Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Creatives Behind American Horror Story, Mr. Robot, This Is Us, Teen Titans, Riverdale & More Take Us Behind The Music At Comic-Con

On the bustling first day of Comic-Con, excited fans gathered to hear the secrets of musical experts on the "Behind The Music: Crime, Death & Resurrection" panel, celebrating its tenth anniversary. The conversation featured 3 Emmy-winning composers Mac Quayle (Mr. Robot, American Horror Story), Jim Dooley (A Series of Unfortunate Events), and Kris Bowers (Dear White People), as well as composers Siddhartha Khosla (This Is Us, Marvel's Runaways), Sherri Chung (Riverdale, Blindspot), and Jared Faber (Teen Titans Go! To The Movies). The panel was moderated by actors Jon Huertas (This Is Us) and Sara Rue (A Series of Unfortunate Events).

The panel, co-produced by Impact24 PR and CW3PR, kicked off with an exclusive clip reel of the talented creatives' work.

"It's a culmination of everything I've worked on. I grew up in India, so sonically, the score for Season 2 of This Is Ushas a lot of Indian influence, which is why I picked this clip of Jack escaping the fire in the 'Superbowl' episode," said Khosla.

Bowers added, "This clip from Dear White People features one of my favorite cues from this season and culminates a lot of the stories and mysteries from the first season." The audience burst into laughter as Faber joked, "I thought everyone's cues were so beautiful and I just wanted to pick a clip that was fun."

After the clips, the conversation kicked off with moderator Jon Huertas asking Siddhartha Khosla and Mac Quayle, "your music for Mr. Robot and Runaways rely heavily on synthesizers. What is more fun and challenging? Orchestrated or electronic music?"

Siddhartha started, "I grew up doing covers of Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails so getting to do electronic music on Runaways is really fun. It's fun to navigate between both orchestral and electronic music on different projects."

Mac continued, "No matter what tools you're using, the composer's job is always the same – you want to tell a story. So whether you're like Sidd and banging on a table creating percussion for This Is Us or using synthesizers – you're always telling a story. It's fun to using synthesizers on Mr. Robot where I can sound as electronic as I want."

Next, Jared Faber elaborated on collaborating with Michael Bolton and Lil Yachty on feature songs for his projects. "Writing songs is only one part of the music I create. I've always been involved with songwriting and my career composing developed over time. It's the most fun for me when I get to switch back and forth between songwriting and scoring."

Sherri Chung and Jim Dooley followed that with a discussion of the timelessness of their respective shows, Riverdale and A Series of Unfortunate Events, and how that influences their musical choices.

"Anything goes," said Sherri. "We're scoring these moments that aren't any particular time period and we can use any instrument including synths and pianos. The way we effect these instruments and mask their sounds help create a sonic identity unique to the show."

Jim continued, "the first thing I did for Season 2 of A Series of Unfortunate Events was create my own new instruments for the series. I went to a percussion place and started banging on everything they have and created my own new percussion instruments." He continued, "working with Barry Sonnenfeld, if you get him to laugh at your idea it stays in the show. In Season 3 there's one episode where I told Barry, 'You know what we really need here is yodeling.' It made him laugh, and it stayed in the show."

Kris Bowers discussed his work on the groundbreaking series Dear White People, and how it juggles its serious and comedic tones. "It's a drama and there's a lot of relevant problems happening in our world today. For instance, in the first episode of season one, there's a black face party which is really serious. The music helps us remember the seriousness of the world they're in and the reality of their stories in our lives even though the show is really fun and there's a lot of satirical comedy." Sherri jumped in with some appreciation, "I agree, the music helps bring you back in and I think you do that beautifully," to which Kris smiled and replied, "Thanks."

Speaking to the importance of diversity in music for visual media, Siddhartha shared his origin story. "My parents came to this country from India with only eight dollars. They wanted to raise me to do something professional with my life. When I decided to go into music, it was tough for them to understand. The struggle I had was partly in the industry but also culturally – the stigma being a musician is not accepted among my culture. People of a minority background come up to me and say they want to do what I do now and that empowers me." Kris added, "I didn't have anyone to look up to that looked like me and did what I do," said Bowers. "It's part of what motivates me to do what I do."

The conversation then transitioned to returning to a show after a first season. Mac Quayle shared, "for Mr. Robot the first season was supposed to be completely electronic. For Season 2, we added orchestral strings and a more natural-sounding piano. For Season 3, the core sound is still electronic but we continued adding organic textures. On American Horror Story, every season is new story and characters so no themes or sounds are reused."

To conclude the panel, the composers offered their words of wisdom to aspiring creatives. Mac shared, "There are a few paths a composer career. One is become a rock star first then step right in and become a composer. Another one is to learn music and work in a studio, meet a young director on their first film and make it a smash. Third, find an established composer and work for them, get some credits and eventually step into your own career."

Sherri also advised, "It's important to find your own projects and building your network and team. But also do work for other people who are further along in their career and learn from them. Work above where you really are, challenge yourself and keep writing music." Khosla added, "To get jobs working with established composers, they want to hear what your music sounds like.  You should always keep writing and have stuff you're proud of to show people."

Jared laughed and concluded, "I used to think it was important to be versatile and do as much as you can do. But lately I've gone in the direction of doing what I love and what I care about because it sounds better and that's what moves people. If you can make people feel something, then you're winning."

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