Legacy Conversations: Joe Kraemer

The composer of The Way of the Gun, Jack Reacher, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation talks about being inspired by the music of John Williams and his life as film composer in Hollywood.

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One of the main goals of The Legacy of John Williams is to spotlight how much the music of Maestro Williams inspired many musicians to pursue a career as film composers (and still does), probably more than any other composer who ever worked in film. Joe Kraemer is certainly one of those guys who ended up working in the Hollywood film industry mostly thanks to John Williams‘ music. Today, Joe Kraemer is one of the most successful and original voices working in Hollywood as a composer for film and television.

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Joe Kraemer conducting in a recording session

Born in Buffalo, NY in 1971, Joe fell in love with the music of John Williams after seeing Star Wars and Superman when he was just a little kid. He grew up in a musical family and soon started to listen to both classical music, but also to film music and to rock bands like The Beatles. As a teenager, he spent a lot of time doing Super 8-mm feature-length films together with schoolmate Scott Storm, who shared his same passion for film. For these films, Joe worked in a variety of roles including composer. After high school, he moved to Boston, MA to attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music, one of the first colleges in the United States to feature courses specialized in music for film & television and also where composers like Alan Silvestri and Howard Shore studied.

His move to Hollywood occurred in mid-1990s, thanks to his friendship with emerging filmmakers like Scott Storm and Christopher McQuarrie, who were then starting to work on first-rate films, including the award-winning The Usual Suspects. Joe started working as sound mixer and editor, slowly making his way into the competetive environment of the Hollywood film industry. He got his first major composing gig in 2000, for the celebrated independent film The Way of the Gun, written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie starring Benicio Del Toro. Since then, he wrote more than 100 scores for films and television (including the cult favourite show Femme Fatale for HBO/Cinemax). His first important big studio film came in 2012, when he scored the Tom Cruise-starring drama Jack Reacher, again together with writer/director Chris McQuarrie.

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For this film adapted from Lee Child’s popular series of crime novels, Kraemer wrote a dramatic score infused with stylings and traits typical of the film scores of 1970s, including a bold, stark main theme for the character portrayed by Cruise. The actor/producer was so impressed by Kraemer’s music that he said it was the best score for one of his films, second only to John Williams’ Born on the Fourth of July. The success of Jack Reacher and its score led Kraemer to work on Tom Cruise’s subsequent big project, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015), for which the composer wrote a very exciting, lively score for large orchestra, featuring ingenious twists on Lalo Schifrin’s classic theme, but also several new original themes, including a long-lined sinuous leitmotif for the film’s main villain Solomon Lane. The score won the 2015 International Film Music Critics Award as Best Original Score for an Action/Adventure/Thriller film, while in 2016 the World Soundtrack Academy named Joe Kraemer as “Discovery of the Year”.

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Joe Kraemer recording Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation at Abbey Road Studios in London

In 2019, Kraemer wrote the score for the independent film The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot, a clever and unusual action thriller directed by Bob Krzykowski starring Sam Elliott that is already reaching cult status among movie buffs.

Joe devotes part of his time to teaching young students and aspiring film composers. He teaches Masterclasses in composition for media for various colleges and organizations, including the Hollywood Music Workshop, ASMAC, Columbia College Chicago, and Media Sound Hamburg

In this wide-ranging conversation, Joe talks about his career, his own study path and his life as a film composer in contemporary Hollywood, but above all, he talks how and why John Williams is still one of his main inspirations both as a composer and as professional of the film music industry.

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A very special thanks to Joe Kraemer for his time and generosity.

Visit his website joekraemer.com to know more about his career and upcoming projects.

The soundtrack CDs of Jack Reacher, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot are all available at lalalandrecords.com