World IP Day: Composer Ack Kinmonth on music, sport and innovation

Friday, 26 Apr 2019

With today being World IP Day and this year's athletically-focused theme Reach for Gold, we pose the question: Where does sport, music and IP meet?

For Brisbane composer Ack Kinmonth the three converge at home games for the NRL's Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium. The pulsating hard rock anthem that the team runs onto the field to and that soundtracks a Broncos try is his original work. 

Ack's credits span film, TV, online and advertising, with clients including Sesame Street, Coca-Cola and Queensland Tourism. A few years back when working with Flux Animation, the agency had a brief for the Broncos' new theme song, as part of an overall NRL branding roll-out. The animation was already in a draft version when it landed with Ack. 

"The brief was to make it an uptempo kind of track. Then the brief changed to a more rock-y type of sound – an old school, hard rock direction. Basically it started out with the horses' hooves being a pounding percussive sound and then into a whole rock thing."

When asked how this brief called upon Ack's ability to innovate and go 'outside the box', he talked about working on an all-out rock sound.

"It’s almost like a sort of a guilty pleasure. Rock doesn’t come in with a lot of the big brand clients, so I was putting the thought aside of how I have to try to do something really crazy here."

"It’s a different set of emotions and rarely do you get that brief with big brands. This was a bit more fun, you can go for a different kind of emotion rather than ad speak."

Ack's angle came from the point of view of the fan in the stadium, in the moment. 

"Basically to innovate, you have to put yourself into the head space of someone who is in the game atmosphere, so I tried to not let many composer-y thoughts get in the way or try to be too clever. You want to drive for an emotion."

He explained, "It’s getting rid of the sensitivity side of things and going pure emotion."

It's a brief he pretty much nailed straight away in a week's time with minimal revision. "There weren’t too many versions. I started out with percussion. None of it is ‘real instrumentation’ except the guitars...the client liked the ‘over-hyped’ kind of sound."

"As a composer, when doing the rocky stuff you want it to be super realistic, but they wanted a more chunky, more computerised sound."

At sporting events around the globe, fans will often hear a similar playlist of hard rock, classic hip-hop and beloved pop hits at those crucial final seconds on the clock or celebratory moments. So, what does it mean to have original music playing at a Broncos game? 

As well as being good for his career and an important royalty stream for him, as an avowed Broncos fan himself, Ack says, "I think with a pop song, you might have memories already attached to it that come up when listening to a song. When you’re writing original music for a team, that’s the fan's own. The only memories attached to it are the team and the moments you experienced’s a great little idea to have it wholly owned by the team. There’s nothing else attached to it."

"With the Bronco's theme, it’s always a positive moment for fans when the music is played, so it’s a great association. It’s a pretty bloody exciting game as it is, I hope it adds a little extra excitement."

What other great sporting themes does Ack admire? He cites the The Chemical Brother's Theme from Velodrome, their "big and verbose" work for the cycling events at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

"I love that sort of semi-electronic, epic orchestral stuff. I do quite like that sneaking element of electronica in sports music. I think it adds another level. A lot of the stuff you do hear is orchestral music, a lot of John Williams' sport themes are very, very orchestral."

"Wheras The Chemical Brothers' track adds in that extra edge to it."

And Ack's tip to a composer or songwriter that receives a brief that is outside of their comfort zone? 

"Essentially everyone’s hands goes to what they know with their hands. If you’re a piano player, your hands goes to the piano first thing. You need remove the learned behaviour of playing a certain way, that’s a really good way to put it. Change the way you write."

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