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Interview with Adult Swim Composer Matt Novack

Randy Tobogan
Interview with Adult Swim Composer Matt Novack
My favorite Adult Swim show of the decade, Childrens Hospital, did many wonderful things that made my life brighter and happier: It gave us more Rob Corddry, candid Adult Swim humour, fantastic stories, and a host of memorable music moments. I was lucky enough to catch up with Matt Novack, the man behind the music for CH and discuss some of his latest projects and memories from his time working on the AS classic.
What has been your favorite film project to work on?
I've been fortunate to work with some wonderful people so picking one particular project out of the bunch is difficult, but if I had to choose, I'd say A Better You.  It was my first time scoring an indie comedy, and I always love opportunities to branch out into styles and genres that I haven’t tried yet.  Plus working with Matt Walsh was fantastic.  It was a joy collaborating with him and you could sense the heart and soul everyone was putting into the film.
What are some of the unique and fun challenges of working on a short versus a feature length film? Do any of your shorts stand out to you in terms of your music?
It’s surprising how similar it is.  I still approach telling the story the same way regardless of how long or short the film may be, but since with shorts there are only a handful of moments you have to really hone in on what the story’s trying to say the challenge is often how best to use the score to take the characters and the audience on the same kind of emotional journey one would in a feature.  In a feature, you have plenty of time to develop and evolve themes, whereas in a short, you often have to do all that within a handful, or even just one cue.
“Rose White” stands out in that its score was the most cinematic of any of the shorts I’ve done.  The whole film has this dark fantasy vibe and the score had to really sell the fantasy sequences so it was a fun challenge writing full orchestral music for that.  I’m also pretty proud of “We” which is a great short by Becca Gleason.  I really only wrote two cues for it, but with the main cue I think we were able to encapsulate the whole underlying emotion of the story, and the opening cue subtly foreshadows the dramatic turn at the end without giving too much away.  
What should we look forward to the most about How to be a latin lover? 
It’s funny!  There’s also a lot of heart in it.  I worked with my good friend Craig Wedren and his Pink Ape scoring team on it, and we wrote a fun, heartwarming, some times quirky romantic comedy score.  I love writing orchestral music, and there’s a lot of that in the soundtrack, and some great songs.
What is the most challenging part of working on a show that is so comically diverse and quirky such as Children's Hospital?
Whenever we would do a parody or theme episode, which happened pretty frequently in the later seasons especially, I had to start over from scratch.  New themes, palette, language, etc.  So to maintain the typically hectic schedule of TV scoring without being able to rely on anything I had written prior was a unique challenge, especially since those episodes also frequently had more score than a “regular” episode.  It was a challenge I was happy to have though, and looking back on it, I’d say that had the biggest influence in helping me grow as a composer.  Having to suddenly write in a new style, or parody a particular score, forced me to absorb what made that music so great in the first place.
Is there a difference in scoring for dark comedies like Spare Change versus comedies like A Better You?
Yes and no.  The key to both was to make sure the score kept the energy up and light, and save the heavy dramatic stuff for when the story really needed it, like the dark night of the soul or other low moments for the characters.  The score has to help the audience side with the characters no matter what.  So then I think the difference with a dark comedy is to try to get in the character’s head so even though they’re making what is really a terrible decision, like pretending to be homeless to make money in the case of Spare Change, the audience needs to still on board with that decision in the moment and a good score can help cement that.
Where can we find you online? and I’m @mattnovack on Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud and Facebook!
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