Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Garrett Vandenberg Interview

Hey folks. It's been quite a while since I've had an interview to share with the world. It's my pleasure to present to you an email interview with Garrett Vandenberg.

For those who do not know, Garrett Vanderberg is a freelance composer known for creating music for various projects including YouTube shows Messy Mondays and Say Goodnight Kevin. Additionally, he wrote and performed the "worship song written in five minutes", and helped found the hardcore band Elizabeth Crim.

Basically, he's a pretty awesome guy and you should check out his stuff.


Reuben Horst: How did you get into composing?

Garrett Vandenberg: I got into composing at a very young age. I think I first started fooling around trying to write stuff on the piano when I was about 9. It didn't really amount to too much until later on in life when I got connected with my buddy Kevin McCreary. He really encouraged me to take music a little more seriously and try some new things. During the years I spent working on projects with him (from about 2010 until now, basically) I learned simply by doing. I learned how to write an album of music because he said, "Hey! Let's do it!" I learned how to score a radio drama because he said, "Yeah dude, you can do this." I honestly believe much of the reason I've gone as far as I have today is due to Kevin's encouragement and pushing me to see what I could really do.

RH: How did you meet the guys at Blimey Cow?

GV: Focus on the Family put on a live show for Adventures in Odyssey about 2 years ago, and Kevin and I decided to travel there and cover it for our podcast "The Odyssey Scoopcast". It was a ton of fun and we met a lot of great people—a couple of which being the Taylors. It was funny, because I think Kevin and I had only maybe seen part of one of their videos before, but they (especially Josh) were super excited to meet us because they were listeners of our show. I remember showing Josh the M'Kalister Park CD and he was really stoked on it and super encouraging. We talked for a bit at the show and exchanged contact information. From there it was just a matter of the way friendships tend to grow. We happened to have complementing skill sets, so we worked on stuff together sometimes. I really enjoy working with the guys.

RH: How did you come up with the “How to Write a Worship Song (In 5 Minutes or Less)” video?

GV: It was actually sort of a compilation of inside jokes my siblings and I have been making about the modern Christian music industry for years. One day I just decided to write it all down in the form of a skit, just for fun. I read it to my mom and she got a good laugh out of it, and I think I remember her actually mentioning that it was sort of similar to the style of videos Blimey Cow did. I'm not sure if that's what inspired me to talk to Josh about it; but regardless, I somehow ended up showing him the script. I wasn't even necessarily suggesting they do a video on it, but just wanted to share the skit with him because I thought he'd appreciate the sense of humor. When I did, he thought it was hilarious and asked me if they could do a video using my skit as the base for the script. I was thrilled to say, "Yes, go for it!" I'm really happy with what they did with the idea, and I'm super proud of how far they've come as a channel.

RH: How was Elizabeth Crim formed?

GV: Really, it was as simple as me hearing a dude at my church hardcore screaming during a worship set, and I came up to him afterward and said, "Hey dude, let's start a band."

RH: How did you come up with the name Elizabeth Crim?

GV: (I'm not super sure of the details of this story, but this is as best I can remember.) I actually didn't come up with it. Taylor, our lead vocalist, heard the name in a dream he had once about his grandmother (whose name was Elizabeth). In the dream he saw a demon screaming at his grandmother, but he heard God speaking to him and saying, "I'm going to use you to scream much louder than this demon," and since then he's been super inspired and focused on reaching the hardcore scene. The name Elizabeth Crim means "Violent Warrior for God".

RH: What are some of the musical projects you are most proud of?

GV: I've really loved all the projects that I've been able to work on with Red Chrome Media, and I think I'm the most proud of the different projects we've worked on together. I also have really enjoyed and am proud of the stuff I've had the opportunity to work on with the guys from Blimey Cow. The project I'm actually most proud of is a sort of indie rock/alt rock/acoustic album of some of my own personal songs. The problem is I'm still working on it and am not planning on sharing it with the world for a while. Someday, though.

RH: Have you ever considered composing music for video games?

GV: Yes, and in fact I have done music for a few different games. Sometimes more 8-bit chip tuney stuff, and other times more cinematic type scores. I'm really pretty eager to give anything a shot if I've got a client willing to hire me.

RH: What are some of your favorite composers and soundtracks?

GV: I don't listen to a lot of movie soundtracks, but some of my favorite composers are Luke Howard, Keith Kennif, and Robert J. P. Oberg. My absolute favorite classical album ever (and quite possibly my favorite album period) is called "Sun, Cloud" by Luke Howard. It is absolutely worth a detailed listen if you have the time to sit down with a good pair of headphones and take it in.

RH: What are some of your hobbies not related to music?

