[Editor’s Note: this interview with DMP members Lolita Ritmanis, Kristopher Carter, and Michael McCuistion about Young Justice: The Outsiders and more comes to us from Bleeding Cool contributor, Jimmy Leszczynski.]
Emmy Award-winning musical team Dynamic Music Partners (Batman:The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Batman:The Brave And The Bold) have returned once again to thrill your earholes with the pulse-pounding soundtrack for Young Justice: Outsiders. The musical triumvirate comprised of Lolita Ritmanis, Kristopher Carter, and Michael McCuistion took some time away from finishing up the second half of season 3 to sit down and chat with Bleeding Cool.
Bleeding Cool: Composing legend John Williams celebrated his birthday earlier this month (February 9th) , Can you talk about the influence he had, if any, on your career?
Michael McCuistion: It was his score to Superman that really got my into film music, probably another score that had a huge influence on me was Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind. They all happened around the same time, in the late 70’s. What was remarkable for me, and so important, was that his music is so enjoyable away from the film. It not only works perfectly with the picture, but is also enjoyable to listen to as just a piece of music. I used to have his scores on 8 tracks (info for millenials here) and of course they would go forever until you pulled them out…..I had an 8 track player that I would take with me to Scout camp and play Close Encounters of 3rd Kind in the tent at night, and just freak people out.”
Lolita Ritmanis: If we are talking about John Williams he is on the top of the heap, so to speak. The average person on the street would think ‘Oh he’s the person, the superhero, the big themes, big sweeping, huge, bombastic scores- which are amazing- but his subtle stuff like Sabrina, or Schindler’s List, or Saving Private Ryan. Just absolutely floored me. I think about Sabrina, because it’s one of these scores were people don’t even know it (it’s John Williams) but, when I hear that piano melody, and how – the shape of the melody, that his scores breathe and support the theme yet stand alone in such a powerful way. He is the highest standard of excellence in my opinion.
Kristopher Carter: And I would just echo what they said , He’s been tremendously inspirational, and I tend to like his less bombastic scores. I thought Catch Me If You Can was such a breath of fresh air. In terms of thriller, and bringing what you might call an old school sensibility to the whole thriller genre, but yet, it is something that is very much as a part of his sound as the big epic orchestra stuff, and what we call the “Notes Per Inch”. …Speaking with The studio musicians that have played with him talk about how he is as a conductor. He writes all these notes and he expects to hear them, and he expects perfection, and I think the musicians are always very inspired to work with him. Because what he leads you though is terribly difficult, but very musical and playable, his scores.
BC: The action packed, high energy music episodes of season 3 Young Justice: Outsiders are bookended by a subtle opening, and a very calm closing que, taking us in and out of the action bath so to speak. Can you tell us who’s inspiration that was?
KC: Well the energy of the music and the ups and downs of the energy of the music is really us telling the story. And that has been shaped very, very carefully by the producers and writers, Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti. It was in collaboration with them that the theme was transformed from the first 2 seasons, which is more energetic, but this is more mysterious and tumultuous turmoil. Honestly the end theme was and idea from Brandon., (He) said “We want to have a lullaby at the end. We are going to have the scenes that show the different side kicks, and the pets and different things, sleeping peacefully, for that to be accompanied by a lullabye version of the Young Justice theme.“
BC: That is Brilliant! I had not even noticed it was the original theme slowed down. It is sort of a palette cleanser of a theme.
MM: [Laughingly] A sorbet, a Granita of a theme.
BC: We have a lots of new characters this season, some with their own musical cues, can you tell us a little about the character themes you have developed for this season?
LR: The first 2 seasons were not necessarily theme heavy, nor do I think it is theme heavy on this season, because often times we are providing more than just the mood, in general. (To Kristopher) We can talk about your Halo Theme.
KC: Compared to Justice League, were every moment has a theme you can trace through, Young Justice has been more about the sound and the mood as Lotita said. But we do have some specific melodies that are new for the new characters. One of which is Halo’s theme. Featuring strings which go thru different types of sound, that can express type of sound in a way that Halo can project powers. We also came up with a (Prince) Brion theme. Brion (Geo Force), being the prince from Markovia, has more of a noble sound and we really wanted to represent that by french horn.
BC: Tell us more about the mysterious melodies, and how they help to tell the story?
LR: Musically, what is happening more and more, as this season goes on, and I can’t disclose all of those things because it’s really for the fans to figure out. When we return to a story point that we touched upon in the first 2 seasons, there might be something for the fans to listen to and try to figure out where a, not necessarily a particular note, but a certain mood. Where had I heard that originally and why it might be familiar, and how it all helps tell the story. Those types of things are not by accident, and it really all is a puzzle for our fans to listen to and try to figure out. Usually, the figure it out before. Sometimes they figure it out, and they are “Yeah, We knew right away what you doing” Greg [Weisman] and Brandon [Vietti] are very much into that, [they] hope the fans will follow on a deeper level.
BC: Wow, the music itself is a clue, hinting at us to pay attention to what’s on screen? That is next level storytelling.
