Tag Archives: Interview

An Interview with Adam Blau

(From Adam’s official bio): Adam is a rising star in the comedy world, with many directors entrusting his musical talents to bolster their projects, often working closely with writers and performers to lend a strong and humorous musical sensibility to their projects. His music has uplifted projects by some of the world’s most popular comedians, including truTV’s Billy on the Street, starring Billy Eichner; NBC’s Mulaney, starring John Mulaney; several Funny or Die shorts; and IFC’s upcoming Brockmire starring Hank Azaria. In addition to composing score, Adam regularly collaborates with the showrunners and writers of projects to create and develop a variety of songs for special episodes – songs ranging from “serious” to intentionally over-the-top satires.

Adam has also scored music and written songs for celebrated films like Warner Bros.’ License to Wed, starring Robin Williams, Mandy Moore and John Krasinski; SXSW favorite The Overbrook Brothers; Phoebe in Wonderland, starring Elle Fanning; and Indian Pictures’ Fuzz Track City. Known for his expertise in percussion, Adam has spearheaded specialty drumline sessions for high profile projects, including Christophe Beck’s We Are Marshall and Mark Isham’s The Express, as well as arranging and producing world percussion for Joel McNeely’s scores to Disney’s popular Tinker Bell films.

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What got you interested in composing for film and television?
Well, I had been a musician to some extent for most of my life…I started playing when I was very young, and I’ve always been involved with music in some capacity. And while I was living in New York I was pretty active in theater, music directing and accompanying, that kind of thing. As part of that, I had some friends who were writing comedy shows and they needed some interstitial music between scenes, or maybe they needed a song, and so I would help them out and it was really fun. And as an extension of that I wrote some songs for a friends show in Los Angeles, and while I was visiting LA I met a couple of people who needed some extra music for a film they were working on, they’d had a composer drop out of the production and so from New York I experimented with some music for this film and I ended up really enjoying it. In fact, I ended up being “bitten by the bug” and picked everything up and moved from New York to LA and it seems to have worked out pretty well so far.
Are you inspired by any particular composer?
In general sure, I have those (soundtracks) I like to listen to independent of the film, but being so involved in multiple facets of music production, it’s rare these days for me to be listening to any current film scores while I’m composing, because I do so much of that as part of my actual work. But Carter Burwell’s score for Adaptation is a big one, it really got me in tune with what a film score could be/should be…in terms of what I’m writing, so much of the scoring process is dependent on the material and who I’m working with. There is an extent to which it’s a bit of a service industry because I’m writing music for what is essentially someone else’s vision. I think a huge part of the job is finding out what the vision is for the director and seeing how the music can best manifest that idea for them. Now I’m going to put my on thumbprint on it one way or the other, but especially in writing for television comedy, it’s writing in a particular style, usually to form the “punchline.” So I do listen to works by several composers, but in terms of my current writing, they don’t really influence/inspire me in that sort of way, because it’s dependent on what the director needs.

What’s it like working on You’re The Worst ? How is the music composed for each episode: do you get to see any footage or is everything done in advance?
It’s a blast, the show itself…especially in seasons 2 and 3, goes in a very interesting direction. It’s a fairly racy comedy, but they really start talking about some more significant issues. The characters are very well conceived and written and that’s a testament to the show’s creator. The characters can be assholes at times, but over time you can understand why they might be that way. As that goes on, the show shifts tonally, there’s a spectrum of comedy to emotional stuff.
It’s a really great thing, as a composer, to be able to work in the comedic realm but also to work with the more serious, dramatic stuff, or spoofing a genre, like the ‘Sunday Funday’ episodes. And the other part that is really rewarding, is writing actual songs for the characters. Gretchen is a music publicist and she represents this one group, and Stephen (the show’s creator) and I co-wrote all of the songs that they do; and in the PTSD episode we wrote a song that serves as a “relief” for this one character. It’s an original song that we wrote together, and the song is currently being sold as a benefit for the Wounded Warriors organization. The variety is thrilling for me.
How long do you have to put a particular score together? Is there less time for television?
The schedule, for television, is just ridiculous, there is a very quick turn-around between when the picture is locked, like when they’re done editing and when the episode is released, so we have maybe a week, maybe…to get the music finished. Now, I ask for scripts very early in the process, just so I can look through and see if there are song moments or other moments to keep an eye out for. If there’s music within the show, I write it in advance and then go to the set, which is really rare, but I go and teach it to them. I prepare as much as I can in advance though, but by the time it starts being cut, and by the time the show gets to the producers, there is already temporary music in place, either composed by me or someone else, to prompt discussion about what should be in place there. And by the time we come to a spotting session where we meet to discuss how the episode should be scored, either I’ve already written a couple of pieces OR we will discuss if something is working or if we want to go in a different direction. It’s a quick process, sometimes it feels too quick but other times that quick turn-around is a blessing.

