Greetings! ScoreKeeper here pulling over to the side of the road in order to relieve my enthusiasm for a shockingly sweet new horror score from BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (2004-2008) composer Bear McCreary.
BATTLESTAR GALACTICA is an increasingly popular television show on the Sci-Fi Network and many accredit its merits to McCreary’s stimulating approach he takes to scoring the series. After I interviewed Bear last year (http://www.aintitcool.com/node/23532) many fans were inquiring as to when they could expect to hear this relative neophyte’s talents exhibited in a feature film.
Enter REST STOP (2006).
Bear McCreary’s first feature film score is an amalgamation of country-bumpkin terror and heavy metallic folk music mixed with an alluring lyricism. Instead of utilizing a large (and loud) symphonic orchestra he scores the film with a small ensemble comprised of banjos, fiddles, accordions, mandolins, electric bass, percussion, and a hauntingly beautiful alto flute. With such a unique palette of colors, McCreary is able to weave these seemingly innocuous instruments into a tapestry of sonic terror that is surprisingly sinister.
This score is not the bag of cheap tricks that many other horror scores can be. Quite the contrary. When you lift the hood and check out the engine you’ll find two major musical ingredients at its core. The first is a psychotic banjo lick which sounds as if the instrument had been rusting away in somebody’s leaky barn for years. This frenetic single-note motive represents the evil antagonist referred to simply as the Driver. The second major component is a wraithlike melody performed by a gorgeous alto flute solo representing our lead female character, Nicole, who is the target of the maniacal Driver.
These two diametrically contrasting melodic fragments engage in a tumultuous dance of death exposed by its stark accompaniment. It’s a literal and more functional representation of the events unfolding onscreen aided by elements of surprise to keep it from becoming complacent.
The film was released on DVD earlier this year along with a soundtrack album by PlanR Soundtracks/Element1 Music (ABA0103). Bear composed the score along with the three songs featured in the motion picture. One of the songs, “All That Remains,” perked the ears of Edward James Olmos who incorporated it into an episode of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA that he directed entitled “Taking a Break From All Your Worries” from the third season.
Here is the track listing for the fifty-four minute soundtrack album for REST STOP:
1. “All That Remains” (performed by Raya Yarbrough)
2. “Lonely Woman” (performed by Bt4)
4. Nicole’s Private Demon
5. Road Rage
6. Tracy Kress
7. The Driver Closes In
8. An Officer’s Story
11. A Plea for Death
12. Searing Heat
13. Memories of Jesse
14. Gravely Mistaken Identity
15. Nicole Fights Back
16. Vicious Cycle
17. “Down Home Salvation” performed by The Rev. Buford “Buck” Davis and His Minstrel Singers
Bear writes in his own words about the score which appears in the liner notes:
“Removing the constraints and clichés of traditional horror film scoring, I enjoyed both the freedom and creative challenges that presented themselves. The Driver’s menacing banjo theme and Nicole’s haunting alto flute theme battle back and forth in the music as their conflict takes place onscreen. Each of the other bizarre characters also required distinct musical identities, ranging from the lyrical flugelhorn solo for the sheriff to the perverse gospel song for the creepy Winnebago family. At the same time – and despite all the screaming banjos and fiddles – the score had to frighten audiences without ever calling attention to itself. The music needed to emphasize and maintain that previous, terrifying illusion of all good scary movies: to convince you that it’s real.”
Although it’s easy to focus attention toward scores that will be heard by millions and paid for by billions, it’s always imperative to keep the spotlight moving in search of elusive gems. REST STOP is a modest film with a sensational score that might not have a chance to compete with its blockbusting brethren but nonetheless deserves its share of the spotlight. Fans of Bear McCreary who love his music in BATTLESTAR GALACTICA should certainly flock to hear his crafty score for REST STOP. Everyone else should follow suit just to see what all the hubbub is about.
In a genre that is saturated with the mundane and reeks of the uninspired, finding an imaginative, well-crafted new horror score is a task that is becoming alarmingly difficult. In a relatively short period of time, Bear McCreary has reinterpreted the art of scoring sci-fi with his innovative music for BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. Furthermore, It should not surprise anyone that he has managed a small claim in reshaping the way we hear horror with his score to REST STOP.
There is still so much more of the human psyche left to be explored with film music. I applaud Bear and anyone else who has the imagination, gumption, and sense of craft enough to set off on their own expeditions. Film music and the films they accompany only stand to improve while hopefully recruiting new ears along the way.
If you feel the need to stop driving for awhile and take a break, there’s an amazing score to be heard at the REST STOP…dead ahead.
