Welcome to Scoring! In this series, we chat to the people behind the score. The composers, the artists and find out a little more about making of some of cinema’s greatest themes and soundtracks! This week we chat to composer Vince DiCola about Transformers: The Movie, which is celebrating its 30th Anniversary. While the movie does have its flaws there is no denying that it was bold. [Spoilers…30 years though so…] Countless Autobots and Decepticons lose their lives and killing the Autobot leader, Optimus Prime in the first act destroyed countless childhoods and almost destroyed the franchise. But one of the most notable parts of the film is the electric 80’s soundtrack that pumps up the action of the film.
Before we get into the interview, here’s a little taste of why this soundtrack is so awesome!
How did you audition for Transformers?
Vince: The producers requested that I compose a piece of music demonstrating the musical direction I envisioned for the score. I ended up with a piece I called “Legacy”, which has the expected good and evil themes along with some action music and a finale representing a ‘peace in our time’ reprise of the main theme. They really liked the piece and I was subsequently hired to compose the score. Ironically none of the material from “Legacy” ended up in the score but it was a great reference template for me.
Is there a lost audition tape that we can hear?
Vince: Actually “Legacy” appears on two BotCon-associated CD releases… ” ‘Til All Are One” and “Lighting Their Darkest Hour”. While both are out of print and most likely difficult to find, I believe the piece has been posted on YouTube as well.
You’ve mentioned in a previous interview that you only had Storyboards to score with rather than a finished film, Was there anything specific in your score that you would have changed if you had seen the finished cut?
Vince: There are more than a few cues I would’ve approached differently had I had finished picture from which to work. That said, who’s to say whether it would’ve been better or just different… or maybe even not as good as the final result?!
What were the challenges working on The Transformers Movie?
Vince: Working from the storyboards was the main challenge, and of course the pressure of getting so much work done in such a short amount of time added a lot of stress. I believe I only had 6 weeks to compose and record about 70 minutes of music! However, my co-producer Ed Fruge, our engineer Tony Papa, synth programmer Casey Young – along with a team of extremely talented musicians we assembled for the project – helped me tremendously to meet any challenge that came my way!
(Could you imagine only have this to go off)
How do you start a composition? How do you work out what instrument goes where?
Vince: I usually start by sitting at a keyboard (piano about 90% of the time) and coming up with ideas. Although I’m able to write music out in manuscript form, it’s quicker and easier for me to record ideas onto a portable recording device of some kind (back then it was cassette tapes – now it’s a digital audio recorder). Once we got into the studio at Scotti Brothers down in Santa Monica, CA, that’s where the music was arranged for the band and we orchestrated all the synthesizer parts (which was the most time-consuming part of the entire process!).
What are your influences?
Vince: My most prominent and musically influential years were the 1970’s when I was heavily exposed to progressive rock bands like ELP (Emerson, Lake and Palmer), Yes, Genesis, a band called Happy the Man and others of that nature. The greatest thing about material of that genre was a unique blending of musical styles… rock, classical, jazz, etc. So in essence, by listening to and studying this music I was getting a ‘crash course’ overview of these musical styles. My biggest influence was Keith Emerson of ELP, who sadly passed away just a few months ago. As far as film composers are concerned, I love the work of John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Thomas Newman and John Powell, to name just a few. Some of the classical composers that continue to influence and inspire me are Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Beethoven, Alberto Ginastera and Aaron Copeland.
How did you start Your Career in composing for Television and Screen?
Vince: Due to my association with Sylvester Stallone’s brother Frank who I had played with in the early 80’s, we got the opportunity to compose music for the movie “Staying Alive”, the sequel to “Saturday Night Fever” starring John Travolta. Not long after that I was blessed with the opportunity to score “Rocky IV”, which in turn led to me scoring “Transformers: The Movie”.
In closing I would just like to add how appreciative I have been and continue to be for all the kindness, support and enthusiasm I have received from fans over the years. Without them we wouldn’t have the opportunity to celebrate this iconic film from 30 years ago!
Well, that’s it for Scoring this time around. If you want to hear about the careers of your favourite composers, let us know on Facebook or the comments below.