Chance Thomas is a composer who has worked in film, television and video games, including when he transported readers to Middle-earth in the game Lord of the Rings Online. He is a Tolkien enthusiast and was happy to do an interview with TheOneRing. We sat down, broke bread and talked Tolkien.
Thomas was involved in several editions of LOTRO including, “Riders of Rohan,” “Mines of Moria,” Shadows of Angmar,” and “Mordor.” I watched recently as fans geeked out at the chance to meet the man who provided the music for the game they loved so dearly.
He has a long list of credits including other Peter Jackson games and an Academy Award winning short film “The ChubbChubbs!”
Chance Thomas: When I was a child, my mother was always singing in our home. She took me to the symphony, we listened to records and sang along with the radio. Great music was always around and it always lit me up.
As I grew older, good friends would often introduce me to cool new bands and recording artists. We would get together just to share new songs we liked with each other. I also started playing in orchestras and rock bands and wrote songs and made recordings. After college, my wife and I entertained together on cruise ships and wrote pop songs.
Really, I have loved music for as long as I can remember.
TORn: Where did your involvement with Tolkien come from?
CT: I read the Hobbit as a tween, but didn’t tackle The Lord of the Rings until I was in my 30s. When I did finally read the trilogy, it was like an eruption of joy and discovery inside of me.
Oh, how I loved it! The world, the characters, the fantasy, the pacing, the descriptions … and the music! Everywhere across the world there was mention of music. Songs, instruments, voices; it was wonderful. As a result, I began to codify all of the references in the book and their inferences about music into a document, “The Tolkien Music Style Guide.” The intent was to keep me authoritatively focused as I composed, so that the music I wrote would resonate with the source material, as if drawn from some sub-dimensional embedding of music in the very literature itself.
TORn: As a composer, do you get a lot of emotional feedback on your work? Do you hear from people?
What a great question. (Thanks Chance!)
Media composers like me generally get very little feedback on the work we do. But that’s not uncommon in the professional world. For example, a plumber who lays pipes and fittings in a new home will likely never get feedback from the people who buy the home unless there’s a problem.
It’s hard for me to imagine a homeowner tracking down a plumber, calling him up, and saying, “Hey man! I just want you to know how much we’re enjoying the water pressure in our shower. It’s amazing!”
Likewise, most of the people who hear my music are busy playing the game or watching the TV show, or going through the VR experience. They’re gleefully consuming the entertainment, enjoying it as a total experience. It’s not often that people will go to the extra effort of tracking a composer down to give feedback on the music.
Having said all that, the one notable exception comes from “The Lord of the Rings Online.”
Players of this game have been unusually active in finding me online and sharing their enthusiasm for the music I’ve written for them. It has been incredibly gratifying, as you can imagine, to have people find me and share how much the music has meant to them over the years.
And actually, now that I think of it, “DOTA 2” players have been great that way too.
TORn: Who are some of your music heroes and also heroes in your more specific field of soundtracks?
CT: Kansas, Boston, Elton John, Billy Joel, Toto, James Newton Howard, John Williams, James Horner, Danny Elfman, Loreena McKennitt, Earth, Wind and Fire, Quincy Jones, many more.
TORn: For those of us who can’t compose music, how does it feel to complete a piece of music ?
It’s surprisingly dynamic, really. You can feel an incredible rush of adrenaline and satisfaction at times. You can also feel complete contempt, disgust, and self-loathing. And the pendulum can swing from one extreme to the other fast enough to make your head spin. I had that kind of reaction when I wrote the theme for Rohan. Still do. Sometimes I think it’s a really great tune. Other times I think… meh.
I’m not saying that composers are neurotic, but we can tend to have a bit of a love/hate relationship with our own creations. Sometimes that pendulum can even swing all the way across an entire score. I never was really sure how I felt about my first DOTA 2 score.
TORn: Are there certain pieces you find that you love more than others? You have compared them to children in previous conversations.
CT: I write a ton of action music. Creating action tracks can be super fun. It’s loud, it’s bombastic, its aggressive. It gets the adrenaline going. But more often than not, if I’m just in a listening mood, I prefer the more thematic pieces, the thoughtful tracks, the music with some emotional movement in it. Here are a couple of examples from that part of my composing style. First the thematic afterture I recently composed for Warhammer:
And here is an older one, the tragic hero theme I composed for King Kong:
TORn: Can you watch films or the like and not focus on the soundtrack?
Absolutely. I’ve always been drawn deeply into films. Sometimes my wife laughs when I’m watching a movie because I may physically duck and dodge during fight scenes. In the process of being entertained, I typically consume the music as part of the overall experience. But when the music is meant to stand out and be featured, I dial in to that too.
TORn: What types of projects do you hope to do down the road?
CT: As a fan and as an artist, I adore deeply developed fictional worlds. I love working in them, creating music so that people who love those worlds can be drawn in ever more deeply.
I’ve been privileged to compose music for many such worlds, including The Lord of the Rings, James Cameron’s Avatar, Warhammer, Dungeons and Dragons, Marvel, King Kong and many more.
Down the road, I hope to continue to contribute to these kinds of fantasy worlds, at higher and higher levels, with broader and broader reach. Composing for the Avatar film sequels or the LOTR television series would definitely be at the top of my list
Larry, thanks for the interview. It’s always a pleasure. May the road go ever on and on!
