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Hugo de Chaire

Composer // Film + TV

Hugo de Chaire is a multi award-winning British composer working in Film and Television.

Hugo is a graduate of Music Production from Kingston University London (2001). He studied piano and composition privately and worked as in-house composer for music production company Wise Buddah in London. In 2007 he trained with Emmy-award winning film composer Hummie Mann in Seattle (Pacific Northwest Film Scoring Program) and went on to work for Emmy-award nominated film composer Joey Newman in Los Angeles, which laid his ground for scoring to picture.

He has worked on films with directors including Academy Award nominated director and writer James Dearden, Gilles Paquet-Brenner, Paul Kowalski, Andrew Martin, and Oscar-winning writer and producer Julian Fellowes.

Hugo, you’re up…! 

April 2019

How and when did your love of music materialise and what was the journey that focused your path towards the world of film composition? 

From the age of six I played the drums and loved listening to any records I could get hold of on an old Bush record player. These ranged from jazz, seventies and eighties pop to classical music. I had always thought about working in music but my focus on becoming a film composer developed over time. During my music studies I worked as a DJ in London clubs where I often played my own remixes of existing tracks by splicing acapella vocals together with backing tracks across multiple genres. This led me to working for several music production companies in London and Los Angeles. 

I wrote pop songs, radio jingles, themes for network news channels and commercials. One particular event that inspired me to pursue film composition was having witnessed a live film score recording when I was working at Sony Music Studios in 2004. It was the music for Finding Neverland composed by Jan A.P. Kaczmarek. Seeing the orchestra playing together and bringing the picture on the screen to life was captivating, whilst also being a seemingly complex task. This interest progressed into a passion for film music and my fascination in the music of some of the key Hollywood composers of the past and present such as John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Max Steiner and Erich Korngold.

Last year you worked on the British comedy, Surviving Christmas With The Relatives. The film was written and directed by James Dearden (screenwriter of Fatal Attraction) and stars Julian Ovenden, Gemma Whelan, Joely Richardson, Michael Landes, Sally Phillips, Ronni Ancona, Patricia Hodge and James Fox. Can you tell us a bit about your experiences on it? 

It was an exciting, fun and fast-paced Christmas project. The film is an amusing and relatable story about a chaotic family get-together. I came onto the film at short notice, with just over six weeks left to write and record nearly 30 cues for the score. Given the tight deadline it was great that James Dearden gave me a fairly free hand to develop my own musical concept whilst also being around for regular feedback. In line with the characters’ complicated relationships and emotions I wanted to combine light-hearted comic elements with a sense of maturity and drama to reflect the shifting moods of the story. For example, the family’s father, Dan, who is one of the lead characters played by Julian Ovenden, has a lot going on in life; In one scene he is chasing a turkey around the yard, which is very amusing, and in the next he is seen supporting his struggling ex-wife and their cannabis-addicted son. 

A great reward for my work was that we had the opportunity to record the score at Abbey Road studios, one of the best recording studios in the world. This saved a lot of time and we had a fantastic orchestra and incredible facilities.

You also scored 2017’s Crooked House, the Agatha Christie adaptation, directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner and starring Glenn Close. How did you go about shaping that score? 

The film adaption is set in the late 1950s and features some very sumptuous locations and design of the period in which the fascinatingly warped characters unfold. It is one of Christie’s darkest mystery thrillers with a shocking denouement. The key idea for the score was to underline the ambiguity of this glamorous and privileged yet obnoxious and narcissistic world. Rather than doing a typical film noir score, which is what one might expect from a Christie tale, I wanted the music to be modern and edgy to serve the twisted plot. In the event, a very specific sound world came out of this. The palette is made up with full orchestra and solo instruments that are heavily processed with frequency gates, filters, delays and reverbs. Another poignant feature of the score is the use of brass and string glissandi throughout the chord movements, which give that serene and eerie sound you hear on the recording.

Do you have a favourite style or genre you like to work in?

I like to vary the instrumentation of my scores, from full orchestra to synthesised and processed sounds. In genre terms I consider myself very flexible and open to anything. However, I do love the process of creating something ambiguous, which lends itself well to the thriller genre.

When working with a new director, how does the process begin? What do you need to garner from them in order to get started?

When working with a new director it is really important to build a good and trusting relationship from the start. You want to know what they like about your musical style, how you are going to work together, how you are going to communicate throughout the project and what the music schedule is. Often, with a new film project you begin the process with a spotting session where you and the director go through each scene of the film to identify where music needs to exist and importantly where it doesn’t. Overall, you would discuss the film’s musical requirements and vision of the sound-world. 

Do you have any words of wisdom you can offer to those just getting started in the industry?

Know your craft, be prepared, continue to learn and understand your own voice, believe in yourself and what you do.

And lastly, it would be great to hear what you have coming up in the next year?

Currently, I am working on the US documentary Overland about three extraordinary characters across four continents telling the story of the 6000-year-old tradition of falconry and their relationship to the modern world. It is a fascinating insight into man in step with nature and how the ancient practice of working with birds of prey has been forgotten by many, but for these people is a key to their identity. 

Find out more at Hugo’s site: