Two years ago, my friend, director Michael Dougherty, invited me to join him as composer for his film, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the sequel to the 2014 Legendary / Warner Bros. film, Godzilla. Instantly, an idea struck me: this film could give me an opportunity to produce a new version of my favorite Blue Öyster Cult song, “Godzilla.” Moreover, I could realize it with some of my favorite musicians from the rock and metal community, including Serj Tankian from System of a Down and the rhythm section of the metal band Dethklok. “I’m in,” I told Michael, setting in motion a creative journey that would change my life in more ways than I could guess. Now, Godzilla: King of the Monsters has opened globally, supported by not only by a sweeping orchestral score, but an end title sequence blasting the version of BÖC’s “Godzilla” that I imagined during that fateful phone call.
To chronicle this creative venture, I chatted with many of the musicians who brought it to life, including lead singer Serj Tankian, guitarist Brendon Small, bassist Bryan Beller, drummer Gene Hoglan, backing vocalist Brendan McKian, co-producer Jason LaRocca, as well as Buck Dharma, the Blue Öyster Cult rock legend who originally composed it.(more…)
I was raised by a novelist, Laura Kalpakian, who instilled in me a deep appreciation of the written word. As a toddler, I would frequently stumble into her office, my footsteps concealed by the relentless cadence of her fingers clacking on the typewriter, and try to get her attention by knocking over one of the many stacks of dusty, hardbound books that formed a labyrinth on her floor. Among those towers of tomes were many editions of the Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford was a part of my childhood in even more direct ways. I lived there as a child with my family, when my father was a researcher affiliated with Wolfson College. While we were there, my mom picked up the official Bodleian library board game, which would become a staple of our Sunday evenings for years to come.
As a I grew up, I quickly realized that musical notes, not words, were my personal favorite form of self-expression. Three decades after living in Oxford, I learned that The Professor and the Madman, the film adaptation of Simon Winchester’s gripping book The Surgeon of Crowthorne, was looking for a composer, and my mom was the first person I called. Breathless with excitement, I struggled to finish my sentences. I felt as if this score were already bursting out of my mind. This week marks the culmination of that journey, as now the film has been released theatrically, and my score album is now available.(more…)
2017’s inventive horror-comedy Happy Death Day told the story of a college girl named Tree who keeps reliving the same day in a perpetual time loop, only to be murdered each night by a baby-masked serial killer. This year’s sequel, Happy Death Day 2U, added even more genre influences to the mix, incorporating elements of science fiction, comedy, and heist films, while pumping up the action, comedy and drama. Returning to composing duties here, my challenge was to retain and adapt thematic material from the first film’s score, and to help support the film as it expands into even more disparate genres.
MILD SPOILERS AHEAD: My score to the first film was built on a foundation of solid orchestral horror techniques, with snarling brass screams, aggressive low string ostinatos, and creepy high string clusters. However, upon that framework were placed the musical components that made the score unique. I represented the main character, Tree, with poppy, upbeat synths, and I supported action scenes with marching band percussion evocative of the film’s collegiate setting. Perhaps the most iconic sound in the score was the theme for the baby-masked killer, built from manipulated audio samples of my daughter Sonatine! I chronicled that experience in this fun behind-the-scenes video:(more…)
Outlander Season Four chronicles a dramatic journey: from the bustling streets of colonial era Wilmington, across vast stretches of Appalachian wilderness, to Cherokee and Mohawk lands. This journey leaps from the modernity of the 1960’s to the simmering pre-Revolutionary tension of eighteenth-century America. These settings present a challenge for a composer, because each era, culture, and geographical location offers potential musical influences for the score. My goal was to assimilate all these ideas into a score that helps the audience follow the various narrative threads and still supports the drama. Oh, and I wanted to use banjos now too!
BAGPIPES AND BANJOS
My work began as I set out to rearrange a new version of “The Skye Boat Song” for the season’s Main Title. Changing a series’ Main Title is relatively rare in television, and yet this marks the sixth, arguably seventh, iteration of the beloved folk song I have produced for Outlander. (The previous were Season 1’s original, Season 2’s “French” and “Jacobite” versions, and Season 3’s “After Culloden” and “Caribbean” versions. I also produced an “Extended” version for the Season 1 Volume 2 soundtrack album, though it was never used in the series itself.)(more…)
“Welcome Home,” the new erotic thriller starring Aaron Paul, Emily Ratajkowski, and Riccardo Scamarcio, gave me the opportunity to compose a sinister, lyrical, and melodic score. In the film, Bryan (Paul) and Cassie (Ratajkowski) vacation at a rental home in the Italian countryside, and gradually suspect their neighbor, Federico (Scamarcio), might be a threat. Their strained relationship buckles under pressure as their paranoia ratchets up. My score crescendos, powered by a war between a viola da gamba and an upright bass!
LIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD: While the film is anchored by intense performances from the three leads, it was actually the cinematography and location that first fueled my musical imagination. My initial creative conversation with director George Ratliff took place over Skype while he was still on location in Italy, finishing principal photography. Even at that early stage, it was clear the titular “Home” was one of the most important characters in the film. The way Ratliff and DP Shelly Johnson glided the camera through the old building’s candlelit stone halls gave the entire house a strange sense of being alive, as if it were watching the drama unfold. (Spoiler: it is!)(more…)
What would a score sound like if it were a collaboration between late-70’s John Williams, late-80’s Danny Elfman, and late-90’s Björk? This question ran through my mind as I composed a moody, thematic score for “I Still See You,” a new supernatural thriller starring Bella Thorne that is available now on VOD and in a limited theatrical run. While my work inevitably falls very short of the greatness of my heroes, I like to think that soundtrack fans can pick up on my influences.(more…)
I have always loved Halloween mazes and slasher horror films. I had the opportunity to combine those thrills by scoring the new Lionsgate / CBS Films feature, Hell Fest, which opened theatrically last weekend. For anyone who has been to a Halloween maze, this film’s central premise is quite disturbing. Structured like a classic slasher, the story is about a group of teenagers who go to a traveling Halloween maze, Hell Fest, only to become the latest prey for a masked killer who continually strikes and then disappears into the crowd of costumed freaks.
Hell Fest allowed me to work again with several of my favorite creative partners, including director Gregory Plotkin, with whom I collaborated as the editor on last year’s phenomenal Happy Death Day, and Gale Anne Hurd, the inspiring producer who brought me on board The Walking Dead nearly a decade ago.(more…)
2018 has blasted by in a flash! The last few months have been a whirlwind, and I realize I’ve fallen a bit behind with my blog. With this update, I plan on catching up on a few of the projects I’ve scored that have come out this summer, and I will look ahead at what is over the horizon for the rest of the year.
AURORA – QUEENDOM COME
First up, I was thrilled to collaborate with singer-songwriter AURORA to produce a Celtic-inspired version of her track “Queendom Come.” The single was used by Electronic Arts for the official E3 reveal trailer for Unravel Two.
Last spring, I got a call from my friend Steve Schnur at EA who said that the marketing team really loved this particular AURORA song, but wished it had a more acoustic, even Celtic, sound. Somehow, Steve thought of me as someone who might enjoy doing music in this style! I listened to her song and fell in love with it immediately. The harmonic progression was satisfying, the melody and vocals were haunting, and the lyrics were nostalgic and moving. I knew right away I would have a blast working on the track.(more…)
What can I say about Beth Krakower that hasn’t already been shared by the massive outpouring of love and grief I’ve witnessed from our shared community?
Beth and I worked closely together for fifteen years. She was among the first people in the film music industry to believe in me, and to help me believe in myself. Together, we hatched ambitious schemes of creating soundtrack albums, labels, concerts, live events, websites, and more. She encouraged my wildest ideas, with equal parts enthusiasm and practical advice. She was a road manager, a publicist, a spirit guide, and a close friend.
I am heartbroken she is gone.
Today, I searched through thousands of photographs from events I did with Beth over the last dozen years, in search of the best one of her and I together. Beth was a very effective publicist, so effective, in fact, she consistently pushed me into the spotlight, while stepping back from it herself. She always made a point to grab a snapshot of me wherever we went. If I could only send a message back in time, I would tell myself to grab that camera out of her hand, and ask someone to take a picture of her and I instead. Alas, I seemingly have only one image of Beth and I standing side by side. Through the blurry low resolution, one can see how elated we both were in this moment. Beth’s true superpower was making her friends feel this way every time they were in her presence.
Rest now, my friend. Your fight is finally over. We are all grateful for the time we shared with you.
With so many shows and tours, I forgot all about Florence in 2013! I found one more, and its in focus. ❤️
VERY LIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD: This blog will discuss only plot points made clear from early reviews and trailers.
CHAPTER 1 – INTO MIDGARD
One rainy November afternoon, over three years ago, I walked into Sony PlayStation’s Santa Monica Studio to meet with acclaimed music producers Pete Scaturro and Keith Leary to discuss a new, secret project. Our conversation revolved around folk music, Northern European ethnic instruments, vocal writing, classical thematic development, bombastic percussion and, eventually, Greek and Norse mythology. “Wait a minute.” I said. “Is this… a new God of War?” Their hesitant facial expressions told me everything I needed to know. I realized I was about to tumble headfirst into a daunting and challenging dream project.
For the uninitiated, God of War is massively popular video game series for Sony PlayStation, PSP and mobile platforms that ran for seven games from 2005 to 2013. The games were famous (and somewhat infamous) for their visceral depictions of sex and violence, epitomized by the central revenge-seeking character, Kratos. The franchise had been dormant for years, leaving fans to speculate if we would ever again see a continuation of the character.
In my first meeting at Santa Monica Studio, I realized I was witnessing Kratos’ saga unfold in a surprising new direction, moving away from Greek to Norse mythology. I was brought on board so early that the game had not yet been officially greenlit. There existed only an early build of a prototype level and concept paintings. Yet, these assets showed me that Kratos had matured, that the story would explore deeper themes, and that there was a new central character by his side – his son, Atreus. I was intrigued, and excited to dive in.(more…)