The lights are on
The composer for TV shows Battlestar Galactica, The Walking Dead, and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is at the helm for the music of the Defiance show and game. McCreary shares his thoughts on game scoring in our exclusive interview.
Anyone who is a fan of speculative fiction television has probably had the opportunity to enjoy Bear McCreary’s innovative and evocative scoring. His background includes both game and television music, so it’s a great fit to have him crafting music for the upcoming Defiance project, which will roll out in both formats.
Earlier this week, we offered a glimpse at the game through our interview with producer Rob Hill, and more about the show through our conversation with visual effects supervisor Gary Hutzel. Today we shine the spotlight on Bear McCreary, both to learn more about his upcoming Defiance score, and his background working on other fan-favorite projects.
Game Informer: Tell me a little bit about your role on Defiance.
McCreary: Well, I am composing the musical underscore for the game as well as the musical underscore for the series, and also crafting a number of themes and other stylistic bridges that will connect the world of the show with the world of the game so that viewers and gamers will have the feeling that they’re in the same universe. And that’s something that music can really help with on a powerful, subconscious level.
I wonder if you can tell me a little bit about your background in music and composition, in working in science fiction, and in working in soundtrack work.
I’ll try to tell you a little [laughs]. There’s a lot to cover. I have always loved science fiction, and I’ve always loved movie music. And so, of course science fiction music was always something that I was really excited about, even as a kid.
I came down here to Los Angeles to go to school to study film scoring at the University of Southern California, and I worked very closely with Elmer Bernstein, one of the most famous film composers of all time. His sci-fi cred includes movies like Ghostbusters and Heavy Metal, so it was really a dream come true working for him. Shortly thereafter I began working for a composer named Richard Gibbs, and that led to me being the composer for Battlestar Galactica. So I found myself at the age of 24 having been out of school for about a little more than a year, scoring a television show on the Sci Fi Channel that would end up becoming, in my opinion, one of the most influential and important science fiction shows of the decade, if not arguably for all time.
So that was really exciting for me being involved in that period, and being involved in a genre that I’ve always loved.
What were some of the scores or who were some of the composers that you recall being really fond of when you were younger?
The scores would include Alan Silvestri’s Back to the Future, Jerry Goldsmith’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture, a lot of early Danny Elfman work was very influential on me, Basil Poledouris’ Conan the Barbarian. There were so many great genre scores in that time period.
It was really a wonderful time to be growing up and discovering all this stuff, because you basically couldn’t go to the movies without hearing a masterful piece of orchestral music written by guys of this caliber.
And John Williams, and Elmer Bernstein, and John Barry, guys like this would contribute these really powerful pieces of music to movies, sometimes, that were not good movies.
But the scores were always fantastic and that always caught my view, so I found myself, even in third, fourth and fifth grade, I would go to a movie with my friends, and we would walk out of the movie and all my friends would be talking about how great the action was, or how cute the chick was, and I would be commenting on the way that Jerry Goldsmith orchestrated the French horns, or turned a melody upside down. And my friends look at me like I was speaking another language. This was a layer of the movie watching experience that they were not aware of. So ever since I was a kid I was really dialed into movie music and listening to it very critically, so really, I think looking back on those experiences, it’s not a surprise that it ended up being my profession.
What convinced you to come on board with the Defiance project?
There are so many things about this project that are exciting and appealing. I knew right away that I wanted to be involved. First and foremost, I heard that Syfy [Channel] and Trion [Worlds] were developing this project together, and really wanting to create a shared universe. I knew right away that this was something I wanted to be involved in because this is the kind of thinking that I bring to everything that I do; I always try to write character themes that are memorable, and I use instrumentation that is specific so that when you hear the music that I’ve written for a project, you know immediately what project you’re experiencing, so this is just a continuation of that kind of idea. It’s so exciting to be able to work on different sides of the same universe.
I got in touch with the people that I knew were working on the show, and I expressed my enthusiasm, and expressed how important I thought music could be in a project of this caliber.
And then the second main reason is that there were so many of my friends from Battlestar Galactica getting involved with the show, and Caprica as well, so when Kevin Murphy became the show runner – I had a great experience working with him on Caprica. It felt very much like this incredibly challenging group of people were reuniting once more, and I just had to be a part of that.
To work with these people on a science fiction series and a science fiction world, I would leap at that opportunity any day of the week, and then the fact that I also got to work on a video game and help create this online universe, that was even more exciting.
It seems like a lot of the kind of core people connected to Battlestar have crossed over onto this project. Is that a fair characterization?
I know that it is. I can see Syfy running interviews with Kevin Murphy, saying that as part of their marketing campaigns. I know it’s very safe for me to say that it is. But it’s true, and I think the thing that is so appealing for most of those people, and truly I can only speak for myself, with Battlestar, we collectively – we were reinventing something that already existed. And the fact that we took so many liberties with it, totally, ultimately is what made it so successful, but it also made it very challenging because a lot of people were coming to that series with preconceived notions for better or worse about what it was to be.
And the idea with Defiance, that we are creating a new universe from scratch, is very appealing. I might even step back further and just say, in the modern environment of the entertainment business, how many times do you get to work on something brand new? How many times do you get to work on a show, or a movie, or a game, that does not have a sequel, or reboot, or reimagining associated with it? It’s pretty rare. So the idea that we would be able to be involved with a science fiction world that is as expansive as Defiance was incredibly appealing.
I know that was one of the things that drew me into it. I imagine that was a factor for a lot of the Battlestar alumni as well.
[Next up: What sets Defiance apart?]
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