Chris Lennertz (Composer - 'The Comebacks')
'Playin' It For Laughs'
Composer Christopher Lennertz scores "The Comebacks," a new comedy from the producers of "The Wedding Crashers." The film stars David Koechner ("Talladega Nights," "Anchorman") as a college football coach with the worst record in the history of the sport on a quest to turn his team around.
In addition to his score, Lennertz recorded a song he produced and arranged, performed by the film star David Koechner. Fox Atomic releases "The Comebacks" October 19. The score is available digitally on iTunes beginning October 17, including "Legends," co-written and scored by Lennertz and performed by "Comebacks" star David Koechner.
Lennertz began his musical education at the early age of nine and quickly developed what director Joshua Butler ("Saint Sinner") calls "an incredible gift for melody." After learning to play the trumpet and guitar, he ventured out of performance to study composition, jazz arranging, and theory in high school. Soon, he made his way to the University of Southern California to continue his musical education and begin scoring films.
Lennertz has since expanded his repertoire as a composer for all types of media, from film to television and even to videogames. Among his film scores are several notable independent films, including the jazz-based gangster drama "Baby Face Nelson" featuring Academy Award winner F. Murry Abraham, the seductive thriller "Lured Innocence" starring Dennis Hopper, and the film festival favorite, "Art House."
His television credits include the WB's "Supernatural," Fox's "Brimstone," the WB's "The Strip," and the theme song for the MTV series "Tough Enough," which appeared on the album for the show and put him on the Billboard top 100 charts for weeks. His powerful, full orchestral score for the Stephen Spielberg-created videogame "Medal of Honor: Rising Sun" earned an award from the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences and led him to score two more "Medal of Honor" games.
Taking it from the top and what were your musical influences growing up and how many still factor into your compositions today? "Well, I grew up on the east coast and spent most of my summers in and around the Boston area where my Mom’s side of the family lived. My grandfather was a semi-professional singer in the days before WWII and so I was exposed to the standards pretty early in terms of Sinatra, Mancini, Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Perry Como, etc."
"I was also a big movie fan and we went to see John Williams conduct the Pops there many times, and I was always a huge fan of his late 70’s early 80’s scores. That was definitely where my love of film music began. Close Encounters blew me away and Indiana Jones had me hooked. I began playing trumpet and then guitar in school and gigging on weekends…starting with rock (from Beatles to Metallica) and then progressing on to jazz and fusion. I was a huge fan of Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, and Miles Davis. At the same time, I studied theory and arranging and sang classical music like Carl Orff and Benjamin Britten in choir. So… I really developed a love for all styles of music as I grew up and that carries over into my writing today."
"I’m just as impressed and moved by an amazing bluegrass fiddle solo as I am with a complex symphony. The power of a poignant folk song can be just as arresting as a blistering wail through a stack of Marshall amps. I think that any music that stirs an emotion is very meaningful and I truly enjoy the freshness that comes with doing lots of different projects in a variety of styles and genres. I guess a bit ADD and I think that while it may drive my wife a bit nuts, it’s a wonderful condition to have if you are film composer!"
For the Average Joe who may not have heard of you and was thinking of buying some of your previous soundtrack works, which one would you yourself advise them to listen to ... and why? "At this point I’d have to say 'Medal of Honor: European Assault.' It is probably my most mature and well developed score. I think the theme is really strong and orchestrationally, I think that it weaves its way in and out of the various cues quite nicely. It also features the Philharmonia Orchestra of London at Air Lyndhurst, and they sound great. They performed The Red Violin score, and I think that their concert hall sensibilities really lent an appropriately WWII era tone to my music."
"I also had a bit more time than usual, so I wrote a good portion of that score on paper, which was nice to return to…with current post production schedules…that’s not always an option. I’m also very proud of what I did on Gun (if it ever gets a release) in terms of fusing several schools of thought in regards to scoring Westerns and The Comebacks, so I’d check that out as well, when it finally becomes available."
