Over his 30-year career, award-winning British mixer, producer and composer Gareth Cousins has been a part of some of the most groundbreaking film music in recent history, including the BAFTA and Academy Award-winning score for Gravity (2013), and scores for such blockbuster titles as Baby Driver (2017), Suicide Squad (2016), American Assassin (2017) and Notting Hill (1999).
Beginning his career at the legendary Abbey Road Studios, Cousins never imagined a life in the motion picture industry. “When I walked in the doors of Abbey Road, I thought I was going to be a producer,” Gareth recalls, “And I got seduced by film along the way.” It was at Abbey Road that the young engineer took a keen interest in the emerging technology of synthesizers and programming, which laid the groundwork for many of his future projects. “Those skills that I acquired then—working out what the rules were of sampling and synthesis—gave me the opportunity to break all of the rules later; to create something completely original and new.”
Rule-breaking came into play most prominently for the film Gravity, composed by Steven Price, with whom Cousins has collaborated for over 15 years. (To date, the duo has combined forces on an impressive list of titles that have collectively grossed over two billion dollars). For Gravity, Price and Cousins—who held the role of recording engineer, music programmer and score mixer—were faced with a unique challenge by the film’s director, Alfonso Cuarón. Recalls Gareth, “There is no sound in space, and so Cuarón was very specific that all of the impacts and the movement couldn’t come from sound effects. It had to come from the score.” To accomplish this, Cousins and Price melded the organic with the electronic; recording live, orchestral performances and then running those tracks through a synthesizer to create a distinct aural experience. “I don’t think it’s well recognized how much of what the audience hears is actually scoring and not sound design,” emphasizes Gareth. “It challenged what scores are all about.” In addition to Gravity’s aforementioned accolades (which also included Golden Globe and GRAMMY ® nominations for Best Original Score), Cousins was presented with a prestigious Cinema Audio Society Award for Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing.
Cousins’ work has also taken a more traditional route in the studio. After seven years at Abbey Road, Gareth spent over a decade mixing, producing and arranging music for films like Dark City (1998), Thirteen Days (2000) and Desperate Measures (1998). Likewise, he has collaborated with some of the biggest names in the music industry, including Phil Collins, Elvis Costello, Sting and the multi-platinum classical crossover quartet, Bond. Throughout his career, Cousins has composed his own music, scoring hundreds of television episodes, including the long-running animated children’s series, The Beeps, and documentaries such as the Andrew Marr-fronted BBC miniseries, The Diamond Queen, which celebrated the 60th Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
In addition to his work on big and small screens, Cousins recently partnered with the venerable Royal Shakespeare Company to record and produce the scores and speeches for all of Shakespeare’s plays. “What strikes me most about my work with the RSC is the incredible talent on show,” says Gareth. “These actors are at the top of their game, and each have the ability to completely transport you away from the studio and into the worlds of intrigue, passion and conflict that Shakespeare’s plays so often inhabit.”
With an open-minded approach, Cousins, who performs much of his work from his Stratford-Upon- Avon-based studio, continues to innovate and explore new sonic territory. “I find it very exciting that you can start with nothing – with no rules,” he says, “And you can use anything you want, as long as it works within the context of the film, to create something very original.”