Past Columns

Soundtrax: Episode 2014-5
August 7th 2014

By Randall D. Larson


Tyler Bates on Scoring: Guardians of the Galaxy

Soundtrack Reviews:  ALL GOOD THINGS (Simonsen)  THE BOOGEY MAN (Krog), DENNIS THE MENACE (expanded; Goldsmith), THE DESERT TREASURE (Hancock), HERCULES (Velázquez), THE GIVER (Beltrami),      HANNIBAL Season 1 (Reitzell), INTO THE STORM (Tyler), LUCY (Serra), PATRICK/Donaggio, PENNY DREADFUL (Korzeniowski).

The latest Marvel Cinematic Universe epic movie is GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, based on the 2008 revival of a 1969 Marvel Comics super hero team created by writer Arnold Drake and artist Gene Colan.  In the movie version, brash adventurer Peter Quill finds himself the object of an unrelenting bounty hunt after stealing a mysterious orb coveted by Ronan, a powerful villain with ambitions that threaten the entire universe. To evade the ever-persistent Ronan, Quill is forced into an uneasy truce with a quartet of disparate misfits – Rocket, a gun-toting raccoon, Groot, a tree-like humanoid, the deadly and enigmatic Gamora, and the revenge-driven Drax the Destroyer. But when Quill discovers the true power of the orb and the menace it poses to the cosmos, he must do his best to rally his ragtag rivals for a last, desperate stand – with the galaxy's fate in the balance.
(See this Hollywood Reporter story for a bit of the comic book background on GOTG.)

Music, both songs and score, plays a major role in the movie.  The plethora of 1970s pop songs featured in the film are part of the storyline in a unique way.  “One of the main story points in the movie is that [Peter] Quill has this compilation tape that he got from his mother before she died that she made for him,” explained director James Gunn. “It was of songs that she loved, all songs from the 1970s, and that’s the only thing he has left of his mother and that’s the only thing he has left of his home on Earth. He uses that as a connection to his past and to the sadness that he feels of having left all that and lost all that.”  

Offset against and in contrast to the songs, composer Tyler Bates (300, WATCHMEN) began scoring segments of the scene before the start of principal photography so he could play them on set. “The score is also very important,” says Gunn. “I’ve worked very hard early on with Tyler Bates… whom I’ve done three other movies with, to write part of the score ahead of time so that I’m able to use it on set for big emotional sequences and big action sequences. We can actually play the music on set and the actors can really understand where we’re going with it tonally. Our actors have a much better idea of what this film is because of the music that we use, both score and soundtrack.”

Los Angeles–born composer Tyler Bates was inspired early on by a breadth of musical impressions that ranged from John Coltrane to Chopin, and the rock operas Hair” and “Jesus Christ Superstar.”  An array of artistic influences set the course for Bates’ musical signature that often combines disparate components that become indigenous within his compositions for film, television, video games and new media. His ability to create new worlds of atmospheric soundscapes fused with traditional orchestra led to groundbreaking scores for Zack Snyder’s DAWN OF THE DEAD, 300, WATCHMEN, and SUCKER PUNCH.  His current projects include THE SACRAMENT, directed by Ti West and produced by Eli Roth, as well as WGN–America’s premier TV show SALEM, whose main titles were written as a collaboration between Marilyn Manson and Tyler Bates for his upcoming album.

I interviewed Tyler Bates on July 21, a couple of weeks before GUARDIANS’ opening, discussing in detail his work on the movie as well as his new score for the Keannu Reeves action film JOHN WICK, and the recent horror film 7500 directed by THE GRUDGE’s Takashi Shimizu.

Q: I assume it was your prior work with director James Gunn [SUPER, DAWN OF THE DEAD, SLITHER] that brought you onboard GUARDIANS?

Tyler Bates:  Yes.  I was in London doing another score a couple of years ago now, and he phoned me up and said “Hey, I think I might get this movie.  Are you in?”  Of course!  Sign me up!  We began our collaboration on this probably a year ago March or April [2013]. 

Q: This is not your first film dealing with super heroes – you also did SUPER and WATCHMEN – but this film clearly has a different tone that those movies.  What kind of music did you feel, or did James feel, was needed for this particular super hero adventure?

Tyler Bates: In James’ mind it’s a space rock opera.  Honestly, while I enjoy comic book films, I’m not really well informed about the depths of all the characters and the lore that accompanies them, so I don’t have a pre-conceived notion about what the music should be like in my mind.  And that was probably an advantage going into this.  James’ draft of the script read not only comedic to me but also heartfelt – we wanted a depth of emotion to be pervasive throughout the score, even when it’s action-oriented and when there are moments of triumph.  Without giving away any plot details, each of the Guardian characters goes through a personal tragedy and series of critical events that leads to the point where they are at in their lives when they all connect, and though the characters are exotic, James and I relate to them with human emotions.  We never wanted to do raccoon music or humanoid tree music – we wanted it to be steeped in real emotion and hopefully for the audience, by the time they’re in the midst of the film, they’ll forget that there’s an animated raccoon speaking to Peter Quill.  We wanted the drama and the emotion to take over at that point.  So I think it does that.  We wanted to kick ass, too, and we wanted it to be a lot of fun.

Q: Musically or thematically, how did you treat each of the heroes individually, and then as a unified team?

Tyler Bates: The first theme that really landed (this was before they started filming) was a theme called “Black Tears,” which was written for Peter Quill’s character.  James filmed to my demo sketch of the cue, cranking it out on a P.A. on set.  I didn’t realize how powerful an effect that would have until I actually went to visit the set (James cast me as one of the Ravager pilots in the film, and I had to go through hair and makeup so I was with the actors in a couple of shots).  They played one of the songs that was written for that particular scene really loud on set, and it was pretty awesome how it calibrated everybody’s focus and attention and really established a syntax for what the movie was about. 

Anyway I’d written the “Black Tears” theme for Peter Quill; it’s a connection between his deceased mother and his desire to be a better human being and survive in the face of the greatest nemesis and adversity.  (Again, I’m trying to answer these questions without giving away any plot points!)  That theme ended up being laced throughout the film, but when we got into post-production and I started writing music in that mode for James, we’d thought that was the Guardians’ Theme.  But then James said, “You know, I love ‘Black Tears’ and it’s definitely an important part of the film, but we need a Guardians’ Theme that will serve as the unification of all of our principal characters.”  I happened to be cutting a guitar track at the time – I don’t remember exactly what it was – but I literally just played something in just a few minutes, sent it to him, and he said, “That’s it!”  I had no idea that it was going to be it!  I was just taking his temperature to see if that was the kind of melody and chord-progression that he was feeling, but it turned into the Guardians’ theme.  Other than those two themes, there is a Ronan Theme; but aspects of the Guardians Theme are laced into each of the character themes, in their own perspective.

Q: How important do you feel a signature theme is to a super-hero film?

Tyler Bates: Recent films in the superhero realm are becoming more and more thematic, which is great, because it gives a composer the opportunity to write in a more lyrical fashion on a grand scale, so you can write distinct melodies and kick ass at the same time. So I think it’s very important to the signature that is those characters, especially in a movie like GUARDIANS where it’s the first installment of a franchise.

Q: As a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, were there any preferences put on you by Marvel for the type of music this film needed to have?

Tyler Bates: No. Like James, they wanted something that was rich and memorable.  They wanted to make sure that in the big moments the music was big.  I think more of the critical discussion was between James and myself.  Kevin Fiege and the other executives seemed to be on the same page with James about the music and me.  Overall it was a creatively great experience!

Q: How would you describe the thematic structure of your score – how you interconnected the themes and interlaced them through your action music?

