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Interview with: Dean Parker [Composer]

Dean Parker

[2vs8]: Tell us a little of your music career, how did you get started?

I studied classical guitar and music theory at school and the conservatorium and this was a foundation. I formed rock bands and played in other peoples bands in Newcastle, Australia. I was writing songs form an early age and did a stint as a singer songwriter for several years in my 20s. I have always been interested in conceptual art. At university I studied drama and found employment with local theaters companies writing music and creating sound designs. I was self-studying a library of composers mostly the 20th century group of Schoenberg, Messiaen, Shostakovich, Bartok, Glass, Xenakis, Webern, Berg, Penderecki, Arvo Part, Cage, Babbitt. I was writing a lot of serial compositions - I still like serial compositions. Not so much now but back then I often seemed to be departing in musical directions and exploring this direction as much as I could. Where many musicians and composers find a genre (they are good at) and stick to it I explored down different musical roads - all styles - folk, rock, blues, jazz, country, contemporary. I never picked out film scoring composers in particular but I liked the bold and memorable scores of Xenakis, Barry, Morricone. I started writing music for video designs I was creating for theater. In 1998 in New York I started assisting Carter Burwell in New York.

[2vs8]: With the score for "The Cry" being released from "Howlin' Wolf Records", how did the process start from meeting the director Bernadine Santistevan to scoring and finally produced?

I was introduced to Bernadine by writer and director Lisa France. The music score for “The Cry” has two periods of creation. First off the film was an urban psychological suspense thriller. I finished the score this way. I think it was a few weeks later Bernadine decided to go back to edit the film and refocus the movie. The film changed a lot in this process and I then re-scored the film. Some intrinsic elements of the music stayed in the new score and some significant new elements were created. The film was now an adult horror story. I made some vocalized sampled instruments from Bernadine’s voice, played a lot of guitar and bass, recorded some percussion and mixed most of the music in my home studio. For this second scoring of “The Cry” there was never any reason for the music to be anything other than as tension filled and fear inducing as possible.

[2vs8]: Much of your career has been working with Composer Carter Burwell [True Grit, Twilight Saga] how did this come-about and how does it feel to be working with one of most well-known composers of the last 20 years?

That is true. Most of my early work was in a fringe sort of avant-garde bohemian theatrical world. I was performing, writing and producing at a level most people encounter only if they go looking for it. Carter was looking for an assistant and we crossed paths in New York via an ad Carter had placed in the Village Voice. I got the impression he was looking far and wide for someone to assist him. He offered me the job and for a few years I sort of tried out the job and continued to live in New York city and was pretty pleased that it seemed like I had made a place for myself in the Big Apple. I was not that sure the job was really a job or that I would stay in New York. I don’t think much about working with such a well-known composer as most of my time is spent solving immediate and long term logistical, producing and technical issues that arise from one film score to the next. With regard to Carter’s acclaimed career for myself I am pleased to be contributing to music and helping to producing work that I feel is genuine.

[2vs8]: Outside of composing and working with composers, what else do you do either for fun or work.. or both?

I am often involved in musical or theatrical projects - composing, sound designing or performing. I have recently directed some plays. I perform in bands now and then. I have an alter ego called The Bass Player From Handjob who has a small book of original poetry called “Splitting Hairs” and I get the chance now and then to perform this brief act in some downtown New York venues. I like to have some kind of live performance in my life. I dig the immediacy of life on stage. I like the rehearsal process. Creating film scores is about going back over and over again until something is just right, or at least just as the director wants it. On stage life takes on a physically direct experience. Performing is a mental, physical and creative task I like that.

[2vs8]: Are you hoping to see more of your score work come to being released maybe with the help from "Howlin' Wolf Records"?

Sure. The joy with the score to “The Cry” comes from the effort Wall Crumpler and Bernadine Santistevan put into producing the work. When Wall approached me to release the score at first I thought that the score was so purpose specific to the film I did not know what it would be like as soundtrack. But Wall acted as a fine producer and did the hard work of listening to a large amount of material I sent him - score, outtakes, sketches, alternate themes - and guided me with suggestions as to what to include and how to best present the music. Also Wall knows the horror score genre and I feel I have a fantastic score released.

[2vs8]: Music makes the movie come alive, what score would be playing for background music in your life?

Can I choose outside of film scores? Nothing is background music in my life. Some moments AC/DC and other moments the most experimental compositions by the serial composers.

[2vs8]: What is the biggest misconception of working within the film industry?

Challenging question epistemologically. Film itself is a misconception of truth. There is no truth in film yet the task of the film it seems to me is to compel the audience to keep watching and to “believe” what they are seeing and hearing. Even before that the task of the film is to make an audience feel they should come to watch, enjoy or escape one’s own self designed conscious thoughts with this spectacle of a movie. I think film achieves this by somehow attempting to deliver a kind of truth - but there is no truth. The biggest misconception I have experienced is that the film industry can at times present a piety about the truth contained in the film that is a misconception - perhaps a marketed and planned misconception. I feel the film industry is truly only concerned with the survival of the film industry. Most of us working in the film industry seem to be there by choice and for that I am grateful. I should qualify these statements to experiences in the business perhaps known as "the industry" which is maybe motivated differently to a truly independent film. Also I think that I had from my early years an idealistic view of movies, movie stars and the meaning of life and my understanding of the truth is currently non-material (supernatural) and a film is in the end a material replication of some creative thoughts.

[2vs8]: What are your thoughts on music/scores with a "download only" option from companies will this hurt the music industry?

I don’t think so but I am not a music distributor. The music industry has been reshaped by the world wide web over the last 15 years but it seems to finding a new footing. Apparently the “single” song release is making a comeback as downloaders can now choose just a song or two they like. This seems good as I always liked the greater risks and creativity that writers and composers seemed to enlist to create a great single.

[2vs8]: Who inspires you?

There are so many. I like each day to have inspiration in it. Life is good I am inspired by whoever I am with at the time.

[2vs8]: The last score or musical artist you listened too that you would recommend?

In the car today after four songs from The Backyardigans who I and my two sons like I listened to Morricone “The Battle Of Algiers.”

[2vs8]: What is next... life, music, personally?

I have an interest in cartomancy. Coming up musically is the score for Bernadine’s next film “Wolf Dog.” I feel the score offers a great opportunity to combine a strong melody with some thematic textures. I hope this is the perfect combination to produce a great piece of music. Later in the year I will assist Carter Burwell on the next Twilight saga film called “Breaking Dawn.”


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Looking forward to your picks for the blogfest on Monday!

Unknown said...

Terrific interview. I love his comment on film being a misconception of truth.

I am excited about The Cry and will have to check out this score. It sounds wildly different.

Unknown said...

YhI am glad to know my old friend is alive and well.