How would you describe your compositional style? More orchestral or electronic/synthetic?

It’s totally a case by case basis, I’ve written for full orchestra, like with License to Wed, which had a jazz, swingy feel for the most part. So we wrote it for a huge orchestra. And the other end of the spectrum then is the electronic stuff that I do for You’re the Worst, it is totally case by case. And with percussion stuff, my first stint with that was for a film called We Are Marshall, and there was also Yours, Mine and Ours as well.

The genre is really dictated by the material and also the budget. I would prefer to work with a live orchestra, but with most tv it is simply not in the cards (except for maybe Game of Thrones which has the budget to do it.)
What’s your favorite genre to work with? Why?

I am happy working in any genre, but I like working in comedies because it allows for working in a lot of ways, I admit I am a huge comedy junkie and I love sitcoms. But these days, if you’re doing comedy, you get to write in a number of genres and run the gamut, because writing comedy can also mean writing in a serious moment or a song, so you can try a lot of different things. One of my strengths has been being able to wear a number of different hats, learning a new genre or figuring out the core elements of a particular style and working in that new style, it’s a fun challenge trying to do that. I also enjoy the collaborative process with comedy as well.
Does one score/project stand out as your favorite?

It’s truly hard to pick a single project that I would call my favorite. I would have a hard time sitting here working day after day on shows that I don’t like so much, so I try to find something enjoyable about the project itself or the music for that project, or the people I work with, or otherwise it’s a long hard slog. But there are some standouts for me, You’re The Worst is definitely a highlight. And the people are just so spectacular to work with as well.

Me: Well thank you so much for meeting with me to talk about You’re The Worst and your work as a composer

Adam: Thank you!

You can follow Adam Blau on Twitter @adamblau .

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John Debney talks The Jungle Book (2016)

It’s no secret that I have mixed feelings about the live-action Disney remakes. It just so happens that The Jungle Book (2016) is one I dislike, only because I have very strong feelings for the animated original. My own feelings for the work aside, I have heard that the score was well done, not surprising since it was composed by John Debney (his musical magnum opus remains the score for The Passion of the Christ (2004)).

In this short interview, Debney talks about how he came to work on the score for the film, what kind of vision the director had and how Mowgli needed a theme of his own. But that’s not all I discovered. I also found a B-roll of footage from the scoring sessions, and I’m pleased to share it with you here. Please note around 1:58-2:00 the giant score that the composer is flipping through. You can also see a beat counter next to his head at the beginning of the video.

The Jungle Book scoring session B-Roll (2016)

I love watching scoring sessions, it’s something I really hope to witness firsthand someday in the future. I hope you enjoy this interview and the footage from the soundstage. I have a lot more interviews queued up and I can’t wait to finally get them published!

See also:

Film Composer Interviews A-H

Film Composer Interviews K-Z

John Debney (and Tom Morello) talk Iron Man 2 (2010)

John Debney talks The Scorpion King (2002)

John Debney scoring Predators (2010)

John Debney talks The Passion of the Christ (2004)

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

James Horner talks The Rocketeer (1991)

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James Horner talks The Rocketeer (1991)

In 1991, Walt Disney Studios released The Rocketeer, a period film set in 1938, which told the story of how a stunt pilot named Cliff Secord discovered a prototype jetpack that could enable him to fly without a plane. He uses this device to become “The Rocketeer”, a hero and a media sensation. Before the story is over, Cliff will have to use all his skills to save the girl he loves from some Nazi spies, including one hidden right in their midst!