Tyler Bates: The thing about the five characters in this film is that they grow and they realize something about themselves that they didn’t know before the five of them are linked together.  And there’s something emotionally buried in their past with some of them.  What I wanted to do was create a theme that could grow from a more intimate moment into a bold theme that we then feel on a grand scale.  For instance, there is an iteration of the Black Tears theme that opens up the film, and it’s a very sad scene, which relates to Peter Quill’s mother; and throughout the film when that theme plays, there’s a spirit of his mother in his consciousness – that theme really represents her.  Then the way he evolves as a human being in the course of the film touches other people, so that theme becomes a way that he interprets the hardships of others and the way they express themselves.  That’s probably more of a deep answer than was necessary, regarding that theme, but I guess in the broader scale it’s really about emotion.  In the battles there is some motor music where the mercato strings are blasting away behind the spaceships and the gunfire and all that, but really this is about redemption and about persevering and about becoming a better individual, so that’s what the music is really stating.  The Guardians Theme has a bittersweetness to it, but it’s a matter of realizing that, in the face of death or in the face of your greatest adversary, you can persevere and prevail - and I think you feel that in the music.

Q: Music also has the capacity – certainly in science fiction such as this, where you’ve got these outlandish characters – to help the audience suspend their disbelief and relate to these characters emotionally.  How much was that on your mind as you were scoring the action scenes involving these characters?

Tyler Bates: Absolutely.  First off, James Gunn has been living this day in and day out; all he’s been thinking about is GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, and so all of the characters are real to him, it doesn’t matter what physical form they take – they resonate in human emotion as far as he’s concerned. We always intended to not do “outer space music” but to create a big, bold, beautiful score.  And it’s heavy, but I think it’s emotionally pretty deep.  It’s how we had always talked about this movie.

Q: How much music, overall, did you write and how large of an orchestra did you use?

Tyler Bates: I think there’s close to 90-minutes of score in the movie.  The orchestra varied in size… it was up to 80 players and we had a choir that was 32.  It wasn’t real large, but we did multiple layers of orchestra, so many of the cues have over 500 tracks of audio in them.  During the development of the music, to get to the point where we record and deliver, there’s definitely over a thousand minutes of music sketched out.  That’s myself with the help of three or four very close collaborators.

Q:  I’ve been wanting to ask about the team you have helping to realize the full score, including Dieter Hartmann with additional music.  What was the role of these team members and how did they collaborate with you to achieve what we’ll be hearing in the theater?

Tyler Bates: Both Dieter and Tim Williams have worked with me for many years.  In a movie like this, it’s so frenetic and chaotic that the idea of one person being able to take every note of music down to the finish line is impossible.  For instance, an example of that would be if I write a piece of music that’s a three-minute sequence, which James needs to approve.  But generally it’s going so quickly for him that we send the music in to music editorial, where my music editor will play it to him with sound effects and dialogue; then James will offer a comment.  So then I make the adjustment to that music and flip it back around to him the next day.  But often, by that next day, they’ve intercut a scene from somewhere else in the film into the middle of what I just did, so now my cue’s irrelevant. Some of the thematic material that may have been developed in that may live somewhere in the film, but the cue needs to be redrafted. 

Or I might have a cue that’s approved, and then I learn two or three days later that they’ve changed the scene and I need to take another look at it, but I’ve already sent that off to my guy who does the prep for the orchestration.  So then, because I’m now working on something else and the deadlines are looming, that person may make the adjustments or if it’s already made its way to orchestration, then Tim will make the adjustments to the cue.  Sometimes those adjustments go back and forth five, six, seven times, because the picture keeps changing every couple of days, you know?  So you want to be locked as tightly to the most current cut of the picture as possible when you record, because even after that and you deliver the music, the music editors are then going to do their handiwork to make it work as tightly to the picture as possible, and the picture is always evolving.  So the idea of being able to keep current with the picture is nearly impossible. 

It requires a team of people who, first off, completely understand me – Tim has worked with me since 2005, and we were next door neighbors for a number of years, so we’re very close, and Dieter has worked with me since 2007, and he and I are both friends, so there’s a shorthand among us.  Everyone understands how to work together and what needs to happen when and in what style.  There’s continuity between us, we all speak the same language even though everyone’s from different countries and they’re both excellent composers in their own right.  That’s pretty much how I do it.  I don’t have a stable of people running around, but for me to share music regardless of how hectic it is at times, it still has to be with people who I know well and value personally and who I know understand what I’m about and understand the intent of my music, because I write something and then it goes through various permutations, maybe as much as fifteen iterations of an idea, I want to make sure that my intent of that is preserved.

A movie of this scope is so huge that you need a team.  I could probably have made life a little easier on us if I’d brought on a couple more people!  We all worked our tails off, and through the majority of GUARDIANS, there were four of us who were putting in 100, 110-hour weeks every week, and even at that we were just barely keeping up!  It’s not the same as, for instance, doing James’ last movie, SUPER, which I could do in my spare time because the demands are not similar, but these movies are a different deal. Something of this scope requires a lot of rewriting and continual adjustment of the music.

Q: What was your method of integrating the electronics with the orchestra on this score?

Tyler Bates: Compared to most scores I’ve done, this one has a very low percentage of the electronic dimension to it.  However, that first theme, the Black Tears theme, has some electronic pulses in it.  I was just using ACE for that, just a soft synth. I didn’t even use any hardware synths except for maybe a Virus or something on occasion.  But it’s not the same load as I’ve had to do in the past.  You know, a movie like WATCHMEN is all hand-played analog synths on top of the orchestra and all the guitars and vocals and whatnot.  This one was primarily steeped in orchestra and choir.

Q: Licensed songs are also a big part of the film’s soundtrack – how did you interface your score with the songs, and vice versa?

Tyler Bates: It was interesting. The way the songs occur in the majority of this film, they are intended to pop, whereas in WATCHMEN sometimes I wanted to create contrasts and other times I wanted to feather into a song or out of a song into score.  There is a David Bowie song in this movie that we transition out of into score and then back into the song again, so the objective there was to make the transition as seamless as possible, even though the music is a bit different.  What I take into consideration is the key and the tempo of the song itself, so we can ramp back into the song without it feeling awkward.

Q: What would you say would be your biggest challenge on scoring this film?

Tyler Bates: You know, I’m never complacent with anything, so at the end of the day my number one objective was to make James Gunn very happy, so that when it’s all done, a year from now, we can look back on this and say, “Yeah, that was really great” and I know that I left everything I had on the table.  It’s daunting if you start thinking too much on what the challenges are; you just have to get in and be a little bit blind with some of it because you’re talking about $200 million movies and massive expectations by the fans.  I really can’t dwell too much on that, other than to understand my basic responsibility as a composer is to serve my director and the producers, and then do this in my voice and somehow come out of it with something that I feel is an extension of who I am as an artist and as a musician.

Q: This may be a premature question, but as this is an intended franchise, have you and James spoken about where you might go if there are sequels to GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY?

Tyler Bates: Hopefully there is a sequel.  Of course there’s always talk about this and that.  I think there definitely is room to grow in the music and in the storytelling as well, and that would obviously be the determining factor what we could do with music.  I do think we could get a little stranger with music than we got in this film, depending on what the landscapes are and the type of characters that are introduced in the future, but if James Gunn is on board I would do anything he’s doing, no matter what!  I do think the great thing is that we have themes that we could carry forward, and whether I were working on the next film or not, I think it would be difficult to imaging GUARDIANS without the principal themes.  So, for me, that’s somewhat rewarding, and it’s humbling, too, because, if I have an opportunity to do another one, then I’ve got to do something to beat this one!

