EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Ghost Rider Composer Christopher Young
Right in the middle of scoring Spider-Man 3, Composer Chris Young graciously took time out to talk to CBM about making music for the Ghost Rider soundtrack...
Composer Christopher Young has scared up a killer score for Columbia Pictures' "Ghost Rider" movie, based on the popular Marvel Comics character. Starring Nicholas Cage, Eva Mendes and Peter Fonda, this dark super hero actioner follows stunt motorcyclist Johnny Blaze who gives up his soul to become a hellblazing vigilante. Young used drums, a choir, and a gigantic orchestra--including acoustic and electric guitars in his score, and what came out could be called the first "industrial western" soundtrack ever made. "It's an exciting score," he says. "It was unlike anything I've done." Be sure to pick up the soundtrack the day the film opens, February 16th.
ComicBookMovie.com: Were you a comic book reader/fan in your youth?
Christopher Young: I cannot tell a lie. I never really was. Other than "Eerie Magazine" and some of the underground stuff around back then, I wasn't hooked on comics.
ComicBookMovie.com: Well, those certainly count. I'll bet you picked up a few Ghost Rider comics for research on this movie, right?
Christopher Young: Yes, I did snag a bunch of old comics in order to get prepared for the interview. I did want to make sure that when I went in I knew what I was talking about. But then you know what happens, inevitably once you're onboard the movie, anything that you might have read usually has to be modified because the director's take on it is somewhat different than what's in the comics.
ComicBookMovie.com: Thank goodness Mark Steven Johnson was on this one. He seems to keep true to most of the comic book elements that make up the character.
Christopher Young: That's very true.
ComicBookMovie.com: Did he have much input on the direction that the score took?
Christopher Young: Oh God! He had everything to do with it. Yes, he was definitely a very forward director in terms of trying his best to identify what he thought was right for the movie. And fortunately we completely agreed. When I went in for the interview I'd heard that they were having a terrible time finding "temp" music for the screenings because what they were looking for they felt had never really been done before. They were looking for sort of a gothic, western score that had "industrial" elements.
ComicBookMovie.com: How did you approach the heavy themes of hell and vengence in your music and then turn on a dime to do heroic and romantic?
Christopher Young: Well, first of all I had a behemoth orchestra and choir. It was well over a hundred people. It was like woodwinds in threes, eight french horns, three trumpets, I think it was four trombones, a couple of tubas, a gigantic percussion section. As you could hear, it had prerecorded electric guitars and drums--the drums being played by the drummer from White Zombie. The two guitarists both played in Nine Inch Nails.
ComicBookMovie.com: Did you consciously do anything differently with these comic book movies that is unique to them? I know you've done a lot of horror movie scores, and Ghost Rider does have many of those elements.
Christopher Young: You know, if ever there was a comic book movie for me to start with as a primer to the comic book world, then I couldn't have thought of one that is more appropriate than Ghost Rider. It's loaded with demons, and that is a world I'm familiar with musically. One thing that I did that we've already mentioned is utilizing a drum set, a double bass drum kit and guitars. I've never had that before in any of my horror pictures. And you know, there is a lot of non-tonal music in the score. But I would like to think that it is probably held together more by melody than a lot of my horror scores would be. Certainly if you listen to "The Grudge" score or "The Nightmare of Emily Rose" score--there's not a hell of a lot of melody in those scores. Even though in the Ghost Rider film there are really only two major themes; the Ghost Rider theme and the romantic theme for young Johnny Blaze and his girlfriend Roxy. Those are really the only two major themes, but if you listen to the CD you'll notice that the Ghost Rider theme appears all over the place. It reappears in various guises in nearly every single cue.
ComicBookMovie.com: How long does putting together a score take? And when do you get to see the actual movie to compose it? Take us through the process.
Christopher Young: Usually the composer is hired at the very end. The film is completed and the actors have moved on to their next movie. The editor has assembled a director's rough cut. That's when they bring the composer on. So, the first time I am connected to the movie other than having read the script and interviewed for it is usually when they have a viewable version of the movie. Now its far from the locked cut--it's usually extremely long, but it is an indication of the direction that the film is going in. And many times the composer is really the first outsider to see the movie.
ComicBookMovie.com: Having seen it all, I want you to put on your critics cap and tell us what YOU thought of the Ghost Rider movie.
Christopher Young: Oh man! I was absolutely blown away by it. And from a composers point of view, it's everything that I could ever want from a picture. It gave me reasons to write the best stuff I'm able to write. It's the kind of movie that I'm addicted to. It's an interesting story, and they couldn't have gotten a better guy to portray him than Nicholas Cage.
ComicBookMovie.com: That's great! And it follows some other great reviews for the film. I want to thank you for your time Chris.
Christopher Young: You bet, and let me know what your readers think of the score.
ComicBookMovie.com: Will do! You heard him comic book movie fans. Pay attention and let us know your thoughts about the Ghost Rider soundtrack!
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