Recording Helios...

This album of music designed for sci-fi film trailers was recorded at LA East Studios in Salt Lake City, Utah. The recording engineer, Marc Daniel Nelson, also produced this short video about the project. I have heard about this studio for many years, but never had the opportunity to record here until recently. The room itself sounds livelier and brighter than it looks (given all the wood), and it definitely sounds great, but the people that run this place are what make it truly special.


Composing The Landing…

This film was shot in two main parts. The black and white scenes covering the event that the story centers around were shot 25 years ago, in 1991. The documentary style portions of the film, using the same actors (much like Boyhood), were shot in late 2015 and early 2016.


The black and white scenes were scored with analog synthesizers, most of them vintage: 3 different Moogs, a Prophet 5, a modern drone synth, and a Swarmatron were all heavily employed to evoke a period-specific sense of danger and the unknown. Many of the cues in these scenes subtly blend acoustic instruments, like Accordion or Bells, into the musical environment to give that sense of potential danger the feeling that it is closer to becoming a reality.


The modern documentary footage was scored primarily with themes on the Piano and Pipe Organ, but regularly integrated the analog synth textures as a backdrop onto which the more traditional documentary themes play. I often used a very long-tailed reverb on only the melodic notes of the piano themes in order to provide a constant awareness of space, and the consequences the trip into space has had on the lives of the characters.


The Hauptwerk Pipe Organ was used to add a bit of gravitas to some of the piano cues early in the film by being a pedal tone only, and as the film progresses, is used more overtly as a way to draw attention to the existential problems that the main character causes for his fellow crew members. Near the end of the film, the conciliatory Piano is gone, and I used two counter-tenors and a men's choir with the Organ to write, in the director's words, "a eulogy of the American justice system". 

An additional part of this film's musical requirements were that we needed to rerecord John Phillip's classic 60's folk-pop anthem "San Francisco". Knowing that the recording had to be authentic, I began searching for an artist or band that already embodied these folk pop sensibilities. Fortunately, my friend and sometimes music supervisor, Tanya Porter, pointed me in the direction of King Washington. Not only did they sound perfect for this upon first listen, but they were from LA. Soon after meeting them, we booked East West Studios, Studio 3 (where it was originally recorded with Scott McKenzie), and recorded our version, which you can hear in three places throughout the film.

It was an amazing experience given the unusual combination of musicianship, passion, and just plain luck involved in getting this done!