I am inspired by the opportunities presented by making music in the digital era, a time in which musical ideas can reach millions of fans instantaneously thanks to the internet. However, I am grateful that the recent resurgence of vinyl as a medium for music, in particular score albums, allows me to communicate with fans in a timeless, analog manner. I have always felt that owning music means possessing something you can hold in your hand, and holding a beautifully mastered and pressed vinyl album feels pretty damn good!
I was honored last spring to be the Outstanding Alumnus and Commencement Speaker for my alma mater, the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California. I took very seriously this opportunity to offer advice to a new generation of musicians, determined to communicate something practical to students they could use to kick-start their careers. In the fourteen years since I graduated from USC myself, I have learned many lessons, the most profound resulting from humiliating mistakes. From these I learned that “Attitude is Everything.” That universal message is applicable to any career in any field.
With that in mind, I am sharing my USC Thornton School of Music commencement address with you all. The following is adapted and expanded from my speech, given on May 13, 2016.
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You are about to embark upon your professional career, armed with the skills you have honed during your education. You are good at what you do. You might even be the best at what you do. Building a successful career, however, relies on more than talent or skill. Being “good” isn’t enough. Even being “the best” isn’t enough. In the music business, as in life, attitude is everything. A successful career emerges when the person with the right talent and skills also has the right attitude at all times. (more…)
On June 2nd, 2014, I sat alone wearing scrubs and a hospital mask, in a corridor outside a labor and delivery room. The hall was eerily quiet, despite the crescendo of flurrying activity on the other side of the heavy doors. Fighting off claustrophobia induced by my breath against the mask and anxiety ringing in my ears, I struggled to type an email on my phone to two producers at Bad Robot with whom I was scheduled to meet that very afternoon, about the possibility of scoring an exciting new thriller for them. When the meeting was set, I knew there was only one event that could prevent me from attending, and that event was about to happen. An hour later, I became a father. The meeting at Bad Robot would have to wait. Fortunately, everything worked out for the best.
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This weekend marks the theatrical release of 10 Cloverfield Lane, the critically-acclaimed new thriller from producer J.J. Abrams, and director Dan Trachtenberg. The film tells the story of Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a young woman who wakes up after a terrible accident to find she’s locked in a cellar with a doomsday prepper named Howard (John Goodman), who insists that he saved her life and that the world outside is uninhabitable following an apocalyptic catastrophe. Produced by Bad Robot and Paramount, this film burst on to the scene last month with a new trailer and Super Bowl commercial, and has since electrified fan speculation.
In “The Boy,” a new psychological thriller film from Lakeshore and STX Entertainment, Lauren Cohan plays Greta, an American nanny who comes to a work for an English family, only to discover that their son Brahms is a life-sized porcelain doll. The film is smart, intimate and well-paced. I was thrilled to be brought on board to compose the score.
“The Boy” has a disturbing premise, and is genuinely terrifying. (I cringed back into my seat at my first viewing!) And yet, I did not feel compelled to focus on the terror with my music. The film’s success comes from the audience following Greta on her journey. She begins skeptical that Brahms is alive, as any sensible person would be. As the film progresses, she gradually comes to question her senses, her convictions, even her sanity. This was the character arc I wanted to highlight with the score: Greta’s growing relationship with Brahms, and her transformation from skeptic to believer. (more…)
When I first heard of Japan’s infamous Aokigahara Forest, nicknamed “The Suicide Forest,” I was immediately fascinated by this terrifying place that is inexplicably the site of numerous suicides each year. David S. Goyer told me he was producing a new theatrical film set in this haunting location, and I was thrilled he asked me to compose its original score. The film opens nationwide tomorrow.
More of a psychological thriller than a horror film, The Forest tells the story of a young American woman named Sara (Natalie Dormer, in a powerful performance) who ventures in Aokigahara Forest in search of her missing twin sister, Jess. (more…)
In 2013, I scored a smart science fiction thriller called “Europa Report.” Using a found-footage / documentary style, the film tells the story of the first manned mission to Jupiter’s moon, Europa. In both the film and real life, the moon is believed to contain a liquid water ocean beneath its icy surface, as well as the chemical components necessary for life. This makes it an extremely interesting place, both for physical exploration and, of course, a perfect subject for a film. The film garnered rave reviews from fans and critics alike, and has done especially on Netflix. Since “Europa Report” was released, NASA has announced a mission to Europa in the coming decade, ensuring the moon will remain in the public consciousness for years to come.
My main theme for the film was surprisingly melodic. (more…)
My journey working on Everly began at a wedding eight years ago.
The groom was Joe Lynch, the filmmaker for whom I had just finished scoring Wrong Turn 2: Dead End. At the reception, I found myself seated next to the film’s star, Henry Rollins, who regaled the table with fascinating stories of his travels. Joe suddenly pulled up a chair beside me and oddly used this moment to pitch his newest cinematic idea: an action film that takes place in a single room, pitting a fearless prostitute against waves of assassins, led by a gangster named after a taiko drum as an homage to my percussive Battlestar Galactica scores. I knew Joe had a wicked sense of humor, so I laughed. A toast to Taiko then! Glasses clinked above the centerpiece, and we returned to a new Rollins story as Joe slipped past to the next table. As the evening wore on, and the champagne wore off, I began to fixate on what Joe had said. Might he have been serious about that movie? Furious taiko drums flooded my imagination. The seeds of my Everly score were planted. (more…)
As a life-long fan of video games, I have often sought out projects where I could subtly reference the videogame music I remember fondly from my youth. I threw that subtlety out the window with my adventurous score to “Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie.” Check out exclusive soundtrack excerpts and interviews with me and James in my new video blog:
As another July comes to a close, I find myself once again coming down off the multi-day adrenaline rush that is San Diego Comic Con. This year, there were so many exciting events relating to my projects that there was no way for me to catch them all. Nevertheless, Comic Con 2014 was a memorable and thrilling experience, filled with revelations about my current projects and announcements of new ones. (more…)
Today, the feature film Knights of Badassdom finally hits Video On Demand after a limited theatrical run last month. Today also marks the release of my original score, brought to you by Sparks & Shadows. The album containing both my original score and songs is available digitally from iTunes, Amazon MP3 and is also available on CD. Feast thine ears on this ten-minute preview of my score!
My journey with Knights of Badassdom began almost exactly five years ago. My dear friend, and frequent collaborator, Joe Lynch put a script by Kevin Dreyfuss and Matt Wall in my hand. In the darkest hours of a cold winter night, I read a chronicle of adventurous LARPers, an evil curse, a disgruntled heavy metal singer, wizards, warriors and the Hell Lord Abominog. As I read, my musical imagination filled with soaring bagpipes, drop-tuned distorted guitars, double kick drums, blaring horns, dulcimers and ethereal vocals – everything I love about music in one epic score. Now, five years later, after a long and twisted creative journey, I am thrilled that the music I heard that night in my mind is finally unleashed upon the world, as the soundtrack to Knights of Badassdom. (more…)