Gotham Knights [David Russo - Composer]
A Musical Knight Shall Arise
For those not in the know, David Russo (Gotham, Nikita, The Tomorrow People) has composed the original score for the new CW drama Gotham Knights. The show is developed by Natalie Abrams, Chad Fiveash and James Stoteraux (Batwoman) and is based on characters created for DC by Bob Kane with Bill Finger, and stars Oscar Morgan, Fallon Smythe, Olivia Rose Keegan, Tyler DiChiara, Navia Robinson and Misha Collins.
The superhero drama follows a group of mismatched fugitives who must band together after Bruce Wayne is murdered to become Gotham City’s next generation of saviors. Fiveash and Stoteraux are also executive producing the Warner Bros. Television production with Greg Berlanti and Sarah Schechter (The Flash, Arrow, Supergirl) and Leigh London Redman.
Danny Cannon (Judge Dredd, CSI: Miami) directed and served as an executive producer on the pilot episode. Russo has previously scored the Cannon-produced DC series Gotham and Season 1 of Pennyworth.
Gotham Knights has just landed a spot on the most in-demand new shows list, seeing demand for it double after its first episode aired, so my question to you is this: Would this have happened without your incredible scoring behind it? - “Of course it would have. I, like everyone in this industry, am expendable. However, I’m grateful to be part of this great show and of the larger DC Universe.”
The scored landscape for all your Batman-linked TV scores (Gotham, Pennyworth, Gotham Knights) have always been foreboding, industrial, Goth-edged, so how hard is it to compose all these signature episodic pieces, and not fall into the trap of thinking you have created something new, only to discover you did near enough the same piece back ‘x’ amount of years ago? - “Great characters and great story lines make my job so much easier. When I’m given a fully realized character, the themes kind of present themselves. My struggle comes when things are too vague. Luckily, these shows that have Gotham City as backdrop have an advantage because the environment is so insane it puts pressure on the characters and they must respond.”
”Not repeating yourself is a constant ambition. I’m always trying to find a new way to showcase those story elements we’ve seen before.”
Indeed, from the ”big wigs,” what direction were you given for how Gotham Knights was to sound? - “Initially, I sat down with the brilliant Danny Cannon and discussed it. He’s a phenomenal writer, director, artist and composer and he has an incredible ability to describe what he wants the show to feel like. He directed the pilot and had a large influence on the production design. I worked with him on both Gotham and Pennyworth. In every case, I went away and wrote music for months based on our conversations. It works really well.”
Given the score you created here, what is still your most favorite piece to have accomplished, and why? - “I think my favorite piece is from Gotham when Ed Nygma mistakenly murders his love, Kristen Kringle. It was beautifully horrible and romantic scene. Nygma would later complete the split and become the Riddler so we are left wondering if he actually meant to strangle her subconsciously.”
And, on the other end of that, which piece was a real SOB to put together, but you still did, and why was it so complex to do so? - “I struggled with the scene from Pennyworth where we meet The Ripper. The show takes place in a fictional 1960’s London and, yet, the Ripper seems like he stepped out of the Victorian Era. I think I revised 5 times trying to find the right tone.”
Assuming Gotham Knights gets picked up for a second season, what are your thoughts now for how to create a sophomore score, that whilst remaining faithful to the first, must also differ at the very same time? - “A beautiful thing about this show is that the 5 young Knights are not super-heroes at all. They really begin as broken children who find family and purpose with each other. That arc of becoming something more than you imagined you could be is really inspiring. I can imagine that deepening next season, including the conflicts that will arise from 5 strong personalities.”
There are some “young-sounding” voices harmonizing within some of the score for Gotham Knights, but are they computer-generated or real humans made to sound as innocent as a child, perhaps? - “That would be my daughter. I also have a pretty spiffy children’s choir sampled instrument.”
What other upcoming scores (film/TV) are you currently working on, or have worked on recently, that we might know? - “Early in my career I was assistant to composer Graeme Revell. We worked together on over 30 movies and 40 hours of TV, including Sin City, Chronicles of Riddick and Pineapple Express. We’re going to be collaborating on an orchestral performance piece. I can’t really discuss it yet but it’ll be really exciting.”
What were a couple of things that the great Graeme Revell instilled in you that still resonate in your mind whenever a new composition is being formulated? - “He taught me an entirely different way of thinking about music in film. Prior to working with him, I approached a project entirely emotionally. He taught me how to analyze story arc and theme and how to more effectively tie together parts of the film musically. He taught me an economy that has really helped me.”
Is Sun-60, your alt-rock band from back in the day, something that might ever make a new recording/playing live comeback, perhaps? - “I can’t see that happening. We had incredible experiences but it’s such a long time ago. Feels like two lifetimes ago.”
You’ve toured and/or worked in the studio with a lot of musicians over the years, and as much as I know everybody just doesn’t hang out each night on tour or after a recording session, given the huge names involved (such as Dave Navarro, Paul Weller, P.Diddy, Sheryl Crow, 50-Cent, et al), please tell us just one behind-the-scenes story of something that is as amazing to you still today to recall having witnessed as it was back then! - “I was touring Europe with Sheryl Crow. Our first performance was in Stockholm. We got there a week early to rehearse. The afternoon before the first show she fired us all and cancelled the show. Her manager then secretly told us all to relax. An hour later she changed her mind and that night blew away the crowd with an amazing performance. Apparently she had done this before. She’s a brilliant woman but she still got the pre-show jitters.”
“Also, I did a lot of remixes with Tom Morello. He would get the original tracks from, say, an old Led Zeppelin song and mess with it. Just being in the room with him was incredible. The most brilliant person I’ve ever encountered.”
Lastly, and yes, we ask everyone this question (as we are putting together a children’s charity book for the Alzheimer’s Association), but given the whole Batman connection with you, this just seems too good an opportunity to miss out on, so here we go: We here at Exclusive Magazine love Penguins … do you, and if so, have you a story of one, perhaps? - “How I wish I had boffo penguin story. Alas………”
Interviewed by: Russell A. Trunk
If you would like to win some AUTOGRAPHED Gotham Knights promo items by David Russo, just answer this question about the man himself: As noted, Russo was a fixture on L.A.’s indy-rock scene and was a founding member of alt-rock band Sun-60, who made 5 albums, but what was the name of their third album?
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