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Opinion | What the Metaverse Sounds Like to Hans Zimmer

[NEEDLE HITTING LP] (SINGING) When you walk in a room, do you have sway?

kara swisher

I’m Kara Swisher, and you’re listening to “Sway.” If you’ve gone to any movies any time in the past four decades, chances are you’ve heard a Hans Zimmer score. After all, he’s worked on more than 150 of them, from dramas like “Rain Man” — [MUSIC – HANS ZIMMER, “RAIN MAN” SOUND TRACK]

—and “Thelma and Louise” — [MUSIC – HANS ZIMMER, “THELMA AND LOUISE” SOUNDTRACK]

—to classic Disney movies like “The Lion King.” [MUSIC – HANS ZIMMER, “THE LION KING” SOUNDTRACK]

He’s also composed for blockbuster action movies like “Inception” — [MUSIC – HANS ZIMMER, “INCEPTION” SOUNDTRACK”]

—and “The Dark Knight” trilogy. [MUSIC – HANS ZIMMER, “THE DARK KNIGHT” SOUNDTRACK”]

Zimmer’s knack for visceral, immersive music and his love for synthesizers has changed the way movies sound. So it’s not surprising he was brought in to score “Dune,” a sci-fi epic set in the far off future. And you’ll hear a little bit of that in a bit. The movie is based on Frank Herbert’s novel and follows young Paul Atreides as he travels to Arrakis, a dangerous desert planet. So I wanted to know how Zimmer went about creating the music of the future. And since “Dune” was also released on the streaming site of HBO — which, by the way, I host a podcast for — I wanted his thoughts on what Hollywood’s shift toward streaming means for composers. Hans Zimmer, welcome to “Sway.”

hans zimmer

Thank you for having me.

kara swisher

So let me start with “Dune.” Can you go into wanting to do this and why?

hans zimmer

Well, the thing about “Dune” to a teenager — I mean, it’s a life-changing book for teenagers, basically. It deals with family power struggle. It deals with fear. It deals with existentialism. It deals with how our world will be in the future. And it obviously deals with global warming, long before it seemed fashionable at the time. And it became such a leitmotif for my whole life. It became very, very important. And knowing Denis —

kara swisher

This is Denis Villeneuve, who’s the director of “Dune.”

hans zimmer

Right, sorry. I should — Mr. Villeneuve, so yes. But we are friends, and I know his sensibilities. And I could hear it in his voice that the movie he had imagined as a teenager was the movie I imagined as a teenager.

kara swisher

Did you have a sound, then, to this movie you had in your head?

hans zimmer

Well, I had a sound — yeah, a little bit because — okay, so we have to go a little sideways, and I have to be very precise that this is not misunderstood. Around the same time, I watched “Star Wars,” which I loved. I mean, look. John Williams, you can’t beat him, greatest composer, and “Star Wars” is maybe — it’s truly a masterpiece. But the precocious teenager, the teenager that got thrown out of nine schools because he kept asking why, I was going, hang on, if this is in a galaxy far, far away from here somewhere in the future, why am I hearing violins and French horns and trumpets and stuff like this? Shouldn’t there be an evolution away from the normal, romantic, Western European orchestral sound? You know, I had the sonic picture in my head of a future world. And I sort of stuck to it.

kara swisher

There’s one song featuring 30 bagpipers that seems to have gotten the most attention since it’s so grandiose. But I want to play a clip from the first track, “Dream of Arrakis,” that shows some of the eeriness and otherworldliness of this soundtrack. The sound essentially wraps around you. [MUSIC – HANS ZIMMER, “DREAM OF ARRAKIS”] [SHIMMERING AND CLATTERING]

[STRANGE HORN BLOWS]

That freaked me out when I was hearing it, when it was coming in. It really did give me a sense of foreboding and everything else. Can you talk about the different sounds we heard here? And what does sand sound like, essentially?