Q: You’re working on, or have completed, an action thriller called JOHN WICK.  What can you tell us about this score?

Tyler Bates: JOHN WICK is a Keannu Reeves movie also starring Willem Dafoe and John Leguizamo. It’s cool. The way I came into the fold on that is the director’s wanted some piece of music from Marilyn Manson, and they called inquiring about that.  I’d just written and produced Manson’s new record with him, and so they were directed to me to listen to the new record, and so we had a meeting over here.  They loved the record so they licensed one of the songs to be the main thematic song in the film, and then they asked if I would score the movie.  This was in the midst of GUARDIANS and I was not available to give them a full yes, but after some talking I agreed to do it with a friend of mine, Joel Richards, who did a fantastic job on much on the score.  Then they wanted an EDM (Electronic Dance Music) element, so I brought in a DJ friend of mine, Le Castle Vania, who I did a record with last year, and we teamed up. I wrote some score and then I wrote another song for the movie with Cisandra Nostalghia.

Q: What is the take you’ve given the action genre on this particular film?

Tyler Bates: Chad [Stahelski] and Dave [Leitch], the directors, are very cool. They’re both two of the top stunt guys in the business and they’ve directed a lot of second unit shoots, and they’re both really cool and really sharp.  And they saw JOHN WICK as almost a comic book type film, even though it’s steeped in reality. It’s basically a revenge movie, and there’s a lot of craziness in it.  The one thing about this film, once it gets going, is that it [really] gets cranking.  So it does have a bit of a propulsiveness to the music.  Chad and Dave wanted a rock-vibe to a lot of the score, so there’s definitely some distorted bass and electric guitars, and kind of has a hard-ass edge to it, and then the emotional stuff is more cold emotion, where John Wick is more in his head.  But it’s fun; we all had a great time working together, and the movie’s really entertaining. 

Q: Prior to both of these films, you’ve returned to the horror genre with 7500 for Takashi Shimizu, which is a genre you return to every so often.  What was your working relationship with Shimizu on this project?

Tyler Bates: Shimizu doesn’t speak any English so the entire process was working through a translator, which was very interesting.  It’s definitely a slower, more intellectual process, because you need to go through the progression of a longer form of communication, but Shimizu was great to work with.  It was unlike anything else I’ve done, I would say. 

Q: He’s certainly known for THE GRUDGE films and other things, and he has a very specific style of j-horror, which is being translated over here.  What kind of music did he ask for to enhance the suspense and scare-factor of this film?

Tyler Bates: Shimizu wanted a discordant but emotional score, and that’s what he directed me to do, although at times he wanted it to be very propulsive.  That’s what he’d asked for initially, but when we got to the 11th hour we decided to tone some of the things down and we ended up scaling some of that aspect back.  The cut was evolving as I was writing, and at first it was hard to tell if the film was going to be a 2-hour movie or 90-minutes.  It is easy to have the music outpace the film, so we had to find a balance.  It took some time before that was determined, and some of the music needed to be slowed down a little bit by the time we got to the latter stages of scoring, because some of the pacing was a little bit fast.  But the music is about creating an overall atmosphere; there’s a lot of noise in the music and a lot of bells and pianos; Shimizu likes disjointed piano melodies to emerge out of murky, horrific, discordant sounds and that kind of thing.  There are a couple of bigger thematic moments that unfurl toward the end of the film.

Q: Was this a mixture of orchestral and electronics?

Tyler Bates: Yeah. It’s more electronic than anything, but there is some orchestra in it.  It’s a different kind of thing than GUARDIANS.  But scoring any kind of genre film poses a challenge in its own way.  I think each one of them is a learning experience for me, and each director opens my mind to different ways of looking at drama and cinema and thinking about how I approach my craft. So I knew working with Shimizu would bring a different set of circumstances to my day-to-day process and I thought that that in and of itself would be a great challenge, and it was.  It was definitely intense to communicate through an editor and through a translator, and not really directly with the director even if he’s in the room!  It was kind of intense!  But he was great with me, very gracious, and I’m glad that I had the opportunity to do it.

Q: The term “sound design” has become a kind of overall catch-word for these type of scores.  How would you define “sound design” as it pertains to a horror film score and what is your take on creating that kind of a score?

Tyler Bates: A sound design approach is one that creates an overall feeling in an environment, as opposed to stating a lyrical idea through music.  Obviously a lot of 20th Century classical composers did that with orchestras, whether it’s Bartok, Penderecki, Ligeti… but nowadays we have a lot of tools at our disposal and it’s fun to play with different colors and different frequencies in the process of developing environments that are uncomfortable and unsettling.  I was just working on a movie called, it’s called HOME INVASION now but they’re going to change the title, I think.  I did all the practical room tones* for that movie, and then there’s music, but there’s not a ton of music, because what I did in the room tones plays dynamically. So that was a lot of fun because I’m very interested and I enjoy taking or creating sounds and then developing them into other atmospheres. So I may take human voices, I may take a recording of somebody walking with hard shoes on tile, something of that nature, and creating different rhythmic loops with it or stretching it into atmosphere or an ambient pad, or something like that.  Almost everything I do stems from a human impetus, regardless of what it sounds like in the end. I think that it’s transcendent of more soul.  But in those types of films you can get away with pretty much anything, and that is what’s fun about it – there’s no standard for what it has to be.  You don’t have to state a melody; it’s nice to be free of the parameters that traditional films require, so everything has its place.  It’s fun, and if you’re a geek like I am, you can geek out on sound!

* Room Tone: the 'sound of a room' without any movement or dialogue. Usually used behind dialogue and ADR to make the sonic resonance of the scene appear seamless. 

Q: Well certainly with the tools and technology that you have today that you didn’t have ten, fifteen, twenty years ago, you can accomplish so much more and really the score becomes a presence that is so unsettling by itself.

Tyler Bates: Oh my God!  When I started, we had to go through all kinds of this process and that process just to reverse a sound – now it’s just a click of a button!  It’s so much easier for people, or certainly less time consuming to accomplish an idea, because there’s so many tools to mutate sound these days, that and a delay and an EQ sweep and you’re off to the races!  That’s very cool, but I still try to do things as organically as possible; I use guitar feedback and delays and noise, just the sound of electrical current, things like that I think are pretty fascinating, and there’s a lot of potential in all of it.  I don’t golf, so I do stuff like that!

Special thanks to Joanne Higginbottom for her help in facilitating this interview.
For more information on Tyler Bates, see


