The animated superhero series returns next week to CBBC. The new series features the fearless white rodent secret agent (Alexander Armstrong) and his trusty sidekick Penfold (Kevin Eldon), along with a host of other stars. We speak to the man behind the score, composer Sanj Sen.
The feedback from one producer about his music is that “It makes me excited in a slightly undignified way”. This modest, Brighton-based composer is sitting by his keyboard with a still of Colonel K (voiced by Stephen Fry) on the TV screen above him. He’s about to unleash his composing chops on another DM adventure. We catch up with him and ask him to share his experiences of working on the new series of this iconic show.
When did Danger Mouse begin for you?
In my early years! It was a real favourite growing up. Everyone my age knows Danger Mouse. Fast forward a couple of decades to May 2014 and my agent asked me if I wanted a shot at the new Danger Mouse. I said, “Yes please”. The producers asked me to record an updated, contemporary and striking version of the theme. I submitted an idea and a couple of accompanying ideas for beds with it. The feedback from this was very positive, and the rest of the score grew from there.
How closely do you work with the producers on the score?
I’d say pretty closely, especially in the first few weeks when you’re inevitably finding your feet, experimenting a little and seeing what the producers like. You’re forming a bit of a road map as to the shape of the score for each show when you get initial feedback. It’s a very fast-paced show with a lot of momentary pauses for comedy effect so you have to tailor the music carefully. Although there are a lot of production staff on this series situated all over – England, Ireland and the US – it’s become a very collaborative process and you quickly get to know stylistically what’s required.
How would you describe your scoring style for the show?
It was important for me to give a nod to the musical language of classic British spy films from the 60′s and 70′s, whilst introducing contemporary elements to appeal to the new generation of viewers. Vibrant brass, clanging beats, and fuzzy base lines were always going to be a big part of the score, but what surprised me was how well a filmic, orchestral approach also worked. As a result, the score tends to move between the two, depending on the scale of the scene.
What kind of music do you listen to and who is your favourite composer of all time?
My listening habits have always been very eclectic, something which has kept me in good stead as a composer, you never know what is going to be thrown at you!
If we’re talking film composers, I’d have to say the great John Williams. I grew up listening to his scores, and they’ve always stayed with me. I love the way he can present a concise, memorable melody over complex orchestration, giving the listener something immediate to grab on to, but leaving plenty more to be discovered.
Do you dream about Danger Mouse?
No, Although one of my first nightmares I can remember as a child involved Nero (Greenback’s insidious pet) and Arnold from Different Strokes……. Don’t ask!
If you had one piece of advice for a composer wanting to break into the world of composing for TV, what would it be?
You’re only as good as your previous work, so put time into making your show-reel and website reflect your strengths and experience as a composer, and present it in a clear, concise way.
Danger Mouse begins on the CBBC Channel on 28th September 2015 at 6pm and airs globally from 2016.