Lasse Elkjaer – Introducing LA-Based Danish Film Composer
I had the pleasure to chat with Los Angeles-based Danish Film composer, orchestrator, and multi-instrumentalist Lasse Elkjaer.
Elkjaer is an award winning composer, who has worked with film composers such as Christopher Young, Spiderman 3 (2007), Jacob Groth, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009), and he collaborated on his award winning score with Hollywood cellist Tina Guo, whose cello can be heard on scores by Hans Zimmer, such as The Lion King (2019). Elkjaer moved to Los Angeles 7 years ago to study Scoring for Motion Picture and Television at University of Southern California with a Fulbright Scholarship, and has been there ever since.
Thank you so much for joining us Lasse! This is a real pleasure.
Lasse, can you tell us what brought you to this specific career path?
Growing up as a kid in the middle of the VHS boom, I fell in love with movies. My absolute favorite
childhood past time was watching movies that my family and I rented from the local video store. I
also spent a lot of time cutting out pictures of Indiana Jones, ET, and such from magazines, and
creating collages with my movie idols. We were pretty obsessed about Raiders Of The Lost Ark, and
the score for that movie was one of the first scores that made a very strong impression on me.
I was drawn to the idea of working in the movie industry early on, but I put that on hold when I
started to do competitive gymnastics, and later on when I became serious about guitar playing and
I distanced myself from my sport, I was deep into guitar hero land. So it was first in my early twenties
that I fully understood it was the music in movies that my heart was really beating for. I still
remember the turning moment, when I picked up a book with interviews with Hollywood composers
and realized that I could relate to their words more than anything else in the world of music. Before
that, I primarily focused on my career as a guitarist, and freelanced as an orchestrator and arranger
for musical theater, and whenever an opportunity arrived for me to help as a composer, I was more
than happy to do so. Even though I’d always been writing music, it honestly never occurred to me
that I actually could have a career as a film composer. But after I read that book, I got very excited
and started my career path in film composition.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you’re working on right now?
Because of the lockdown, I’m finally able to find time to release some of my own music, something
that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. Besides releasing a handful of my soundtracks, I’m also
releasing a solo album titled “Vignettes and Landscapes,” with my instrumental music recorded with
orchestra and smaller ensembles. The album belongs to both the classical and film scoring worlds,
and consists of compositions I’ve been writing throughout the years. So genre-wise, it’s not too far
from what I do when scoring movie scenes, but it’s still a bit different. One could say that the biggest
difference is that the music is not dictated by another person’s movie scene, but based on the movie
and images that are in my mind, which usually gives the music a different edge.
I was also invited by the Industry Club for Film and Media Composers in Denmark (BFM) and the
Norwegian Society of Composers and Lyricists (NOPA) to facilitate film scoring based webinars.
I discussed how it is to work as a film composer in Los Angeles, and different approaches and
working models composers use. Other topics I touched on are how to manage sleep when dealing
with deadlines, how to structure one’s day in blocks, and productivity and effectiveness.
How film composing is dealt with in Norway and Denmark is very different from here in the States, so
it was interesting to share my insights and hopefully be able to inspire my colleagues.
I’m also working on putting all that information into book form, so as I continue to develop content for
more classes, I’ll write new chapters.
Who are some of the most Interesting people you’ve interacted with? …maybe there are some stories about
them that you can share?
Beside singing happy birthday for John Williams, being asked gently to step aside by Ennio
Morricone when I was blocking his way at an event, I would say that Golden Globe nominated film
composer Christopher Young and Emmy Award Winning Danish composer Jakob Groth, have been
the most interesting and insightful people I’ve interacted and worked with. Both have been very
giving with knowledge, support, and advice to get me going with my own career, and I am very
grateful to have been under their wings.
Most of the Danish movies I watched in my childhood were scored by Jacob, and I always made a
point of watching his movies and TV-series, so I was very well aware of who he was when I finally
met him in person at the conservatory, where he was my film scoring professor. I was happily
surprised to learn that he’s just a big guitar nerd as I am, so when I began working for him, we
always had something to talk about.
Chris was very generous with me as when I was new in town he showed me around, and he
introduced me to a lot of nice restaurants and places, to make me feel more at home.
Which people in cinema history inspire you the most and why?
Danish filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer, who absolutely floored me the first time I watched his
masterpiece The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) with Richard Einhorn’s music Voices of Light. I’m
mesmerized by the movie and very much in love with Renée Jeanne Falconetti’s performance as
Joan. Stunning piece of work, with an incredible past to it!
Recently deceased composer, Maestro Ennio Morricone is definitely one of the magnificent entities
in the film composer community, that is hard not to be inspired by. What he achieved with his music,
is pretty revolutionary! To me, his score for Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), is his
masterpiece. I really could not believe my eyes and ears the first time I watched the movie.
Everything about it is done with such skill and always gives me the chills.
Jerry Goldsmith’s writing really can be terrifyingly good. Studying his scores for Alien (1979) and
Poltergeist (1982) always makes my heart pump fast, in awe with the talent which lies behind every
note in those scores.
Composer Basil Poledouris just speaks to me in such a special way through his music. His
masterpiece Conan The Barbarian (1982) and The Blue Lagoon (1980) could not be bigger
opposites. He really understood how to handle emotions, from the ultra masculine to the sweetest
and most romantic, something I really appreciate and always take a note of!
How has your business evolved, as a result of the pandemic?
What happened to most of us, is that we immediately had to start working from home, when the
pandemic started. I’ve always had a home studio available, so it was not a significant change for me.