hans zimmer

Well, I had to be careful as well because I had done sand before. “Interstellar” really starts off with a barren planet called Earth, with the wind whistling across the sand. But this is a harsher world. If you want to get into the technical parts of it, I have a friend, Chas Smith, who is an excellent welder and a sculptor and a musician. And his whole house he has turned into this resonating chamber. And he only uses recyclable metals. And he has metals that we can’t pronounce. So some of that is this. But this piece, the majority of it, it’s synthesized. Look, this is how I started my life. I started my life as a synthesist, painting with sound. You know, it’s like — It’s a funny thing, the old 20th century, where it was decided that the orchestra was over there and somewhat elitist and then the synthesizer was the other side, and sort of the enemy of the orchestra. And I thought, every piece of musical technology — a violin is a piece of technology of its time. So why should the synthesizer not be a piece of its time and be integrated into all this? The experiment really was how to build a world that you didn’t quite expect. I mean, an important thing is my infamous anti-groove drums. Because we’re used to drums which go tigga, tigga, tigga, tigga, bom, da, bom, bom, da, a groove you can get a hold of, a groove you can dance to. And I thought, wouldn’t it be fun if, in the future, the rhythms had evolved so far that we can’t grasp them in this century. So this drum motif keeps recurring in the film. And it really is — it’s not human. I mean, it’s completely synthesized. And it’s definitely not something you’ll want to go and dance to without breaking your ankles.

kara swisher

Talk about the voice of Loire Cotler. That was particularly striking. [VOCALIZING]

[CLATTERY DRUMS]

[VOCALIZING]

hans zimmer

Yes, she is fearless. She really deals mainly in music as a sort of therapeutic element. And you expect very quiet things to happen. But she has a strength in her. There’s a commitment to every note that is so beautifully terrifying. I think beautifully terrifying is the only way I can describe it. And at the same time, here is the behind the curtain bit. It’s done in the time of Covid. And I have this wonderful photo somewhere of her in her closet. You know, with like her clothes sort of draped — you know, and she’s just avoiding the coats. And that’s where she’s singing. That she made into her studio. And if you think about it, her imagination is to make these sounds which echo across a vast landscape while her vision really is just up to the end of her closet.

kara swisher

So when you think about what you’re creating, how important is the music? And maybe you don’t compare them to the visual elements and dialogue. Do you think of it as just a supporting element?

hans zimmer

No.

kara swisher

I do not because I think every one of your pieces of music has an emotional manipulation. I don’t use that in a bad way.

hans zimmer

No, no, I know that. I mean, it’s like, to quote Ridley Scott — which he used to quote at me a lot, “Sentimentality is unearned emotion.” And he always likes that I seem to have somehow earned emotion. One of the inherent difficulties of the book is that it’s full of internal monologue. The story really takes place in internal monologue. And we didn’t want to do voiceover. We didn’t want to do this. So what I tried to do — and look, let’s face it. I cannot maintain an intellectual specificity in music. But what I can do is I can make you, in conjunction with the actors and with the way it’s cut and the camera work, I can make you realize that there is more going on than meets the eye. There might be an internal dialogue going on. And if we put all our little Lego pieces in the right order, you might even feel or sense what that internal monologue is.

kara swisher

What did you find the most difficult scene to score in the movie? Was there one that you were sort of stumped on or that was hard for you? Or did you feel that it was piece of a whole soundscape?

hans zimmer

Well, it’s so difficult to — okay, to answer this question, no, it wasn’t difficult. It was maybe arduous. It was maybe a lack of sleep came in. But ultimately, the work was really done in a peculiar way just thinking, just figuring out a structure in my head, and knowing the book really well. And the work was really done while you’re going for a walk or something like this. So then the sitting down part — that’s the playing part. I mean, just remember, the operative word in music is “play.” And however serious it gets, there’s a playfulness. And actually, I tell you the one crushing moment was really when we found out that we were going to go day and date to HBO Max. And I tell you why that was a crushing moment. And you need to see it as sort of a whole thing. Because when you make a film, especially the way Denis was shooting this, and the way that the actors were acting, and the way Joe was cutting it, there was a certain rhythm. And the rhythm is determined by looking at a large screen and how long it takes for your eye to wander across a large screen — which, obviously, it takes a lot more time than eye wandering across the iPad. So the rhythms were all off for me. Plus, just musically, there are things which you will not hear unless you actually hear them —

kara swisher

In a theater.

