Myouterspace.com Top 10 Final Composers Talk Creating "Out of This World" Music for "The Zenoids"
Thu, 22 Dec 2011 11:45:25
On his phenomenal online sci-fi community, MyOuterspace.com, William Shatner is hosting a contest for an up-and-coming composer to write the theme song to the animated series The Zenoids. Completely a brilliant move on the site's part, the contest engages young musicians to get creative as they further immerse themselves into this world. Now, it's down to ten finalists, and we decided to ask them a very important question…
We asked each of the ten, "What makes your composition out-of-this-world?" They gave their answers below…
Blast off to MyOuterspace.com now to find out more.
Greg Gordon Smith
I just tried to come up with something melodic, memorable, and slightly zany. I wanted to capture the personalities of the characters, the tone of the animation, and of course pay homage to the great animated space/sci-fi themes. I hope what I did was out of this world!
The Amoeba People are both honored and flattered to be considered alongside such great musicians and composers. What makes our composition for The Zenoids out-of-this-world is the fact that we, ourselves, are quite literally out-of-this-world. We come from the planet Crouton in the star system Ensalda—whose other planets include Arugula, Endive, Romaine, Iceberg, Radicchio, and Imitation Bacon Bit whose planetary status was recently revoked. So while we were stationed on Earth when we wrote and recorded this theme, our musical DNA is distinctly extraterrestrial and, by extension, our composition is out-of-this-world!
Answer—One huge Pro Tools session! My session had 30 tracks along with my Reason plug-in, which had an additional 14 tracks. Lots of live guitars were in the mix as well. I also used a bunch of cool sounds from Native Instruments and Toontrack that I custom tweaked to match the specific scenes in the video. Since this was for a Sci-Fi cartoon about extraterrestrial rockers, I wanted a combo of synthetic sounds and real heavy guitars with a dash of fun like The Matrix meets Ren & Stimpy. My goal was to address all of the action in the video whilst maintaining a catchy theme. The animation indicates that something fun and big is about to happen and I wanted the music to capture that in an "out of this world" way!
I guess the best place to start would be the lack of traditional boundaries on the piece. Once I had the main melodic idea down, I decided to just go with my gut and not be bound by the constraints of a song, or even genre. The result was a mash up of several different instruments that don't usually end up in a room together—all cruising along a slightly frantic big-band trajectory with a sci-fi twist. It's an odd combination, but I felt like it ended up very cohesive by the end. Regardless of the technical aspects, the overarching factor for the piece was quite frankly just good fun. I had a great time letting the piece run its course and am very thankful to be among such great music in the top ten.
First, two words: Melissa Kaplan (AKA Universal Hall Pass). She is just an absolutely amazing vocalist and her performance on the track was awesome. She gets booked a lot for games and films by composers and always brings something special to the table. Secondly, I believe that my approach of combining four elements : A tune, scoring key hit points in the action of the animation, adding some key sound effects, and the big finish with the melody climbing the scale "Hang…in…with…the…Zenoids" made the execution the most complete and memorable. The Lyrics are audible, comprehensible, simple, and catchy. What else are we doing as we're about to watch this show? We're going to be hangin' with William Shattner's Zenoids family and havin' fun and few laughs. So this tune will get everyone ready and pumped up to hang with the Zenoids! Finally, my decision to use only modern synth sounds for all instruments, drums, bass, keys, etc. along with Melissa's breathy harmonies underneath the main vocal makes this track unique, futuristic, spacey, fun, and appropriate for this sci-fi series.
As inspiration for my theme I tried to channel "Jet Screamer" from an old episode of The Jetsons. He was Judy's space-rock boyfriend with the hit song "Eep Opp Ork Ah Ah". I loved that song as a kid, so I went for a more modern Jet Screamer (with a little more attitude) and what his band might sound like today; in my mind that's probably what the Zenoids sound like.