When our friends from within the Tolkien Community heard we’re having a special birthday they sent us these lovely messages as part of our celebrations. So Happy 20th Anniversary TORn! Here’s to many many more!
Kia Ora TORn,
Happy 20th Anniversary, well done on making this wonderful achievement! We have been involved with TORn through one of your founding members Erica Challis, from New Zealand since 2002. We have enjoyed the fantastic Premier movie parties that Red Carpet Tours has provided and TORn attended, along with the stars from the films. Looking forward to future calibrations and hopefully a great Lotr TV series for all the fans. Congratulations again on 20 years! Best regards, Julie James and the team at Red Carpet Tours.
Happy 20th Birthday to TheOneRing.net from The Brisbane Tolkien Fellowship. We hope you continue to have another successful 20 years at least sharing the news of all things Middle-earth.
Dear Friends at TheOneRing,
Congratulations on reaching the ripe old age of 20 ; ) Thank you for all the support and love you’ve given us all.
When I took the job of playing Ori in The Hobbit, I didn’t think I’d collect so many chums. Like the cast, you too are part of my extended dysfunctional Tolkien family!
Have a great celebration – drink, be merry… and avoid the green food! See you all soon. Adam x
A big happy 20th anniversary to TheOneRing.net ! All this time you have been delivering to us critical and wonderful news regarding the world of JRR Tolkien, from the books to the films to the Collectibles and everything in between. May 20 more years be forthcoming!
Cheers, Jerry Vanderstelt
Our good friend Donato Giancola also has given us a mathom to offer to you all! For the next ten days, you can get 50% (!!) off on all of Donato’s incredible art prints. Just use the coupon code TORN at checkout. Take a look at the wonderful prints on sale, here. Thanks so much, Donato!
I can’t believe it’s been 20 years already – it’s been an amazing community to have been a part of, and all good wishes to everyone involved, from everyone at Welly-moot!
Jack Machiela Welly-moot.com
We will be adding more messages to this post as and when we receive them, so do check back! Thanks to everyone who has sent greetings and anniversary messages!
Should you find yourself in Los Angeles next week and the week after, there will be plenty of Hobbity goodness to go around. And if you are not in LA, a few of the events will be covered so that you don’t miss any of the fun.
1) First up on Monday, December 8 with Peter Jackson receiving a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. This will begin at 11:30am and run till about 12:15pm. The Walk of Fame website will be live streaming the ceremony, which means everyone can enjoy it even if you can’t be here with us. For those who do decide to attend, TORn will be hosting a lunch moot at the Cabo Wabo Cantina inside the Hollywood and Highland complex. The Star Ceremonies are open to the public, but they do not allow chairs or step ladders or anything that would impede walking. The ceremony lasts for about 45 minutes once it is started and they expect everyone to clear out once it is over in order to reopen the sidewalk. Peter’s star is slated to be outside the Dolby Theater on Hollywood Blvd, so you can park in the Hollywood and Highland Complex. If you wish to attend you can check out our Facebook Event Page. Andy Serkis will be speaking during the ceremony and numerous other cast are scheduled to appear.
2) The Hollywood premiere for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies will take place inside the Dolby Theater on Tuesday, December 9. The Red Carpet starts at 5pm, so do try and arrive before then. Last year’s Hollywood premiere was more of a press event and not very fan friendly, so just go into this with eyes open. Arrive early, bring lots of patience with you, be prepared to stand for a long while, bring water and comfy shoes, and be open to changing locations if security changes protocols 6 times on you. Regardless of what happens on the Red Carpet and with the screening, TORn will again be hosting a little moot in Cabo Wabo Cantina, which will be open until midnight. We do hope that we learn a few helpful hints for the Premiere at the Star Ceremony the day before, so stay tuned to our Facebook Event Page. Numerous cast are slated to attend the premiere.
One helpful suggestion for both events: If you wish to get autographs, make sure to bring with you everything you will need, including a good sharpie pen and the items you want signed. And while large posters or the Chronicles books are lovely items to get signed, you are best bringing something small and easy to carry.
3) Next up on the very busy Hollywood Hobbit tour is Billy Boyd doing a live performance and then CD signing for the new Soundtrack for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies on Wednesday, December 10. The event will be at the Barnes and Noble at The Grove, starting at 6pm. This will be a Wristbanded event, and they will begin to hand out those wristbands on Tuesday, December 9 at 9am once the soundtrack officially goes on sale. So, if you will be heading to the Premiere, swing past the Grove, pick up your soundtrack and get a wristband. For more details, please visit our Facebook Event Page for more details.
That’s it for next week, but then the film will be released the week after and our line parties kick into full gear.
4) Marathon Monday at the TCL Chinese theater on Monday, December 15 starting at Noon. This will be the first publicly available screening of the final film, and TORn will be there with Trivia, games and prizes for one and all. Please visit the Facebook Event Page.
5) On Tuesday, December 16 at 7pm, the TCL Chinese will hold their first screening of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies in IMAX HFR 3D. More fun and games will ensue. For more details, please visit the Facebook Event page.
In April next year, the Symphony Silicon Valley will be presenting the complete Lord of the Rings Trilogy with a Live orchestral performance.
Along with soloists to be named later, the Academy Award-winning films will be shown in High Definition on a giant 48’ by 20’ screen with 250 musicians performing on stage.
As part of this Howard Shore has recorded a little message where he speaks about his orchestral scores for Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings. You can find out more about the SSV performance and tickets for it here.