But what has changed, is that I now have a lot of virtual meetings instead of in person meetings,
which used to be harder to schedule. So that has opened some interesting opportunities, because
people have quickly shifted to the virtual world, and are more open to do so, because it can be done
quickly and spontaneously from home. Since the state of emergency was announced, Zoom has
exploded and it was quick to evolve its features to offer seamless meeting experiences. Zoom
meetings, webinars, jams, and concerts even began to appear and people have been connecting
and pushing the boundaries of what is possible to do remotely. Whereas I used to wait until I was in
Denmark to schedule in person meetings with my European contacts, and that seemed to be their
preference as well, now it’s completely fine to use Zoom instead, which has set things in motion for
me in very interesting ways, especially as the entertainment world is moving faster in Europe at the
What do you do, to bring goodness to the world?
I do my best through teaching. I’m a former music teacher and private music tutor, and I strongly
believe that teaching is a powerful medium to make a difference for people, and bring positivity to
the world. Everyone remembers a great and motivating teacher who perhaps believed in them when
they were about to give up and encouraged them to keep going. Teaching is not for everybody, and it
can be quite intimidating, but it’s a great way to reach people, and give them takeaways they can
use immediately or later in life. Even though it’s only music I teach, there are still tools in some
ideas, that can make people think and re-center their lives. It’s important to inspire, and to find
people who can inspire you.
In connection with teaching, I’ve been collaborating with ClassDojo, the world’s most-widely used
communication app for pre-K-8 schools, creating the soundtrack for the 12 episodes of their latest
Big Ideas series, that focuses on emotional intelligence. It was rewarding to be able to use my music
and knowledge of child psychology to enhance the emotional messages of the videos.
What tips would you give to your colleagues in your industry to help them thrive and not
Have a clear path, be passionate about your work, and make sure to create the right team around
you. If it also helps you to pick up the phone and rant about life, collect guitars, eat ice-cream at
1am, go for it! Whatever helps you to continue and keep your focus.
Also accept that you ARE going to burn out at some point, and you will need time to recover. It’s like
being an athlete, if you keep exercising non stop, and do not find the time to rest and take in the right
nutrients, then you’re going to burn out and damage your body and mind. So if you put the pedal to
the metal, then you’re going to hit the wall at some point. Just plan for it and be prepared.
I like to keep in shape, eat healthy, and I don’t really have a taste for alcohol. I still sleep like a
teenager when I go on vacation, and that’s how I take good care of myself.
What are five things you wish someone had told you when you first started and why? Please share
a story or example for each.
1. Be less patient
I once sat on a project for years, before I had to give up and put it to sleep. After been married with it
so intensely for such a long time, it was really difficult for me to change my artistic vision, which was
necessary for me to move on with it. In this case, I’m quite sure that it would have been better to be
a bit impatient, so when I finally got to that crossroad where the opportunity arrived, then I would
have been able to mold my emotions around it, and to face the necessary compromises to go
2. Have a mentor and create a reliable team around you
It took me years to get a professional mentor, and when that first happened, then it was a game
changer! I’m really good at something, and not so good at something else. That “something else”
I need people to help me with! So, to have the right mentors and a great team around you can be
extremely important! But also make sure to be selective when you choose collaborators. Bad advice
will always be bad advice!
3. Travel to find opportunities
When I got the opportunity to move to Los Angeles, a plethora of opportunities opened up that were
not available to me in Denmark. Here in America I have built special skills and gained knowledge
within my field, that can be valuable to where I came from, so that opens up for even more
opportunities. I also had to travel to another country to find my fiancé, so there must be something to
4. Be Authentic
Before anything else, you’ll need to ask yourself, who am I as a person and artist. And you have to
think about that very clearly. That is the foundation of an authentic career.
5. Do not take life too seriously; make sure to have fun.
You’ll always run into disappointments and failures throughout your career. If you take it all
personally and too seriously all the time, you’ll just exhaust yourself and will not have the necessary
energy to turn things around. There’s an art-form in finding something to laugh about even during
tough times. I recently saw an interview with my favorite classic rock band, Deep Purple. Having a
good sense of humor was what made them able to stick together, through all the absurdities they
had to go through over the years.
Is there any Danish food that you miss, in the States?
I do miss the good old Danish “rugbrød,” my mom’s rice pudding and ris-ala-mande, and the smell of
a Danish hotdog instantly makes my knees weak. So whenever I’m in Denmark, those are very high
on my list!
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch
I was very lucky to meet Norwegian director André Øvredal at an event just before the lock-down
here in Los Angeles. I’ve been admiring his work since Trollhunter (2010) which really is a fantastic
movie, and I would love to sit down and have a proper conversation with him. He really has a lot of
interesting work taking shape, and I think the direction he is going with his career is very exciting. His
cinematic sensitivity within genre movies is absolutely fantastic, and the way they’re grounded in
reality even if they’re set in a fictional fantasy world, is admirable. He is also just a very nice person,
which really is something to take a note of.
I also wouldn’t mind having lunch with Barack Obama. Brilliant person! I deeply admire him and
How can people follow you on social media to see what you are doing?
• Website: https://www.lasseelkjaer.dk
• Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lasse.elkjaer_music/
• Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lasse.elkjaer
• Twitter: https://twitter.com/lasse_elkjae
PS. A side note from EuroCircle Team: Lasse mentioned “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”, if you have not seen those fantastic Swedish movies yet. They are based on Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series – they are truly fabulous. So are the books!