Pieter Schlosser is an award-winning television, film and video game composer known most recently for scoring NBC’s hit show You, Me and the Apocalypse. Based in Los Angeles, Schlosser grew up traveling the world with his family, enriching his musical vocabulary with each new culture and each new country.
This summer Pieter Schlosser was interviewed by a writer in Texas, Nicolette Mallow, to discuss topics like how world-traveling influenced his music, the differences between scoring for the UK versus the US, what lead him to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston and other miscellany.
“Pieter spent a great deal of his childhood traveling, living in Guatemala, Austria, Panama and Costa Rica. He attended Berklee College of Music in Boston before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in television, film and video game composing. A multi-instrumentalist and polyglot, Pieter has had his work featured in the music of Grammy-nominated world music group Editus. Last year, he worked with the Costa Rica National Symphony Orchestra, arranging a full orchestral performance of his original music. In 2014, he won the ASCAP award for Top Television Series for his work on Freeform’s The Lying Game. Pieter Schlosser also composed the music for Lifetime’s The Client List and provided additional music for ABC’s Resurrection and The Astronaut Wives Club. Pieter worked on Desperate Housewives and is credited with bringing the signature Latin musical styling to the show. Currently, he is composing the music for the highly anticipated IMAX film, In Saturn’s Rings. He is also scoring the major motion picture, What About Love, starring Sharon Stone and Andy Garcia, set for release in 2017. Pieter worked in Hans Zimmer’s Remote Control Productions studio for 5 years alongside many high profile composers on various projects, such as Friday The 13th and the Transformers film and video game franchise. In addition to Transformers: The Game, Pieter demonstrated his versatility by providing additional music for some of the most popular video games of this generation with Gears of War 2 & 3 and The Sims 3.”
Nicolette Mallow: Will you tell me about your childhood background in music and how growing up in so many countries influenced your career?
Pieter Schlosser: Music was always around when I was growing up and it was always playing in the house. My mom played the piano; it was an old upright piano that ended up in our home. My dad was always a big fan of music, too. Dad loved to play jazz. My mom favored classical. The love of music was inherited from my parents. When I was in Guatemala, I didn’t play an instrument. I just listened to music and sometimes I even stole my mom’s tapes and records. When we moved to Austria, I was eight and that’s when I began to start playing the piano. There is a mecca of music in Austria. Everyone plays music. I wanted to join the choir and that’s where it all really began. After spending three years in Austria, my family and I moved to Panama. I kept singing in the choir. It was a Swedish choir in Panama and we sang around Christmas time. There was one person who played saxophone and I thought it looked cool and so I began lessons. Then we moved to Costa Rica and I made a friend with someone on the island and I joined band and played jazz. As I became obsessed with music, my grades began dipping… I loved moving around the world, even if my brother didn’t like it so much. My dad worked for BHL and that’s why we moved around the globe so much.
NM: Did you have a favorite place out of all the countries you and your family resided? Was there one musical style or culture that inspired you the most, or did they all equally fulfill your musical talents?
PS: It’s hard to say because, as a kid, it was pretty normal having all these different cultures and musical styles around me. I can’t say or pinpoint one thing that influenced me most. Growing up in Guatemala, Austria, Panama, and Costa Rica is like having a little book of musical notes and rhythms that I can use—and the combination of all these things is a nice balance that enriches my craft.
NM: What lead you to Berklee College of Music in Boston?
PS: While I was in Costa Rica, the Costa Rican-North American Cultural Center had a series of Universities do a Master class followed by a concert. Berklee College of Music in Boston was always there, including many other amazing programs from Miami and Texas. At one point I called or wrote a letter “Hey can u send me a Berklee sticker with the logo?” And I put it on my saxophone case. Suddenly I decided that’s where I wanted to go. It was the only college I applied to and I sort of felt a calling to enroll. Austria was a back-up to study jazz, but I was set on Berklee. So I applied and sent in an audition tape to Admissions and eventually I was offered a partial scholarship to attend. I accepted.
NM: How did your professional career in film and television begin?
PS: After college, I moved to LA. “The Record Plant” (a recording studio) in Hollywood was my first gig and I was a runner: food orders, trash, coffee and other office errands. During that time I met a scoring mixer who works with a ton of composers including Hans Zimmer. At the time he was working on the remake of “Italian Job”. Eventually we reconnected, and he hired me for little things in the studio. I got to attend a scoring session which was amazing. Ultimately, through him and my contacts with Berklee: I became an intern at Hans Zimmer. There’s no other place like working at Remote Control Productions. Anyway, that’s when I met Steve Jablonsky and later on Jablonsky hired me for “Transformers”. And then I started working on other film & TV projects.
NM: What is one of the most significant variations between scoring for television in the US versus music composition the UK?
PS: When we scored the UK version of “You Me and the Apocalypse” there are no commercial breaks. In the US version of the show, it’s 45 mins divided into 5 acts. Most shows in the US have commercials breaks, excluding HBO or Netflix.
NM: Have you always liked video games?
PS: Yes, I like video games. When I was younger, I enjoyed watching my brother play video games much more than I wanted to play myself. I am not entirely sure why I didn’t enjoy participating, but I preferred to watch.
NM: In regards to The Costa Rica National Symphony Orchestra, what original music of yours did they play? Is there a link or audio to hear this performance?
PS: The music community in Costa Rica is relatively small, so everyone knows each other. I became friends with members of a band called ‘Editus.’ In 1998, they were putting an album together titled ‘Calle Del Viento’ and released in 1999. I was just starting to write music then and I dared to pitch them the first piece of music I ever wrote. They loved it and included it in their album! Fast forward 16 years to 2015 and I got an e-mail saying they would be putting on a concert over three nights of that very album but this time, playing with the Costa Rica National Symphony. They asked if I’d make an orchestral arrangement of the piece. You can find the original recording of this piece called ‘El Sendero Menos Caminado’ (or ‘The Road Less Travelled,’ which is a line in a Robert Frost poem called ’The Road Not Taken’). The orchestral piece recorded in 2015, I believe, is currently being mastered and prepared for release. The song can be found on iTunes and Spotify.
NM: Now that you’ve obtained success and first-hand experience within the industry, do you have any advice or helpful insights for other aspiring composers?
PS: The best bet when it comes to writing music to picture, whether its film or television, the best route is to find some sort of mentorship with another composer so you can hopefully be getting paid while learning on the job. I wish there were a more solid answer. But I think it’s different for everyone and you have to figure it out as you move forward. It’s important to remember that there is not one way or one path to success in this field. Just remain passionate and even stubborn to your craft, but keep a smile. It’s tough but hang in there and you’ll persevere.