Exclusive: Creating a World with Music: A Conversation with Composer Evan Wise
Ratchet & Clank tells the story of two unlikely heroes as they struggle to stop a vile alien named Chairman Drek from destroying every planet in the Solana Galaxy. When the two stumble upon a dangerous weapon capable of destroying entire planets, they must join forces with a team of colorful heroes called The Galactic Rangers in order to save the galaxy. Along the way they’ll learn about heroism, friendship, and the importance of discovering one’s own identity.
To celebrate the release of Ratchet & Clank, in Cinemas Now, The Fan Carpet’s Marc Jason Ali had the pleasure of talking to Composer Evan Wise, who tells us about making the leap from TV scores to film scores, who inspires him and what he ha coming up…
So as this is your first feature, tell me how you got into the industry was there a defining moment for you?
Not really a defining moment, I’ve been building my career for about 10 years now and that’s after studying music for a really long time, I started working…..I was living in Seattle, Washington at the time and I was studying with a composer up there and then I started working with some libraries and some contractors to television shows out in Los Angeles so I just started coming to Los Angeles more and more and the I was able to kind of make a transition to move to Los Angeles about 6 years ago and just kind of slowly stared working with more and more contractors for television shows doing music and then started working for publishers and then I got hired to work for, as an in-house composer for a publisher who actually then got the contract to do the Ratchet and Clank movie, so that’s how I was able to demo for that and then got hired on to the Ratchet and Clank movie, but my goal is always to do, to get into film so it was a good opportunity for me kind of make my first stepping stone into feature films.
Wonderful, I wasn’t all that familiar with Ratchet and Clank before I heard about the film. How familiar where you before you took on the film?
I was fairly familiar with it it’s always kind of been on my radar, I’m not a huge gamer but the first game came out when I was in college and I remember guys playing it in the dorm and I would play some of it and see it you know there’s been television commercials for the games throughout the last 10 years or so, so it was always on my radar and I was familiar enough with the characters to kind of know what they were going for when I started working on the film.
Brilliant OK. How does your TV work differ from your work on the feature film?
I think with the television you’re writing for a specific tone or show and you don’t always have a picture, that’s not the case of all television, but in the case of what I was working on which were a lot of Discovery Channel documentary series kinds of shows you know doing orchestral must for those kinds of shows, I didn’t always have the picture, I didn’t always have you know contact with the directors or the producers so it was more facilitated through the publishers or the people who had the contract to do the music that I was working with, but on the film I worked one on one with the director Kevin Munroe and you know I always had a lot to cut up the picture so I was always scoring directly to the picture, writing to the movie, not just writing ideas that they didn’t use later on in the movie.
Did you meet any of the voice cast?
No I did not, unfortunately, would have been nice but that’s alright (laughs) they sound great.
They do. James is obviously a legend and Bella is really cool as well and John Goodman, incredible cast.
Oh yeah definitely, Kevin Munroe he’s got pictures up online of all of them working with the voice cast and everything, they all did a great job definitely.
The music for me really helped to transport me to a different world, was the videogame score helpful to you in creating the music for the film?
Yeah I listened to the previous scores from the video games to kind of see where, the realm of the music and where they were going and I did find that it, the music did change throughout the progression of the series in the video games, I think the first game the music was much more electronic and then as the games got more expansive and larger, more cinematic they switched to an orchestral score, but what I worked with, with Kevin, the director and what we kind of decided was to go with an orchestral family animated film kind of staying within that genre and you know develop new themes and there’s a lot more comedy, a lot more kind of Looney Tunesish kind of ideas within this score, so while my score is still cinematic like the games I think my score is probably a lot more light hearted than the game, like the movie is, I think the movie has a little bit lighter tone than the games do and yeah so we just kind of wanted to restart the series musically also as we started retelling.
That feeds into my next question, I noticed that the characters had some distinct themes, is that something that was important to you to differentiate them from each other?
Yeah definitely, I felt that the music in this film really needed to be a character in the film, you know to highlight all the action and all the comedy so I set really to write Ratchet’s theme which is there on the soundtrack as well, and it develops and mutates throughout the score and his theme is really recognisable especially if you listen to it on the soundtrack, but I really enjoyed writing Dr Nefarious’s theme, I was really trying to stay away from anything too cliché with him, because he seems, he is a funny cliché character like a 1950s kind of mad scientist villain you know over the top kind of character, so I didn’t want to use like a Theremin with him you know that would have been very easy to you know kind of default to that, so I tried to think of something creatively and with the orchestral landscape to come up with that and came up with these fluttering winds, vibes and piano kind of sounds and kind of you know culminate in his character which is kind of sinister, funny and kind of villainous at the same time so I think it’s some of the most nuanced orchestral writing that I was able to do so far and I was incredibly happy with the way it came out in the film.
Do you have a particular instrument that you favour more than others or is it a bit different?