While the movie was favorably received, it didn’t perform well enough to justify continuing the story and plans for a set of sequels were cancelled (which is a shame, I remember enjoying this movie very much, though I found a hard time accepting Timothy Dalton as a villain).

James Horner was selected to compose and conduct the score for this film and the score is still highly praised as one of the stronger elements of the film. I think it’s interesting to listen to how he composed music before his big successes in 1995 and 1997 respectively. I hope you enjoy this all too brief interview with James Horner regarding his work on this film. Please enjoy!

See also:

James Horner Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan

James Horner talks Aliens (1986)

James Horner talks Field of Dreams (1989)

James Horner scoring Braveheart (1995)

James Horner talks The Perfect Storm (2000)

James Horner talks A Beautiful Mind (2001)

James Horner talks Windtalkers (2002)

James Horner talks Avatar (2009)

James Horner talks The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Film Composer Interviews A-H

Film Composer Interviews K-Z

Become a patron of the blog at: patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

*poster image is the property of Walt Disney Studios

Thomas Newman talks Wall-E (2008)

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In 2008 Pixar made the leap into outer space and released a film named WALL-E, a touching tale about a waste-cleaning robot named WALL-E who works all alone on a garbage covered Earth in 2805. Having spent so many years alone (the other robots having long since broken down), WALL-E has developed an individual consciousness and identity of his own: he salvages items he deems “special” and keeps them in his “home” (such items include an ancient tape copy of Hello, Dolly). The monotony of WALL-E’s life changes dramatically when he discovers a plant seedling; not long afterward, a strange ship arrives bearing a feminine robot named EVE. WALL-E (being very lonely) falls in love and embarks on a huge adventure that, ultimately, will save the long absent human race once and for all.

 

Composer Thomas Newman had worked very well with director Andrew Stanton on Finding Nemo (2003) and began working on the score as early as 2005 (EVE’s theme was first arranged in 2007). Newman found the score to be a good challenge, as the first portion of the film is largely silent (with no dialogue in the traditional sense). Stanton had originally envisioned a purely orchestral score, but Newman eventually included electronic elements as well. Several scenes also include selections from previously composed works, most notably Hello Dolly! and La vie en rose (as performed by Louis Armstrong) during a sequence between EVE and WALL-E on Earth. Newman’s score was nominated at the Academy Awards for Best Original Score and Best Original Song, but it lost to Slumdog Millionaire (2008).

Interestingly, with the film making several references to Hello Dolly!, it’s cool to note that Thomas Newman’s uncle Lionel Newman (1916-1989) worked on that production.

WALL-E is such an adorable film, and it’s commentary on society (most notably how it deals with consumerism) makes it a must-see for all ages. Please enjoy this behind the scenes look at the score of this film.

You can become a patron of the blog at: patreon.com/musicgamer460

See also:

Thomas Newman talks Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)

Film Composer Interviews A-H

Film Composer Interviews K-Z

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

*poster image is the property of Walt Disney/Pixar

James Horner talks A Beautiful Mind (2001)

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Unbelievably, it’s been 15 years since A Beautiful Mind took the cinematic world by storm. Based on the real-life story of mathematician John Nash (1928-2015), the film follows Nash from his days at Princeton, through his diagnosis with paranoid schizophrenia and the struggles that came with dealing with an illness that was not well understood yet. It’s not even clear for a good portion of the film that Nash is seeing things that aren’t there. A good case in point comes with Nash’s roommate at Princeton Charles. He’s introduced the way any other character would be, he talks with Nash and even walks in public with him and later introduces his young niece. I remember being totally shocked when it was revealed that only Nash could see Charles (it put certain episodes at Princeton in a completely different light).

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A Beautiful Mind took home four Academy Awards: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actress. It also received four additional nominations for Best Actor, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup and Best Original Score.