New Soundtrax in Review

ALL GOOD THINGS/Rob Simonsen/Caldera
Newly-launched German label Caldera Records’ fourth release is from Andrew Jarecki’s 2010 film ALL GOOD THINGS, a suspense thriller based on an infamous unsolved wife murder case, scored by Rob Simonsen (THE SPECTACULAR NOW, SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD).  The music rotates between being quite tender and being thoroughly chilling, as Simonsen underlines the troubled relationship with a romantic main theme that is tinged with a sense of melancholy and menace, echoing the marital unraveling that is happening; pretty music cast with a dark shadow of foreboding.  Simonsen also punctuates the music with aggressive, rhythmic cues then clusters of worried viola and somber celli (“The Last Supper”).  His string writing “Time Passes” provides a mesmerizing amalgamation of dazzling solo violin bowing soon joined by additional strings in a harmonic assault that carries its own string-driven beat.  “The Newspaper” reprises the style, adding piano to the mix, and crafting an urgent, near-panicky sense of anxiety.   Surrounded by a sumptuously beautiful main theme favoring piano and flute over glistening waves of violins, the score explores the psychological journey of the husband across decades of personal history, culminating in the climactic musical resolution of “Deborah Comes Home,” an honest confrontation of viola playing that resolves with a brutal, echoing percussive hit that devolves into clusters of electronica that fade into nothingness.  The music is primarily orchestral, punctuated by some synths and recurring elements of gritty, improvised electric guitar Mark Ribot structures that counterpoints severely with the fluid cadence of the orchestral material to very good effect.  The score, produced by Simonsen’s long time mentor Mychael Danna, is a provocative listen and very nicely presented on disc.  Included as an extra bonus, something Caldera began doing with their first release, is a composer’s commentary as the last album track – here we have 10:18 with Rob Simonsen describing his background in music and film, and his intentions in scoring ALL GOOD THINGS.  For example: “There’s a motif that comes in that, to me, is very angular.  Maybe it’s the sound of the dark pangs of David’s needs for control, and thus the events spinning out of control.  “There’s a sharpness that, to me, in David’s character, kept growing – aggression, resentment, frustration and anger, and that continued to grow until the water boils and the kettle whistles,” Simonsen explains.  “To me it needed a PSYCHO-esque kind of stabbing something that was raw and rosen-y, so there’s this ostinato or motif that played mostly by violas, and I wanted that to get kind of raw and feel out of control and natural sounding. It’s very simple but it was very effective and we ended up using it a lot in the film.”  Kudos to Caldera for another fine album, and to Simonsen for an excellent score – definitely a composer to keep on watching and listening to!
For more on Rob Simonsen, see his tumbler page at

THE BOOGEY MAN/Tim Krog/Howlin’ Wolf
Ulli Lommel’s 1980 film THE BOOGEY MAN was one of the first horror films of the slasher era to infuse the stalk-and-slash movie with supernatural elements.  In a nod to HALLOWEEN, the film opens with a young boy, aided by his sister, carving up his mom’s boyfriend who has been abusive toward them.  After the requisite “20 Years Later,’ the grown kids still live with the trauma of that event, only mom’s boyfriend is somehow still alive, existing in the reflective mirrors that captured his demise two decades past.  Thus he exerts his wicked influence to cause the modern-day characters to stalk and slash in various creative ways until the original siblings can vanquish him beyond the looking glass.  Or, have they…?  The film was a low-budget independent movie with all the inherent attributes that tend to come with low-budget indies – low production value, goofy plot development, sloppy editing, and inconsistent performances – and yet it had a potent creep factor and enough internal logic to provide a satisfactory experience.  Among its most effective attributes was its electronic score, created by Tom Krog for Synthe­Sound-Trax Corp. a short lived production outfit (1979-1983) whose only effort for films was this score.  It’s very much in the post-HALLOWEEN vogue of synth scores, but it possesses credible power that adds much to the film’s creep factor, from the obligatory HALLOWEEN-esque chiming keyboard (a harsh music box motif suggestive of the haunted youth of the two siblings) to the heavy, sturdy synth chords that plod through the scenery (representing the reflective power of the titular entity), achieving that awesome sense of power unique to synthesizer music.  In addition to these recurring elements, the score serves up an eclectic variety of synthetic sound to satisfy its scare quotient, from cyclonic, swirling chords, delicate, sinewy twisting figures, bell sounds, rasping shock stingers, Theremin like wails over deep, oozing, hesitating tones, and other effects which integrate well with the primary themes.  Despite its adherence to the musical influence of HALLOWEEN, Krog provides a strong, omnipresent atmosphere, and a sense of direction, musical­ly, which results in a superior synthesizer score, with “The Boogey Man Version 3” serving as a concise, almost celebratory reprisal of the creepier motif presented earlier.  In this release, the score’s first on CD, Howlin’ Wolf presents the 1980 album’s dozen tracks, acceptably and often quite satisfactorily mastered from the original vinyl.  That album presentation rearranged the track order and remixed some cues; this CD leaves off the radio spot audio that served as the 13th track on the LP and instead proffers up a new suite and then a remix of the score elements, both arranged and performed in homage to Krog’s music by Fernando Pereyra.  The album booklet includes the brief notes from the 1980 LP, a new note from Ulli Lommel, looking back on the film, notes from Pereyra and the mastering and transfer producer Kevin Segura, as well as brief but informative track-by-track commentary by Jason Comerford.

Jerry Goldsmith/La-La Land Records

With his music for Nick Castle’s 1993 incarnation of the Hank Ketchum cartoon character, Jerry Goldsmith gives the story the same energetic verve that he would employ to score action thrillers and suspense stories, albeit here with a much more mischievous grin.  Originally released on CD in 1993 on the now-defunct Big Screen label with 14-track playlist, La-La Land brings the music back into print and expands it, just like Dennis stretching his slingshot band, into a fully loaded 27 tracks, sourced from the original multi-track digital tapes – plus an extra four bonus alternate tracks modified for the original alum release.  Goldsmith emphasizes with pleasant music the idyllic 1950s neighborhood in which Dennis resides with his parents and dog Ruff, and which Dennis terrorizes usually with next-door-neighbor Mr. Wilson (here wonderfully personified by Walter Matthau) as his hapless victim; but the focus quickly turns to Dennis, who is characterized via Tommy Morgan’s harmonica as both an innocent, playful boy and as the true menace to neighborhood society that he is.  The latter music, propelled by declarative blasts of percussive brass chords, encapsulated Dennis’ boundless energy, eager playfulness, and complete unawareness of the damage that energetic play results in.  Mr. Wilson is associated with comic, paunchy bassoons cavorting around a wistful string melody.  All of these elements are introduced in the opening track, “Our Town,” and are then explored, rearranged, variegated, offset against, and twisted inside out in delightful detail throughout the next 26, often linked by a series of “antic” passages that accompany Dennis betwixt and between his innocent bedevilment of the exasperated Mr. Wilson.  The expansive release restores several tracks to their original soundtrack versions, where in Big Screen’s edition they were modified for album presentation (those modified versions are retained as the four bonus tracks alluded to earlier), and a thick 20-page booklet contains a thorough exploration of the film and its score, including a track-by-track analysis, by Jeff Bond which puts the score’s variegated musical forms into perspective and understanding.  A terrific comedy score from a master of all genres, Jerry Goldsmith got to explore his inner rascal with this score, which is restored in all-growed-up fashion and presented with relish and a twinkle of mischief.

Stuart Hancock/MovieScore Media

Some of the most impressive and affecting music in films these days is being written for documentary films.  Just as many of these films, in particular nature, geography, and science documentaries, have dispensed with talking heads and the like to expose the wonder of their subject matter through visually stunning, ravishing high-definition photography, cinematic camera movement, and slo-mo/high speed techniques that bring their subjects to crystal clarity on widescreen theater and home systems, the music for today’s modern documentary is eloquent and grandly majestic.  The latest example is this marvelous collection of musical highlights from four documentary films composed by Stuart Hancock, commissioned by the state of Qatar to capture and celebrate the many aspects of its culture and natural history.  Suites of approximately 10 minutes each are presented from the films QATAR DREAM 2030, WRITTEN IN THE SAND and BIRDLIFE OF QATAR, followed by the 14 tracks that comprise the complete score to THE DESERT TREASURE, which has garnered two major international awards.  Hancock displays a gift for sumptuous rhythmic melodies that are strikingly attractive, rendered into a lavish sonority through the performance of the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra, tastefully serving up vibrant western harmonies spiced with a bit of contemporary electronics and flavored with colorful Persian instrumentation. Instantly appealing, this is a thoroughly captivating melodious soundscape that is luxurious, subtly exotic, and alive in stimulating musicality.
Sample soundbytes from this score at
For more information on the composer, see

