WonderCon 2017 took place at the Anaheim Convention Center March 31-April 2! In Part 1 of our Saturday Report, Violet discusses getting into the con and attending our first panel of the day, From Stage to Screen: Rock Stars on Becoming Film & TV Composers.
Our Saturday got off to an early start, as we figured we should probably head down and park early, before the crowd arrived. We arrived and parked around 8:00am, and being that we are Disneyland Annual Pass holders, and our pass includes parking, we were able to park right across the street from the convention center in the Toy Story lot. Then we walked to the nearby IHOP for breakfast. It looked pretty crowded, but it was only a 5 minute wait. In the lobby, there was this awesome balloon art display of Beauty and the Beast.
It was about 9:00am when we started heading over to the Convention Center. By this time, traffic heading into the Toy Story lot had become pretty backed up, whereas we had been able to breeze through very quickly. Good thing we came early!
When we walked over to the convention center, after scanning our badges in through the front, there wasn’t much direction of where we were supposed to go. It seemed people were heading toward the left, to Hall D, so we went that way. But then we noticed that many of these people didn’t have their badges yet, so we thought they were just heading that way to pick up their badges. We spotted a volunteer wearing a green vest and asked her. She directed us to go further down to the white tent to scan in.
Once inside, there was an area to scan your badge to pick up lanyards and programs, in the case that you had been mailed your badge. Then there were several chutes of people lined up, which was where you were supposed to line up to get in. The Exhibit Hall was scheduled to open at 10:00am, but they started letting people in about 10 minutes early. We headed for Room 207 for our first panel, and on the way up, we saw a crowd of people standing outside the front doors, waiting to be let in.
From Stage to Screen: Rock Stars on Becoming Film & TV Composers
Our first panel of the day was From Stage to Screen: Rock Stars on Becoming Film & TV Composers, which began at 10:00am in Room 207, featuring rock stars who now compose music for various TV shows and films.
These rock stars included Jeff Russo of Tonic (Legion, Fargo), Mac Quayle of Rise Robots Rise (Mr. Robot, American Horror Story), Siddhartha Khosla of Goldspot (This is Us, The Royals), Charlie Clouser of Nine Inch Nails (Saw, Wayward Pines), Alec Puro of Deadsy (The Fosters, Sweet/Vicious), and Jeff Cardoni of Alien Crime Syndicate (Silicon Valley, Training Day).
The panel started off by showcasing clips featuring examples of the panelists’ works, both as rock stars and as on screen composers. Legion‘s Amber Midthunder and Mr. Robot‘s Stephanie Corneliussen moderated the panel.
The moderators started by asking what prompted the panelists to make the transition. Jeff Russo said that it wasn’t a conscious decision. A friend was working on Heroes and they asked him to come in and watch them do it. He helped them out for awhile and realized that’s something he would like to do, so looked for his own work. Mac Quayle talked about how the music industry seemed to be declining, so he moved from New York to Los Angeles and found colleagues who helped him get into composing. As for Siddhartha Khosla, he got a phone call to work on Neighbors, and his manager told him to take the gig. He wasn’t a classically trained musician, so he wasn’t sure he had what it took, but he was able to learn as he went. Charlie Clouser had graduated with a degree in electronic music in the 80s. He remained friends with an Australian composer over the years, and after he left Nine Inch Nails in 2001, he and his composer friend started working together on a TV series called Fast Lane on Fox, which led to more TV work for him. The Saw movie work came as a result of remixes he’d done on Nine Inch Nails music that were only released on imports. James Wan, the director of Saw, had found these remixes and reached out to Charlie to include them on the Saw movies. Charlie then revealed, “We’re doing another one! Get ready, Halloween, here it comes!” So, Saw fans will be happy to hear that. Alec Puro’s first experience composing was when he was 19 or 20, he had a friend who was a producer on Chicago Hope who asked him to come work on the show. He came back to composing in 2006 when the band decided to take a long break. Jeff Cardoni realized that being a guitarist in a band wasn’t really his thing. He got into composing by assisting other composers on movies, such as 28 Days Later. His first big break was CSI: Miami after demoing an episode.