hans zimmer

Yeah, hear them in a theater.

kara swisher

So let’s talk about that shift because Denis was not happy about it, the director.

hans zimmer

Yeah.

kara swisher

He wrote an open letter that said Warner Brothers might have just killed Dune’s franchise. What was part of your fear there? Is that it just is a — you’re creating for a different medium and that it ruins the experience? Because ultimately, all these things are going to streaming.

hans zimmer

Yes, but I think there’s a — tell me that beforehand and then I can go and do things which will make it good and palatable and successful on both platforms. And yes, you are right. Ultimately, it will end up in one form or the other in streaming. But then that should be a separate process nearly. Here’s what I’m interested in. I’m interested in giving an audience the greatest experience it can possibly have. I consider myself extraordinarily blessed and lucky that I am even allowed to work on a movie like “Dune,” let alone any of the other movies I worked on. Because trust me. There are a few times I would have fired myself.

kara swisher

[LAUGHS]

hans zimmer

But there comes the responsibility that goes beyond just, oh, let’s just make a decision. Let’s come out at HBO Max. There is an artistic decision that needs to be made and needs to be listened to. Because, at the end of the day, I still see movies as an important part of a human experience. It goes hand in hand with my constant battle and desire to keep the symphony orchestra alive, because the last place on Earth that commissions music on a regular basis, on an hourly basis, virtually, for symphony orchestras is Hollywood. And so I shamelessly use Hollywood as an opportunity to go and keep the orchestras alive.

kara swisher

But you kind of have to see that — I mean, I have this argument going with Hollywood. This doesn’t really matter because this is the way it’s going, right? So “Dune: Part 2” was greenlit in less than a week after part one premiered because the movie performed well in theaters. But it also performed well on HBO Max. And this is what the audience wants. They’re not moving toward the theater. They’re moving away from the theater. And you may not like that, but how do you think about scoring a movie if that’s the actual accelerated trend, especially in the pandemic, which has accelerated it completely?

hans zimmer

No, no. Absolutely. Look, the pandemic was tough on so many different disciplines. But I mean, just talking from my sonic world, while the pandemic was going on, while “Dune” was going on, while we were told, okay, you guys are going to be on HBO Max, I was experimenting a lot with Dolby and Apple and finding a way of making the sound completely and utterly immersive. And we worked really hard on this, that if you put on a pair of decent headphones, it will give you a different but nonetheless an interesting experience. I mean, I’m not interested always in being nostalgic about the old experience. I am nostalgic. I am nostalgic about certain things.

kara swisher

Yeah, and the people you work with are. Chris Nolan was another one who talked about this.

hans zimmer

Right. But I think one of the things we’re saying is, there is an important element to the act of going to the cinema, the act of coming together, the act of shared dreaming when the lights go out that we’re all experiencing something in the same way. And it’s not a religious experience. And it’s not a sports thing. It’s a different thing. And if you get it right, it’s a piece of art. And I think you’re reminded that humanity actually has maybe a chance of being a little bit better than it presents itself most of the time on the internet.

kara swisher

So streaming has an impact on compensation too. A huge chunk of revenue and how folks get paid is tied to box office royalties and international markets. Are you worried the smashing of theatrical windows will cut into composers’ revenue?

hans zimmer

Am I worried about it? I stopped being worried about it because it’s already happened. I saw the demise of the music industry coming. Because, look, this idea of streaming didn’t start with movies. It started in the music business. It always starts with the lowest bandwidth. So there’s a dichotomy that’s going on as well because, on the one hand, there is a chance with the new technology of having access to things that sound amazing, to make music in an amazing way at a really affordable price and to make movies at a very really affordable price. I mean, the technology allows us to do that. On the other hand, the people who have access to the distribution systems really still always will hold the cards. I mean, the music business, as far as I’m concerned, it’s not worth my while to make a record of any type anymore. And we have to go and rethink some of this because it might sound crazy, but I know some musicians who actually need to eat.

kara swisher

How do you think of the system now, the platforms like Spotify or Apple Music? Many platforms use a pro-rata system, where total money from subscriptions and ads is put in a single pot every month and divvied up.