HERCULES/ Fernando Velázquez/Sony Classical
The second and presumably far more successful HERCULES film to be released this year (it follows Renny Harlin’s THE LEGEND OF HERCULES by some eight months – see my April column for a look at Finnish composer Tuomas Kantelinen’s eloquent score for that one), Brett Ratner’s HERCULES has a far more convincing actor in the part (Dwayne Johnson), much better special effects [I am told], and a larger and more immersive scope of story and environment.   The music, by Spanish composer and World Soundtrack Award nominee Fernando Velázquez.  Among the cream of Spain’s current crop of amazing film composers, Velázquez has scored affecting tsunami drama THE IMPOSSIBLE, and the remarkable ghost films THE ORPHANAGE and MAMA, and provides an expansive and muscular sonic dynamic here for HERCULES. “I really tried to address the strength and nobility of Hercules in the movie,” comments Velázquez on the score, which was recorded with the London Philharmonia Orchestra. “The music tries to capture this kindness along with the great strength. It sounds modern and yet it feels classical as it is completely symphonic, even when incorporating electronics and all kind of ‘modern’ drums.” A masterful primary theme is introduced at the start (“Son of Zeus”) for orchestra and choir, a solid and emotive hero theme that holds within its cadence and melody the honest heart within that hero.  Mercato strings are well placed to drive the theme into its action mode, where furious orchestration and interaction conflict, offset, and engage with cohesive aggression and desperate power (“Pirate Camp,” “Bessi-Battle,” “Centaurs,” etc.), while the primary “Hercules” theme restores focus throughout the musical melee.  The expressive pageantry of moments like “Arrival at Lord Cotys' City” are musically engaging while informed with the muscular honor of the hero and his army.  More introspective moments call for reflective poignancy, as in the tender “I Will Believe in You.”  Velázquez pairs his orchestra with electronic flavorings to evoke the mythology of the half-god Hercules and his saga in tracks like “Athens” and “Dungeon,” the latter of which blends into the orchestral cry of “I Am Hercules.”  The music to “Alternative Ending” ramps up the score’s climax and resolution with a stirring restatement of the main theme amidst a conflagration of propulsive strings that segues into reprisals of the honorable, reflective, and heroic themes in their restored eloquence, culminating in a rising orchestra and choir crescendoing finish – while the apparently proper “End-Titles” begins with the more sedate recapitulation of the more impassioned melodies before stirring up to a rousing finale with a drum-beaten conclusive reprise of Hercules’ theme at the head of his rhythmic battle music.  An exciting and energizing score in many respects.

THE GIVER/Marco Beltrami/Sony
Phillip Noyce’s speculative science fiction drama, THE GIVER, based on a bestselling young adult novel by Lois Lowry, a young man named Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment, begins to spend time with The Giver, who is the sole keeper of all the community’s memories. Jonas quickly begins to discover the dark and deadly truths of his community’s secret past which, as secret pasts tend to do, threatens the stability and livelihood of all.  The film seems a fairly simplified morality play in which a character journeys from a corrupt dystopian society to true utopia ( I am told the book has more substance in its presentation), but the music gives these simplistic elements a depth of regard that stirs quite honest emotional resonances.  Beltrami defines the beauty of the perfect community with a delicate and shimmering serenity of harmonic warmth (“Main Titles,” “Jonas Gets the Gig,” “First Memory,” and the crystalline loveliness of “Color”; as the score develops the moods are altered by Jonas’ awakening knowledge, and stirring of apprehension and unease set the stage for his journey to discover what it all means.  With “Do You See It,” the strident shuffling of strings are set in counterpoint with the fluidity of the serene music, until by “Happiness and Pain” the community’s music is dashed by stabbing choral and percussive jolts of menace and unease.  The questioning wonder of “What is Love” and its delicate piano presentation and haunting reverb pause for reflection, until the dissonant specters of “War” and its cadence of drums, coughing woodwinds, and chilling string suspensions seem to dash the very idea of comfort and security, with tracks like “Escape From The Nursery” merging desperation with urgent flight from captivation to freedom, while the following track, “Desert Ride,” reverses the balance, returning the listener from a grounding in lyric splendor to one that is quickly overcome by a grimacing eeriness and pensive aggression.  This musical journey continues, dividing the score almost into two halves – the serenity of a world without war, suffering, difference, or choice; and that of the true world with its pleasures and pains and uniqueness – although of course Beltrami counterpoints elements of each to complement and contrast the musical environment as the story progresses.  This offers him the opportunity to offset music of striking beauty with that of discomfort and anxiety, and the soundtrack is a treasure of gorgeous melodies and gloriously affecting harmonies.  Motifs intertwine, fly apart, float and bury themselves deep within the changing orchestrations, making the score’s journey a fascinating flying carpet woven with both intricate and agitating threads that actively carries one aloft over the vicious battle of hope and despair, settling down with “End Titles”
into a restorative statement from choir, solo violin, and strings & horns than concludes the score with a resolve of peace and calm.  Beltrami remains a musical chameleon whose new scores continue to offer new musical aspirations and deliver music of impassioned elegance, grace, and thematic unity that ties the various nuances of both score and story together with lilting expression.

VOLS. 1 & 2/Brian Reitzell/Lakeshore 
The first two of four volumes of Brian Reitzel’s music from the NBC TV series HANNIBAL, are now available digitally, with CD versions to release on September 2nd.  The second two volumes, comprising Season 2, will emerge digitally on that same date and on CD September 23rd.  The four-volume soundtrack set was created by situating chronological excerpts taken from nearly 25 hours of score used in the show’s first two seasons. 
A multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer and music supervisor, Reitzel has created his own unique method of scoring films, drawing equally from his experience as a recording and touring musician with bands such as Redd Kross and Air, and his massive knowledge of recorded music.  Acting as both music supervisor and composer, he often blurs the lines between score, source music, and sound design. His vision is to create a seamless landscape of songs, score, and found music for each soundtrack, which often requires the use of exotic and custom-build instruments.  Reitzel’s approach and method gives HANNIBAL, a spin-off prequel to SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and its following films which explores the titular psychiatrist/budding serial killer/cannibal and his relationship with the young FBI profiler we knew from the previous films, a decidedly schizophrenic and pathological musical vibe, yet one laced with taste, refinement, and varying degrees of madness.  With each track given a culinary appellate, and the erudite aesthetic of his packaging, Lakeshore’s first two volumes are elegantly designed. They comprise not individual musical cues but longish (most are 10-14 minutes in length) sound patterns that create the claustrophobic discomfort built up by the show.  The music is neither thematic nor melodic, but builds it in clusters of sound patterns, dissonant assemblies of sound drawn together in strange harmonies and unidentifiable acoustical means.  One of these strange musical sources is an instrument called a bullroarer, which Reitzell found on eBay for $5.  “It is an aboriginal instrument,” Reitzell described.  “Every continent on Earth has a form of bullroarer — it’s the oldest instrument known to man.”  The instrument is spun around your head and creates a low hum that has movement in space and not just sound.  Recorded in surround sound for the series.  “So when you listen to it, it spins around your head, and it’s really powerful.”  The result is a strange, almost indecipherable kind of musical approach, and upping the show’s creepy ante significantly.  “Visually it’s so artfully done and quite fantastical, so I see it like an opera staging, otherwise I might be more disturbed,” Reitzell said of HANNIBAL.  “Listening to the music alone is scarier than in the context of the show.”  