The moderator asked about Sid’s original song We Can Always Come Back to This on This is Us from the Memphis episode. After giving some background about what was going on in the show at that time, Sid told us that the idea for the song was very much embedded in the idea of the show: we can die, but it doesn’t mean that we are gone. The song needed to have a “Motown” feel, which he admitted was unfamiliar to him if you listen to his band, Goldspot. They recorded the song on 2 inch tape, which was a rare opportunity in the recording industry. I really enjoyed hearing about this, as I actually watch This is Us, and loved that song.
Jeff Russo talked about how it’s difficult to keep things fresh, and not use the same chord progression. He said you have to sit there and figure out what you haven’t done yet. Mac, who has a large library of computer based music, said that he has a solid rule that he can’t use something in one project that he’s already used in another. Jeff mentioned going out and buying an electronic synthesizer to use on Legion, because it was a unique sound he knew he wouldn’t use anywhere else.
Jeff Cardoni said that a lot of the best comedy music is not funny. He wasn’t the lead singer of the band he was in, and he compared being a composer to being like the backup band, while the dialogue is the lead singer.
Charlie Clouser talked about pieces of art he got from a metal sculptor that he uses to make scary scraping sounds for Saw.
The panel was then opened up to audience questions. The first asked the panelists’ favorite TV show of all time. Answers included The A-Team, Mr. Robot, Twin Peaks, Breaking Bad, Scooby Doo, and The Wire. Another question was which composers they’re inspired by. Russo said that when he worked for Legion, he got to wear his main influence on his sleeve: Pink Floyd, because it was a schizophrenic type sound reflective of the 70s.
Jeff Russo talked about how he had made an electronic takedown remix of Bolero by the London Symphony Orchestra for Legion. By accident, they were able to layer the two versions on top of each other, and it worked for cutting between reality and non-reality.
Another question was about working on multiple projects. Sid mentioned that he had working on 2 episodes of This is Us at the same time because likes to work very early. Additionally, for each episode he likes to have a theme. Jeff Cardoni told us that Netflix films the whole season of a show before they start working on it, so that changes the game on them.
An audience member asked what recording software the panelists use. Charlie Clouser said that he primarily uses Logic, but switches back and forth between Logic and Ableton. However, Jeff Cardoni said you can get the same thing out of anything, that it doesn’t really matter what you use, just that you know how to use it. Other panelists agreed, saying that they use Pro Tools because that’s what they’ve used their whole career.
Jeff Russo talked about how you’ve gotta love what you do. Charlie said when he first started it was because he wanted to avoid doing anything that felt like work. They joked about the groupies that composers get, and how it feels like they’re just playing with toys and they’re wondering when someone’s going to come in and stop them.
A Brief Look at the Exhibit Hall
The Rock Stars panel ended at about 10:50am, and the next panel I was interested in was the Midnight, Texas panel, which started at 11:45am in Room 300AB. We swung by the room to see how full it was, as the APB panel was already in session, having begun at 10:45am. A quick peek confirmed that several seats were still available in the room, so we decided to go down to the Exhibit Hall for a bit.
As usual, Josh wanted to go by the Geek Chic booth, which makes board game tables. Right next to that booth was the Exploding Kittens booth, which had an interactive “dispenser.” People were lined up along the aisle watching people interact with it, as it was pretty funny. The person inside the dispenser would hold up signs to communicate with the customer, who would turn an arrow to point to what they wanted to buy, and push “Yup!” and “Nope!” buttons to answer any questions. The most popular “item” that people bought was a “Random Thing,” which was priced at $1. Items that came out included a potato, a coconut, a banana, a plastic egg, and even an instant photo picture!
We then met up with friends @cyberaug (John) and @CorgiKohmander (Jason) on the floor. Jason gave us some cool labels he had made for us with our site’s name and logo, which we placed over the name area on our badges. it was about 11:25am at this point, so Jason headed up with us back to Room 300AB, while John went to a different panel. But by the time we made it back to Room 300AB, it turned out it wasn’t going to be so easy to get into the Midnight, Texas panel after all…
Click here to continue to the remainder of our WonderCon 2017 Saturday reports featuring the Midnight, Texas panel, followed by The Magicians, Agents of SHIELD, and the Warner Bros. panels!
Check out more photos from the panel and the Exhibit Hall below!