I was lucky enough to chat with music composer Matt Novack, the man behind music for Calvin Main’s “Chapters of Horror”. Some of his other credits include the recent Hollywood smash “How to be a Latin Lover” and “Childrens Hospital” on a little network called Adult Swim. Read on to find out more about his creative process for creating eerie music and more!
Tell us about your working relationship with Calvin Main. What is your process?
I met Calvin through my friend Anthony Fanelli who was a producer on Spare Change as well as Chapters of Horror which Calvin directed. So Anthony brought me on to the project and we started off by meeting with Calvin and discussing each horror short in the series, going through tone, style and the beats of the story before I started writing. Then we floated ideas back and forth as each score evolved.
How do you keep your horror scores fresh in each of the shorts you’ve worked on?
It helped that the film makers were going for different styles with each of the Chapters of Horror shorts, so right from the start I had different inspiration and stories to work with on each chapter. I also made it a point to make sure each story’s score had a different lead or focusing instrument. For example, I started with “Dweller” which has this haunting piano theme at it’s heart, so when I moved next to “Good Evening” I told myself not to use traditional piano, but the story still called out for some sort of keyboard instrument, so in that case it became a combination of dulcimer and bells for the main theme. Each time I started a new short, I began by asking what have I not used yet and what on that list would work best for this particular story
What is your coolest horror music moment?
At the end of “Good Evening” there’s a moment when The Gentleman realizes he needs to sacrifice more to the creatures he’s summoned, so I took the theme and moved it down to low brass blasting away with a few other effects to emphasize the horror of the moment. The theme started mysterious at the beginning, gradually became darker through the story, and ended up big and angry, but the notes of the theme never changed, just the way I orchestrated it, and I love playing with different ways to arrange things to produce different emotions.
I’m also a percussionist at heart and I love writing pounding action cues like the one in the end of “The Weirdos.”
Are any of the shorts available online? which one in particular is the best representative of your work?
All of the Chapters of Horror segments are streaming on Amazon Video. Free with Ads, or no ads if you’re an Amazon Prime member. “Good Evening” is probably the best representative of my work.
“The Weirdos” is part of a different series:
Tell us what it is like to create music for a 30 min short versus one under 10 minutes
With under 10 minutes, you only have a few opportunities to help tell the story, so you really have to encapsulate the emotional beats in short moments. With a longer short, or a feature, the score needs to follow the longer arc and beats of the story. With UPLDR specifically, the theme returns a handful of times, and each time it’s a little different. Starting with mostly solo piano and electronic instruments, gradually moving to strings as the main character’s world crumbles, then big for the finale.
Do you ever use any unusual sounds, instruments, or approaches in your horror scores?
A few of them use synths and sound design. I love finding, creating and playing with interesting sounds and blending with orchestra or other acoustic instruments to create hybrid scores. Especially with horror, it’s effective to find, or make, a unique sound that fits that story and gives it some character. With “The Weirdos, “ I used a sample of an Aztec Death Whistle as the motif of The Weirdos. They don’t make any sounds in the short as they terrorize Lauren, but I imagined if they did, it would’ve sounded something like that.
Aside from Horror, what other projects have you worked on? Any we can look forward to in the near future?
Most of my work has been in comedies and I’m probably most known as the composer for “Childrens Hospital” on Adult Swim. I’ve done a few other similar shows such as “NTSF:SD:SUV” and “Filthy Preppy Teen$,” as well as indie features like “Spare Change” and “A Better You.” I recently collaborated with my good friend Craig Wedren on “How to Be a Latin Lover” which will be released April 28th from Lionsgate.