INTO THE STORM/Brian Tyler/Varese Sarabande
Seeming to be a large-scale version of those SyFy Channel weather disaster knockoffs like SUPER CYCLONE and METAL TORNADO, Stephen Quayle’s big-budget B-movie INTO THE STORM boasts some respectable special effects and a powerhouse score by Brian Tyler (who also scored director Quayle’s FINAL DESTINATION 5) in the midst of its massive twister turmoil.  Tyler delivers his wind-driven music with characteristic elegance, portraying the raging furioso with a broad-scaled symphonic energy that bolsters the film’s action and characters with a tight thematic structure.   “INTO THE STORM was an opportunity to do a completely conceptual score,” Tyler said.  “The idea was that an approaching storm is represented by the premise of being stalked in the savanna by a lion or tiger – primal, but patient. African flutes whistle in the far distance over completely still strings holding like a lion stalking, waiting patiently to strike. Then without warning, the power of the storm is upon you before you are even aware. This was a really fun and rewarding concept for me to compose.”  While musically evoking the animalistic nature of the approaching storm, the score more often represents the creature’s strike and its ongoing savagery in vanquishing its prey.  The music is almost always in constant motion, driven by propulsive strokes and carrying percussive debris in its churning midst, stirring up some of his most powerful orchestral maneuvers to electrify the swirling disaster depicted on the screen.  But through all of that, the score’s thematic base grounds the story as a human one.  Tyler finds the grace within the eye of the storm and the integrity with the heart of the characters and thus crafts the music around those recognizable elements. Even at its most aggressive musical fury, the music resonates with the humanity within the characters and strengthens our empathy toward them.  “The other side of the music for INTO THE STORM emphasizes human emotion including loneliness,” explained Tyler.  “It features a melancholy tone that comes from realizing we all are fragile and at the mercy of powers outside of ourselves.”

LUCY/Eric Serra/Back Lot Music
Note: Some spoilers below.  Eric Serra’s music for Luc Besson’s stylish action thriller is a strident mix of electronica and dub step/industrial, with moments of sublime feeling and eloquence.  Scarlett Johansson is terrific as the titular ordinary woman vacationing in Korea, who is tricked into working as a drug mule by her new boyfriend.  Forced to smuggle into Europe a new synthetic sensory-enhancing drug sewn into her abdomen, Lucy is kicked in the guts by one of her angry captors, which releases the drug into her system.  Its effects immediately enhance her physical abilities as her brain power speeds towards the 100% mark, which enables her to enact newly acquired mental talents to, first, gain revenge on the Korean drug lord who put her in this position and, second, explain her story to scientists (including grandfatherly Morgan Freeman) who can record and preserve her experience before she passes beyond what they know as human.  That’s where Besson’s film eventually wanders into metaphysical territory (or, as some have put it, goes completely off the rails) as Lucy begins to evolve into a new form of hyper-intelligence.  The film has a marvelous visual story-telling style, a great cast, and some wicked stunts – aided by a very good score by Besson’s usual composer, Eric Serra, which is well represented on the disc.  The crux of the film centers around the pretention that humans only use 10% of their brain power, and that with the use of drugs to access more of it, humanity can evolve new comprehension, abilities, and intelligence.  While the 10% brain capacity shtick is actually a myth, it makes for grand humanist science fiction.  The 2011 film LIMITLESS used it as a plot device, and LUCY now explores it in its concept, storyline, and compelling visual aesthetic.  As Lucy’s mental comprehension and abilities grow, and she becomes more robotic in her personality and behavior, Serra’ score accentuates more electronica and other machinated kinds of music.  Much of the music is beat-based, creating a percussive vibe over which Lucy’s actions are undertaken (“Tingjhou Hospital,” “Pleasant Drive In Paris,” “Sixty Percent Mess,” and the like).  But then, when the film begins to explore the metaphysical considerations of Lucy’s transformation, the beaten vibe dissolves and Serra’s music becomes sublimely melodic, reflecting with quasi-spiritual overtones the steps Lucy takes in her evolving human being (“I Feel Everything,” “Disintegration”), her extra-sensory power to manipulate those around her (“Lucy And The Sniffer Dog”), and the wondrous epiphany of her understanding of the secrets of the universe (“Lucy and Lucy,” “Origin of the World”).  Especially interesting are tracks that combine the two elements, lending the beat a rhythmic atmosphere of gathering harmonics in “Thank You For Sharing,” “Flicking Through Time,” “Moonbirth”).  The score, dispensing its industrial roughness and embracing melodic warmth even as Lucy herself becomes more robotic in her thinking and actions, finds its most expressive eloquence in these tracks, which range from quiet reflection to the haunting, rhythmic chaos of “Inner Fireworks.” Serra’s use of traditional orchestral instruments, rock band, and a large array of synths and other electronic gear, gives his LUCY score a great deal of depth, but, like Lucy herself, it is all driving toward one central musical idea, which reaches its apotheosis in the conclusive ambient resolve of “I Am Everywhere” as Lucy gains her complete transformation into the digital realm.  Meanwhile, the jocular scherzo “All We Have Done With it” accompanies an aside in which Besson depicts what humanity has done with its limited usage of its brain power, and shares the clever kind of visual metaphors Besson inserts into the early parts of the film to lay the groundwork for the heady concepts he will explore.  Serra captures much of the film’s feeling and wonder in his music, providing a journey through acoustic electronica and challenging rhythmic cadences hinged off of the beaten path into strange and affecting sonic patterns.  An engaging score in many ways, and, like LUCY itself/herself, may take repeated experience to grasp what it’s really saying.

PATRICK/Pino Donaggio/Quartet Records
With his score for this 2013 remake of the 1978 Australian psychic horror thriller, Pino Donaggio returns to the genre to which he has given his most haunting eloquence.  Having emerged in the late 1970s with a bloody fistful of beautifully lyrical horror scores (CARRIE, PIRANHA, DRESSED TO KILL, THE HOWLING), the Venetian-born composer wrote some of the genre’s most beautiful music, often composing against the building suspense and just-off-screen threat of the killer/monster/psycho, yet just as potent in his driving horror music when that threat chooses to reveal itself.  With PATRICK, in which a comatose killer reaches a powerful psychic link with the young nurse watching over him, Donaggio returns to form with a lovely score rich in delicate, sympathetic melodies – and one that is able to explode when the psychic power of the titular patient bursts into malevolent activity.  Donaggio emphasizes Patrick’s psychic influence with rows of suspended strings, stretched and sustained while other elements, tonal and percussive, interact on top of them (“Kathy Enters,” “Telekenisis,” and the CARRIE-like “Waveform Crazy”), and the contrast between the quasi-romantic music and the twisting, gnashing psychic music creates a delightfully affecting and pleasing score; the former music tends to disarm the viewer/listener making the latter music even more shocking and startling, while the former also maintains a sense of sympathy with the innocent nurse being victimized.  A highlight of the score is “Patrick Spits Museum,” a deliriously expressive cue that takes the main melody and twist it out of control, into an uncontrollable array of revolving and intersecting string figures which recalls elements of Donaggio’s “The Museum” musical tour-de-force from De Palma’s DRESSED TO KILL.  Quartet’s premiere release of this new score includes a 12-page booklet with liner notes by Gergely Hubai, who explores the movie, the composer and the score.

