Brad Fiedel Q&A



James Cameron, Brad Fiedel, Mark Goldblatt and Adam Greenberg comprise the core of the creative forces behind both The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day aka T2. Brad Fiedel perfectly captured the feel of Jim Cameron's Terminator story contained in those two movies, and we had a pleasure to talk to him about the amazing, immersing music he did for those two movies and True Lies.

JAMESCAMERONONLINE: How did you meet James Cameron and how did you get involved with The Terminator?

BRAD FIEDEL: I believe one of my agents, Beth Donahue, had sent Jim a tape of my work and then he and Gail Anne Hurd came to my studio and showed me the film. I played them some additional music including a dark personal piece for piano and synthesizers that I'd been working on. I think that piece connected with Jim and his vision for the film and gave him the feeling that I could do the job.

JCO: The Terminator is one of those movies where the soundtrack is inseparable from the film. The music underlines the constant feel of dread and looming danger, especially the low bass melody that appears throughout the film, the first time during the Terminator's arrival. It's dark, it's chilling, it's in some places creepy and spine tingling. Some fans say it reveals influence of John Carpenter's early stuff, would you say the soundtrack was in any way inspired by Carpenter's early scores? Can you tell us about the design process of the soundtrack for The Terminator?

BF: Actually, I hadn't heard any of John Carpenter's work at that point. I felt that the film needed a mechanically based heartbeat pulsing almost subliminally under the presence of the Terminator. I experimented until I created a sound that matched my imagination. I added various electronic textures that supported the unsettled feeling I got from the film and the cold dark future it foretold and the look and feel of Jim's visual design.

The main melodic theme came from a piano improvisation I did the morning after seeing the film. I also decided to use a lot of odd time signatures to support the forward motion of the film, the rhythms always falling forward to the next measure and the next.

I put these elements together into a them recording and when Jim heard it he said, " thats the movie" and off we went working through the film cue by cue. He was very conscious of not over using the melody. He wanted much of the film to be a very visceral experience for the audience and he felt that too much melody would bring them out of that experience.

JCO:  T2's score, like the movie, feels like it's on a much grander scale. The score often sounds like it's actually orchestral. What was the approach in designing the soundtrack for T2?

BF: I felt that T2 was a warmer grander film and decided to incorporate a more orchestral sound. I came up with some test cues and Jim was totally supportive of this shift in the approach. There is hardly any synthesizer in it. Instead of sounds that originated with oscillators etc like the first film, most of the sounds were acoustic samples which I had altered to better fit the mood of the film. Originally we had considered adding a real orchestra, but the schedule was so tight and the score was working as it was so we moved forward that way. One important element in both scores was the very inventive work by electric violinist Ross Levinson. His live playing brought a lot of guts to both scores.

JCO: There are some tracks which contain an apocalyptic-like choir sound, during the opening theme, in "Terminator Revives", "Cameron's Inferno" and more. It adds an extra grandeur and apocalyptic feel to the movie, we were always wondering about the thought behind the use of the choir-like sounds in T2, as it gives the music and the film a great,deep and epic feel

BF: I felt that the fate of all humanity demanded that kind of sound. I actually liked the rather primitive choir samples that were available back then for their infinite quality. Not too specific. I altered them further to accentuate that element to blend with the rest of the score and create the feel you mentioned. Looking back, I think part of what unified the score and added to it's impact was that by necessity, it was designed it to make the most of the limits of the musical technology of the time.

JCO: How did you come up with the simple but perfect theme for the T-1000?

BF: I heard something in my imagination and struggled a bit to find a way to manifest it. Finally, I found a sample of a big brass group playing atonal random sliding sounds. I played it backwards at a very low register( way below the natural pitch of the instruments) and it became the foundation of the churning sound of that liquid, menacing machine.

JCO:  Much of T2's soundtrack hasn't been released, such as the background tracks to the scene where John talks about his mother at the parking lot, or T-800 revealing the future history to Sarah in the car and much more. Do you think there will be any way to hear those tracks released in any form anytime soon?

BF: It's a possibility I guess. We did put what we thought was important( and could fit) on the CD at the time. I guess we could look for the materials needed and put something together if the holders of the rights wanted to do that. I've been flattered by the interest in my music that has surfaced in recent years, but truthfully have always thought that a lot of my scores were so married to the visual in the way I composed them that they wouldn't really make for good listening apart from the scenes they were designed to support.

JCO: Were you involved in Terminator 2 3D: Battle Across Time? The general view is that you wrote the original music for T2 3D as well, it seems very much in vein with T2 score

BF:Yes, I scored T23D.

JCO:  How did you approach the soundtrack on True Lies?

BF: Jim felt that from the very first measures of music in the film we had to make it clear that this was for fun. This was not Jim and Arnold and me in the same territory we'd been before. I approached the opening bars almost like a overture to a broadway musical and a number of cues like they were dance pieces. For instance, I used tango rhythms to score Arnold escaping from the chateau. I was influenced by Bernstein's dance music from West Side Story. We used a large orchestra as well as a lot of tracks I created in my studio.

JCO:  Any future projects you want to share?

BF: I've written a one man musical that I also perform called " Borrowed Time". It's about what can happen to the dreams of our youth, and how ďgrowing upĒ affects the alignment between our soulís purpose and what we actually end up doing with our time on this planet. Coming of age in the 60ís, my dream was to write songs that told the truth and made a difference in the world. Through stories, characters, and the songs I wrote throughout my life, the show shares my journey from growing up in my parentís zany school of the arts on Long Island, auditioning for Clive Davis at Columbia records, getting signed to Paul Simonís publishing company, playing keyboards for Hall and Oates, girlfriends, marriage, children, divorce, getting immersed in the world of film composing, and eventually discovering itís never too late to change course and reclaim our dreams. We'll be doing some touring with the show next year. There's more info and clips available at

JCO: Again, we want to sincerely thank you for taking the time to answer those questions

BF: My pleasure! Cheers!