I definitely have, you know I normally write on piano, being an orchestral composer primarily, writing on the piano using the range of all the instruments in different sections, it’s easier to you know flesh out my ideas on the piano, but as far as orchestration I have a real methodical approach to orchestration so I tend to really think about textural writing when I’m writing, you know orchestrating, so I like to pass ideas around the orchestra and I think that keeps it fresh and lively so as far as my favourite instruments I think of the orchestra as one instrument with just massive amounts of different texture and colour that I can require out of it which I think is really good way to approach orchestral writing, but I love the sound of the oboe so when I ever I can write for the oboe I really enjoy that, so I would say that would be my favourite sound texturally out the orchestra if I had to pick one.
Who inspires you in the industry?
Well I grew up listening to Jerry Goldsmith’s scores, John Williams scores, I really enjoy Rachel Portman her scores are fantastic, going back, I really like her sense of lightness quality to her orchestration so really technical and interesting, The Cider House Rules score comes to mind and that movies been out for several years now but that score was really impactful on me when I was in school especially, so yeah growing up I think just listening to you know traditional orchestral scores, I still enjoy listening to concert works, I go to the Los Angeles Philharmonic a lot and listen you know sit pretty close and go there to study you know kind of what the other composers have done you know as I can see how the blending is going on and orchestration and how all the textures are working together.
Is she who you would like to collaborate with?
Collaborate with? You know composers don’t do a lot of collaborations with other composers when it comes to feature films, but if ever there was an opportunity to do that yeah I would love to collaborate with her for sure, I would probably also like to collaborate with somebody that has little bit different sensibilities than I do, as far as orchestration goes, I think if I was to collaborate with someone like her Rachel Portman you know, I think that we would see eye to eye and really think that we where almost using the same kind of tools, although we would be very different I’m sure, but would be fun to collaborate with someone who’s a little more electronic based you know like I could provide a orchestral score for somebody who was doing more electronic based for a score or something like that, that would be interesting.
Cool, what do you have coming up?
Yeah that’s a good question, there’s a lot of things in the pipeline for me, I’ve got an agent whose working hard to secure something new pretty soon, so I can’t really share any details with anything, but there’s a few things that are definitely in the pipeline that I’m working on.
Great, would the superhero genre be an area you would be interested in doing?
Yeah, you know I would definitely enjoy doing that, I would hope that I could do something a little more orchestral, purely orchestral if I was going to do that. I really enjoyed Alan Silvestri’s Captain America score, he did the first one because I believe he did the first Avengers score also, so I wish that those movies would stick with those kinds of scores rather than go a little more electronic, I think when you can do a pure orchestral score they are a little more memorable, a little more enjoyable to listen to, but yeah if I would open to doing anything at this point but I do enjoy all aspects of film music seeing what’s out there and the kind of projects, you know what kind of music gets attached to what kind of projects, it’s really interesting to me.
Brilliant, lastly do you have a favourite scene or character that you wrote for Ratchet and Clank?
Oh yeah, when the main titles come on at the end before the scene at the very end, when Ratchet’s main theme, I really enjoy that cue especially because there’s no other sound effects competing with the music so you really get to hear the music, you know really present in the theatre, really nice to hear. But like what I said earlier also writing for Dr Nefarious he was probably one of my favourite characters to write for I think he kind of steals the scene for a lot of the movie and I just like the usage of his theme just the different kind of nuance and textures of the orchestra that I got to write for him.
I look forward to anything that comes out with Ratchet and Clank next, the film leaves itself wide open for a sequel so I hope it has one.
Yeah I don’t know anything yet, but yeah me too.
I know it’s too early to tell, but it does leave itself open and there’s like 16 games pull from?
Yeah it’s a massive amount of you know characters and the story that they could pull from definitely
Yeah hopefully we’ll get more Ratchet and Clank.
Yeah definitely, do you play the games?
No I wasn’t very familiar with Ratchet and Clank, the first game came out in 2002 I think, I was in university so no I didn’t get a chance to play them, I was just interested in the film because I personally think there is plenty of material to mine from for video games but they’ve just not had a very good track record, if Ratchet and Clank is any indication it looks good for video games and hopefully we’ll see a boom at some point with them, I mean we’re getting 4 this year, 4 video game adaptations, I mean Ratchet and Clank was the first one, then we get Angry Birds in May, then Warcraft and Assassin’s Creed at the end of the year, so it’s looking good, I’m hopeful for video game, I mean there are certain games, I’m not much of a gamer but there are plenty of stories out there with video games and Ratchet and Clank seems to be a good way to start.
Yeah definitely and also I feel like since game player spend so much more time with a game than they do a film, they get a lot more attached to the character and story, you know because you’re kind of living your life through these characters and some of these video games, you know some of these video games are over 100 hours long you know, so yeah players and fans get really attached to these characters so there looking forward to getting more information on them, seeing them in a theatrical setting, so yeah.
RATCHET & CLANK IS OUT NOW