The World's Finest: First off, care to fill us in on your background and some of your previous projects?
Kevin Kliesch: I started my career in L.A. when I moved here from Boston in 1996. I've had numerous jobs in the film music industry, including composer's assistant, music editor, conductor, copyist, etc. But what I mostly became known for was my orchestrating. I've worked on over 100 studio films as an orchestrator and continue to orchestrate when I have the time. After I orchestrated Disney's Tangled in 2010, I was given the opportunity to compose for a tv series, and that's led to where I am today.
WF: Superman: Unbound is your first foray into the DC Universe animated movie line. For Superman: Unbound what were your first thoughts when getting the assignment? Is there an intimidation that comes with working with this character, or stepping into the same shoes as the character’s musical predecessors?
KK: My first thought after getting Superman: Unbound was pure excitement. I hadn't scored a direct-to-video movie for a major studio, so to be given the opportunity to do so was even more thrilling when I found out it was a Superman film. I felt no intimidation from the long history of the character, nor was I too worried about filling the shoes of the composers that had scored the live-action movies such as [John] Williams and [John] Ottman, since I felt quite comfortable scoring in the action/superhero genre from my previous work on Thundercats.
WF: What kind of influences did you look to for Superman: Unbound? Did you revisit the works of other famed Superman composers to find some insight into the character?
KK: After meeting with director James Tucker, he had a specific instruction for me about the music: he didn't want it to be a typical orchestral superhero score, the likes of which has been done countless times before. I suggested a "hybrid" approach to him that would combine the traditional orchestra with a heavy dose of overlaid electronics, and he was very receptive to that idea. Since the previous Superman movies hadn't ventured in to this genre of scoring, I didn't refer to the excellent music that had been previously written for the character. I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to take the franchise in a new, contemporary direction.
WF: -You scored the Cartoon Network revival series “ThunderCats.” How does scoring a 75-minute movie compare to scoring an entire 26-episode series?
KK: In terms of the differences in scoring a tv series versus a full-length movie, in this case there really were none. On the series, I was given 2 weeks to score each episode with wall-to-wall music, which turned out to be 22 minutes that I had to write, orchestrate, perform, copy parts for the live musicians, and record in 10 working days. Superman: Unbound had a similar schedule where I had figured out that writing 3 minutes of music per day would get me to the finish line. I had about 5 weeks to score the movie, so that worked out to approximately 70 minutes of music.
WF: And, a follow-up from the previous question ... what is your method to writing a score?
KK: When I started writing the score for Superman: Unbound, I initially assembled a huge palette of electronic sounds in addition to my traditional orchestral samples. I then scored the movie in a linear fashion, from start to finish. Character themes were developed as I went along. Even though the director didn't want a traditional superhero sound, I felt that Superman and Supergirl did deserve some of that treatment, so both of their characters have themes represented by the brass section. On top of those two themes is layered the electronics to bring a contemporary sound to the duo. And for Brainiac, I used almost all electronics - I felt his character was himself a hybrid of man and machine, so I took out most of the organic elements and put in synthetic textures in their place.
WF: Do you have any background with superheroes, be it through your own hobbies or maybe previous work held in other music-related fields? Is there an attraction to working on such larger-than-life titles like these?
KK: I don't really have a background with superheroes, although I have orchestrated for some in the past, most notably for Superman Returns and X-Men: The Last Stand, both recorded in 2006. Any time I am offered to score a project with such a grand history is attraction enough!
WF: Given this is a superhero-based title, are there any particular beats you try to hit to give your score that heroic feel?
KK: As I mentioned, I decided to give a nod to the traditional brass superhero themes of the past while simultaneously adding a contemporary feel to those themes. Any time Superman or Supergirl are on screen doing what they do best, you'll hear those moments reflected in the score.
WF: Back to Superman: Unbound! Are there any particular moments of your work on this title that you’d like to point out for us? Perhaps a favorite moment in the movie or a favorite track on the soundtrack release?
KK: I'm really happy with the whole score, but I especially am fond of the last track on the disc, "Rebuilding the City/End Titles." This cue goes through many emotions - horror, anxiety, triumph, prosperity, jubilation - and the token love theme - and then wraps it all up with a final statement of Superman's and Supergirl's theme in a traditional superhero orchestral arrangement (which I saved just for the end credits!).
WF: Would you return to do another DC Animated movie? Is there any hero in particular you’d like the opportunity to provide a score to?
KK: I'd be grateful for the opportunity to score another DC animated movie, since I had a blast doing this one. Whatever character they want to throw at me, I'd be honored to do.
WF: Lastly, any chance you can fill us in on your next project? Where might we see you next?
KK: Right now I'm scoring Disney's newest tv series, Sofia the First on Disney Junior. It's currently the #1 cable show for kids 2-5, so we've been picked up for another season, which should keep me busy for the immediate future.