MM: I think generally we are telling a story so if there is something that needs to be told, that isn’t, maybe, obvious, then you look at us to fill in that gap with something that is recognizable from a previous season, then maybe music is going to make a relationship happen.
LR: It might help you solve some of the mysteries, like an escape room. “Oh that (music) came with that storyline, I wonder why we’re hearing it now?”
BC: Kris- Batman Beyond was one of your first solo scores, and although WB has already denounced the hot and heavy live action rumors, did anyone ever contact you about scoring a Batman Beyond soundtrack, or do you have any thoughts on that project?
KC: It would be amazing, but unfortunately it has been a fan fabrication. I was bummed and relieved. It would be great if it happens, but that currently seems to be a fabrication, sorry.
MM: But, we would love to do it. Even if it is a rumor.
BC: Speaking of rumors, there is no information online about who is scoring the upcoming feature Justice League Vs the Fatal Five, any chance you are working on that?
DMP: [After a very long silent pause and some murmuring we couldn’t make out] Yes, we would like to announce that here!
BC: [realizing that we have a scoop on our hands] Amazing! It has been 15 years since you guys last scored the Justice League, what is like to return to this property after so long?
MM: Thrilling! We weren’t exactly sure what Bruce had in mind for the music until we had our first meeting, but when he said it was a return not only to Justice League’s characters but and also to JL’s music we were so excited. Justice League was our first solo project with Bruce (Timm) – Shirley Walker (Batman:TAS, Superman:TAS) had moved on to features at this point and she turned the series over to us entirely, so we were actually returning to our roots. We were able to bring forward musical character themes too, which made it even more nostalgic. Be sure to listen for them, along with some new themes specific to this movie’s characters.
BC: What were your thoughts when this reunion project came across your desk?
KC: It was exciting to get the call that we would be collaborating with Bruce Timm ( Batman:TAS, Justice League) on “Fatal Five”—he is such a revered figure in the DC/WB Animation world and his projects always have a lot of depth and emotion…We knew that, no matter what version of the Justice League he was using, we would be gearing up for an epic journey!
BC: What can we expect from DMP this time around?
LR: We decided early on to try to create a bit of extra magic by hiring 12 of LA’s finest French horn players! The sound of 12 horns is simply magnificent! The score walks a fine line between epic JL music, while touching a bit on the JLU sound with more contemporary elements, featuring Greg Herzenach on guitar. This was a passion project for us for sure.
BC: What advice do you have for any young musicians out there, looking to break into the world of composing for animation?
KC: For people that want to be a film composer first you have to really love this more than anything. It has to be something that you want to put all of your hard work and passion into. It is very, very competitive, and it is very difficult to break in because so many people are trying to do it. If you individually can’t imagine yourself doing anything else with your life, you should definitely follow your dream and go for it. Make sure to stack the deck in your favor by preparing all you can, by being proficient in what you have to say in your music, and learning about business. That is not part of the music business, but that is what you are as a composer. You really need to good at networking, it is truly about who you know in this industry. Meet everybody that you can, and connect with everyone that you can. As a composer you want to meet young filmmakers that are working on student films. You want to hone your craft as a composer, you want to study film music all that you can by watching and discussing and looking for groups of young composers that you can share experiences together with and grow together. It’s all possible, you just gotta stay focused on it.
BC: On a more personal note, maybe something you do not get to talk to superhero nerds like me about very often, can you discuss your writing process, and what makes you a good composer?
LR: To be an interesting composer it helps to try and be an interesting human being. Be engaged in other aspects of your life other that music, because then you bring those experiences to the table as far as helping to be a storyteller, this idea of allowing your life to blossom, and not just focused on just one aspect of your life.
MM: It is a really interesting process that is extremely personal. For me, a lot of my writing happens when I’m not in my studio. This sort of goes along with what Lolita was saying before, in that- Some of my best writing happens when I’m in the shower, or when I’m swimming in the pool, or when I am walking thru the park, or when I’m riding in a car. For me, In order to do my best creative work I need to be relaxed, which often means I cannot be thinking about writing. To be able to come up with things that feel natural and musical. It feels like breathing instead of an effort. Writing music is an interesting process that is extremely personal.
KC: (Although) we have found our niche as superhero composers, people assume that’s all that we do. What we don’t get a chance to talk about it these type of interviews – whether we are talking about our music in Young Justice or Superhero properties. We do, as creators, want to tell a story in any medium in any way…We are not just superhero composers as much as people that just want to express what the universe is telling us, in many different ways. It is not often, but a really wonderful chance for us to get to expound on how we love to create outside of (just for) superhero films.
Hold on a second there lil Pard’ner, here’s your Plug Round Up!
Young Justice: Outsiders returns to the DC Experience later this year. Lolita Ritmanis would like you to check out the Alliance for Women’s Film Composers, the new Latvian film she is scoring Blizzard of Souls, and you can follow her on Twitter here.
Michael McCuistion is very proud of his Soundtrack for the Griffith observatory Time’s Up on La La Land records. He has no tweets as Michael is far to busy for that sort of thing.