hans zimmer

I feel the element of fairness is missing. But the element of fairness has always been missing in the music business. I mean, look, I remember CDs still being accounted for at 75 percent out of 100. And I’m going, why is it 75 percent out of 100? Well, because of breakages, which comes from the old shellac disks. So if there’s an opportunity to go and figure out a way of squeezing the artists a little bit more, somebody is going to find a way.

kara swisher

Now, some musicians would like to see these platforms pay $0.01 per stream. Right now, it’s estimated to be around a half a cent per stream. Do you have any ideas of how that compensation could happen? Or do you see players where you see anything promising when you’re thinking about needing to eat and compensation?

hans zimmer

Well, look, there are so many hours in the day that I can go and fight the system, or persuade the system, or discuss with the system what is fair and what isn’t fair. And everybody seems to have a different idea. I just look after the people around me. And my way of doing it was really simple. I go out on tour these days. And I go, bums on seats. You want to come and see me? There’s the seat. It’s going to cost you this many dollars.

kara swisher

Here’s my orchestra. Here’s my bagpipes.

hans zimmer

Absolutely. Yeah, I’m bringing you the bagpipes on the next one. Because you can’t pirate that. You can’t pirate that experience. You can’t really stream it. It’s not the same thing.

kara swisher

Right. Yet you’re Hans Zimmer, right? You’ve played a big role in legitimizing teams of composers and musicians in the industry. And I think it’s fair to say you couldn’t finish all your projects without them. How do you move towards more fairness with people getting fair credit and compensation in systems like this? You have a scoring company, Remote Control Productions. It’s hugely influential. Do you have a new way of figuring out how to fairly compensate teams of creators?

hans zimmer

Well, you know, look. Without getting into their privacy, I make them partners in the project. I try to give them credit. I mean, when I first came to Hollywood, Hollywood was full of so-called ghost writers. They didn’t get credit. And I came up with — I didn’t come up with it, but I gave people additional music credit. And additional music is very specific. In so far that, if you think about it, it’s my sound. I mean, I’m the architect. I figure out the arc. I figure out how this thing sounds. I figure out the tune. I figure out the notes. But there are people that are helping and contributing. And I had to do a bit of negotiating at first about this, that these people deserved credit. For instance, the Academy — I ran into this many, many times — where I would give credit to my coworkers. Lisa Gerrard is a perfect example. We got a Golden Globe for “Gladiator,” but she was ineligible for the Oscars because I was the architect of the score, and she was only the performer. And I find it very difficult to — the person who inspires with one idea, is he less or more important than the person who writes the whole score?

kara swisher

So do you feel like, in the future, there has to be a standard baseline for splitting revenues or sharing credit or that’s changing? Or — it’s changing all over the workplace, that kind of stuff.

hans zimmer

I think there has to be a waking up. And I think we need to be fairer. Simple as that. And if the artists can’t lead the charge for fairness, then who can?

kara swisher

Would you support a new guild for young composers, additional writers, et cetera?

hans zimmer

I would support it if somebody came up with an idea of how to make that work. But I’m not sure if that is the way to do it. I think — I’m really trying to not blow my own horn. But one of the things we try to do here is — and it’s haphazard, and it’s not organized, and there’s no real system other than, hey, I like what you write, and I’m excited by it — that people can come in and earn from day one as interns and hopefully — you know, John Powell, Harry Gregson-Williams — I mean, there are a lot of people who have come through here who now have pretty solid careers. So that’s just me doing it my way. And I’m hoping that they will go and take a little bit of this and spread that around.

kara swisher

So you doing it your way — go ahead, sorry.

hans zimmer

No, no, because that’s just my idea. It’s not for me to tell somebody else how they should go and run their business.

kara swisher

One of the things — and you’ve mentioned a lot of women composers who you’ve worked with, like Lisa Gerrard and many others. There has been a persistent gender imbalance when it comes to movie composers. In 2020, around 5 percent of all Hollywood composers working on movies were female. Why do you think this is? It’s just — you can go report after report which shows this. Is it because they’re in those behind-the-scenes positions? Or how do you explain it?

hans zimmer

Well, look, the best composer I ever worked with was Shirley Walker, who was my orchestrator. And I actually fired her because she was never going to go and write as long as she had the security of working behind the scenes. Do you see what I mean?

