Quantcast Gordy Haab interview - BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON

Gordy Haab!!!

BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON finally makes it's way into theaters this month. And while most genre fans might pick apart the brilliant script for the film, or talk about the incredible performance by lead actor Nathan Baesel, we were wondering who was responsible for the beautiful score that accompanied the "horror" portions of Behind The Mask. This month, we got to speak to composer Gordy Haab who was responsible for giving Leslie Vernon his theme & creating Behind The Mask's horror score. A FRIGHT exclusive and Gordy's first on-line interview, read on for the full story! - by Robg. 3/07

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First and foremost, what are your earliest recollections of the Horror genre? Do you remember the first movie to scare you or have an impact on you?

My first horror movie was Psycho. I was probably 7 years old, and since then I've had a love/hate relationship with being scared. Even though I lost sleep for days after seeing it, I couldn't stop thinking about how it made me feel. I was conflicted as to why I "liked" it so much - I was hooked. I remember that it came on TV again late one night and against my parents' wishes I sneaked in the living room to watch it. My mom knew (of course), and when I started to get really scared she miraculously appeared and suggested that I turn the volume down. So I did and suddenly I wasn't scared anymore. Then the metaphoric "light bulb" turned on above my head. - "I'm not as scared of what I see as I am of what I hear." I was intrigued.

At what point did you become aware of how much went into actually making a film? Was it a particular movie? And when did you start to notice that music was such a pivotal part of film?

I suppose it wasn't until later in life that I was fully aware as to how much went in to the making of a film, but I did understand as a kid that there were many elements playing a role. Foremost for me, the music. When I saw E.T. for the first time in theaters (maybe 8 years old?)

I was blown away. I stomped and complained until my parents took me again, and again - and after three times seeing it, I couldn't tell you what the main characters name was, but I could play every melody from the movie on my dads guitar. The combination of this and my "Psycho" experience (plus a few more I'm sure) helped me decide that composing music for film was what I wanted to do. I was only 8 but I was serious about it. I've devoted my life to it ever since.

Can you tell us a bit about your music history? Did you start out in a band? Explain to us your musical journey through the years?
Well, as I said before, I decided pretty early on that I wanted to compose music, and very specifically for film. I started playing trombone in elementary school and would write songs to go along with "Scooby Doo" or "Twilight Zone" or what ever else I was watching, and eventually began writing for more instruments. By the time I was 13, I had written for full orchestra and was having music performed in competitions and concerts. I would write pieces of music based on a "made up" film in my head. The titles would match the scenes, so the audience (mainly my parents and sister) would know what it was for.

I also began playing guitar and bass, which placed my in some rock band situations. Actually, many. In fact, I can't recall a time in my life since then that I was not playing in a band - even today. I studied music composition and jazz composition at Virginia Commonwealth University, in Richmond VA, where I'm from. From there I decided to move to NYC to study at the Manhattan School of Music for graduate studies, and had the fortune of having a very honest professor say, "If you want to score films, your in the wrong city." So I immediately moved to LA and studied film scoring at USC. I've been here ever since. I've studied with many composers in the university and conservatory setting, but I can say very confidently that a large majority of my education comes from watching Hitchcock films - and the Shining. I've seen the Shining over 200 times. Kind of sad or creepy, depending on your perspective, but I love it, and I love how the music interacts.

You've done a number of films prior to Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon. Tell us about your experience on those first few films? Intimidating? Exhilarating? A bit of both perhaps?

It is certainly both. I have done a large number of film scores. Each one of them has taught me a little more about myself and my musical voice - and of course more about story, emotion and taste - but most importantly, how to collaborate with a visionary. I've written for every type of film as well. Within the same month that I scored Behind the Mask, I composed the score for a romantic comedy starring John Cleese, directed by Jeff Arch (writer, Sleepless in Seattle) - in which case I had a little under a week and a half to compose the full score and produce it.

The one consistent aspect of composing for film is the schedule. There is never enough time to write the amount of music that needs to be written. And this can be both intimidating and exhilarating. Somehow it always manages to get done, but never without many sleepless nights. I set my own personal record on my most recent sci-fi project, "Ryan vs Dorkman II", and didn't sleep for 140 hours to finish in time for the orchestra recording session. I'm in no hurry to break this record.

How did you get involved with Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon?

A good friend of mine and fellow composer, Peter Knell, held a concert of his original music, which I attended. He grew up in Pasadena and knew Sean Presant (BTM editor) from high school (I believe) and Sean was at the concert as well. Afterwards, Peter introduced me to Sean. He mentioned he was working on a horror film. I immediately perked up and told him I was interested in talking to him and his director about the music. He told me then that the director was considering scoring it himself but persistent as usual I gave him a CD anyway. (which, as a horror fan, is filled with horror-ready music)

I sort of forgot about it until about 6 months later when I received a call from Scott Glosserman. Sean had played Scott the CD and Scott was deep in to production and had decided to pass the torch on scoring the film, and had apparently loved my CD. I was one of a few composers Scott was considering so went to his house for an "interview" of sorts and to watch the film. I saw the film and loved it! As a horror buff, I caught so many "easter egg" references to other horror films just in the first viewing - some of which I believe nobody has caught yet (and I won't give them away).

