Taking over the mantle from John Williams can be an intimidating task for anyone stepping into the role of composer within the Star Wars universe. After all, Star Wars wouldn’t be Star Wars without its iconic themes. But for Ryan Shore, who’s recently composed for a number of legacy franchises including Scooby-Doo, it was an honor to jump at the chance.
io9 recently chatted with Shore about composing for online series Star Wars: Forces of Destiny and Star Wars: Galaxy of Adventures. He walked us through the process of using iconic franchise themes created by Williams which are still the musical through line of all Star Wars stories, while also putting his own mark on Lucasfilm and Disney’s beloved mythology.
Sabina Graves, io9: When you became part of projects within the Star Wars universe, was it daunting to immerse yourself in those very iconic sounds, or were you excited to bring your own flair to it?
Ryan Shore: It was mostly the former. I was a little nervous because I grew up watching these franchises but I never really gave any thought to what I would write for them. I was just enjoying them the way they were meant to be enjoyed. So I remember the first time scoring a moment like that—I was thinking, “I wonder how how this moment has been done before and what I should do.”
io9: Was there more pressure with a fandom like Star Wars’?
Shore: With scoring for Star Wars, I know that there’s such a huge fanbase, and a fanbase that knows everything about the characters and the worlds and the storylines. And so that’s a little daunting, when you think “Okay, I want to make sure I get this right.” But after I go through that first nervousness, I try to turn all of that off and just put on my composer hat and think about, “What’s the story being told? How can music best be used to tell this story and this moment?” [I] really just focus on the storytelling and try not to think about [the] people who might listen to this and and have their own thoughts about the whole history and the legacy of everything.
io9: I love your work on Star Wars: Forces of Destiny. Did you have any moments that were your favorites to score specifically?
Shore: I can tell you a story about how I first got onto that series. I was working with friends of mine at an animation house called Ghost Bot, and we had done some advertising for a totally unrelated project from Lucasfilm. They called me up and after we had done this other project and said, “We’re creating an animated TV series for Lucasfilm and we’d love to recommend you for it for scoring. Would you be interested?” And I said, “Of course.” [Then] they said, “We cannot tell you what it is because we’re all under NDA. But they’re looking for music that is like adventure music. So could you put together a reel of adventure music that you’ve done before and we’ll play it for the filmmakers?” I said, “Yeah, of course.” But in my mind I’m thinking, you know, adventure. Like, adventure could be so many different things. It could be Indiana Jones—these are all very different types of scores—[or] Star Wars. So they set up a phone call, and it was myself and one of the producers on the show, and I still did not know this is Star Wars. I remember saying to the producer, “I know I’m not allowed to know a lot of specifics. So, don’t tell me anything I’m not supposed to know, of course. But can I ask one question about the series?” He said, “Sure.” I said, “Do these stories take place on Earth?” They said, “No.” And I said, “Thank you.”
io9: Oh my gosh, smart!
Shore: That’s all I needed to know because with that information, [knowing] it’s not on Earth—so this is very possibly in space. Now it’s science fiction and this very possibly could be Star Wars because this is Lucasfilm. So I immediately, changed out my whole reel. I took all the stuff that sounded like Star Wars, and I put it right up at the top. And then I got a phone call from Lucasfilm one day, and they said, “Okay, remember that series we’re talking with you about? We’d like to hire you and it’s a new Star Wars series.”
io9: That’s incredible!
Shore: So you were asking, what’s my favorite part to score? The first episode I did, because that was the first time I got a chance to write music for Star Wars. [To] see those characters, utilize John Williams’ iconic themes, delve into that world, and to do a spotting session with Dave Filoni to talk about what the music should be and what the role the music is going to be—being integrated into the Star Wars universe—that was my favorite.
io9: What was it like working with Dave Filoni as he began to oversee more of the expanding animated Star Wars universe?
Shore: Dave was very trusting. I remember in the beginning we did a spotting session and spotted like six episodes where we watched the episodes, we talked about what kind of music going to be in them, and where we’re going to make musical shifts. I went back to my studio and I wrote all that and delivered it to them and they had no comments—like, zero comments on six episodes of music. So I remember thinking to myself, they either really like this, or maybe I’m about to be fired. [Not getting any comments is] so uncommon. So when we did our next round of spotting sessions, it was much quicker. And then Dave, he stopped himself and it was the greatest compliment ever—Dave said to me, “You know what you’re doing. Just do it.” I don’t even remember spotting some of those later episodes. It was really fast, they trusted me.
io9: What was the best piece of advice that Dave Filoni or Lucasfilm gave you when it came to bringing you into the universe?
Shore: What I really remember about working with Dave was he didn’t really provide a lot of advice. The main advice [I got from Lucasfilm] was how to utilize John Williams themes. That was a big one because we all know these iconic themes and if you play them, musically, it sounds like Star Wars. You play this theme that we all know and you put it up against the Star Wars footage and okay, it’s Star Wars, but it’s almost a little too easy—Williams wouldn’t do that. Williams wouldn’t just take one of these themes and and put it up against the scene and say, “There you go, now it’s Star Wars.” So that was one of the main pieces of advice they gave me: using Williams’ themes at the right times in the right ways, and to use them judiciously; that way, I’m not overusing them. I also got to write a few of my own themes as well, which blew my mind to have written my own themes alongside Williams—and then to see the paperwork after the show that shows my name next to Williams’. It’s like, “What? How did that happen?”
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