kara swisher

How nice of you.

hans zimmer

No, no. I said to her, look, Shirley, I’m firing you because you’re not going to go out there. And you’re so much better than anybody else I know. Go out there and create. And that’s what it’s about. It’s about finding the right powerful voices that will lead the charge. Because it never occurred to me that there was a difference. It of course occurs to you when you sit down and you start having the conversation, and you’re being told about how difficult it is, how difficult for them to be recognized, how difficult it is for them to get their foot through the door. I mean, but the same goes for — like, I remember having this chat with Pharrell Williams. He said, you have no idea how difficult it was to get through your door. I had to break down walls. I’m going, what do you mean? It’s right there. Just walk through. He said, no, it’s not like that.

kara swisher

Oh, god, Hans.

hans zimmer

It’s not like that.

kara swisher

Hans, Hans, Hans.

hans zimmer

I know. I know. I know. I know. [MUSIC PLAYING]

kara swisher

We’ll be back in a minute.

If you like this interview and want to hear others, follow us on your favorite podcast app. You’ll be able to catch up on “Sway” episodes you may have missed, like my conversation with Riz Ahmed. And you’ll get new ones delivered directly to you. More with Hans Zimmer after the break.

I want to take you back a little bit to your earlier work. My favorite movie of all time is “Gladiator.” I can’t believe I’m saying that, but it’s true. I watch it 17 times a year. And the music is critically important. You co-composed with Lisa Gerrard. And it sort of cemented your reputation for scoring blockbusters. I want to play a clip from “The Battle” to get your reaction. [MUSIC – HANS ZIMMER AND LISA GERRARD, “GLADIATOR” SOUNDTRACK]

I mean, one of the things that’s interesting is the emotion. I have emotions when I hear it, whether — who I was at the time when I first heard it, who I am now. It elicits enormous amounts of emotions in me as a human being. So take us back how you went about composing this piece. Talk a little bit about this versus now.

hans zimmer

There are a couple of things to— oh, god, I have to give you the story. All right, so I always think of Ridley Scott as a poet.

kara swisher

This is the director.

hans zimmer

The director of “Gladiator.” And I remember going to visit him just south of London. It’s winter. It’s grim. We’re driving off the road. Now we’re driving through a wood. And we get to this Roman encampment. And it’s really — we have left the 20th century behind. And the meeting Ridley and I are having is in Marcus Aurelius’s tent while outside, second unit is shooting the battle. And it’s —

kara swisher

A lot of mud. A lot of mud.

hans zimmer

A lot of mud. And the territorial army is whacking each other over their heads. And you hear a lot of screaming. While inside this tent, I’m sitting on this beautiful silk, purple throw, and there are marble busts and everything. And I’m going, come on, Rid, it’s supposed to be a battlefield. You’ve got marble busts and all this stuff. He goes, well, Marcus Aurelius was at the German frontier for years. So he would have had the slaves bring all this stuff out. And we started to talk about how much of what we value these days as culture and antiquity is really built on the blood of slaves or on the blood of ancestors. That things we admire actually have a very dubious history. And so I was thinking that what is the most benign music that I can think of. I was thinking Viennese waltzes. So the whole battle — I mean, you actually played the pretty bit. But after that, it gets pretty savage. But it’s still a Viennese waltz all the way through.

kara swisher

Really? [MUSIC – HANS ZIMMER AND LISA GERRARD, “GLADIATOR” SOUNDTRACK]

hans zimmer

And I thought it’d be really interesting to go and take something that subconsciously we associate with grace and beauty and just make it really savage and dissonant and brutal.

kara swisher

Which you were doing in “Dune” too. You’re deconstructing and reconstructing songs, essentially, or different music.

hans zimmer

Yeah, I suppose I’m forever looking— I never thought about it. But thinking about it now, I’m forever looking at that line from “Gladiator.” It echoes in eternity. I’m forever looking at what it was that has gone before, and what it means to us now, and what it will mean to us in the future, and how we can play — and now I’m in Christopher Nolan territory — how we can play with time. And how time can become an emotional experience to us.

