Who inspired you most as a kid?
PK: I was born and raised in Germany. When I was six I started taking piano lessons. Mozart, Bach and Beethoven were my big inspirations. And still to this day they play an important part in my life. Beethoven once said: "I am a bacchus in music. I give humanity the wine of music to drown their sorrows." This is deep.
Who were your film music idols growing up?
PK: I grew up in the golden Spielberg-Williams era. Classics such as E.T., Close Encounters, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List, primarily written for full orchestra and created with the newest synthesizer technologies of the day, left a lasting impression on me.
When did you start following your own path as a film composer?
PK: It was the time when I wrote incidental music for theater plays at my local high school in Germany. I was 15 at the time. The music was half improvised and half written out. I worked with a small ensemble of players, whoever was up for the challenge and available. We always had very eclectic ensembles. For one of the plays I wrote for: two percussion, piano, trumpet, tuba, contrabass, 2 bassoons, and oboe. I always liked the sound of the small ensemble. Later on I discovered Kurt Weill who left an everlasting impression on me. It was during those years when I started experimenting with music in a grander context of speech and dramaturgy.
Then after high school you started to study music more seriously?
PK: I guess so. But I never lost my playful attitude towards music. My inner child will always be in a musical candy store. ;-)
But yes, after high school, I decided to relentlessly pursue the study of music, first at the classical conservatory in Germany where I came to idolize classical megastars like Beethoven, Ravel, Stravinsky, Bartok, and Bach, then abroad: First I studied jazz at world-renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston followed by contemporary classical music at New York University, and then, at last, film music at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
When was your first "mini"-break?
PK: That was in 2007 when I became an integral part of Aaron Zigman’s team where I contributed to top-grossing films such as The Proposal (Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds), The Ugly Truth (Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler), Sex and the City: The Movie, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium (Dustin Hoffman and Natalie Portman), and The Shack, to name only a few. I was then hired by Disney to write additional music on their first nature documentary, Earth, based on BBC’s highly successful Planet Earth TV series. These credits helped establish myself in LA.
In 2007 you started your teaching career at USC where you once were a student yourself?
PK: Yes, I joined the faculty in 2007. Teaching is a big part of my life. Mentoring the next generation of musicians is a wonderful challenge. I am trying to teach my students values in music, not just in film music. That would be way to narrow in my opinion. Music first is my mantra so to speak. Learn the power of music and how it can make you a better person. I'm trying to facilitate that in each and every one of my students, awaken their true inner artist. It is a joy to watch them grow! And of course I learn a lot from them as well...