Q: First off, what career path and decisions were taken until you finally started scoring films in 1986, with "Chopping Mall?
A: I have to go way back to the late-1960s when influences from Morricone and Leone inspired me to make my own movies on regular 8mm film. I made 12 movies from 8th grade thru 12th grade. They ranged from 15 to 45 minutes in length. I didn't have sync-sound capabilities so I used recorded film music to create the sound tracks. This is when I learned to understand how sound manipulates the picture in movies. Upon graduating high school I landed a job running a public access TV studio in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania where I created daily live local TV programming for 6 years straight. It was at this time I met Jim Wynorski who lived nearby in Sea Cliff, New York. We had identical tastes in music and once I started visiting him regularly he became a source of unheard-of Ennio Morricone and Jerry Goldsmith cues. He was, and still is the ultimate film score collector. When he would visit me in Stroudsburg, at the studio, he enjoyed listening to film score-style music I composed on a little synthesizer setup and he would take home tapes to add to his collection. We both moved to Los Angeles in the late 1970s. I got a job directing and editing TV commercials. Jim began working for Roger Corman's company. In 1986 I was directing Shadoe Stevens in his "Federated" TV commercials Jim was making his fist movie. "Killbots" was his second movie, and when he asked me to do the score I was blown away. I used Shadoe's recording studio to score my first movie.
Q: The beginning of scoring films must've been very new and exciting. The electronic, campy score for Chopping Mall" really sets the mood for the entire film. How do you feel about the outcome concerning that film's score?
A: Scoring "Chopping Mall" aka "Killbots" was a magical experience. All that doodling around on synthesizers for so many years had paid off in a new career. I found it came rather naturally too - part of me was born to compose music, the other part wouldn't come out for many years.
Q: I noticed that you were credited on The Internet Movie Database as composing the 1980 Vanna White film, "Gypsy Angels," which I've never seen. Is this a false claim or are you too embarrassed to include it on your composer filmography on your site?
A: It's not there? Yes, it IS there. Check it again. The one I'm embarrassed about is one called "Alienator". I scored the original movie but once the movie was sold the distributor replaced my score with new music. They were so cheap they didn't bother to change the opening titles and left my name intact. When I saw and heard it on cable TV a few months ago I hit the roof - the new score they put in was dreadful (sorry new uncredited composer, but it's true) and MY name is on it!
Q: What steps are usually taken in preparing scores, and how long does it normally take to complete them?
A: On these low budget movies things can happen rather quickly. Most mainscream composers get from five weeks to several months to create a full score for a movie. I would get from 2 to 4 weeks to do an entire movie soundtrack. One of the movies I scored for Fred Olen Ray only took 5 days because that was all the time they gave me. Talk about single-fingered purity.
Q: What do you think have been some of your most challenging projects (scoring, directing, producing, etc.)?
A: All the scoring was challenging, but it never pushed me to the brink of creative burnout. My most challenging project was the movie my wife and I have recently completed, "Baberellas". I directed, edited, sound mixed and did the 25 minutes of visual effects in the movie myself.
Q: Many of your collaborations include such filmmakers as Jim Wynorski, Fred Olen Ray, and Roger Corman. Are any of them close, personal friends, and do you have any particular favorites you like to work with?
A: Jim is still a close personal friend. We still have the same musical tastes even though I havn't scored original music for him in a while. We still work together -- I've been his DP on several digital movies, and Fred is a friend as well.
Q: What can you tell me about your involvement with the Killer Klowns music video for the Dickies? I always loved that movie...
A: The Chiodo Bros. wanted a retro mood for "Killer Klowns from Outer Space" so I was first hired to create all the 'klown' sounds and ambiences. Once the movie was ready for distribution they brought me in again to direct and edit the music video. I love editing, so when it came to shooting new footage with the Dickies and editing it with footage from the film - I was in seventh heaven! It was a blast from start to finish.
Q: I loved the score for "Teenage Exorcist!" I always get that stuck in my head… Do you have any good stories relating to scoring the film or anything like that?
A: When they screened the movie for the cast and crew the producers chose a beautiful theater and pulled out all the stops when it came to Hollywood glitz. People showed up in costumes - the female stars poured out of limos in skimpy outfits - there were even searchlights outside the theater. Best of all were the zombies
Q: Evil Toons" is one of my favorite campy b-movies, and the score is amazingly awesome!! What do you have to say about this film and its closely related counterpart, "Witch Academy" (originally "Little Devils")?