kara swisher

So speaking of Christopher Nolan, part of your legacy has been blending music and sound design, as opposed to a composer like John Williams, whose scores are more orchestral. I think that’s pretty fair. I think everyone knows the “Inception” braam sound, for example. Let’s hear a bit of that. Braam! [LOW TROMBONES MAKING BRAAM SOUND WITH VIOLIN FIGURE OVER THE TOP]

Well, we’ve heard that a zillion times since you started it. And I know it sort of existed before. But it’s a sound that’s passed through many hands and iterations. What inspired its creation? I know you hate that braam has been copied, et cetera.

hans zimmer

No, no, no. No, no, no, no, not at all.

kara swisher

No? All right.

hans zimmer

It makes me laugh because they misunderstand. It’s in the script. It’s a story point. It’s about time slowing down. But then all the trailer guys got hold of it because it’s a cool sound.

kara swisher

It is.

hans zimmer

They’re just using it as a way to go from one non-sequitur to another non-sequitur as a transitional device. It’s like rattling the keys when you have a baby crying to distract them from — so it just became that. But at the same time — and Ron Howard said this to me once. You know, trailers are like dreams. They’re not linear storytelling. It’s all over the place.

kara swisher

So in “Inception,” it was a storytelling device, and then it became a marketing device essentially.

hans zimmer

Absolutely. Absolutely.

kara swisher

So you’re proud of braam.

hans zimmer

No. Listen, I am taking credit for some of it, but the real credit is Chris, having that idea and writing it in his script. The credit I’m taking is that when we were working on “Inception,” and the idea of the different layers of time — and I think it wasn’t that easy for Chris to express it cinematically. But it’s really easy for a musician because that’s what we do. You have a whole bar, and then you divide it up into four beats. And then you divide those up into eight beats. So subdivision of time is what music is all about. So that was the good part. The braam was the secondary side effect.

kara swisher

Yeah, it’s been used everywhere now. So I’m just curious how you made that transition from something like “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Thelma and Louise.” That music we’re not playing it here. It goes — [BOTH SINGING TUNE]

And then, of course, my favorite, “Sherlock Holmes,” which has banjos and squeaky violins, and you destroyed a piano, apparently, in searching for the right tone. How did you get from there to the sounds of “Dune” and all the Christopher Nolan films?

hans zimmer

Look, it’s —

kara swisher

Because those are all kind of adorable.

hans zimmer

Yeah, no, I mean, you could put “The Holiday” in, and you can put “The Lion King” in there if you wanted to do that.

kara swisher

“The Lion King,” yeah, yeah, yeah.

hans zimmer

Kiddies’ movies. Well, they’re all —

kara swisher

I think that was angrier than you let on. That was an angrier soundtrack than you let on.

hans zimmer

That was about my father’s death.

kara swisher

Yes.

hans zimmer

So yeah, no kidd— yeah, that surprised me myself. I’m glad you recognized that. No, but the rest, it’s cliche, but it’s sort of about the human experience.

kara swisher

Can I ask you — all of those movies sound very human. I don’t know how else to say it, like a man made them kind of thing. Now, these new movies sound a little more techie. There’s more feeling of using tech. And one of the things you talked about was, you said, “The bottom line for me, there has never been a difference between a composer and someone who is building technology. It’s all about inventing. It’s all about playfulness, the game, and aesthetics.” Has that changed the way you compose, technology itself?

hans zimmer

Yeah, of course. But I’ve always composed with technology.

kara swisher

Yes, you have.

hans zimmer

I’m the guy who had two weeks of piano lessons and then went off —

kara swisher

To synthesizers.

hans zimmer

Yeah, to synthesizers and computers, et cetera, and misusing them as much as I could. So isn’t that sort of a good thing, if technology just suddenly turns into a way of serving the artist?

kara swisher

Mmhmm. Do you imagine it’ll take over, that A.I. would be able to make those kind of things with very little input from you?

hans zimmer

Look, I think inevitably A.I. will take over something. But as A.I. evolves, so do artists, so do humans, so do thinkers.

kara swisher

Although according to Elon Musk, you’re not going to be able to keep up. You’re going to need a chip in your head to do so.