My composition combines two musical styles to take the viewer out of this world and into the glamorous, adventurous world of the Zenoids. With hints of a traditional sci-fi film score, poking through a rock-inspired main theme, I hoped to create a fitting introduction to the world of an alien rock star family!
I wouldn't presume that our entry is better or more "out-of-the-world" than the others, as the Top 10 is made up of incredible entries. It's just a tremendous privilege even to have been considered among the Top 40, much less the Top 10. However, I can say what I—along with my mates in my band Bobgoblin—tried to bring to our track for the theme of The Zenoids that would help take it "out-of-this-world." My personal style as a composer, and our conceptual style as a band, already leans to what my friend Joey Cape of Lagwagon called "Science-Fictive." Even when writing rock tunes - where my main goal, after making the song totally rock, is to convey a coherent message with a hook that brings the listener into the whole environment of the song - I bring "other-worldly" influences like Stravinsky, Bartok, David Bowie, Wendy Carlos, Gary Newman, Stanley Kubrick, and Jerry Goldsmith to the table, even if it's on a very subconscious level. That being case, it's easy to see why doing this theme was right up my band's and my own asteroid corridor. Like many of our BOBGOBLIN tunes, our composition tries to go big right off the top, with a "glittery," top-end sparkle that accentuates the star-dusted environment seen at the beginning of The Zenoids open animation, and a bottom-end punch that lets the viewer know that we're about to take off on a big, rocket-fueled adventure! To go along with the rock base, I dug into my TV-composer tool chest to add some symphonic elements - horns, strings, flutes, oboes, timpani, orchestra cymbals - that would help the opening of the theme have that science-fiction blockbuster feel. After that, it's off to the space race, with a melody that - like I imagine our heroes in The Zenoids might - travels from one star on the far end of the staff to the other while trying to maintain a cohesive heading in space. On the way to warp speed, where our hook comes in, the melody coasts for a bit to enjoy the galactic scenery and, as cued by the open animation, get a glimpse at the romantic side of The Zenoids. Turning to the trusty ride cymbal, the glistening guitar arpeggios, and the soaring background vocals, done in a way that I do think is unique to our particular capabilities, helps make that section special. Then it's to warp speed, bringing all the elements together - the "Science Fictive" BOBGOBLIN rock, the symphonic accents, and the full-harmonies of the chorus - supported by the big, go-to, space-age bass progression of root-to-flat-6th (see many John Williams symphonic scores....and Iron Maiden) to help send our rocket flaming into the galaxies. All of the compositions in the top 10 - and the top 40, for that matter - are very unique and deserving of being the final theme to The Zenoids, and chosen or not, we only hope that audiences enjoy our preferred epic-rock, power-pop take on The Zenoids theme to for at least as long as the contest goes on! It looks like it will be a fun, spaced-out show, and whether we're eventually involved or not, we'll be watching! Good luck to all!
I believe what makes my composition the most out of this world is the main hook and big ending. When I watched the video, and saw the energy that the animation had already without any music and I knew I wanted my music to be able to heighten that energy. I always knew I wanted it to end in a way that made the viewer feel excited. That's what makes my composition "out-of-this-world."
To ease viewers out of their everyday lives and into the alien world of the Zenoids, there’s no better transportation than the vehicle of music, the "language universal." In our theme song, to capture the Zenoids’ out-of-their-world trajectory from water-birthed creatures to cosmic explorers, we started with the lines: "Zenoids, rockin’ through the galaxy. Amphibinoids in outer space from undersea." Musically, those lines were accompanied by a high-energy "space-surf" groove to add excitement and a sense of adventure. This is a science fiction comedy, so we also wanted to convey the interstellar mood in a fun way –enter glockenspiel and accordion, which provided a nostalgic-yet-spacey complement to Ziri’s romantic interlude in the clip. We love the animated scene where Orbit morphs into an insect, but we decided it was more important to use that time for lyrically describing the Zenoids’ otherworldly and zany mission to sing with the stars on any stage, anywhere.
Who would you choose?