Your scores are synth/electronic based, what tools do you usually use to produce the music?
So, I am mostly a plug-in guy. Specifically with Force to Fear which was composed with plug in based software. I have recently started integrating hardware into my compositions. I’ve done them for a few other movies so far, but I always come back to plugins for the reliability.
How many times do you like to see a project before making the decisions about style, sound and where the music will be best placed for effect?
That is really something that differs between movies, but I would say probably about four times for something I really like. And for something that might not fit my category I might watch it 5 or 6 times but from 4 to 5 it’s usually me going back to parts that really speak to me. For Force to Fear it was very much in the wheelhouse of what I do, but I always come back to the more important parts that have more of an impact so I can work off of that. If it makes any sense.
What musical education did you have?
I got to know about music from the streets (laughs). I really have no training besides a handful of guitar lessons. I learn from watching and just playing and as I am not a particularly good piano player my playing has a lot to do with layering and some sequencing.
What other music are you involved with away from scoring movies?
I do a synth-wave project called LAPSES. It’s just me and my midi keytar hooked up to my daw. Which is fun, and I wish I had more time to do it.
Force to Fear I thought was a great watch, full of action and a lot of characters, your score really helps drive it and also supports and punctuates the narrative. How did you get involved on the film and how much music did you write?
After working on 10/31 with the director Zane Hershberger we were in talks about doing another movie involving me as composer. He would show me sections that he has been shooting for promos and it got me excited. Also, I was a little nervous because I never really have scored an action movie. I know I wrote a lot for it, 26 or 27 cues which for me at that time was a hell of a lot. There were also full tracks of songs that I would write and break down according to the rhythm of the fight scenes. That was a major challenge for sure.
What composers would you say have in some way inspired you or influenced you in the way that you approach scoring a film?
Sinoa Cavves score for Beyond the Black Rainbow is a huge one for me and it truly brought the guts back to 80s scores to the modern age. John Carpenter’s dark percussive score for Prince of Darkness, which was also something I had in mind for many of the outside night-time stuff in Force to Fear. The one film that really made me was to try and do scoring on a low budget level was Perry Monre’s score for Killing Spree, which took its lead from John Harrison’s score to Creepshow, so that would also be a huge influence. Richard Einhorn’s vicious but upbeat score to Blood Rage. Tim Krog for the atmospheric terror of The Boogey Man.
The soundtrack to Force to Fear is due out on release soon, did you have any input into what cues would make it onto the release?
Yes I did thanks to the guys at Howlin Wolf records, who have been more than gracious to let me put whatever tracks I wanted, the more the better.
Do you like to follow a routine when working on a movie, ie central theme first or maybe stings and smaller cues first?
In most cases I will try to create the theme first and then work off the motif. But a lot of times I’ll watch the movie in the beginning and kind of play riff basically without really judging myself. I also try to figure out what time era or when this kind of movie would take place and I will go through various synthesizers and try to find something that closely resembles that time setting. It does not always work like that but mostly I usually start out just ripping and then working on the theme, but it all depends on each individual project as each one is different and each one has its own individual needs. Let us just put it this way, I am not organized, but at some point, while I’m doing it, I really just have to force myself into place before I begin drifting into outer space ha ha.
Going back to Force to Fear, did the director/producers have any specific ideas regarding the sound that they were looking for on the movie?
Yeah, they did. Both Zane and Chad played a very big part in the final version of the score. In the beginning Zane would send me YouTube videos he would tell me what kind of stings would work where, just off the record I never knew anybody like Zane who loves stings in movies that much. After I finish my first version of the score, I got two pages of notes for doing touch-ups. It was not anything super crazy, but it was about fifteen to nineteen additions or adjustments. So, I worked close with them during the scoring process. I am always communicating with the director before submitting, showing them little samples of my work. It helps me get a better idea instead of sending them the final product to have them look at it and say, “Oh this wasn’t what I wanted at all”.
I love directors that really can have a good relationship with the composer, especially since I never really had a real spotting session with anybody I work with. This is really the best way for both parties to communicate with what they expect of one another.
Do you perform everything on your film scores, or do you sometimes have soloists or other performers?
No, its just good old me doing everything. I never really had anybody play music that I have written. I don’t even know how to write music in note form. If you can imagine that.
What do you think is the purpose or the job that music should do in film?
To enhance the overall atmosphere of the film. A composer’s job is to do a good score but also try not to undercut the action of the film. Which can be hard sometimes.
You are an actor as well as a musician and composer, which came first
Musician always thank God. I am a terrible actor. I have acted in two movies I made myself and one I did for a friend that has not come out yet. I’m sure it will be out soon. But you might want to fast forward all the parts that I appear in.
What’s next for you?
Right now, I have been working on a scene from Madeline Deering’s new movie, Bathtub Shark Attack. I am also waiting on footage from another movie. I think it’s going to be a busy late spring and summer.
Thanks to Matt for agreeing to answer my questions…