I had the chance to chat with Bear about his score for REST STOP. Always the consummate artist, McCreary enjoys elaborating on his music which adds to the passion so keenly expressed in it.
ScoreKeeper: While your composing time was primarily occupied with scoring BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, were you receiving a lot of offers for feature films? What made you decide to choose REST STOP? Was it merely a timing decision or was there more to it?
Bear McCreary: I've had some really interesting movies come my way while scoring BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. The longer the show is out there, the more projects seem to come my way from filmmakers and producers who are die-hard BG fans. REST STOP was an easy choice, however. How often do you get a chance to write a sadistic, fucking-demented gospel/bluegrass song and score a horror film with banjos, fiddles and accordions?
SK: Can you elaborate on what makes an effective horror score? How did you incorporate this philosophy into REST STOP?
McCREARY: Horror is one of the toughest genres for composers to work in because it relies on the music more than anything else. A good drama or comedy will still work without music – perhaps not as effectively – but a horror film without music wouldn't even make sense. However, I think we've all heard the "bombastic-orchestral-chaotic-noise score" about a thousand times by now and it's getting pretty old. My general philosophy was to keep the score sparse and simple as often as possible. That way when the music needed to create a big scare, simpler and smaller musical gestures would be more effective.
SK: How did your process scoring REST STOP compare to scoring episodic television?
McCREARY: The beauty of doing a movie is that when it's done...you're finished! You don't have nineteen more to go, as is the case with each season of GALACTICA. Aside from that this film was a lot like BATTLESTAR GALACTICA which is also very dark and brooding.
SK: Can you elaborate on your choice of instrumentation. Must horror scores try to go bigger, louder, faster while you kept the music and ensemble relatively small and intimate. The alto flute is an especially choice instrument in this context.
McCREARY: The horror scores that I love are THE OMEN (1976), EVIL DEAD (1981), ALIEN (1979) – ALIEN 3 (1992) had a kick-ass score too – and others from that time. That music resonates because its melodic and lyrical, as well as terrifying where it needs to be. But melodic scoring just doesn't seem to happen anymore in horror.
Director John Shiban and I spent a long time discussing the music and it was clear from the beginning that he would let me have a little fun with this one. So, I used the classic horror films of the 70s and 80s as a model and wrote melodic music. The alto flute in particular was used for the heroine's theme; its warm and gentle tone set against the villain's banjo theme.
The instrumentation, though bizarre for a horror film, was an obvious choice. The heroine is trapped at a rest stop in the middle of nowhere stalked by a sadistic truck driver. So, the use of banjos, fiddles, mandolins and accordions made sense to me. Now getting those instruments to sound "scary" was a challenge but I'm thrilled with the result.
SK: What did you learn about yourself or the art of scoring films as a result of working on REST STOP?
McCREARY: I learned that banjos and fiddles can be scary. Good thing too. The next film I tackled a few short months later was WRONG TURN 2 (2007) starring Henry Rollins – which will be released in October – and while the score is very different in construction, you'll hear the banjos and fiddles coming back!
SK: Now that you wrapped up season three of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA are you in search mode for another feature? What kind of film are you on the lookout for? Do you have any feature films on the horizon? What other projects might you take on?
McCREARY: The third season is wrapped up but I'm starting work on a new series this week. I'm picking up scoring for the second season of Sci-Fi Channel's EUREKA, which will be fun since it’s a total tonal departure from the kinds of series and films I've been offered so far.
A little comedy will be nice.
SK: It's been announced that BATTLESTAR GALACTICA will get a twenty-two episode fourth season. When do you get started on season four? Seems like it might be awhile.
BM: Not as long as you think. The first two episodes will be released in the fall as a TV movie – and probably on DVD as well – and I'll start scoring that in a few months.
SK: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
BM: There are some other really cool releases coming out in the near future. The BATTLESTAR GALACTICA Season Three soundtrack album will be out in August which will include my arrangement of "All Along the Watchtower" from the season-finale and the WRONG TURN 2 soundtrack album will be out in the fall.
Also in August, we'll be performing another live concert of the GALACTICA score, featuring all the taikos, ethnic soloists and rhythm section of Oingo Boingo that play on the show each week.
If you guys are interested, keep an eye out on my website for details (www.bearmccreary.com).
On behalf of Ain’t It Cool news I’d like to thank Bear McCreary for his time and wish him continued success in the future.
