1) BILL, WHEN YOU FIRST MOVED TO LA YOU ACTUALLY DID SOUND DESIGN AND SFX EDITING. HOW DID THAT EVOLVE INTO THE FULL TIME COMPOSER GIG THAT YOU HAVE?
A friend of mine from Berklee College of Music introduced me to an Academy Award winning sound designer named Scott Martin Gershin who was looking to add music scoring to his game audio division at Soundelux, Hollywood (that division later became Soundelux Design Music Group). I gave Scott a CD of one of my earliest scores (something for a virtual reality ride / experience) that I had written just a couple years out of Berklee.. He liked it and brought me on board. I started writing demos for some of the game companies they were already doing sound design for right away and amazingly, I landed both “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six” and Dreamworks “The Lost World: Trespasser” right out of the gate! Side note: I always thought I would move to LA and would be scoring big films in no time.. (Haha..) But as fate had it, through this series of events, writing music for games found me! Soon, they were building a really fun, tricked out, modern studio facility on the bottom floor of the Soundelux building, with a handful of studios that would eventually house more composers as new scoring projects came flooding in. Over the next 9 years I scored over 50 triple-A titles with the help of my team there, including the first wave of Tom Clancy’s game franchises (Rainbow Six / Ghost Recon, etc.), Return to Castle Wolfenstein, The Lost World: Trespasser, Command & Conquer: Generals, Lineage 2, The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, Projects for Disney, Universal Studios, and much more.. even TV commercials and films! It was an exciting time for sure. And that was just the start..
2) DESPITE ALL THE WONDERS OF MODERN TECHNOLOGY, YOU FREQUENTLY USE LIVE MUSICIANS IN YOUR RECORDINGS. WHY DO THEY MATTER SO MUCH?
OMG WHERE DO I START? Haha.. Live musicians simply breathe life into the music. With of that talent combined in collaboration, there’s just something magical that happens. The way I explain it sometimes is like this: You know how animated (CG) characters are really convincing, but there’s something still missing? And how computer animation can be dynamic and incredible.. but it’s the real, organic practical element we still really connect with? It’s much the same with live players vs. reproducing those instruments with computers. Something magical happens with live performances.. something we connect with on a deeper, emotional, visceral level.
3) TWO OF YOUR BEST SHOWS, CSI:NY AND DOMINION 2 CAME ABOUT BECAUSE YOU ONCE DID A SPEC BEER COMMERCIAL! CAN YOU ELABORATE ON THAT?
During my time at Soundelux, I met a director named Deran Sarafian who was working on a spec Budweiser commercial and wrote some music for him. He loved it and hired me to score a TV film called “Trapped” a couple years later.. and then a few years after that called me to see if I’d be interested in meeting with the creator of CSI about scoring the next iteration of the franchise, CSI:NY. At this point, honestly I still thought I would very soon be scoring big Hollywood studio films any time now.. (laughs but kind of sadly) I think my naïveté about the business in those years served me very well. I was always so excited just to get to write music every day.. the kind of big, thematic, modern orchestral music I imagined I’d write for films. I was recording with full orchestras.. writing big, splashy, thematic scores for Marvel and everyone else in the gaming world. I was truly blessed. Then that call came to score a big TV franchise ..!!
I had never thought of writing for TV really, (since I would be scoring studio films any moment..) but this seemed like a really fun opportunity, so I binge-watched all of the episodes of CSI that I could for a week straight and wrote 15 minutes of new music in that style, combined with my own orchestral / thematic style as a demo to give to Jerry Bruckheiner’s team and everyone involved in the new series.. Deran had just filmed a bunch of aerial footage of NYC, so he got that to me and I had a friend at Soundelux help cut a reel together using my new music and that footage. A few weeks later, I was scoring the CSI:NY pilot.. That was also a really exciting time! And nerve wracking.. but amazing nonetheless. Little did I know I’d be scoring CSI:NY for nine years…! Nine incredible seasons. While I was scoring the first season, I took a chance and moved out of Soundelux and built my first real home studio. Taking that chance really worked out and those were an amazing nine years which included scoring more games like Captain America: Super Soldier again for Marvel, Wolfenstein and many others, and even films! 20 years later, I’m in a new home and new home studio and scoring yet another tv show with Deran and an amazing show runner named Vaun Wilmott. Dominion season 2 is probably the most fun I’ve ever had working on a project like that. It was epic and thematic and modern and everything all at once. So so much fun to score! Soundelux has since closed.. along with most of the scoring stages in town. It’s a different world now, but with even more quality content in every genre I think than ever before. There’s still magic happening because that’s what we live for.. right? That’s what I look forward to every time I start creating again.
4) THERE IS A DEBATE GOING ON ABOUT THE USEFULNESS OF ATTENDING MUSIC COLLEGES FOR FILM SCORING. AS A BERKLEE GRADUATE, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THAT?
I wouldn’t be the musician or the composer I am today without that education at Berklee to be honest. I was exposed to so many new facets of music, performance, composition, technology .. new styles, things I hadn’t heard before going there. I learned all the rules so I could break them later if needed.. but it was so helpful to have that foundation when I started scoring for live orchestras and needed to be fast and flexible stylistically as a composer. Even the piano chops I gained there have served me so well over the years. Just such a great thing. I spoke at USC this last year and was so impressed with their students and film music program. It’s just a blessing to be able to look back on these years with such a wonderful, meaningful, joyful depth of experience. And then to share that experience with those who are just starting themselves.. and who get to climb that incredible mountain themselves. Remember, the climb is everything.. there is no destination. True story.
5) WHAT ATTRIBUTES MUST A COMPOSER POSSESS TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN THE CURRENT FILM/TV INDUSTRY?
Well, talent and persistence are important. I know talent is hard to quantify, but passion and lots of hard work go a long way in that department. Along with those, being a good person helps for sure. Being humble and open to new ideas, being open to collaboration and to helping make those people you’re collaborating with really shine. Did I mention being humble? It’s more fun to work with someone who is easy going and always ready to help make it better. It’s not a business for the faint of heart, but if you look at it the other way, it’s an AMAZING thing to be able to do.. and for a living makes it incomparable really. Oh, and the other attribute I’d recommend most to anyone are friends (directors, producers, developers, etc.) that you make along the way. That’s not really an attribute.. but it’s kind of essential to a composer’s career.. Nurture those friendships.. like all friendships, they will serve you well if you do.