An Interview with Roger Suen: the composer for the drama Ms. Purple

Best known for his work on Rise of the Planet Apes and X-Men: Days of Past, composer Roger Suen talks to Mandy News about his work on the Marvel series Daredevil and his most recent drama Ms. Purple

1st February 2019
/ By James Collins

Roger Suen conducting Gook ANNIEBANG

How did you get involved in music?

I played all different kinds of music growing up. I started on piano but played in orchestras and even a Ska band. I studied music at school but dropped out and went into mechanical engineering. I eventually realised that wasn’t my thing and went back to music as a studio intern and met a lot of people, I was really lucky. One thing led to another and I’m here today. 

What led you to working on ‘Ms Purple’?

Justin Chon did ‘Gook’ that I also scored. We met through a mutual friend and got along really well.  We did pretty good work on ‘Gook’ and thought we should do another one together. 

What is your approach to scoring a film, and in particular ‘Ms. Purple’?

It’s different with every director, even with Justin it was different this time than it was on ‘Gook’.  With that we kind of knew what we wanted for the start.  This one took longer, a lot of sending over voice memos of me playing piano and going back and forth.  We probably spent more time trying to find the sound and the scenes than we did writing that actual score, so it does vary from project to project. 

***** Take a look at our interview with composer duo Giona Ostinelli & Sonya Belousova *****

What influences the work you want to be involved in?

I’m definitely someone who loves different genres, with ‘Daredevil’ under John Paesano we had the comic book sound we tried to keep but we tried as much as we can to intro some cool stuff.  A lot of kind of retro sounds, almost like an espionage movie.  So, some old retro sounds from back in the day and adding some new elements. It was a lot of fun, one of my favourite projects to work on

Tell us a little more about ‘Ms. Purple’ and its influence on the music. 

I read the script before it was shot, it’s about an estranged brother and sister coming back together over a family tragedy. It was a very moving and powerful film but also very simple, a story of everyday people. So the idea of a small string section came to mind, as the emotional core of the score. 

I have a good friend in the Calder Quarter in LA, so I think watching them was on my mind to. I think it worked out pretty well. 

What advice do you have for up-and-coming composers? 

There are various ways of going about the business, mine was doing lots of ghostwriting and going the old apprenticeship way. I like to geek out and if you do too then that’s a good way to go and you meet a lot of people that way. 

You have to pick who you work with, you should really work with people you get along with. This job is hard enough as it is. Justin and I hang out outside of work, we have learnt a lot about each other and continue to do so.

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Roger Suen and Justin Chong Impact24 PR
Roger Suen and Justin Chong at the Sundance premiere
Roger Suen and Tiffany Chuat the Sundance premiere Impact24PR
Roger Suen and Tiffany Chuat the Sundance premiere
Roger Suen, Ronnie Kim and Octavio Pizano at the Sundance premiere Impact24PR
Roger Suen, Ronnie Kim and Octavio Pizano at the Sundance premiere