No sooner had Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer answered his phone last Friday then he begged off a few moments to audibly offer his crew parting weekend instructions before flying to his next global destination.
Zimmer, 65, was in his plush Santa Monica, California, studio, preparing music for next year’s planned sequel to the movie “Dune,” for which he won his second Academy Award for Best Original Score last March. After advising crew members to “keep the high octaves separate from the lower ones,” he informed the musician standing next to him: “Thank you so much. You’ve played brilliantly as always.”
Given Zimmer’s hectic schedule as a 12-time Oscar nominee — who won the same category in 1995 for work on “The Lion King” — and four-time Grammy winner in constant demand, it’s somewhat surprising he found time to create music Kraken fans should already be familiar with — an eight-minute soundtrack used to accompany on-ice player introductions at Climate Pledge Arena before every home game.
The California drop-in last week from his London home was brief before a scheduled flight to Houston on Monday, to Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Tuesday, then Antarctica followed by Paris, Dubai and back to England for Christmas.
“I get rather busy,” Zimmer acknowledged.
But it helped that one of the primary Kraken owners is Jerry Bruckheimer, the Hollywood producer who’s known the German-born Zimmer for decades since working with him on “Days of Thunder” in 1990. Zimmer also did the score for Bruckheimer’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” films — including a scene involving a “Kraken” sea creature — and his latest “Top Gun: Maverick” movie.
Last summer while dining in London, Bruckheimer hit up Zimmer on the idea of composing the team’s music.
“We were out at dinner, he was talking about his passion for the team,” Zimmer said. “And his passion for the team sets me on fire.”
The pair have many things in common beyond movies, starting with both being Jewish and having German-born parents who left that country before the Nazis could get to them. Zimmer’s mother initially fled to England in 1939, then returned and gave birth to him in postwar West Germany, where — after his Jewish father died when he was a young boy — they kept their religion a secret partially from fear of anti-Semitism.
“Our relationship is — yes, he is very often my producer,” Zimmer said of Bruckheimer. “But the fun part of the relationship is the friendship. And if Jerry has an interest — more than an interest, a passion for something — then he doesn’t have to ask twice.”
For the Detroit-born Bruckheimer, 79, whose parents left Germany shortly before Adolf Hitler’s rise to power, the idea came about while brainstorming with Kraken chief marketing officer Katie Townsend about pregame entertainment. Bruckheimer felt the player intro needed more explosive music and suggested his buddy “Hans” might help.
Bruckheimer and Zimmer were working on a planned Brad Pitt movie titled “F1,” about Formula One car racing. They met in London at a restaurant Zimmer chose — with the composer claiming the city is “really my turf, and Jerry knows the same three restaurants, so I wanted to surprise him” — before Bruckheimer pulled his own surprise in springing his Kraken idea.
“I said, ‘Hans, I’m a part owner of this hockey team. Would you be interested in doing something?’ “ Bruckheimer said. “And he said, ‘Sure, Jerry, I’d be glad to help you out.’ “
Zimmer was indeed surprised.
“We have a lifetime of things to talk about and then suddenly, the hockey team thing sort of slips into the conversation, and it becomes a big thing,” Zimmer said. “He’s very passionate about it.”
Bruckheimer forwarded Zimmer footage of the Kraken’s pregame intros. Zimmer and Bruckheimer then sat in the composer’s London studio and mapped the whole thing out.
“He took about a month or so,” Bruckheimer said. “And then, when I was back in L.A., we sat down and he played me some stuff, and I thought it was great. We worked on it a bit, and then we sent it to the Kraken.”
For Zimmer, composing the music wasn’t much different from the many projects he has ongoing.
“How do you write?” Zimmer said. “You write in your head, and then you use that tool called a computer.”
Zimmer added: “It was more about ‘What’s the concept? What can we do? How can we do this? What can we say?’ “
He approached the project like a movie, imagining the player experience pregame and building up to when they take the ice.
“Because inevitably, I want to tell a story,” Zimmer said. “I want to tell the story of before the game, of sitting there. That moment of tension you feel before going out on to the ice. And I wanted that idea of them just exploding out of the gate onto the ice. So I was making a movie in my head.”
Zimmer wouldn’t go into specifics of how many days it took to generate the eight-minute original “suite” — part of which is devoted to the player intros — but did say he knew precisely when it was ready.
“I didn’t do it overnight,” he said. “I didn’t just pass it off. Quite a lot of work went into it.”
Portions of the music will be used in Kraken TV commercials and other video projects.
Zimmer said there was no vetting by the team. He just handed the music to Bruckheimer knowing “it was finished” and had struck the right chords.
Bruckheimer now says: “I think that it’s something he enjoyed doing, because he’s done things for the Olympics. He’s done things for soccer — the World Cup. So I think that he enjoys doing it.”
Zimmer knows a bit about hockey. He’s lived in L.A. off and on since the 1980s, enabling him to watch some games.
“I just try to keep up with the speed of it,” Zimmer said. “I mean, don’t ever put me on ice. The most foolish thing you can do with somebody who plays keyboards is to put them on the ice and have somebody’s ice skates go over their fingers. So, don’t put me on the ice. So that doesn’t mean I don’t like watching.”
Bruckheimer has hosted a semiregular pickup game in L.A. for years that Zimmer said the producer invited him to play in.
“Of course he has,” Zimmer said, adding he graciously declined. “I’ve just been a little busy writing for him.”
And writing for others. So busy, in fact, Zimmer has yet to see the finished video intro the Kraken filmed in Aberdeen and the San Juan Islands using a replica 1700s era ship before blending the footage with his music.
But what matters most to Zimmer is he thinks the music “sounds pretty good,” and the Kraken seem to agree.
“It doesn’t matter if I’m a successful composer or not,” Zimmer said. “I have to write a successful piece for them. I have to make sure that those players on that team and that town of Seattle are happy. And that I’ve honored them in the right way.”