Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Q&A with composer Jim Dooley

Jim Dooley is an Emmy award winning composer who has worked on numerous film and tv scores. He worked on many film projects with the famous Hans Zimmer but his first major solo project was doing the entire score for (the sadly short lived but totally awesome tv show) Pushing Daisies. He also scored the music for the brand new animated series Neighbors From Hell which airs Monday nights at 10/9c on TBS. Currently, he's composing the music for the upcoming animated feature film Dorthy of Oz. He's a great composer and I recommend you get better acquainted with him and his work. Luckily for you, Mr. Dooley was kind enough to answer some questions for ATFG about his musical influences and projects.

Q&A after the jump!

Can you tell us a little bit about how you got into music, specifically scoring?

I got into music rather early--had guitar lessons courtesy of the folks who wanted to build discipline in their wild son. And there was one moment I remember clearly in high school, it was [during] a short film a friend of mine made, he was throwing a cue ball down the halls of our school to the music from Danny Elfman's score to Batman. And I was like, "This is the greatest music I've ever heard in my life, I've got to find out who this is" and obviously it was Elfman and I was like "Film music? Cool." So I went to the CD rack, saw Batman, and said "What else has this guy done? Pee-Wee's Big Adventure!" and I fell in love. From that day on, I knew it was what I wanted to do. 

I think most composers can pick the film score that brought the art form into consciousness. For me it was Danny Elfman's score to Batman.

Can you tell us more about the importance of listening to other composers and having musical influences?

I studied a lot [of music] and go to hear the Los Angeles Philharmonic seasonally. There is a lot of great music out there to learn from. I think it makes for a stronger composer. For example, great writers are usually very well read. You need to expand your musical vocabulary just as a writer would learn their words. The wider the palette, the more colors you can make. If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

What do you think of Hans Zimmer's music? What is he like in person?

Hans is an amazingly talented composer. His strength to [score] pictures is matched by few. He, I believe, is the biggest supporter of young composers in the world. I think that is clear when you think about how many people have come from his studio.

You’ve composed for so many different projects: video games, animated films, live-action films, and tv. Do you have a preference?

I really enjoy doing animation. I like doing children's projects for some bizarre reason. I should probably ask a psychiatrist about that! You can be more honest and emotional in children's animation. Scoring First Flight for Cameron Hood and Kyle Jefferson was one of the most fulfilling projects I've ever worked on. I went with my instinct and it was bang on!

How was it working on Pushing Daisies?

Working with Bryan Fuller and the whole crew was an incredible experience. I won an Emmy for my music on Pushing Daisies so it will always be a project that’s very close to me. The show definitely got canceled too early but will hopefully live on through the fans and the comic book.

What is your favorite part of scoring Neighbors From Hell?

My favorite part of scoring Neighbors From Hell is the fact that I get to play the guitar. I’ve been playing guitar since high school, but my heavy metal chops haven’t been dusted off for quite some time. Overall, it’s been a great experience because the producers gave me the creative freedom of suggesting where I thought the music should go.

What makes the Neighbors From Hell main title so unique and different from other music you've written?

For the main title I was directed to make it Sherwood Schwartz-style which are those classic catchy titles from the 70's that told you in 30 seconds exactly what the show was about--such as Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch. I’m proud of this one because it quickly gives a great sense of the overall mood and characters in a really fun comedic way driven by another catchy song. It’s country meets heavy metal which from the first beat the producers liked. Normally, we go back and forth between ideas but from the first play they liked it so it stuck.

Can you tell us about your approach for writing the music to the upcoming Dorothy of Oz film?

There is no way to outdo the original 1939 Wizard of Oz; you can’t beat those songs and that score. But with Dorothy of Oz I am musically trying to honor that creativity and legacy. I wanted to make this score not so polished but more edgy. I am also getting to do some songwriting for the first time which is exciting for me.

I thank Jim Dooley for taking the time to answer these questions and look forward to hearing more of his music in the future! I encourage you to learn more about him and his work by visiting his website here.


EruditeChick said...

Great interview! I loved the music in Pushing Daisies...<3 <3 <3