James Edward Barker is a composer, music producer and film producer from the UK. He is also a relation to Benjamin Frankel, one of Britain's most prolific and most successful film composers of all time. He is a self-taught musician from a young age, as well as late becoming classically trained after studying at Newcastle University in the UK. His music suggests influences from an eclectic mix of genres from: Jazz and Blues, rock, Classical and more contemporary styles of Electronica and Dance. He is also a multi-instrumentalist, performing as a guitarist, percussionist, pianist and vocalist. Throughout his scores he performs a variety of alternative and ethnic instruments including: Tibetan Singing Bowls, Thai Saw Duang,African drums, Japanese Percussion (taikos) Dilruba, Hammered Dulcimer, Glockenspiel and his scores often include performances on authentic and traditional instruments but in an experimental and contemporary fashion. Most distinctively, he experiments heavily with many leftfield techniques for his tones and sounds, including using items such as detuned music boxes, match boxes, bamboo and he has been quoted for using a number of modified live sampled recordings taken from various atmospheric locations around the world. He quotes Muse, Matthew Herbert, Django Reinhardt, Rachmaninov and film composers Hans Zimmer, Ennio Morricone and Christopher Young as some of his main influences, with the latter inspiring him to "experiment with children's toys".
Other influences can be heard in his work, from bands such as The Crystal Method and Aphex Twin. He uses techniques such as recording traditional and authentic instruments through a variety of collectible guitar pedals and analog machines. He stated: "Much of my work has been the result of trial and error with working for many years alongside the chief designer for Vestax, Steve Hills, who worked there during the late 1980s and 1990s. We spent time remodelling a number of already rare and vintage pedals in order to attain certain sounds and uses. These have included the rebuilding and modifying of pedals such as the Roland GR-300 and the 1980s Morley Pik series, including the ultra rare Pik-Percussion and Pik-A-Wah pedals. Steve also encouraged me to experiment with the early pre DJ Vestax pedals which he introduced me too".
Prior to University, his late teens were spent in a various rock and Jazz bands as lead guitarist; and recording early demos as a singer?songwriter at Abbey Road Studios, where he worked with childhood friend and music engineer Charlie Andrew, drummer and founding member of The Laurel Collective. After honing his production techniques at one of the UK's leading studio environments, Barker moved to Newcastle University, in the North of England, where he received his classical training in music composition, performance, orchestration and technology. After receiving a BA Honours Degree in Music, he joined rock outfit Revere as manager and lead guitarist and toured the UK's top venues, supporting acts such as The Futureheads, Maxïmo Park, Simple Kid and Martin Grech. He also then moved to London and formed his current dance collective, Liberation Jumpsuit, who secured a residency at Ginglik Club, Shepherd's Bush, in west London (UK). They continue to perform around Europe and have played with dance acts such as Andy C, Four Tet, Shut Up and Dance, Alex Paterson (The Orb), Aphrodite, Cylob and Nicky Blackmarket.
In 2005, he produced music for commercials for brands such as Shell, HSBC, UNICEF and started Veneration Music Ltd, a UK-based music production company, coordinating scores for feature films. Having trained in all areas of music and music production, he runs all areas of composing, orchestrating, performing, recording, mixing and mastering of the score.
His first feature, Unhitched, was an $11 m romantic comedy starring Seth Green, Stuart Townsend, and Amy Smart, and was directed by Shooting Fish director Stefan Schwartz. He then went on to work with veteran director Robert Young, known for his comedies such as Fierce Creatures, the sequel to A Fish Called Wanda. Barker followed these films with a number of dark and moody scores, including Psych:9, starring Sara Foster, Carey Elwes and Michael Biehn, and the British low-budget horror film Reverb, starring Leo Gregory, Margo Stilley and Eva Birthistle.
In 2007, Barker also scored the $7 m British ITV television production, The History of Mr Polly, starring Lee Evans, and the DVD?BBC release of Jim Threapleton's Extraordinary Rendition, starring Andy Serkis and Omar Berdouni. The film received critical acclaim and was nominated for a number of awards and festivals including the British Independent Film Awards, Locarno and Edinburgh Film Festivals.
In 2008, he went on to work with BAFTA-nominated director Martin Radich on the WARP Film and UKFC production Crack Willow. This was swiftly followed with two film scores, one for Adrian Vitoria's gritty urban thriller The Crew, with Stephen Graham and distributed by Momentum Pictures, and the other, a dramatic score (collaborating with Canadian/British composer Tim Despic) for Ashley Judd's role as a manic depressive in the Sundance selected Helen, directed by the critically acclaimed Sandra Nettellbeck of Mostly Martha.
In 2009, Barker worked as Composer and Music Producer on Scott Mann's The Tournament starring Ving Rhames and Ronert Carlyle and he also worked in tandem with the Relentless energy drink's company to score two features, Powers of Three and the groundbreaking - "Lives Of The Artists" featuring Gallows and world renowned snowboarder Xavier De La Rue. He also wrote the music and produced the sound design for their 2010 campaign for their Relentless Shots commercials.
In 2010, Barker worked on Mark McQueen's debut Zombie flick - Devil's Playground with Danny Dyer and Craig Fairbrass and Jaime Murray; two shorts: one for 2007 Sundance winner Jonathan Hopkins - a Sci-Fi comedy called One Man and His Dog, and a drama for director Tristan Goligher called Cowards & Monsters. His other projects for the year included a docu-drama for US award winning and Emmy nominated director Guido Verweyen, based on the Purlitzer prize wiining book by Robin Gaby Fisher - called After the Fire; and he also Produced Noel Clarke's "188.8.131.52" which he produced through his Veneration Music outfit.
At the end of 2010, Barker announced a merger with Scott Mann's Mann Made Films, through which they will develop and produce films together. They announced a gothic slasher horror film Saint Mary's with director Michael J Bassett attached, which Barker will produce and compose for; another supernatural horror Mara and a feature by Lawrence Gough, director of Salvage called The Drought'. Mann is also developing his own directing gigs through the company.
As well as developing features with Michael J Bassett, Scott Mann, Adrian Vitoria, Barker continues to be prolific with his music scoring. In early 2011 he has already completed The Holding for Lionsgate and has been signed onto Momentum Pictures Weekender from the award winning UK director Karl Golden; the newly selected SXSW UK indie Weekend, directed by Andrew Haigh; and the follow-up to the cult horror hit The Human Centipede, called The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence). For later in the year, Barker will produce and compose Shaun Robert Smith's The 4th Reich and he will produce The Vanishment with Tristan Goligher of The Bureau - which will see him co-compose alongside his greatest influence, Christopher Young, who has scored Hollywood films such as Spider-Man 3 and The Exorcism of Emily Rose.