GV: I like juggling, yo-yoing, pogo sticking, snowboarding, video games (particularly platformer, puzzle, and RTS games), spending time with my heavenly father, and loving people.

RH: If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?

GV: I think that music is a reflection of who people are. I don't think I would change anything about the industry directly, because the way it operates is simply a story about how the people behind it operate. There are plenty of beautiful albums out there by really genuine people; by terrible, selfish people; by talented people; but untalented people; by people who love God and want to glorify him in everything they do; by people who hate everything and are totally broken; but I think all of these albums have their places. I find I appreciate any music that reveals truth about someone or something. I suppose if I could change one thing, I would change people to be closer to God and have a deeper understanding of beauty and love and life, so their music and the way they distribute it would reflect all of those things more.

RH: If somebody were to murder you in your sleep, how would you react?

GV: I don't think I would.

RH: What is your favorite food?

GV: I like too many kinds of food to pick a favorite. I like a lot of kinds of pasta and my sister makes a really mean taco soup.

RH: Thank you for your time!


If you want to want to find out more about Garrett and his projects, check out his website and the website for Elizabeth Crim. If you need a composer for your project, definitely check him out.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Soundtrack of the Month: October 2014

Welcome to the third installment of this blog series. In honor of a certain film's 20th anniversary, I present to you David Arnold's incredible score to the 1994 film Stargate. The film would spawn what was to become one of the greatest science fiction franchises of all time. I will be specifically covering the deluxe edition of the soundtrack, which contains a few track title corrections and several additional tracks.

David Arnold composed the music to the film, but when the rights for the Stargate story were later transferred to television creators Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner to create the TV series Stargate SG-1, the job of composing was also handed off to Joel Goldsmith (son of legendary composer Jerry Goldsmith). Over time Goldsmith would create many incredible themes for the ever-growing franchise, but from the beginning a lot of the music was heavily based on Arnold's score from the original movie. The title theme of SG-1, remaining through all ten years of the series's run, was a rendition of one of the original film's themes.

The point being made is that while the television franchise differed greatly from the vision of the creators of the original film, much of the original music remained all throughout the series. It was that memorable, and it was that good.

If you know me, you know I'm a huge Stargate fan. In fact, I recently rewatched the entire franchise, from beginning to end (over 350 episodes and three movies). In addition to that, I own every Stargate soundtrack ever released, aside from the non-deluxe edition of this movie score. There were only a total of six releases (plus this deluxe edition), but it certainly cost me to collect them all. Only two of the releases are still in print. I'm a collector, though, so I just had to get them all.

Something that sets aside the original Stargate film from its television legacy is the sense of mystery surrounding the Stargate itself. What is it? Where does it lead? What will they find on the other side? All of this mystery and intrigue are incorporated into the score. Ancient Egyptian themes are throughout, providing a unique feel to run alongside and fit in with the movie. Overall, there are few movie scores as majestic and unique as this one. We can only hope that Arnold returns to score the upcoming Stargate reboot trilogy.

One more thing that sets apart the composer of the film and the composer of the television franchise is that, while they use many of the same themes, Arnold and his full orchestra give a feeling of grandeur to the score, whereas Goldsmith's score is often a lot more subtle. They're two very different styles, yet both sound incredible.

Featured Tracks
Yes, I know this section is supposed to be set aside for three of my favorite tracks, but sometimes soundtracks have so many tracks it's next to impossible to select only three. I created the rule, so I can break it as I see fit. In fact, next month I plan on breaking it even further (but for good reason).

Track 1: Stargate Overture – This amazing theme is how the movie begins. Many years later, after Stargate SG-1 would run its ten-year course, the series received a television movie to conclude the story. That movie's score began with the exact same composition, this time arranged by Joel Goldsmith. The difference was that where the original version deviates at a certain point to an incredible choir section representing the villain Ra, Goldsmith's version deviates to an incredible choir section representing the Ori (the then-antagonists of the television series). It's a great throwback to this film.

Track 3: Giza 1928 – As with "Stargate Overture", this track is filled with themes that would later be used throughout the television series. This is, however, one of the coolest renditions of these themes ever arranged by either composer.

Track 22: Ra - The Sun God – This is the theme of Ra, the villain of the movie. This incredible piece of score was later rearranged for the pilot of Stargate SG-1, no longer representing Ra himself, but instead simply representing his race, the Goa'uld. (Note: There are some... differences between the continuity of the original film and the continuity of the television franchise. Those will be addressed at a later time.)

Track 32: Battle at the Pyramid – This track scores five (rather awesome) minutes of the film's climax. Quite memorable, and flows through a number of the film's musical themes.

Stargate: The Deluxe Edition is out of print, but you can still purchase it digitally from iTunes.
You can listen to it for free on YouTube.