I don’t remember exactly when I saw this movie for the first time, but I do remember it had something to do with school (we might have been learning about mental illness). I should also mention that I knew nothing about Nash before watching this film, so the revelation that so many of Nash’s “friends” were delusions came as a huge surprise to me, and it made me question every interaction Nash had for the rest of the film.

For this film, director Ron Howard called upon composer James Horner to assemble the musical score and oh did he ever! Horner gives an eloquent description of how he assembled the musical themes for this film and not only that, he also described his thought process for creating a film score in general (he compares it to painting, which is just beautiful!) Considering it’s been just under a year since he passed away, I felt a few tears come to my eyes, knowing that a talent like this was gone from the world.

Please enjoy listening to how the music for A Beautiful Mind was put together!

See also:

James Horner Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan

James Horner talks Aliens (1986)

James Horner talks Field of Dreams (1989)

James Horner talks The Rocketeer (1991)

James Horner scoring Braveheart (1995)

James Horner talks The Perfect Storm (2000)

James Horner talks Windtalkers (2002)

James Horner talks Avatar (2009)

James Horner talks The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Film Composer Interviews A-H

Film Composer Interviews K-Z

My Thoughts on: A Beautiful Mind (2001)

Become a patron of the blog at: patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

*the film poster is the property of Universal Pictures

James Horner talks The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

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Beginning in 2010, Columbia Pictures decided to reboot the Spider-Man franchise (that had previously starred Tobey Maguire from 2002-2007) and recast the title role with Andrew Garfield. The film was very well received, with Garfield’s performance being highly praised.

The film, being a reboot, starts the story of Peter Parker over again, showing how he develops from a bullied teen into a superhero after a genetically modified spider bites him. Parker begins using his abilities to hunt down criminals, and eventually must stop a rampaging villain known as the Lizard (who has also discovered that Spider-Man is Peter Parker!) The story was continued in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014).

James Horner was brought in to compose the musical score for the film. On that merit alone, I would recommend this soundtrack to anyone (because by this stage in his career, Horner had writing film music down to a fine art).

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I admit I haven’t actually seen the reboot of Spider-Man, but the general consensus is that it is a good film worth seeing. Please enjoy this behind the scenes look at the scoring of The Amazing Spider-Man, featuring the one and only James Horner (it sends chills down my spine to see him conducting the orchestra, he was surely a master of his craft), enjoy!!

 

See also:

James Horner Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan

James Horner talks Aliens (1986)

James Horner talks Field of Dreams (1989)

James Horner talks The Rocketeer (1991)

James Horner scoring Braveheart (1995)

James Horner talks The Perfect Storm (2000)

James Horner talks A Beautiful Mind (2001)

James Horner talks Windtalkers (2002)

James Horner talks Avatar (2009)

Film Composer Interviews A-H

Film Composer Interviews K-Z

Become a patron of the blog at: patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

*the film poster is the property of Columbia Pictures

Michael Kamen talks The Iron Giant (1999)

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Credit to Warner Bros.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

At the close of the old century, Warner Bros. Studio released The Iron Giant. The feature starred Eli Marienthal as Hogarth Hughes, Christopher McDonald as Agent Kent Mansley, Harry Connick Jr. as Dean, Jennifer Aniston as Hogarth’s mother and Vin Diesel (yes, THAT Vin Diesel) as the voice of the Giant. This film marked the directorial debut of Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol).

The composer, Michael Kamen, was initially given a temp score of science-fiction music composed by Bernard Herrmann, but the music “scared him completely.” As a result, Kamen traveled to Prague for inspiration and eventually found it listening to the Czech Philharmonic.

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Rather unusually, Kamen not only recorded the score over a single week (as opposed to a month), it was also recorded without synchronizing the music to the picture. By that I mean, Kamen did not have a visual of the film present during the recording process (very unusual). Kamen visualized the score as something that could be recorded and listened to as a single piece of concert music.

The score went on to win an Annie Award for Music in an Animated Feature Production on November 6th, 1999.

The interview is broken into three parts (hence the three links) and I hope you enjoy Kamen’s talk about creating the score for this adorable film.

You can become a patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

See also:

Film Composer Interviews A-H

Film Composer Interviews K-Z

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