What classic film score would you love to rearrange today in your own style if you were given the chance? "That’s a loaded question, because, in most cases with great scores, I wouldn’t change a thing. The only case that might be really fun is if they did a remake of a really great Hitchcock film with a different setting, and more modern take. Perhaps a modern day Vertigo in Malta or Kuala Lampur? I think it’d be great fun then to keep the trademark Bernard Hermann sound but add textures and electronics and perhaps ethnic instrumentation to do something totally new with it."
For your work on this 'The Comebacks' soundtrack, you not only scored it but also recorded a song that you produced and arranged that was then performed by the film's star David Koechner. Is this the first time you've attempted such a thing for a soundtrack? "I’ve actually done this a few times on a few of my older indie films such as Art House and Tortilla Heaven. I love collaborating with artists, especially the actors in the film, because they have such a unique relationship to the material, that I feel they can really bring something to the table, creatively."
"Koechner is absolutely hysterical and a complete crack-up. He was so great to work with and was completely open to pushing the limits on the tunes. I’m also a big fan of musical comedy and parody, so the chance to do some songs with that kind of biting humor is just so much fun. I still say that the songs for the South Park Movie are probably the most brilliant songs of the past decade or two! Shaiman is a genius. I’d love to do more of that type of thing."
How easy (or hard) was it to create an instrumental background to a comedic film that came from the producers of 'The Wedding Crashers'?! "Well, it’s never easy, but it was relatively painless in that Peter Abrams and Andrew Panay (The Producers) agreed early on that the comedy was going to be played straight, as if this was truly the most inspiring sports film of all time. This contrast would really drive the comedy, and they understood that. I have such an affinity for comedy and especially playing it this way."
"I think it’s because I grew up in the early eighties and then studied with Elmer Bernstein, who was the king of this approach. Stripes, Caddyshack, Animal House, Airplane…all genius comedies where the music can really play a character in the sketch and be a part of the setup and then deliver the punchline! One of the other reasons I think I was so perfect for this job, is that I’m a huge college football fan and absolutely love sports films."
"I even told the director, that the more we could paint Koechner’s character as the second coming of coaches Bear Bryant, Knute Rockne, and John McKay combined, the funnier it would be…so it was a great fit. The producers and director Tom Brady all were really great to work with and encouraged me to follow my instincts."
Please tell us more about what to expect from the new soundtrack that you are currently working on, 'Perfect Christmas' starring Terrence Howard, Queen Latifah and Gabrielle Union? "The film is actually now titled “The Perfect Holiday” and will be in theaters December 14th, the same day as Alvin and The Chipmunks, which I am also scoring. 'Perfect Holiday' is a wonderful heartwarming family film and romantic comedy. The score is very intimate and traditional in most places with a small orchestra, winds and piano. The producers and director wanted the score to be timeless and melodic to really enhance the emotion of the story. Of course, there is a ton of great pop, R & B, and Christmas music in there as well."
"There’s quite a few really nice themes in there, and the Christmas vibe is in full effect with lots of sleigh bells and celeste. It’s really a feel-good film and the score reflects that. There’s a great message at the end and it will really put you in the spirit of the Holidays!"
"But if it was the same movie, then I wouldn’t touch a masterpiece. Interestingly enough, though, next year I am scoring an animated CGI movie called Bunyan and Babe that my friend and mentor, Basil Poledouris, was originally hired to do. It’s such an emotional project for me because Basil had written the theme before his passing and the producer is a close friend of his. He played me the theme which was one of the last pieces Basil had written and it is absolutely gorgeous…vintage Poledouris in terms of melody and emotion. I was so close to Basil and his family, and he was such an inspiration to me that I feel a profound responsibility to realize this score in a way that will honor his legacy and stay true to his personal style."
"That said, I’m sure that some of my style will be inevitably be infused in there as well…so it will be a really interesting process. I’m just so honored to be a part of the project and to help carry on his legacy."
Thanx again for doing this for us today, and we wish you all the best for the future "Thank you as well, it’s always a pleasure to have people interested in what I do and listening to my music."
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
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