As many of you know, I used to have an interview segment at Zombie Zone News. Picking Brains with Wednesday Lee Friday
was a ton of fun, and allowed me to trade Emails with some really cool people. However, an error at the website led to most of those interviews being unavailable to read. The good news? I still have all my interviews, and thought it might be a neat idea to repost them somewhere that they can actually be seen. I have not edited these in any way.
For my own laughs, I decided not to post these in order. Also, the Bear McCreary interview was requested. How can I say no? Honestly, this was not one of my better interviews because I felt SO far out of my league. Bear was totes professional and patient with my ignorance.
So here it is, from March 2011, my interview with composer Bear McCreary:
From Zombie Zone News, March, 2011"Like most of you, I waited all summer long in anticipation of the premiere of The Walking Dead. I carefully avoided news articles and pics, not wanting even the tiniest spoiler. Open credits begin. Music by Bear McCreary. Cheers! Applause! My Walking Dead party was chock full of BSG devotees, Sarah Connor fans, and Dark Void players. Our already palpable anticipation doubled. We were not disappointed.
Bear McCreary has composed scores for some of the best television of the last ten years including Battlestar Galactica, Sarah Connor Chronicles, Eureka, Caprica, and The Cape. Then there's the movies like Wrong Turn 2, Rest Stop, and BSG Razor. You can, and should, read all about Bear on his website. http://www.bearmccreary.com/
As we all know, the score from Season One of The Walking Dead set the bar for horror television. The banjo work alone is reason enough to buy this soundtrack. Bear's ability to create mood, enhance themes, and elicit emotion, is nothing short of masterful. I was super geeked when Bear agreed to answer some questions just for us. WLF/ZZN: You were a kid who watched TV and played video games, who grew up to work in TV and video games. Does this affirm that TV and video games are not only good for us, but the road to creative fulfillment?
I think that feature films have utterly lost their monopoly on being cool. When I was a kid, films had a sense of grandeur and scope that TV and especially games didn’t even attempt to match. Nowadays, film is trying to keep up with a quickly evolving landscape. The creative opportunities I’ve found in games and TV have been absolutely remarkable. And while I enjoy working in features too, I only take on the projects that allow me to explore new musical sounds. Basically, I take on projects that are dramatically interesting. I don’t even care if its for a film, TV or a game, as long as it’s fun to work on it. WLF/ZZN: Please tell us about your relationship with zombies before you signed on to score The Walking Dead.
I’d always been aware of the zombie genre, but it really wasn’t where my passion lied. However, that all changed when I read Kirkman’s comic. I was sucked into the world of these characters, because I loved them so much. And TWD comic is a good crash course for zombie newbies, because it hits so many of the tropes of the genre. From there, it was a hop, skip and a jump to finding all these great films. WLF/ZZN: How stoked were you to do it?
Pretty f*cking stoked. Can I say that? Maybe I should rephrase: Pretty f*cking excited about it.WLF/ZZN: Can you share anything about how scoring this series has influenced your own plans or preparation for the zombie apocalypse?
I’m keeping my banjo handy.WLF/ZZN: You've talked about the concept of Unity in the score for The Walking Dead, and that the leitmotifs intertwine to create one sound. Does the inspiration for these character themes come more from the actor's performances, or from the script?
Honestly, there aren’t really any character themes to speak of. That’s where the unity comes from. Rather than highlighting all the characters’ differences, by giving them each a unique sound, I’m painting them all with a single brush. They come from different backgrounds and have different values, but they’ve all been brought together by this horrific event and their current surroundings.
If anything, the quality of the actor’s performances has allowed me to step back a little musically and accomplish this. The scenes work so well on their own, I can focus more on creating a musical world, rather than working hard on creating specific character arcs. This approach may change in Season 2, of course, but that’s what worked in Season 1. WLF/ZZN: Does your musically Unifying the human survivors indicate that you are rooting for the humans to win?
Zombies are fun. But, if you’re rooting for the zombies to win it means the characters aren’t connecting and the whole thing is a failure. That’s precisely what makes Kirkman’s source material so fabulous. As a well-versed comic book / horror fan you KNOW people are going to die. But, Damnit, Kirkman makes you love these people anyway. WLF/ZZN: The banjos in The Walking Dead are even scarier than those from Deliverance. It literally sounds like a zombie is playing. Do you agree then, with the premise of Land of the Dead, that some zombies will retain the musical abilities they had in life?