hans zimmer

Yeah, but I’m not writing from a chip in my head. I’m writing from my heart, whatever that is.

kara swisher

That’s right.

hans zimmer

So for me, as I said earlier, every piece that we use other than the human voice is a piece of technology. A drum is a piece of technology, whatever it is. So technology is shifting fast, yes. But you know, I think our moral sophistication has to grow with it so that we don’t misuse it.

kara swisher

All right, I’m going to finish up with two questions. One is, what are you working on now? I know you have Maverick, “Top Gun: Maverick.” I’m looking forward to that. I think I’m probably the only person, but I am nonetheless.

hans zimmer

I think we’re sort of done. I’m working on another tour. I think it’s time to put the band back together and go out on the road.

kara swisher

So you’re going to go out on tour.

hans zimmer

Yeah.

kara swisher

Is there any movie besides “Dune” that you’re working on?

hans zimmer

No, because everybody’s asking me about “Dune.” Yeah, yes, there are other movies I was supposed to be working on. But until we finish talking about — you know? It’s like I can only think and feel and work on one thing at a time, right?

kara swisher

All right, well I’m going to prevail on you then.

hans zimmer

Okay.

kara swisher

Facebook, which changed his name to Meta —

hans zimmer

[FAKE SNORES]

kara swisher

— decided they are going to own the metaverse, which has been around — I know. I see your eyes. I see the rolling. But it’s their metaverse. And I don’t know if you saw some of the examples Mark Zuckerberg gave, all of them creepy and odd. I would like to know what the metaverse sounds like to Hans Zimmer.

hans zimmer

Well, it sounds like just some giant, horrible, dehumanizing mess right now to me.

kara swisher

Yeah.

hans zimmer

It sounds like a visit in hell.

kara swisher

Here’s my noise for it. My noise is (SINGING) wah, wah. Do you like that noise?

hans zimmer

Well, yes. But I think you’re underestimating how — I don’t know — how alienating and dangerous it is in that, you know.

kara swisher

I agree.

hans zimmer

I think we stopped laughing a while back. I hope we stopped laughing a while back.

kara swisher

Yeah, I can’t believe you’re telling Kara Swisher, the chief critic of these technologists, that I’m underestimating the danger, but you’re correct. You are 100 percent correct. But you wouldn’t compose if Mark Zuckerberg handed you a giant sum of money? You wouldn’t be his lead composer for the metaverse?

hans zimmer

Interesting. The problem with money is it’s not actually inspiring. If you tell me a good story, that’s inspiring. Would I have a go? Yes. But I don’t think — I think I’d get fired. [LAUGHS]

kara swisher

Yeah. Is there an instrument for the metaverse?

hans zimmer

Yeah, it’s the fuzz box. I don’t know. [LAUGHTER] No, I mean — I don’t know. It’s like —

kara swisher

A sad, lonely flute? A single —

hans zimmer

No. No, no. But what’s wrong with the dentist’s drill?

kara swisher

Okay. All right, there you go. We’re going to end on that. We’re going to end on that. [IMITATES DENTIST’S DRILL] (LAUGHING) That’s very good.

hans zimmer

I’m sorry.

kara swisher

No. I like it. It works. Anyway, Hans, this has been really wonderful, what a wonderful conversation.

hans zimmer

Thank you so much for having me. [MUSIC PLAYING]

“Sway” is a production of New York Times Opinion. It’s produced by Nayeema Raza, Blakeney Schick, Matt Kwong, Daphne Chen, Caitlin O’Keefe, Elisa Gutierrez, and Wyatt Orme. Edited by Nayeema Raza, Blakeney Schick, and Alison Bruzek with original music by Isaac Jones, mixing by Sonia Herrero and Carol Sabouraud, and fact checking by Kate Sinclair. Special thanks to Shannon Busta, Kristin Lin, Mahima Chablani, and Stephanie Joyce. If you’re in a podcast app already, you know how to get your podcasts, so follow this one. If you’re listening on The Times website and want to get each new episode of “Sway” delivered to you, along with a Hans Zimmer-branded dentist drill, download any podcast app and search for “Sway” and follow the show. We release every Monday and Thursday. Thanks for listening.

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