PENNY DREADFUL/ Abel Korzeniowski/Varese Sarabande
This new Showtime series debuted last April and has proven to be a very potent attraction.  An appealing mix of Gothic Steampunk intrigue and gnarly Del Toro styled horror fantasy, it is full of unusual pairings and merged contrasts.   In 19th Century England, an American Wild West show gunman (Josh Harnett) is recruited to assist an investigator (Timothy Dalton) and a mysterious woman in black named Vanessa (the enticing-in-any-color Eva Green) and a strange scientist we soon learn is none other than Victor Frankenstein, plying his trade in London’s east end, to uncover and thwart a group of body-dismembering vampires who have stolen Dalton’s young daughter.  Nicely written, very nicely played, with a very nice atmospheric vibe throughout.  Abel Korzeniowski has done a great job on the score.  He’s come up with a very compelling main title theme that very nicely conveys sonically the aspect and attitude of what the show is all about, and his underscore is quite effective. It's not entirely groundbreaking but it works very well and grows with each episode to further delineate and resonate with the show’s milieu and form.  “I started looking for an expression of dark beauty, something that can be terrifying and mesmerizing at the same time – a poisonous infatuation,” said Korzeniowski. “The most inspiring clue I got was John Logan’s [writer, producer] description of the character of Vanessa as the Mother of Evil. Seeing her not as a victim, but as a creature of a complex dual nature, both good and evil, was a defining moment for the entire musical score.”  With the variety of classic macabre references and creature/characters exhibited or explored in the show, the music is able to multi-task quite well in addressing and exploring these elements and their various interactions, a task which the composer handles thematically, while the growing menace and shadowy operatives developing within the storyline are conveyed with dark, glowering, unsettling sonic atmospheres.  “The musical themes of PENNY DREADFUL represent both different characters and abstract ideas,” Korzeniowski explained. “One of the most unusual for a gothic horror story is a group of themes related to Victor Frankenstein's offspring – Proteus and the Creature. They are the paragons of the modern age, or as the Creature puts it, ‘modernity personified’. Their music sounds more like an alternative/indie rock ballad than a classical score. The black-clad Creature, with his heavy make-up and pale skin, even looks like he could be in a band with Jack White.”  It’s all wonderful fun – the show’s setting and its willingness to mash genres and fictional/historical/classic characteristics makes for a varied and exploratory musical expression, which Korzeniowski conveys with straight face and razor-sharp exactitude. 


Soundtrack & Music News

Italian composer Giorgio Gaslini passed away on July 29th.  A leading name in Italian Jazz and a noted film composer, Gaslini scored such acclaimed Italian movies as LA NOTTE, BALI, NIGHT OF THE DEVILS, LA PACIFISTA, the TV series DARIO ARGENTO'S DOOR INTO DARKNESS, and many more.  He also contributed music to Dario Argento’s DEEP RED (PROFUNDO ROSSO), which was mostly scored by the band Goblin.

Abel Korzeniowski and Rolfe Kent were honored at this year’s International Film Music Festival of the Province of Córdoba in Spain with the 2nd annual 'Elmer Bernstein Award for Extraordinary Contribution to Film Music.’  The Elmer Bernstein Award recognizes the contributions of composers through film/TV soundtracks.   As is tradition with the festival, the organizers recognize a composer with whom they have a special relationship by naming them Honorary President.  This year’s Honorary President was American composer Christopher Lennertz.  This was his third time as a guest of the International Film Music Festival – three years ago he was Musical Director.  In the ten years that the festival has been in existence a prestigious list of composers have served as honorary president.  From its start in the city of Ubeda in 2005, the gallery of presidents have included Brian Tyler (2005), John Frizzell (2006), John Debney (2007), Bruce Broughton (2008), Patrick Doyle (2009), Michael Giacchino (2010), Bruno Coulais (2011), Mark Isham (2012), Peter Bernstein (2013) and now Christopher Lennertz (2014).

At the 14th World Soundtrack Awards, to be held on October 25 at the Film Fest in Gent, France, composer Francis Lai will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding career in film music. A selection of his work will be performed by the Brussels Philharmonic and conducted by Dirk Brossé.  The 14th World Soundtrack Awards & Concert will take place on 25 October 2014 at Kuipke in Ghent. Tickets are available on the website The 41st Film Fest Gent runs from 14 until 25 October 2014. All info can be found on

Perseverance Records reports that they have reached a deal with composer Richard Band to distribute his music; the first release in this deal is the score to Full Moon Features' new episodic Web series, Trophy Heads. “Richard's music is a dramatic, dark and layered score which grabs viewers from the opening credits,” said Perseverance’s Robin Esterhammer.  “For fans of his music, this is trademark Richard Band - melodic, memorable and always worth a repeat listen. For those who have never heard Richard's music before, this would be a good place to start!”

Damon Tedesco has posted to his web site a memorable video of of Michael Kamen conducting his ROBIN HOOD score at the Evergreen scoring stage at Radford. The video “reminds me of how great Michael Kamen was and how truly amazing the musicians are in Los Angeles.”


Sumthing Else Music Works presents the original motion picture soundtrack for CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO, the next installment to the cult hit CABIN FEVER released in US theaters on August 1, 2014. Featuring an original music score by award-winning film and video game composer Kevin Riepl (CONTRACTED, SILENT NIGHT, Gears Of War), CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO is be available for digital download on iTunes, and all digital music sites.  “For Cabin Fever Patient Zero, I wanted the music to have a blend of atmospheric electronics, rhythmic orchestral work and a host of very dry, very gritty organic instruments,” explains Kevin Riepl. “These instruments, which are not played in any traditional manner, created the tension throughout the film. There's a lot of scraping, hitting, dynamic bowing, and on top of that are the dissonant plucking notes, performed on the banjolele and violin.”
Kevin Riepl is an award-winning composer writing for multiple entertainment genres. His engaging and atmospheric scores have enhanced over twenty films, as well as blockbuster video games and TV. Riepl's upcoming projects include the action/thriller feature film THE NIGHT CREW starring Luke Goss, Bokeem Woodbine and Danny Trejo.

On August 26,La-La Land will release Robert J. Kral’s soundtrack to the DC Universe animated film BATMAN: ASSAULT ON ARKHAM.  That film “marks a departure from what we normally do from a music standpoint,” said director Jay Olivia. “We usually do the operatic epic music that we've all become accustomed to in the live action and animated comic book films for the last twenty five years…. James Tucker, my producer, was very supportive of the idea of doing a more contemporary take on the superhero music and when Rob sent us his first pass of the score, we were tremendously pleased.”  Added Kral: “In terms of influence, for this movie most of the approach I knew would be different, with influences coming from Guy Ritchie movies or even OCEAN’S 11 in places.  Jay and I definitely wanted some funk grooves. We wanted the flavor of setting up the story to feel like a heist movie but set in the Batman world.”

Brian Tyler’s score for THE EXPENDABLES 3 will debut on CD in England on August 14 by Silva Screen Records, and by La-La Land in the US on August 26.

La-La Land Records has also announced their August 12th releases:
by Barry Gray

by Dimitri Tiomkin (CD debut) 

Milan Records will release Cliff Martinez’ soundtrack to the new Cinemax TV series THE KNICK digitally on August 19, followed by a physical CD release on Tuesday, September 16.  The album will also be released on vinyl later in the year.  “Working on a TV series was a round-the-clock-for-10-weeks endeavor for me. Lots of coffee...not so much sleep,” said Martinez, a former member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and, early in his career in film and TV scoring, scored an episode of PEE WEE’S PLAYHOUSE, joked about his approach.  “There's nothing like a 10-hour series to help you squeeze the maximum mileage out of all your musical themes!”  Set in New York City in 1900, this drama series from director Steven Soderbergh centers on the Knickerbocker Hospital and the groundbreaking surgeons, nurses and staff who push the boundaries of medicine in a time of astonishingly high mortality rates and zero antibiotics.  “As usual, Steven and I rarely spoke and instead communicated via mental telepathy,” said Martinez.  “In so many words he told me: ‘We're all going to recreate early 1900s New York as authentically as possible...except for you. I want the music to be modern and electronic.’  For THE KNICK, I revisited a time-honored Soderbergh/Martinez tradition that I like to call ‘one thing,’  I try very hard to score an entire scene using only one sound or instrument. It's difficult and I usually end up cheating and using more. But by limiting the number of elements, I'm always guaranteed an expressively minimalist and fat-free soundtrack."

