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Hans Zimmer: ‘The last note is written when the last heartbeat sounds’

As Hans Zimmer heads up a new global campaign for Rimowa, the acclaimed composer tells us about his illustrious career - and why the luxury suitcase brand keeps him on the move...

By Joseph Kocharian

Hans Zimmer for Rimowa (Picture: Press)

You spoke in the Rimowa video about how it is difficult to carry on a conversation because you hear a sound and you have to start playing music. Are there any people in particular that you have met in your life, or would like to meet that have really inspired you to make music?

The people that inspire my music are usually painters or visual artists. I have a large collection of photography books and I am a huge fan of Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt, Picasso, of course. Gerhard Richter, I think constantly is a vast and major influence in the way he uses color in his paintings. And that translates very much into how I use colour in music.

Are there any places in the world that inspire you when it comes to making music?

Having just finished the movie Dune with Denis Villeneuve. Of course, the one place that inspired me tremendously into making music was the desert. But just before going to the desert, I was at the very extreme of that, which was Antarctica. And again, you know, there is the sound of silence, which is actually not ever that silent. You hear the wind howling and you hear the ice cracking. And the same with the desert, the wind, you know, whistling through the sand dunes is a fabulous sound. But then ultimately the other thing which is incredibly exciting is if you just stand in the middle of New York City and you hear all the noise around you and there’s a symphony of the modern world, which can be, and is, truly inspiring. Those are really the places. And then of course, the other place that inspires me is a completely silent room, and just the noise I hear in my head.

You are known for creating epic soundtracks that deal with travel on a huge scale, such as the Dune films, Inception and Interstellar. What is the relationship between travel and music for you?

The relationship between travel and music for me, of course, in my head, every time I go and write a piece of music, I go on a journey. And sometimes the journey might be something like Inception, where we travel into deep into the subconscious and, the journey is long and further than you can possibly ever do in, in reality or in films like Dune, where we suddenly find ourselves, we are not only thousands of miles from planet Earth, but we’re suddenly in the desert and we’re suddenly in places, which are inspiring because we are creating worlds to which we travel. I mean, so much of what film music is about world building, and so we build our own worlds. But of course, the ultimate inspiration for all of that is to get on a plane and go to a place, go to an exotic place and take a little memory, take a little slice with you. I remember for Dunkirk, actually going to Dunkirk and grabbing a handful of sand and putting it into a glass jar and to a mason jar and taking it back to America and just having it sit next to me and writing from that and keeping that as my inspiration.

Do you have a favourite piece of music you have made? If so which is it and why?

Do I have a favourite piece of music? I don’t have a favourite piece of music that I’ve made. I am hoping that one of these days I will write a piece of music that I’ll be happy with. So far, it’s been—put it this way—I haven’t been unhappy when they come out. Nothing leaves my studio if I’m truly unhappy with it. But I haven’t cracked it yet. There’s still time. There’s still time. You know, we composers we never retire. You know, the last note is probably written when the last heartbeat sounds. So no, the best piece of music doesn’t exist yet.

If you could take your Rimowa case to anywhere in the world for a moment of escape and sanctuary, where would you go?

I constantly take my RIMOWA cases to sanctuaries and travel across the world to just find a little bit of peace. I mean, that is part of the great luxury of having beautiful suitcases that you can go and just throw things into them and escape the world, and just have a moment of peace in some strange and wonderful part of this beautiful blue planet and recharge your batteries.