Other Articles By ScoreKeeper:
Klaus Badelt (05.25.06)
Bear McCreary (06.07.06)
Lalo Schifrin (06.18.06)
John Ottman (06.27.06)
Joseph LoDuca (08.21.06)
Alex Wurman (08.23.06)
Jeff Beal (09.08.06)
Chris Lennertz (09.29.06)
John Debney (10.15.06)
Howard Shore (11.15.06)
Clint Mansell (11.27.06)
David Julyan (12.19.06)
John Powell (12.30.06)
Craig Armstrong (01.02.07)
Tyler Bates (02.22.07)
John Debney (2nd Interview/03.06.07)
THE DAVINCI CODE (2006) by Hans Zimmer (05.06.06)
THE PROMISE (2005) by Klaus Badelt (05.25.06)
NACHO LIBRE (2006) by Danny Elfman (06.10.06)
MONSTER HOUSE (2006) by Douglas Pipes (07.12.06)
PETITES PEUR PARTAGÉS by Mark Snow (08.29.06)
ScoreKeeper Reviews The Super Fantabulous ELMER BERNSTEIN'S FILM MUSIC COLLECTION!!
ScoreKeeper Reviews Danny Elfman's CHARLOTTE'S WEB Score!! (11.30.06)
ScoreKeeper Contemplates Christopher Young's SPIDER-MAN 3 Score!! (05.03.07)
Who is Composing Which Scores This Summer (and Beyond)?? (05.09.06)
Elfman Removes his Credit from NACHO LIBRE? (06.12.06)
ScoreKeeper on John Williams’ New NBC Sunday Night Football Theme (09.01.06)
ScoreKeeper on Danny Elfman’s CHARLOTTE’S WEB Interview (09.05.06)
ScoreKeeper Considers the Film Music of Fantastic Fest (10.03.06)
ScoreKeeper’s Smolderin’ Potpourri of Cool Film Music News and Bits and Things!! (10.09.06)
ScoreKeeper Re: Marilyn Manson's Cover of NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS Tunes!! (10.26.06)
Basil Poledouris Is Gone (11.08.06)
Shirley Walker Is Gone (11.30.06)
SCOREKEEPER’S BEST SCORES OF 2006 LIST-O-RAMA!! (01.17.07)
American Composer Mark Snow Nominated For French Ceasar!! (02.07.07)
The Debut Film Music Weekly!! (02.11.07)
ScoreKeeper Wax Off On The New KARATE KID 4-CD Set!! (03.12.07)
Herman Stein is Gone (03.28.07)
Upcoming Soundtracky Events!! (04.16.07)
AICN EXCLUSIVE: The Never Before Released Score For THE ENFORCER Is Coming Soon!! (04.24.07)
Reviews THE DAVINCI CODE (2006) by Hans Zimmer (05.06.06) THE PROMISE (2005) by Klaus Badelt (05.25.06) NACHO LIBRE (2006) by Danny Elfman (06.10.06) MONSTER HOUSE (2006) by Douglas Pipes (07.12.06) PETITES PEUR PARTAGÉS by Mark Snow (08.29.06) ScoreKeeper Reviews The Super Fantabulous ELMER BERNSTEIN'S FILM MUSIC COLLECTION!! (10.15.06) ScoreKeeper Reviews Danny Elfman's CHARLOTTE'S WEB Score!! (11.30.06) ScoreKeeper Contemplates Christopher Young's SPIDER-MAN 3 Score!! (05.03.07)
Miscellaneous Who is Composing Which Scores This Summer (and Beyond)?? (05.09.06) Elfman Removes his Credit from NACHO LIBRE? (06.12.06) ScoreKeeper on John Williams’ New NBC Sunday Night Football Theme (09.01.06) ScoreKeeper on Danny Elfman’s CHARLOTTE’S WEB Interview (09.05.06) ScoreKeeper Considers the Film Music of Fantastic Fest (10.03.06) ScoreKeeper’s Smolderin’ Potpourri of Cool Film Music News and Bits and Things!! (10.09.06) ScoreKeeper Re: Marilyn Manson's Cover of NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS Tunes!! (10.26.06) Basil Poledouris Is Gone (11.08.06) Shirley Walker Is Gone (11.30.06) SCOREKEEPER’S BEST SCORES OF 2006 LIST-O-RAMA!! (01.17.07) American Composer Mark Snow Nominated For French Ceasar!! (02.07.07) The Debut Film Music Weekly!! (02.11.07) ScoreKeeper Wax Off On The New KARATE KID 4-CD Set!! (03.12.07) Herman Stein is Gone (03.28.07) Upcoming Soundtracky Events!! (04.16.07) AICN EXCLUSIVE: The Never Before Released Score For THE ENFORCER Is Coming Soon!! (04.24.07)