That’s exactly how I thought about it, even though I think Kirkman / Darabont would disagree. The zombies in TWD really don’t retain their humanity at all. But, that’s how I got Oingo Boingo guitarist Steve Bartek to find the right sound on the banjo. I told him to imagine he was a banjo player who became a zombie and was playing through muscle memory. That really got him in the mood and he created some incredibly terrifying textures. WLF/ZZN: I haven't heard any accordion in The Walking Dead yet. Did I miss it? When will fans get the accordion they are pining for?
I’ll bet Season 2 finds some. WLF/ZZN: Speaking of the accordion, I really think you and Weird Al Yankovic should play dueling accordions, maybe for charity? Are you game?
He’d kick my ass.WLF/ZZN: Are you able to reveal any new instruments you'll be introducing in Season 2? Anything relating to a certain prison, perhaps?
No spoilers on that one, I’m afraid. WLF/ZZN: Before The Walking Dead, you scored such shows as Caprica, Eureka, The Cape, and the celebrated reimagining of Battlestar Galactica. Was it always your intention to use leitmotifs in Battlestar Galactica, or did that evolve organically?
Quite the opposite. I had strict instruction from the producers to never use any themes at all. But, I couldn’t help it. That’s just where the show was leaning, so I did it anyway hoping no one would notice. Finally, around the end of the first season, the producer said that a scene with Boomer wasn’t quite working. “Can you just bring back that Boomer theme here? I think that will really help.” At that moment, I knew I wouldn’t get fired for using themes. WLF/ZZN: Felix Gaeta was my favorite BSG character. It was worth suffering through Gaeta's misfortunes just to hear him sing. Can you tell us a bit about how Gaeta's Lament was conceived and incorporated into the show?
It was incorporated into the script that Felix would sing while being operated on. I worked closed with the actor Alessandro Juliani to write a melody in his comfortable vocal range. AJ is a classically trained singer, and has a really beautiful voice. I was stunned working with him. Regrettably, he couldn’t show it off in the series because his character was supposed to be in utter agony. So, he couldn’t sing to his full capacity. Thankfully, we re-recorded it for the Season 4 soundtrack album and he was able to show fans just how serious a singer he is.WLF/ZZN: Is there anything fans can do to get Caprica back on the air? Facebook revolution? Letter campaign to SyFy? Maybe HBO?
Build a time machine? I’m afraid that ship has long sailed. I miss Caprica. It didn’t get the fulfilling finale that “BSG” had. I will always remember that as one of the more beautiful themes I’ve composed.WLF/ZZN: I just learned moments ago that The Cape was cancelled, and that the finale would only be aired online. Can you comment on this trend of cancelling innovative, well-produced shows while perpetuating vapid derivative crapfests devoid of anything resembling originality?
It’s an unfortunate reality of the TV business, but not limited to that industry. Bands that don’t go big on their first album don’t get a chance to make a second. In the old days, they had time to evolve a fan base. Queen didn’t take off until their THIRD album. If they were around today, they’d never make it. Similarly, a movie has only opening weekend to prove itself. All you can do is do your best, work on projects you believe in and hope for the best.WLF/ZZN: The mega-version 8-bit track from the Dark Void theme is awesome. Was that your idea?
That was a bit of a gift, at first. Inafune-San, the creator of “Mega Man,” was a producer on “Dark Void.” So, I made an 8-bit version of the game’s theme in the style of “Mega Man II.” To my surprise, CAPCOM loved it so much, they actually made an 8-bit game to go with it, and I wrote a full score for it. The full orchestral and 8-bit scores of both games are still on iTunes. I love that fans can experience both.WLF/ZZN: What advice would you offer aspiring composers who want to work in TV and video games?
Do your best work. Treat every project like it matters. Believe in what you’re doing. But, most of all, do this because you love to do it above all else. If there’s something in life you enjoy more than writing music, by all means… do that instead.WLF/ZZN: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us. Is there anything you'd like to say to your many, many fans?
Check out my blog, bearmccreary.com, in the coming weeks for some big announcements. I’ve just released a book of piano sheet music arrangements of “Battlestar Galactica” music. There are soundtrack CDs, concert DVDs and other cool things on the horizon. Thanks and keep on listening!