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When British-born composer Schaun Tozer decided to leave England, he could have gone anywhere. He was working as a composer for film, TV and contemporary dance but instead of moving to L.A. or New York, he chose Vancouver because he had family and friends there. He got lucky, arriving in 1990 just when the city’s film industry was taking off. “It was excellent,” he says. “There were more facilities, forums and composers.”
Tozer has mainly worked on Canadian productions. He was the composer for Hard Core Logo and the TV shows Da Vinci’s Inquest and Intelligence, among others. His most recent film, though, Facing Ali — a documentary about the legendary boxer — is an American flick and may become his most well-known work to date: the film has been shortlisted for an Academy Award (nominations will be announced on Feb. 2).
Composing wasn’t his only job on this film. Facing Ali’s director, Pete McCormack (who is also a songwriter), secured rights to over 200 funk and R&B songs from San Francisco’s Ubiquity Records and Tozer had to figure out how to incorporate them into the film. “There was all this amazing music from this period in the ’70s,” he says. “I had to take control of all these tracks and place them in the gaps.”
His own contributions were also funk-influenced, which was a bit of departure. While composers don’t necessarily have a “sound,” Tozer is inspired by world music and it shows. He’s written a number of tunes — including one for the recently released Hardwired (starring Cuba Gooding Jr. and Val Kilmer) — with an East Indian flavour. Other tracks are inspired by trips Tozer has taken to Brazil.
At home in his studio he works 12-hour days. Mostly it’s just him and a computer. He’d love to work more with musicians or even orchestras but budgets generally don’t allow it. Of course, listening to his music you’d never know he’s creating everything out of thin air. “The trick,” he says, “is to make it sound as though it’s real.” Consider us fooled