Afterwards, I was telling Scott how much I loved all of the references, and to this day, I'm not sure if he hired me because of my music or because he was so impressed that I caught the easter eggs. I'd love to believe it was both.

Considering that portions of the film were meant to be in documentary-style, were those scenes specifically meant NOT to have score?

Well, I saw the whole film before I was hired. But once I was on board, I decided on a concept that I feel really helped enhance both the scare factor and the comedy. I chose to score it as if I knew nothing of the documentary and comedic aspects. I used highly sophisticated software, iMovie, to create my own edit of the film, which included only the "film" sections. I even removed the voiceover during some of the film sections where Leslie was explaining his "plan" so that I would essentially have a horror film and nothing more to score. I learned from Elmer Bernstein in his comedy work that if the music plays the scene straight then the comedic aspects will pop even more. Plus we wanted the drama and fear to be heightened during these sections anyway. This was part of the form of the film. Documentary would be dry and realistic (and have no score) and the film sections would be melodramatic and scary.

Speaking of, how did you approach or prepare for doing the music for Behind The Mask? What's the process like for any film you work on? Did you talk in detail with director Scott Glosserman about what to accomplish?

Well, once I had this "composer's edit," my approach was to make sure that all of the major characters and important film elements had their own "theme." I tried to approach this film from the perspective of Leslie. Leslie wants to be the next great slasher in the same way I want to be considered the next great horror film composer. I took Leslie's idea of incorporating advice from all of the greats he looked up to, and did the same with the score. If you listen, I very consciously made sure to include the styles and elements from the scores of the films Leslie referenced, and then give my enhanced, modernized twist while still staying true to the nature of classic orchestral scoring.

There's a little Halloween, The Shining and Poltergeist in there. I even made sure to pay homage to Friday the 13th - if you listen close, there are some whispering sounds in the score. Those sounds are my voice slowly whispering, "Leslie Vernon" - and then playing it in reverse. I even invented an instrument (coined "The Haab" by Mr. Glosserman) made of various sizes of metal, rivets and sheet metal, to compliment Leslie's crude, metallic weapon choices.

We also decided that if Leslie is going to be the next great slasher, then he would need the next great slasher theme. For this, I wanted to do something very simple but potent. It was also very important to Scott, so I wrote about 50 themes and played them for him. He picked 3, then we narrowed it down to 1. I used the other two as the "survivor girl theme" and the "Leslie lurking about theme". There is quite a bit going on in the score, most of which is very understated as to not interfere with the films dialog and pacing. If you want to hear the score isolated, we have released a soundtrack album as well.

It can be purchased on the iTunes store and from the film's website: www.behindthemaskthemovie.com (sorry for the plug:)

I love Behind The Mask. It's one of my all time favorite genre-related movies. What were your thoughts on it, both before and after scoring it?

I loved it the first time I saw it, and I love it now. And I'll proudly say even more so with a complete score. I am a huge fan of this movie. I went to two showings on opening night and plan to go again.

How have you felt about the general response the movie has received thus far?

I think it has been great! I saw it at South by Southwest last year and the response was so tremendous that I was sure we would get a theatrical release. The true test for me was to see it with an audience that wasn't filled with production crew and friends, and/or film festival fans - and I did at the first afternoon screening on opening day. Everyone was laughing and screaming and jumping. It even got a cheer at the end. That is proof enough for me that we have at least a cult hit.

Can you tell us what some of your all time favorite scores are? Influences or just in general? Both within and out of the horror genre?

My all time composing hero is Bernard Hermann. I grew up watching Hitchcock movies and loving those scores and still do today. My favorite score of all time changes every day so I'll give a handful. Jerry Goldsmith, Poltergeist - John Williams, Close Encounters - Elliot Goldenthal, Titus - Bernard Hermann, Vertigo - Ennio Morricone, Cinema Paradiso, and yet another John Williams score - Harry Potter 3.

I basically love any composer that truly understands the craft of melodic writing and orchestration as pertaining to film. And particularly appreciate any composer that can re-invent themselves constantly to change with the times. Jerry Goldsmith is a great example of both.

What's the future hold for you? Would you be open to do more genre related composing?

I do hope to do more genre related composing. In fact, it's what I have set out to do. The future seems pretty bright right now. I'm in talks on a couple new features with some great name talent attached. I'm at the point now where I am focused on taking projects that really excite me - what ever that may mean - because when I'm excited, I do my best work. I just finished a score for a great short Star Wars fan film called Ryan vs Dorkman II which has received hundreds of thousands of views and great reviews online.

I composed the score with a friend Kyle Newmaster for a full orchestra, and we hope to use this to get interest from Lucas Arts when it comes time to staff up for the Star Wars TV series. I'm seeking higher level representation and am very focused on my goal of becoming "the composer you think of when you think of horror/suspense films." Having a great film like Behind the Mask making waves in theaters can't hurt! Also, I'm sure that if Scott Glosserman enjoyed working with me as much as I did with him, then there will be plenty more scores coming from that direction. We both seem to really respect each others' work and have become good friends. Both are very important elements in a good collaboration.

Visit: BehindTheMaskTheMovie.com
and www.horrorfilmmusic.com
and www.gordyhaab.com

Official trailer for BEHIND THE MASK:

Alternate Trailer

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