Silva Screen will soon release Mark Ayres’ soundtrack to the 2013 British mystery thriller, SCAR TISSUE.  Mark Ayres is best known for his work as the archivist for the groundbreaking music used in DOCTOR WHO from the very beginning in 1963 up to the late 1980s.  Parallel to his conservation role he has also written music for the program, with Silva Screen releasing his scores for THE GREATEST SHOW IN THE GALAXY, GHOST LIGHT and THE CURSE OF FENRIC. He also wrote the soundtrack to the 1996 conspiracy thriller THE INNOCENT SLEEP.

Varese Sarabande has released STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS: The Deluxe Edition as its Club offering for July.  In this 2-CD expansion of the label’s 14-track 2013 release, more than two hours of Michael Giacchino’s soaring score will be presented.

Daniel Pemberton has been hired to score the upcoming film adaptation of THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., scheduled for release by Warner Bros in January 2015.  The film is directed by Guy Ritchie and stars Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, and Hugh Grant. The spy action comedy is based on the 1960 television series and tells the origin story of the first pairing of the two spies — one American, one Russian – who up on a joint mission to stop a mysterious international criminal organization, which is bent on destabilizing the fragile balance of power through the proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology.  Pemberton wrote a fine retro spy score for the 2012 UK TV series DIRK GENTLY which sounds like it could fit nicely into a stylish U.N.C.L.E. environment. This news item from one of my old columns describes it: “This score for BBC Four’s drama series, based on Douglas Adams’ cult classic ‘Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency,’ showcases Pemberton’s instantly catchy style: a score driven by a retro feel channeled through infectious harpsichord riffs and cimbalom melodies over a pop combo beat - as lifted right out of a 1960s detective TV show. Pemberton’s score is an ode to UK TV legends such as John Barry, Laurie Johnson and Roy Budd, but with a modern twist and it also features other quirky elements such as Wendy Carlos-inspired lo-fi electronica!”


Film Music on Vinyl

Newly launched Lunaris Records is offering a 7” vinyl album containing two tracks from 1986’s WITCHBOARD.  The record features “Witchboard Theme” (written and performed by Dennis Michael Tenney) and “Bump in the Night” (written by Tenney, performed by Steel Breeze) on the A side and etched Witchboard artwork on the B side.  The WITCHBOARD score was composed by director Kevin Tenney’s brother, Dennis, who has made his career by composing the score to a slew of (most B-grade) films. Among them, NIGHT OF THE DEMONS (1988), CAPTURED ALIVE (1995) and LEPRECHAUN 3 and 4 (1995/97). WITCHBOARD was his first foray into film composition.  Lunaris will soon be releasing the original motion picture soundtrack for the 1987 horror/bumsploitation/comedic/melt spectacular, STREET TRASH.  For more information, see:
Record is available in very limited supply through: (Europe) (North America)

Death Waltz Recording Company are proud to be unearthing the legendary monster of our time and bringing him to vinyl in the shape of Akira Ifukube’s score to GODZILLA. Starkly different to the usual view of The Big G as the ultimate monster wrestler, Ifukube’s music is intense, dark, and reflects Ishiro Honda’s film as a pure horror film. While the score opens with the jaunty riff that would eventually become Godzilla’s Theme, the majority of the music alternates between pounding brass and mournful strings as we witness the death and destruction that comes in Godzilla’s wake.

Dagored Records offers in vinyl the legendary Nico Fidenco’s 1975 score for BLACK EMANUELLE.  “By turns sultry and serious, fun and funky, the sound is sophisticated, groovy and melodically memorable; mixin’ latin rhythms – and electronic textures that show the influence of early techno masters such as Giorgio Moroder and Kraftwerk.”  The LP jacket features deluxe double UV coating.
Available from:

Strange Disc Records announces their debut release, the soundtrack to SURF NAZIS MUST DIE. The film itself was released in 1987 by Troma Entertainment, but the soundtrack has never seen the light of day until now.  Jon McCallum’s score suits the post-apocalyptic setting with heavy synth; fans of Tangerine Dream and John Carpenter’s scores will be at home on this record. McCallum is the composer behind MIAMI CONNECTION, TERROR EYES and SOUL TAKER. Aside from his composing work he worked on the special effects for PHANTASM 2 and George Harrison’s “Got My Mind Set On You,” music video.  Limited to 800 copies black vinyl and 200 copies 'Blood In The Water' vinyl. The color vinyl variant is randomly inserted. Comes packaged in a deluxe old school gatefold tip-on gatefold jacket with extensive liner notes by Composer Jon McCallum, Director Peter George, and various crew members. Artwork created by Jon McCallum himself and it was mastered for vinyl by Josh Bonati.  Available from: (Europe, Rest of the world) (North America) (North America)



Games Music News

What does it take to write music for video games? Hear from six of the industry's most accomplished composers with diverse musical backgrounds as they share their experiences and discuss the craft of scoring music for some of the most popular titles in interactive entertainment.  The PAX Prime 2014 composer panel "Maestros of Video Games" will feature award-winning composers:
Martin O'Donnell (Destiny, Halo)
Jesper Kyd (Assassin's Creed, Borderlands, Hitman, State of Decay)
Darren Korb (Bastion, Transistor)
Boris Salchow (Sunset Overdrive, Ratchet & Clank, Resistance)
Sascha Dikiciyan (Mass Effect 3, Borderlands, Dead Rising 3, Tron)
Oleksa Lozowchuk (Dead Rising 3, Dead Rising 2)
Moderated by Emily Reese, host and producer of Minnesota Public Radio's "Top Score" podcast, attendees will receive a complimentary soundtrack sampler courtesy of premier video game soundtrack label Sumthing Else Music Works. The panel will be followed by a Meet & Greet / Signing Session - details to be announced.
For information on PAX Prime visit:

Sumthing Else Music Works will release digitally Mega Man® Soundtracks Volumes 1-10, featuring the official soundtracks to the 8-bit classic series.  Previously released in Japan as part of the 10-disc "Rockcan" collection, the Sumthing Else Music Works digital release presents the collection in ten separate volumes for $9.99 each. Volumes 1-4 are available now, with two new volumes scheduled to be released every month through November, 2014.
Mega Man® Soundtracks Volumes 1-4 are now available from, iTunes, and other digital music sites.
For more information on Mega Man® visit



Randall D. Larson was for many years senior editor for Soundtrack Magazine, publisher of CinemaScore: The Film Music Journal, and a film music columnist for Cinefantastique magazine.  A specialist on horror film music, he is the author of Musique Fantastique: A Survey of Film Music in the Fantastic Cinema and Music From the House of Hammer.  He has written liner notes for more than 120 soundtrack CDs for such labels as La-La Land, FSM, Perseverance, Silva Screen, Harkit, Quartet, and BSX Records.  A largely re-written and expanded Second Edition of Musique Fantastique is being published: the first of this four-book series is now available.  See:

Special thanks to Benjamin Michael Joffe.

Randall can be contacted at -Your Store to Buy Hard To Find Film and Television
Music Scores and Soundtrack CDs!