1) CHRIS, THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER YOU HAVE PLACED YOURSELF NEXT TO SOME AMAZING COMPOSERS SUCH AS BASIL POLEDOURIS, MICHAEL KAMEN AND VERY RECENTLY ALAN MENKEN. HOW DID THE COLLABORATION WITH MENKEN COME ABOUT AND WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE TO WORK WITH SUCH ROYALTY?
I consider myself blessed beyond belief to have not only studied and worked with many of my heroes, but more recently co-score some amazing projects with them. My relationship with Alan technically started with ‘Galavant’, but it was actually a self financed musical of my own that I wrote almost 20 years ago that ended up on the desk of music supervisor Dawn Soler. We met and became fast friends as she learned how I wanted to write animated musicals like one of my heroes, Alan Menken. Many years and many non musical projects later, Dawn (now the head of ABC music) and my agent (also Alan’s) Richard Kraft wanted to pair him with a composer in Los Angeles to co-write this insane new musical show. They both thought I would be a perfect fit. Alan and I got along famously and projects went well, so when the news of ‘Sausage Party’ happened, we felt it would be great to do together and a good way to manage both of our busy schedules. I learn so much on every project and feel that collaborations, both with other composers like Alan and Dave Grusin as well as musicians both famous and unknown are what keeps things fun and helps me to continue growing.
2) YOU ARE AN EXTREMELY VERSATILE COMPOSER AND YOU HAVE RECENTLY SCORED A NUMBER OF HUGE COMEDIES. WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES YOU A ‘GO TO PERSON’ REGARDING THAT GENRE?
I think having an eclectic love of music is a huge part of it. I decided to become a film composer after sneaking into a Henry Mancini session and was then fortunate enough to study with Elmer Bernstein…probably the two best examples of composers who could handle not only all different styles of music, but gracefully move from dramas to comedy to action and more. The other thing that I think helps is that I really respect the story within the comedy first and foremost. I try as often as possible to play what the characters would hear in their hearts and minds rather than what the audience may see. So in a movie like ‘Horrible Bosses’, I lean towards heavy guitars and hip hop influences because the guys think that they are tough criminals. In something like ‘Sausage Party’, Frank believes he is literally saving the world. That heroism is what I get inspired by. The comedy always plays better against a truthful score…at least that which is true for the characters.
3) IN TIMES OF ECONOMIC UNCERTAINTY YOU TOOK A CHANCE BY BUILDING A RECORDING FACILITY (SONIC FUEL STUDIOS). IN FACT, IT’S NOT THE FIRST TIME IN YOUR CAREER THAT YOU TOOK RISKS. CAN YOU PLEASE ELABORATE ON THAT?
Well, depending on who you ask, this may or may not be a good thing, but I’m pretty ADD and a bit of a dreamer. I have a lot of fun with big ideas and taking chances. Even if they don’t work out, the attempt is still really invigorating. Five years after college, I was sharing a bedroom with a studio in the corner and pushing $50,000 in credit card debt but it never really worried me. I just assumed I would get to the point I could pay it back or die trying. The idea to build a studio just made the most sense with where my family was at the time and has actually allowed me to record the way I want AND spend more time at home…so even if it doesn’t make money, it was a great move. In fact, many of my crazy ideas don’t come to fruition, but if 20-30% do, then great. I just spent the last year creating a musical TV show with John Ondrasik of Five For Fighting and Dawn and sold it to a major studio. But the fun was in creating it. The fact that it sold is a bonus and if it actually gets picked up, even better. If not, we had a blast.
4) DESPITE YOUR HECTIC SCHEDULE YOU ALWAYS HAVE TIME FOR CHARITY ORGANIZATIONS. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT SOME OF THE AWESOME PROJECTS YOU ARE INVOLVED IN?
– Growing up with parents who are both teachers and bleeding heart liberals, I was taught at a very young age to help those less fortunate than yourself. I’ve been so blessed along the way to have had such a supportive family, amazing mentors and teachers, and wonderful friends. It’s important to me to spend as much time as I can trying to make sure that others get some of the same encouragement and support. Because of my relationship with Michael Kamen, I’ve been a long time supporter and now board member of The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation. We are celebrating our 20th anniversary and are launching a huge campaign to build awareness and put more instruments into young students hands. I’m also involved with the board of Education Through Music LA which puts music teachers and full curriculums into underserved elementary schools all over the city. It is amazing the effect a music program can have on both the success and safety of a school. Then, a few years back, I came up with the Symphony of Hope project to raise money to rebuild Haiti after the earthquake. We released and album and had a live world premiere that raised well over $100k, but this fall, we are finishing the documentary on the whole process and where Haiti stands today. The plan is for that to hit festivals and then screen in communities around the country. The idea is to have the movie as well as live performances of the symphony happen all over the globe and donate a (hopefully large) portion of the ticket and movie sales to our charity there. We are making the scores and parts available free to any interested orchestra, so hopefully by next year, there will be lots of places to hear and see it and lots of money raised to help the poorest nation in our hemisphere.
5) YOU COMPOSE FOR FILMS, TV, VIDEO GAMES, YOU CONDUCT LIVE PERFORMANCES IN SOLD OUT SHOWS…IS THERE A MEDIUM THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO EXPLORE IN THE FUTURE, SOMETHING THAT YOU HAVE NOT DONE YET?
Well, I want to write musicals for both stage and screen and I’d definitely like to do more drama and action/adventure kinds of things. I grew up on Spielberg and Lucas and my favorite movie is The Godfather. Anything epic is right up my alley. That said, I also try to be really self-aware of how I’m perceived in the industry, so if I really want to do a Shawshank or Lord of the Rings or Little Mermaid, then I have to do what it takes to address that reality: Write demos, do favors, take risks, and search out people I want to work with. I may know that I can do those things, but I need to be able to prove it to those who may not be as familiar with me. On that same note, I’m also really getting more into creating projects from the ground up, story and all. Besides the TV show, I’m developing a few movies, both animation and live-action, as well as a stage show. Basically, I want to create opportunities to work on projects that really speak to me and allow me to work with my friends. Fun and fulfilling at the same time!