gave me the following quote regarding his much deserved win: “It’s rare that they let us composers out of our studios, but didn’t quite expect this! To be in the company of some of my heroes such as Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Nile Rodgers is awesome… The Ripper Street soundtrack is successful because it involves many great collaborations: The Ripper Street production team, directors and the writers were always in favour of pushing things further and creating something unique. A great music team and we had very creative and accomplished musicians playing on it.”

Dominik is currently working on the much anticipated Ripper Street soundtrack album which is due to be released shortly although the exact date is yet to be confirmed.

Did you know?

Crimson Noise Ltd, Dominik Scherrer’s recording studio is located at Brick Lane in Spitalfields, the same area where Annie Chapman, Jack the Ripper’s second victim was murdered!

The Daily Mail complained about the use of banjo and fiddle in his score and suggested that the sound of a barrel organ would be more appropriate for the 1890s. The barrel organ was actually used in the score!

Other instruments included Mandolins, Mandola, Sethar, Dobro and the solo on the theme tune is played on a Norwegian Hardanger fiddle.

Dominik and series creator, Richard Warlow, wanted the music to have a Western feel and portray Victorian Whitechapel as a kind of Wild West.


My exclusive interview with Dominik will be published right here at dmbarcroft.com in the autumn to coincide with the broadcast of the third series of Ripper Street.

Damian Michael Barcroft




Ripper Street nominated for Best TV Soundtrack

– Damian Michael Barcroft –

Dominik Scherrer’s stunning and innovative music score for Ripper Street has been nominated for the prestigious Ivor Novello Award for Best Television soundtrack. This is possibly one of the biggest awards for the soundtrack industry.

I spoke to Dominik earlier and he is “very pleased that there is recognition for such an unusual soundtrack”. My full and exclusive interview with the composer will be posted soon on this website.

The Ivors celebrate, honour and reward excellence in songwriting and composing. They are presented by BASCA and judged by the writing community.

The 59th Ivor Novello Awards will take place on Thursday 22 May 2014 at Grosvenor House, London.

Congratulations Dominik and the very best of luck!

Best Television Soundtrack Nominations:

Mr Selfridge
Composed by Charlie Mole
Published in the UK by Du Vinage Publishing and Sony/ATV Music Publishing

Ripper Street
Composed by Dominik Scherrer
Published in the UK by Du Vinage Publishing and Sony/ATV Music Publishing

The Thirteenth Tale
Composed by Benjamin Wallfisch
Published in the UK by Du Vinage Publishing

Exclusive interviews with the cast/crew of RIPPER STREET

“Ladies and gentlemen, in the absence of the lecturer with your indulgence I would like to introduce Mr. Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man. Before doing so I ask you please to prepare yourselves – brace yourselves up to witness one who is probably the most remarkable human being ever to draw the breath of life.
Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you please not to despise or condemn this man on account of his unusual appearance. Remember we do not make ourselves, and were you to cut or prick Joseph he would bleed, and that bleed or blood would be red, the same as yours or mine.”
– Tom Norman, Showman and manager of Joseph Merrick

Damian Michael Barcroft presents…


Joseph Drake

I am very proud to announce that acclaimed stage actor and rising TV star Joseph Drake will be the first in a new series of my exclusive interviews to be published in The Whitechapel Society Journal.

Joseph Drake plays Mr. Joseph Carey Merrick – better known to the world as the Elephant Man in the first two episodes of the eagerly awaited return of Ripper Street this Monday night at nine on BBC One.

Fans of the show will also be able to read extracts from more exclusive new interviews plus the chance to read previous articles in full on Monday nights following the broadcast of each and every episode of the second series of Ripper Street.

Additional exclusive Ripper Street cast and crew interviews in the forthcoming issues of The Whitechapel Society will include some of the finest artists working in the British film and television industry…

Jassa Ahluwalia ~ Vincent Featherwell

Jonathan Barnwell ~ PC Dick Hobbs

Leanne Best ~ Jane Cobden

Ed Bruce ~ Visual Effects Supervisor

MyAnna Buring ~ Long Susan

Jamie Crichton ~ Screenwriter

Toby Finlay ~ Screenwriter

Steven Hall ~ Director of Photography

Kunjue Li ~ Blush Pang

Aaron Ly ~ Wong King-Fai

Waldo Mason ~ Prosthetic Make-up Effects

Colm McCarthy ~ Director

Charlene McKenna ~ Rose

Lorna Marie Mugan ~ Costume Designer

Gillian Saker ~ Bella

Dominik Scherrer ~ Composer


Creator/lead writer of RIPPER STREET – Richard Warlow

Plus more to be confirmed!


Absolutely none of these interviews and articles would be possible without the generous help and support of the amazing cast and crew of Ripper Street. I am particularly indebted to Toby Finlay, Richard Warlow and Iain Mccallum at Tiger Aspect Productions. Thank you all so very much indeed! D x


The Whitechapel Society (WS1888) publish London’s premier journal for the study of Jack the Ripper and Victorian/Edwardian social history and culture. WS1888 have also written two books on the Whitechapel Murders, Jack the Ripper: The Suspects and Jack the Ripper: The Terrible Legacy. Please see the link below for more information including membership, subscription and back issues.