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Interview with Garry Schyman

Versión en español

Having Garry Schymansuch a curriculum, involving scores for TV, movies and videogames, Garry Schyman is a very talented music composer, who has been working in it for about 25 years. His interest in music came very early, as when he was only 12 and got owned of the family piano (originally, it was a gift for his older brother), and Schyman will eventually graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in Music Composition. After that, he continued studying under the tutorship of great musician and teacher George Tremblay.
Among his very early works, there are some remarkable classical TV series as The A-Team, Magnum P.I. and The Greatest American Hero. For his first work in a videogame, Voyeur, he achieved a award for the "Best Original Game Score". He has also scored for some telefilms about Robin Cook's mysteries.
His most recent works for videogames include the score for acclaimed Destroy All Humans, and he has just complete the score for Full Spectrum Warrior: Ten Hammers.

BSOSpirit (BS): Thanks very much, Garry, for this interview.
Garry Schyman(GS): It’s my pleasure, you are very welcome.

BS: First of all, how did you start in the field of film music?
GS: When I started studying music in Los Angeles I took a degree on composition, and then I realized that the best way to work on creative music was to score films or TV series. A good friend of mines father was an actor who was working on a TV series. He introduced me to Mike Post and Pete Carpenter, a very famous team of composers who were busily working on many TV series at that time including the one that my friends father was starring in. I attended each recording session they invited me to attend, so I learnt many things about scoring for the images… After a while they asked me to try composing a few music cues. They liked what they heard and I got hired..

Mike Post

BS: You started in TV with some mythical series. What kind of music did you use, for instance, for Magnum?
GS: Magnum P.I. had a sort of rock’n roll main structure that needed somehow a sort of orchestral dressing. Mike and Pete always liked those high rhythm’n themes based on drums, bass, electric guitar and keyboards: pure action music…
Magnum was more a rock’n roll piece, and needed only a few orchestra arrangements, but the A-Team, instead, was quite more orchestral. What I learnt then was to match those pop and rock ideas with a good instrumentation, a respectful orchestral treatment. I was sincerely a very fortunate beginner. Very few composers have had the chance to work weekly with a whole orchestra and develop skills in the company of two masters like Mike Post and Pete Carpenter.

Pete Carpenter

BS: Personally, I have to confess that I'm a fan of the splendid The Greatest American Hero TV series. How do you remember your work in that project? Basically, did you follow any music guidelines from Mike Post o Pete Carpenter?
GS: They really trusted me, so I was left on my own to score freely Mike, Pete me and couple of other composers just met once a week to share some points of view and discuss the project. It was very instructive.

William Kat como el Gran Heroe Americano

BS: It's ironic being a child who enjoyed series like aforementioned by William Katt, who now contacts you for this interview... Are you aware how your music can reach people all around the world? Aren't you a bit scared about this?
GS: I guess the main theme was translated into many languages so it came to be very well known, also in Spain... TV series became a powerful cultural issue in the 80s, but I wasn't really thinking about that when I started scoring series; I was just learning and working.

Los Cuentos del Mono de Oro

BS: You worked in another wonderful TV series, a story with funny Indiana Jones- elements. I'm talking about Tales of the Gold Monkey, excellent series that cannot be found currently anywhere. Here you were the only composer. Did this fact give you more creative freedom?
GS: Pete and Mike were also involved... I was only involved with scoring the two-hour pilot. It was another composer, Frank Denson, who was the sole composer for that series...

BS: You worked in the A-Team series. Didn’t you? Was this work a consequence of your previous collaboration with Post and Carpenter in The Greatest American Hero?
GS: Both series were being produced almost at the same time. The A-Team soon became a very popular TV series, but I still can recall spotting the first episode with Mike and Pete. We didn't think much of it at the time and thought the series would not be successful. We were certainly wrong!

BS: In 1987 you were involved in a low-budget film, Penitentiary III. How was your experience in switching from TV world to the big screen with this particular project?
GS: When you score a big screen movie, the music will have only one chance. It is not something you can hear once in a week and seven days later. The score has to accomplish a role at once, so you need to work on it hard with the director or the producer. You have to plan what kind of resources you will be able to use, adapt your plans to a fixed budget. To me, however, it's all about the same: I just try to write the best music I can. I'm conscious that in TV projects one needs always to rush, and films can offer more creative time and possibilities, but both fields can be enough inspiring for a composer.

