In the last ten years, Henry Jackman has gone from a small composer to one that has scored for some of the biggest blockbusters of recent years. Known for his work with Matthew Vaughn and several Marvel films, this Hans Zimmer prodigy has developed his own style to create great blockbuster scores with a unique sound.
Henry Jackman is the son of Andrew Pryce Jackman, the keyboard player from Progressive Rock band ‘The Syn’. Not only this, but his uncle, Gregg Jackman, was the sound engineer for another Prog band, ‘Barclay James Harvest’, and his grandfather, Bill Jackman, played the clarinet part on ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ by The Beatles. He grew up with a keen interest in music production, particularly in programming, and early in his career worked alongside artists like Mike Oldfield, Elton John and Gary Barlow. He used this pop-music knowledge to release three albums between 2003 and 2007. During this time, however, he was also collaborating with a major film musician.
In 1989, Hans Zimmer founded ‘Remote Control Productions’ a music production company that has been responsible for creating the ‘blockbuster’ sound that dominates Hollywood scores today. Hans Zimmer hires musicians who he see’s potential in, and allows them to work alongside him, mentoring them until they’re ready to score for themselves. Henry Jackman was one such ‘disciple’ and, from 2006, worked alongside Hans Zimmer on many of his biggest scores. This includes programming on ‘The Da Vinci Code’, arranging on ‘The Dark Knight’, and composing additional music for scores like ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’, ‘Kung Fu Panda’ and ‘The Simpsons Movie’.
His first full-feature was in 2009 when he composed for ‘Monsters VS Aliens’, but a year later he composed for ‘Kick Ass’, in his first of 4 collaborations with Matthew Vaughn. His collaborations continued with ‘X-Men: First Class’ and, my personal favourite, the scores for both Kingsman films. The score for ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ was a perfect blend of new and old. The classy spies have their suave flutes and strings, the tech-villain Valentine has an electronic suite, and the score features several fantastic themes, including “Manners Maketh Man” which has become a modern classic. What Jackman did brilliantly then was adapt everything from the first film into something brand new for the second. Naturally themes were repeated, but due to the US being a major setting of the second film, steel guitars, duelling banjos and fiddles were added to create a full hoedown sound. Just as the film depicted pure Americana, so too did the score.
Jackman has composed many other fantastic scores, including those for the ‘Captain America’ sequels, ‘Captain Phillips’ (which earnt his first BAFTA nomination) and ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’. His use of rock guitars and drums is clear when you listen to his music, and this must be his prog rock heritage continuing on through his work. It’s no wonder then that when scoring for ‘Kong: Skull Island’, he chose to use echoing psychedelic rock guitars as a key musical motif of the70’s and the Vietnam War.
With two scores coming out this year (The Predator and Wreck-It Ralph 2), Henry Jackman is still on the way up. His scores have taken themes from Hans Zimmer’s blockbuster style, but have revised it with a different style that reflects his background in rock and musical programming. I have no doubt that his scores will continue to explore these themes, and will still be a pleasure to listen to, both in the films and in their own right.
If you’re interested, here are my Top 10 favourite Henry Jackman scores (as well as a key track from each that I recommend):
- Kingsman: The Secret Service (“Manners Maketh Man”)
- Kong: Skull Island (“The Battle of Skull Island”)
- Kingsman: The Golden Circle (“Kingsman Hoedown”)
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier (“Hydra”)
- X-Men: First Class (“Rage and Serenity”)
- Kick Ass (“I’m Kick-Ass”)
- Captain America: Civil War (“Caps Promise”)
- Captain Phillips (“Choose Your Crew”)
- Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (“Into the Jungle”)
- Big Hero Six (“Microbots”)