A: I always tried to sound as orchestral as possible with the equipment and time I had at hand. The comedic "Evil Toons" and "Little Devils" were sort of a transition into the children's music I would later do. I re-used the theme from "Little Devils" for the end titles of my TV series, Weird TV. Fred Olen Ray is a hoot to work with. During the 'spotting' of Fred's movies we would chat for two hours while the vhs tape of the movie played. By the time it was over, and his cigar was an inch long, I knew exactly what he wanted in the way of music. The main theme is always important to him so I would compose that first.
Q: The two movies that are given dedication on the site, "Sorority House Massacre 2" and "Hard to Die," definitely have memorable scores that will stick with me and many other fans forever. Please tell me all you can about what it was like doing the two films. Were you aware that the two films were somehow related in story synopsis, actors, film crew, etc.?
A: Jim always figures - if a movie works the first time around the sequel should follow the same story beats. When he told me to rehash the first ("Sorority..") score for "Hard to Die" I saw the brilliance of repeating the musical beats as well. The main bass piano themeatic riff was inspired by Bernard Herrmann's 'newsreel montage' music from "The Day the Earth Stood Still".
Q: I remember clearly seeing your name popping up on the opening credits for "976-EVIL 2" and my ecstatic self getting excited that you had done the music for the film. You see, I grew up with many of the movies you gave such wonderful music. What are some of your childhood influences and present inspirations that aid you in your work?
A: Ennio Morricone's spaghetti western scores were my first influences. I also loved Ron Grainer's "The Prisoner" theme and his score for "The Omega Man". Johnny Williams' scores for the Irwin Allen TV producitons were always a favorite but I never had the nerve to immulate them. Presently, I am old enough to influece myself.
Q: The "Munchie" movies were cute, campy flicks for me as a child, and I've always wondered what it's like for a composer to make such a big transition from what they're usually accustomed to. Tell me, what is it like going from horror to kiddie flicks in scoring films?
A: I love doing kid's entertainment and I've always been close to it, i.e. my children's TV directing work. When it came to "Munchie's" music Jim dredged up an old cassette of original themes I had writtten when we still lived back east, a good decade away from my scoring years, and asked me to re-invent one of those old themes. I had a great time expanding on an idea created ten years previous.
Q: Another rarity for you in scoring films is erotic films such as "Sorceress," "Sorceress 2," and "Virtual Desire." Is that a very different atmosphere for you, compared to your usual work?
A: In these films I was allowed to let out the 'twisted' side. Jim was creating worlds where I would never go personally -- the main characters were liars, cheaters and murderers -- so Jim got the darker side of my muse.
Q: What are some of your favorite film composers, filmmakers, movies, and music?
A: Best Movie: "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly" is my all-time favorite film -- I mean, it's not a movie to me. It's more like cosmic history lesson I dreamed in childhood -- it magically appeared on film in the late 1960s. Best Director: Now that Hitchcock, Kubrick and Leone are gone I think its hard to say there is a 'best director' catagory in my mind anymore. But if you asked me who I thought was making the most 'important' movies I would have to say Michael Moore. Film Composers: Morricone and Goldsmith with a sprinkling of Grainer, Bernstein, Herrmann, Williams and Barry are my faves. Best Band: Pink Floyd, Moody Blues, Vangelis, Alice Cooper and the Buggles are pop artists I have listened to on a continuing basis for two or three decades. All of the artists mentioned rely heavily on themes in their music.
Q: Another film profiled on the site is the upcoming "Cheerleader Massacre," the fourth installment in the "Slumber Party Massacre" series. Did your involvement with the film only entail the job as director of photography, or did you jazz things up with your own score as well? How do you feel about the outcome of this particular film?
A: This movie ranks high on the 'teenagers die bloody deaths' chart -- and its a true story. I had fun shooting it - many days and nights in a driving blizzard wearing only shorts and a steady-cam. Jim only had half a script when we started shooting and the rest appeared magically in latin scrawled in the snow -- devine providence. Even the PAs had fun -- when they were not on runs for extreme survival gear.
Q: How do you feel about "Barbellas" and some of your more recent projects? Anything coming up that you're really excited about?
A: My wife, Alexia, and I are very excited about our movie, "Baberellas". The film took me over a year to finish because of all the visual effects. Music is by Hydraulic Clown Head, Terranova, John Morgan and myself. "Baberellas" been received well in the preliminary screenings we've had. It's just wacked-out fun for mindless times. We call it our 'sci-fi titty rave' - 'boobies and spaceships'. Two years ago I figured we needed a new movie in the tradition of "Flesh Gordon", so here it is.
Q: What advice can you give aspiring film composers and people in related fields of work? It's all in the networking.
A: You can have all the talent in the world, but if you don't know how to socialize, LEARN.
Q: Anything you'd like to add?
A: Thank God for people like yourself who keep alive the spirit of the B-movie. We need more of you.
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