Rock Star Composers Electrify The Crowd At WonderCon 2017 Panel “From Stage To Screen”
-- Celebrity moderators Stephanie Corneliussen (Mr. Robot) and Amber Midthunder (Legion) follow six rock stars, and their transition into film and television composing --
April 1, 2017
(Anaheim, CA) – Some of the most talented composers in film & television came together at WonderCon 2017 to discuss their transitions from soaring on stages, to rocking the screen for audiences across the world. With diverse backgrounds, from industrial rock forerunners Nine Inch Nails, to alternative rock/post-grunge legends Tonic, the composers drew a packed crowd for the opening panel of Saturday morning. The panelists consisted of Jeff Russo (Fargo, Legion), Charlie Clouser (Saw, Wayward Pines), Mac Quayle (Mr. Robot, American Horror Story), Siddhartha Khosla (This Is Us), Jeff Cardoni (Training Day, Silicon Valley), and Alec Puro (The Fosters, Sweet/Vicious). The panel was also moderated by celebrity guests Stephanie Corneliussen (Mr. Robot, D.C’s Legends of Tomorrow) and Amber Midthunder (Legion, Hell or High Water).
The panel began by first exploring what prompted these six musicians to put their respective band careers on hold and enter the realms of composing. "The Saw movies came from strange remixes that I had done for Nine Inch Nails. But the director had used them in the early versions of the Saw movies,” explained Charlie, before remarking “and 14 years later here we are.” Mac Quayle discussed his work as a touring musician and producer, saying that in the early 2000’s, “the music industry saw its first down year in sales, and I realized it was time to find something new. I toyed with the idea of film & TV composing and began reaching out to composers I admired. I wanted to learn from people who had a similar style to what I wanted to be doing.” For Jeff Cardoni, meanwhile, the scoring opportunity came about during much more dire circumstance; “I played in a band trying to get signed and met a music supervisor. The band failed miserably, so I was thrilled by my first big composing break, which was CSI Miami,” he said.
Next, the questions shifted more towards the struggles that come with handling the vast array of episodes, and multiple shows at once. “You try to keep fresh, but it is difficult to try and make things different,” explained Jeff Russo, “fortunately, because the projects I’ve been able to work on have such a unique creative identity, it's almost like every episode it comes up with the music on its own." Alec Puro felt similarly, emphasizing an approach that also looked at the project from a holistic perspective; "My approach, no matter the genre, is trying to come up with the best thematic notes for the show. The composition is the most important part for me," he told the audience.
The questions also gave the artists opportunity to meditate on the fluidity of their musical journey, and how they draw on band experience in their current shows. Siddhartha Khosla discussed the origin of his highly successful original song for This Is Us, “We Can Always Come Back To This”- which has been on top of the Blues Billboard chart for over a month; “I come from much more of a songwriter background, and I think that when I’m brought onto a show, its creators are very much aware of that,” he told the audience. “And so, it’s not unusual for them to provide the opportunity for some original songs. With This Is Us, I knew that I was working on a show with such a high bar of quality, and such an intelligent audience, that when I created “We Can Always Come Back To This,” I really felt like I could put my all into it, and write a really beautiful mo-town meditation on death, and what comes after.”
The panel concluded with a series of questions from the audience, which gave the panelists a chance to talk about their personal favorite shows (for Jeff Russo, Siddhartha Khosla, and Charlie Clouser, they were The A Team, Twin Peaks, and Scooby Doo, respectively), followed by a long argument over the merits of Pro-Tools vs Logic. Finally, the panel ended with a question of how – as they’ve moved from project to project, and faced innumerable obstacles – they have all managed to keep up the faith in their craft. For Charlie, he candidly admitted, “I always just managed to keep music as a way to avoid doing anything that felt like real work,” he explained. For Jeff, however, it was less about constructive procrastination, and more about sheer faith in the craft; “you need to believe in what you’re doing,” he explained, “otherwise there’s no way you’ll be able to overcome all the challenges this job will throw at you.”