In conversation with FRANCES O'ROURKE
is a musician and composer who writes music mainly for animated films, many of them Brown Bag productions. He played in a rock band as a teenager and became a full-time composer in 2005. Originally from Kimmage, Dublin, he now lives in Crumlin with his wife, Cat Little, and their son Alfred (3½)
I rented a house with Alan Shannon who was in college with Darragh. I’m from Kimmage, and when I was 15, I was in a rock band, the Aloysius Fontaines. I was working full time at the time, as a credit card machine technician. When Alan got a grant to make The Last Elk, he asked me to write the music.
Darragh was like us, he was full of life and as passionate about music as I was. I liked playing live music, but was shy of audiences, and didn’t dream of being a rock musician full time. Brown Bag asked me to pitch to compose the music for a kids’ show they were doing for RTÉ – I got that gig and I’ve had a relationship with Brown Bag since then.
I thought Darragh and Cathal were very brave at the time they set up the company – at the time, animation was companies like Disney making big huge shows, and here were two Irish guys taking on the world. When I left school, I trained to be a sound engineer, I never considered I could write music for TV.
I did the credit card machine work to pay the bills – I’d be out on the road, doing my work as quickly as possible so I could get home early to compose. I decided in 1999 that that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life; it took six years before I could go full time.
There’s no difference between composing for film than for animation but the majority of my work is for animation. I did write the music for a film called Satellites and Meteorites that starred Amy Huberman. For a series like Octonauts you need a whole palette of skills – I have to write 20 minutes of original music a week for Octonauts. It is high pressure.
I went to the Oscars when Give up Yer Aul Sins was nominated – it was a surreal experience, like being stuck inside TV, seeing faces all around you knew from movies or television. I walked in behind Jennifer Lopez.
I met my wife, Cat Little, at Brown Bag: she created Wobbly Land for them. Now we have a son, Alfred, who’s 3½. He’ll come and sit and watch me in my studio at home as I’m writing the music.
Working for Darragh is great, he’ll give an outline of what he’s doing, let you go away and work on it. It’s great artistically to work like that. We’re very similar – he’s up for having fun, enjoys what he does, enjoys life. We’re on the same page.
But it’s not all work – if we’re on the phone, we’ll be talking work for 10 minutes, the next 20 minutes we’re talking about our lives, our families.