Bear McCreary (Composer - 'Rest Stop 2)'
'The Bear Musical Necessities - Take Two'
Award-winning composer Bear McCreary has emerged as "one of the most innovative and intriguing composers on television" (Film Music Weekly) with his critically acclaimed score to Sci Fi Channel's ground-breaking series Battlestar Galactica. But in addition to completing Battlestar Galactica's final season, Bear has recently scored Fox's hit Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, the next chapter in the iconic Terminator franchise.
He also recently scored Caprica, the highly anticipated Galactica prequel film and has signed on as composer for the full series in 2010. He also scores Sci Fi Channel's highest-rated series, Eureka. McCreary's feature film work includes Warner Bros.' Rest Stop (2006), its sucessful sequel (and just-released on CD) Rest Stop: Don't Look Back (2008), as well as Twentieth Century Fox's Wrong Turn 2 (2007) starring Henry Rollins.
Taking it from the top and what were your musical influences growing up and how many still factor into your compositions today? "Growing up, I listened to a lot of contemporary film music. Danny Elfman, Jerry Goldsmith and Alan Silvestri were and still are very dear to me. However, in high school I began to discover the deeper roots of film music, the composers whose work influenced the composers I was listening to. I fell in love with the music of Elmer Bernstein, Ennio Morricone and Bernard Herrmann, whose unusual instrumentations were decades ahead of their time."
"I also discovered Nino Rota’s scores around this time. Classical influences were mostly French: the lush orchestrations of Debussy and Ravel. Towards the end of high school I began to really appreciate pop music as well, especially Queen, Oingo Boingo and Pink Floyd, whose music is very narrative, almost cinematic. I also got into Guns N’ Roses and Rage Against the Machine, the influence of which can be heard in the second and third seasons of Galactica."
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? "It’s hard to pick only one. It depends on what Average Joe is looking for. I think that “Battlestar Galactica: Season 3” is my best record to date, but it will be eclipsed by the forthcoming “Season 4” next year. However, “Rest Stop: Don’t Look Back” has a bunch of great songs on it, and in many ways, is more fun to listen to than the emotionally gripping “Galactica” CDs. And, for something totally different, the “Eureka” soundtrack is filled with Zydeco, Blues, Rockabilly, 80s New Wave, 8-bit Nintendo sounds and Flamenco guitars. It’s the most outrageous of the records I’ve done."
For your work on the sequel to 'Rest Stop,' were you always made aware from the start that there would be a sequel for you to have to compose? And if so, have you been made aware of a 'Rest Stop 3' (aka 'Rest Stop: Dead Of Night') score on the horizon yet?! "No, I had no idea that there would be a sequel when I did any of those films… and this is the first I’ve ever heard of Rest Stop 3!"
Scoring for horror and sci-fi flicks seem to be your mainstay; your comfort zone, but would you ever consider composing a musical, perhaps? "I’ve actually been working on a musical for several years. When I got “Galactica” I had to put it aside for a while. And I’ve already written 2 musical shorts when I was in college. So musicals and pop music are absolutely passions of mine."
Indeed, how easy (or hard) is it to constantly create a new, vibrant, wanted-by-the-public sound that both builds on and surpasses the musical wonderment's/accomplishments/arrangements that preceded it within the industry? "Wow, well when you word it like that, it’s very difficult! To be honest, I don’t ever think about things like this when I’m working. If I did, the pressure would be creatively stifling. Instead, I simply focus on the project in front of me and write the music I think would fit the narrative the best. I don’t ever think about public expectations or genre precedent."
Being that you are also the composer for TVs 'Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,' I was wondering if you've watched any of the episodes - and if you subsequently hear only your music (not watching the show at that stage) and start 'picking over it' in your mind?! "It’s very difficult to watch something I’ve worked on and not be hyper-critical of my work. There are always things that could be improved. This is true, even watching “Galactica.” However, the real fun for me is in watching the show with an audience that hasn’t seen it before. It’s a thrill to see their reactions and know that I had a part in shaping their experience."
How much of an 'honor' was it to have your "Galactica" score parodied in two (2) episodes of 'South Park'? Or wasn't it?!?! "It was a tremendous honor! I’ve been big fans of Trey and Matt since before they did “South Park,” having adored their little indie film “Cannibal: The Musical.” And I’ve been parodied twice now on “Robot Chicken” which was equally flattering. I knew that the “Galactica” scores were seeping into the mainstream when it gets parodied in shows like that."
Tell us more about how you became a self-taught accordionist - and why it was that instrument in particular that you wished to pick up and learn more than any other at the time? "I had studied piano for a long time, but I never felt like I could express myself through it. But, I’d always wanted an accordion just for the kitsch value. However, when I finally got one when I was 19, I took to it immediately. I actually practiced, something that I never did on piano."
Are you still part of the avant-jazz band 17 Billion Miles of DNA, perhaps? Will there ever be a CD of your music with them for sale to the general public? "The DNA haven’t played in a while. I wouldn’t be surprised if we reform in some combination at some point. It was a fun band, but I simply don’t have the time to do anything with it right now."
What classic film score would you love to rearrange today in your own style if you were given the chance? "This is a tough question, because if a film score is “classic” then I wouldn’t want to mess with it at all. However, if for some reason, someone were to remake “The Great Escape” I would love to take Elmer’s score and play around with it. I’m not AT ALL endorsing a terrible idea like remaking that movie, but if such a thing were to happen, I’d want to be there."
Come on now, for the record, is 'Bear' really your born first name?! "What do you guys think?!"
Er, ... no! But anyway, and lastly, throwing you a comedic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine love Penguins ... do you?! "My favorite penguin is probably Danny Devito from “Batman Returns,” although the one from “Batman: The Animated Series” is a close second."
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
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