Hungarians have played a prominent role in the creation of Hollywood, the main vehicle of American myths. Names such as Korda, Cukor, Curtiz, Toth and Molnar readily come to mind—and then of course Zsa Zsa Gabor and Tony Curtis, and let’s not forget Bela Lugosi in his infamous role of Dracula, the Transylvanian prince. The story goes that there was the following sign above the door of a Hollywood studio: “It’s not enough to be Hungarian to make films. One must also have talent.”
Famous director, Frank Capra is said to have turned this phrase around: “It’s not enough to have talent to make films. One must also be Hungarian.”
The latest talent to cast his eyes on the Hollywood landscape is a brilliant composer from Budapest, IMRE CZOMBA. In his illustrious career he has been a member of a top rock and roll band, has twice scored the theme for Hungary’s National Day Fireworks extravaganza, has written the music for box office breaking musical theater productions and is currently scoring the music for a high budgeted feature film entitled, “Argo2.”
We caught up with Mr. Czomba recently in Budapest to discuss his career and his dreams of following in the footsteps of other famous Hungarians and chart the next chapter of his career in Hollywood.
SPLASH: Hi, Imre. Nice to see you.
IMRE CZOMBA: Nice to see you, too.
SPLASH: Tell us about your early life. Did you always want to be a musician?
IMRE CZOMBA: Not always. My interest in music started as hobby. It was something my family never encouraged. My dad was an engineer and everyone thought that I would continue in his footsteps. As a kid I attended a lot of math competitions, and later ended up in the University of Technology’s Faculty of Engineering. However, as the years went on, I became increasingly attracted to music. I began studying piano with top teachers and eventually started playing piano in night clubs. That led to a job in a professional orchestra.
SPLASH: How did you end up in a rock and roll band?
IMRE CZOMBA: In 1995, a close friend of mine got me an audition with a top Hungarian act called Zoran. He is a very famous pop star and before I knew it I landed that job and suddenly playing in front of tens of thousands of people, in a band with legendary musicians whom I had only seen on television. It was a dream come true.
SPLASH: What other bands have you worked with?
IMRE CZOMBA: The prestige of playing with Zoran got me gigs with other renowned Hungarian artists like Gabor Presser, Akos and the chart topping Nox Band. I was very fortunate to perform with these famous Hungarian stars, touring Europe and playing Mega Concerts that attracted a massive audience. We got to open for international acts like Elton John, Sting, Rod Stewart and Pink.
SPLASH: On your website you mention that film scores also had a great influence on your music. Are there any composers whose work you consider to particularly inspiring?
IMRE CZOMBA: I have a lot of favorites. When I was last in Los Angeles, I was lucky enough to observe Hollywood’s composing techniques. It was an honor to get input from some excellent musical craftsmen who were kind enough to give their opinions on my work. There is no greater pride for a composer than hearing Academy Award winners complimenting his music. I had the chance for example to meet one of my all time favorites, David Foster, who is considered to be one of the all stars of the genre.
SPLASH: You wrote the official songs for the 2006 Swimming Championships and the 2013 Budapest Judo European Championships. How is music composed for an athletic event different from let’s say a pop song?
IMRE CZOMBA: An official song like this has to be very special. It might also be important for it to reflect local musical specialties, and traditions, as it reflects upon the host country.
SPLASH: In 2008 and 2009 you scored music for the fireworks performances on Hungary’s National Day celebrations. How much freedom did you get as a composer on an assignment like this?
IMRE CZOMBA: There was a very precisely written story for the fireworks, much like a theater script. There was a central computer on which the whole event was programmed to the dynamics of my music. The computer basically acted as the conductor for the music I wrote. The fireworks display had over 3 million televison viewers and hearing my music coordinated to this spectacular fireworks display was an unforgettable moment in my life.
SPLASH: You have composed a lot of theatrical pieces. Which ones have been your favorites?
IMRE CZOMBA. “The Gypsies of Nagyida” is my favourite theatrical piece. This was another career high as this show allowed me to work with a very unique and exciting musical genre not to mention a historical orchestral piece with brilliant gypsy musicians. Due to the show’s great success, “The Gypsies of Nagyida” played every day for a month in Madrid’s Apollo Theatre. My other favorite musical was “The Birth of a Nation.” It was staged in the world famous Hero’s Square in Budapest and was a really large scale production. The show feature 250 dancers and 15 very famous actors. I was again lucky enough to be hired to write the original music for it.
SPLASH: You are currently scoring the film. “Argo2” (unrelated to the Ben Affleck film of 2012). Are you starting to favor film as your next medium of choice?
IMRE CZOMBA: Most definitely, and that is why I am interested in working in Hollwyood. It is the heart of the film industry. It’s where I feel this crazy road I have been on is leading me. It’s also a chance to continue professional relationships that I have started there and learn from some of the best film composers in the world.
SPLASH: Do you think being Hungarian will help?
IMRE CZOMBA: Not the way it might have back in the 1940s, but you never know.
SPLASH: Well we wish you much luck, Imre. You seem unstoppable and with so much success already behind you, Hollywood seems like the logical place in your master plan.
IMRE CZOMBA: I can’t disagree.
SPLASH: Thanks for talking to us.
IMRE CZOMBA: Thank you.
Check out Mr. Czomba's music HERE.
PHOTOS BY: Gabor Erdelyi