Composer Interview - Chris Neal


My name is Chris Neal

I'm aged yep

I've been composing for the screen for 40+ years

I work from ‘The White Room’ – my home studio on a beautiful bushy acre in Bayview, on Sydney’s Northern Beaches


I studied music at  Sydney Uni and qualified with a B.A. (Failed) - During my final year, I was kicked in the head while playing a game of rugby. (I know...stupid.) This resulted in massive levels of tinnitus and loss of 60% hearing in my left ear as well as  loss of balance and therefore, the ability to walk. The tinnitus sounded like a loop of Niagara Falls at 120 db located somewhere between my left ear and what was left of my brain. So study was out of the question, as was sleep…

I am also a qualified jazz pianist … (qualified…?)

My musical journey involved writing and touring ‘Manchild’, a rock musical. Working as a session musician, record producer and songwriter, as well as playing in several bands.

The instrument I'm best at is piano I also play…. guitar

I'm best known for my scores for  Cinema:  Emerald City (1988), Turtle Beach (1991).  TV: Bodyline (1984), (The Shiralee (1987) and Farscape* [co-writer, Braedy Neal] (1999) * (1st two seasons).

A score I'm proud of but received little recognition is Jack Be Nimble (1993)

A lesser known personal fact about me is I am a martial arts student

The score I wish I wrote is Dead Calm because….it’s a long story

The film I wish I scored is – Borsalino -  because….the music is the true soul of the film If I wasn't me, the composer I'd love to be is Claude Debussy because….he nailed it

My composing style is eclectic

I compose using Logic

My screen composing income is supplemented by investing in equities

The person(s) and/or institution that helped me get to where I am now is Mary Neal because… she gets me, inspires me and props me up, when necessary (often)...

If I wasn't a screen composer I'd probably be an economist because…. I love that shit

The thing I love about my job is endless reward

The thing I dislike about my job is the need for discipline

My favorite piece of technology is a Hammond B3 - because….it just is …

My favorite piece of non film-score music is… anything by Steely Dan because… of the great concepts, groove, discernment etc

To relax I step outside my studio into the bush and chat with the magpies (true)

A day wouldn't be complete without laughter

The last concert I went to was Canadian vocalist Patricia O’Callaghan and band. My short review is...beautiful

A book that resonated with me was 1Q84’ by Haruki Murakami - because … it’s a spell-binding 1750 pages!

A message to my fellow composers would be go hard, there’s not much time …

Chris Neal is a founding member and past President of the Australian Guild of Screen Composers. He is a current writer member of the APRA Board of Director.

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