BS: You have worked quite often in very low-budget p rojects. Was your creativity affected by this fact?
GS: Money makes the world go round, no doubt. Nowadays you can even manage without an orchestra, using sampler sounds instead of hiring soloists... The budget imposes its own limitations, but it's the composer who has to master the available resources conveniently.

BS: Una escena de VoyeurIn 1994 you worked for the first time in a videogame titled Voyeur. What can you tell us about your work in that game? How did you get involved in it ?
GS: It was an interesting idea, a real challenge. The game was part of an interactive platform-software. I got involved through a friend of mine who thought that video-game music was often too obvious and simple. This was a game of mystery, about a voyeur trying to solve a murder case before the murder takes place, so the music had to be also very deep, mysterious... I just got the message.

BS: Did your music differ from a previous Voyeur's sequel?
GS: They asked me to use orchestrations, but I managed with some sampled strings. Synthesizers can also provide a very dark atmosphere, and I had to adapt to the budget.

BS: You have been closely related to TV adaptations based in Robin Cook's novels. Did you like the writer?
GS: I'm not a novel reader. I do read, but novels aren't my usual choice. This doesn't mean I don't appreciate this writer and his work... It was just a matter of coincidence.

BS: In the year 2000 you scored Spooky House, a family fantasy film. Please, tell us something about it.
GS: That was a children's tale. A film with quite a good budget, so I wrote a score for an orchestra to play with. The fact that the main character in the film was a musician helped me to stress my creative side, so I merged into a kind of Jewish music that became quite popular, at least in New York, during the early 20 th century. It was an amusing experience, so I had fun in writing Spooky House's score.

BS: That same year you wrote music for a documentary such as Race for the Poles. Do documentaries change the composer's scoring process?
GS: Somehow they do. I tried to find out what music could enhance the film or, in some way, take you to a deeper emotional connection, understanding. In fact, score musicians always work on generating a mood or enhance a mood which can be intrinsic in the film.

BS: In 2005 you scored a very successful videogame, Destroy All Humans! How were you contacted to write this score?
GS: It was luck really. I hadn't scored a video game in 10 years. My agent sent my resume and CD demo to THQ (a big video game publisher). My resume was seen by an old friend whom I hadn't seen in years – who was now an executive there. She became excited and insisted that the music person listen to my CD. She did and ended up forwarding it to the game developer Pandemic Studios who were producing Destroy All Humans. They loved one cue on my demo that reminded them of Bernard Hermann. They asked me if I had more music like that and I had a number of music cues from a project years before that was in that style. I sent it to them and they were sold. I've just finished my second game in a year “Full Spectrum Warrior – Ten Hammers” and have started my third. I guess I am officially a game composer now, which is an awesome place to be in the music business at the moment.

BS: Film music fans noticed some influences from Bernard Herrmann's The Day the Earth Stood Still in this new work. One would have expected something more comical or funnier... Closer, may be, to Danny Elfman's Mars Attacks! Why did you create so serious music for this score?
GS: I thought very carefully on the kind of music that could better fit this video game. Science-fiction movies started in fact with a very serious, dramatic kind of scores. Though the game was asked to give fun, I soon discovered that the more serious music you put in it, the more funny was the effect... So things worked out clearly in that direction. I received very good reviews and the game was a success indeed.

BS: An essential element in this score is the Theremin sound you included in it. I understand this is not an easy instrument to play with. Do you know many people are able to play this instrument?
GS: In Hollywood? Quite a few. I once watched a fantastic documentary titled Theremin: a musical odyssey, which I truly recommend... However, I didn't use a true Theremin in the score, the sound was played by a synthesizer.

BS: A CD with techno and remixed versions has been now released, but it is not your score. Why?
GS: Score CDs, as you may know, have a very active but very limited market. Record companies aren't in the best of times, so they want each record to bring them money. In fact, I pushed to the producers for a score issue on that video-game. “Too late”, they told me, and I knew then that they had worked on a kind of music CD as a free gift for video-game customers.

BS: Will your score be ever released?
GS: I'm certainly open to the idea, and it would have been wonderful to release one. However, the window to exploit a a game score is when it first comes out. I don't think anyone anticipated how successful the game and the score would be. By the time we realized that the score could have a life of its own it was too late.

BS: Thanks very much Garry for your attention. It has been a great pleasure.
GS: I enjoyed it very much, so thanks too.


Visit the composer's site in

Interview by Jose Luis Díez Chellini
Transcription by Jordi Montaner & Jose Luis Diez Chellini
Questions by David Doncel
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