Saturday, July 4, 2015

Jeff Williams Interview

Jeff Williams is a critically-acclaimed composer who works primarily for the production company Rooster Teeth, and is known for scoring music for many of their various works including the webseries Red vs. Blue, RWBY, and X-Ray & Vav, along with the company's upcoming feature comedy Lazer Team. His daughter, Casey Lee Williams, is often involved with his works, and is the lead localist for the RWBY soundtrack.

I recently got the chance to ask Jeff a number of questions, and I am extremely grateful that he was willing to set aside a little bit of time to respond to them, even if the process was considerably rushed. I do feel rather bad for taking him away from his crazy busy projects. Enjoy the interview!

Update: It appears some people didn't realize that the final question was entirely a joke, which I made abundantly clear to Jeff beforehand. I jokingly pitched it to a friend while I was writing the interview questions, and they somehow convinced me to keep it in.


Reuben Horst: With Season 2 of X-Ray & Vav and Volume 3 of RWBY currently in production, what does a typical week look like for Jeff Williams?

Jeff Williams: A nightmare. I'm actually working on Lazer Team now. I work almost every day for 12-16 hours.

RH: You have worked on four major series for Rooster Teeth (The Strangerhood, Red vs. Blue, RWBY, and X-Ray & Vav). Each of these series has a very different musical style for its score. What is it like to jump between all these different musical styles, and which is your favorite to compose?

JW: I don't currently work on X+V; that's just Steve [Goldshein] and Alex [Abraham] doing that right now. They love working on that show.

I like writing songs, really. I just let my imagination run and I think about the shows and the characters a lot. I could never make an album that was one style of music from start to end... It's just my nature to jump around in different styles.

RH: Two names often associated with your soundtracks are Alex Abraham and Steve Goldshein. They are not often talked about, but they have both scored a considerable amount of additional music on your soundtracks. Could you tell us a little bit about them, and how they play into the larger scheme of things?

JW: They are both awesome composers and great people, and have very different sounds and skills. Having them as helpers means I can spend more time on writing songs, and it seems pretty clear that the songs that I do are what people gravitate to.

RH: I believe you've said before that Casey is very involved in the songwriting process for RWBY. What are the chances that she will be writing her own songs one day, for RWBY or other projects?

JW: No, I never said that, Casey is not a songwriter. I hope she will be, but right now she doesn't write songs. She's part of the process in that... we influence each other's listening habits a lot. But I write the songs and all the lyrics. I hope very much that she will write songs, but we all do what we do when we are ready to do it.

RH: The music of RWBY is at times very reminiscent of JRPGs [Japanese role-playing video games] and other animated series, while at the same time being unique in its own way. Are there any specific anime or video games that influenced the musical style of the series?

JW: I listen to music so sporadically that I couldn't say. Honestly, all the music that I have listened to and played over my entire life is what goes into what I write.

RH: RWBY Volume 3 is in pre-production. How much of the story are you generally told ahead of time? Do you already have ideas for the theme song of RWBY Volume 3?

JW: I can't comment on this at this time.

RH: The death of Monty Oum [the creator of RWBY] was a great tragedy that has affected many lives. How do you think the composing process will be different from here on out? Will his death affect or inspire the lyrical content of any songs for Volume 3?

JW: Not answering this except to say that my heart is broken and it will be forever.

RH: Rooster Teeth is currently in production of a video game, titled RWBY: Grimm Eclipse. Are you going to be contributing any new music to the game soundtrack, and do you think there will be an eventual soundtrack release for the game?

JW: I have no idea.

RH: Which of the four major series you've worked on is your favorite, regardless of the music?

JW: I honestly don't watch them. I'm more of a Futurama / Arrested Development type.

RH: So you don't watch the shows that I'd assume you literally need to watch in order to score?

JW: No, I don't watch them, it's not a joke. I mean, I understand what I need to understand in order to do what I need to do. That usually comes more from reading the script and talking with directors than from actually watching it. I feel no need to watch the show after I am done working on it. Rooster Teeth's audio mixing is... well, let's just say... it doesn't tend to flatter the music.

I interact with the characters in a different way than the viewer does. I need to dream about them and imagine their lives and their thoughts and their feelings and experiences. I need to let my imagination run around and pretend the characters are telling me their deepest secrets. What the viewer sees in the show is just a tiny slice of that character's life. Writing anything requires a lot of pretending.

I watch very little TV, I don't watch a ton of movies. I don't have that kind of free time, and I'm just not interested in 99% of what is produced.

RH: Is Lazer Team going to have a soundtrack release?

JW: I would guess so, but I honestly don't know right now.

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

JW: Hiking, fashion, girls, cars that I would buy if I had enough time to drive them.

RH: If I were to ask your daughter out, what method would you use to kill me?

JW: Embarrassment when she denies you.

RH: Thanks a ton, Jeff. Your music is a great inspiration to me.

JW: I'm so glad that it is. Thank you.


Check out Jeff Williams' incomplete IMDb page, or follow him on the Rooster Teeth community.

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