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Backstage - Christopher Drake Interview (WF Conducted)

In an exclusive interview with The World's Finest, Batman: Under the Red Hood composer Christopher Drake discusses the upcoming direct-to-video animated feature. New images are also included.

How would you describe your composing work on this feature as compared to your other full-length works? More intimate and personal, given the story, perhaps?

This is definitely the darkest Batman animated feature so far. The idea was to keep the music a bit more intimate, minimal and restrained. The film has a straight serious tone, so the idea was not to use the music as "epic" or perhaps melodramatic and in-your-face as something like the score we used for Wonder Woman, for example.

I think this is the first DCU movie I've scored where I didn't rely on using a giant choir to make the big fights bigger. The action music in Batman: Under the Red Hood is more percussive and rhythmical. Compared to my other DCU film scores, this one is not as musically thematic by design its meant to serve the emotion of the scene without overpowering it.

My approach on all of these DCU movies is to never score them as "cartoons." I treat them like they are live-action films. When I watched the movie with Brandon (Vietti) for the first time, to talk about where music should be present, we realized that a lot of times the actor's voice performances and animation were so strong, the film didn't need any help from the music to emphasize the drama or tension of the scene.

Is there a difference in scoring for this type of a Batman tale then the SUPERMAN/BATMAN: PUBLIC ENEMIES feature, for example?

The challenge for me in scoring the DCU animated movies is that each film is its own stand-alone entity not connected by continuity to anything before. So while I have written music for Batman four times now (including two different styles in Batman Gotham Knight) I don't have the luxury of expanding on a central established Batman musical theme like Danny Elfman, Shirley Walker or Hans Zimmer have in the various sequels. I have to start from scratch and reinvent the thematic elements for each new movie.

Ultimately, it all comes down to the director's concept for what the style of the music should be, and what it needs to do to support the story. For Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, the concept from producer Michael Goguen was to have the music be an homage to 80's action movie music. On Red Hood, Brandon was referencing more modern minimalist electronic film scores.

Brandon also had very specific direction for what the music should represent. For example, the character of the Red Hood was the new guy in town, so his music was more electronic sounding as opposed to Batman being the "old guy" having a more traditional orchestral sound.

As a quick follow-up to the previous question, would it be fair to compare your work here to your work on BATMAN GOTHAM KNIGHTS segments?

I had originally conceived the score to be stylistically an extension to what I had done with my score for the In Darkness Dwells segment of Gotham Knight.

I scored about 20 minutes of music in that gothic orchestral style, but as we started to see the picture as a whole, Brandon felt that the score for this film needed to go in a different, more modern direction to separate it from what had come before. At that point, we started introducing more electronic and ambient elements, like synthesized and processed electronic guitar.

Given the dark tone of the feature, did you draw influences to make sure your score appropriately reflected the movie?

Brandon had very specific references to other modern electronic film scores that he wanted to stylistically incorporate into the sound palette of our score. So in a way, this film had a temp music track for me to follow, and to draw upon for inspiration. The trick was to split the difference between the traditional orchestral sound of Mask of the Phantasm, and the more electronic sounds of The Dark Knight.

Without giving away and specific details, will we be seeing you again in a future DC UNIVERSE ANIMATED ORIGINAL MOVIE? Any future projects you can tell us about?

I am starting a new DCU movie in about two weeks. It's based on a story by one of the most renowned comic book writers working. So far the animation I've seen looks really spectacular.

I scored a "director's cut" of one of Guillermo del Toro's early films called "GEOMETRIA" which will be featured on an upcoming Criteron Collection release of his film CRONOS, and I start a psychological thriller called CRAVE later this fall.

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