With the feature Hansel & Gretel Get Baked releasing February 19th On Demand and in select cities on February 22nd via Tribeca Film, we thought it time to bring you our interview with the flick’s composer, Corey Allen Jackson.
Prior to becoming the recipient of the BMI Award for Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television from the University of Southern California, 44-year-old Jackson studied music composition at the La Schola Cantorum in Paris, France, and to date has racked up an impressive list of genre scores, including those for the Steven R. Monroe-directed horror flicks It Waits, Sasquatch Mountain, Left in Darkness, I Spit On Your Grave (2010) and the upcoming MoniKa, among others.
We recently chatted with him regarding his process as well as his approach to scoring director Duane Journey’s Hansel & Gretel Get Baked.
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“I started as a metal guitarist, and I just assumed that if you played, you wrote as well,” Jackson told us of his musical beginnings. “I was fifteen or so when I began playing. Later in college I majored in music composition because it was the closest thing to songwriting available, and I kept hearing the classical works of fellow student composers, and I thought to myself, ‘I can do that.’ So I composed my first concert piece.”
After earning both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in composition and his studies abroad, Jackson landed at USC’s program for film scoring.
“For the first half of the program, I thought, ‘I cannot do this,’” he recalled. “But then I started working, and I was absolutely hooked.”
As for his work on director Journey’s Hansel & Gretel Get Baked (the David Tillman-scripted project stars Michael Welch and Molly C. Quinn as the titular characters, who together run afoul of an evil, drug-dealing witch played by Lara Flynn Boyle), “I researched some scores to prepare,” Jackson told us. “I rarely listen to film scores without picture, but I do watch films while listening critically to see how great composers of the past and present approach scenes. I [also] checked out films scored by the late Elmer Bernstein, including his An American Werewolf in London, and Christopher Young’s Hellbound score and Geoff Zanelli’s [composition for] Disturbia. I absolutely love all of these movies and their scores.”
“I wanted to be a little ‘old school’ on this one, in terms of melodies and instrumentation, to get that ‘fairy tale’ vibe,” offered Jackson, who employed strings, harp and celesta as well as an 80’s orchestral sound, in his aural approach. “Not too much ‘old school,’ but just enough magic to sell it. I played the comedy dark, but with a hint of fantasy, and the horror scenes as ‘full on’ horror. I played it straight but a bit over-the-top. I think it was successful and worked with the horror/comedy elements, but I wouldn’t play a full-blown horror film that way as a contemporary film composer.”
“I had three weeks to write and produce this project,” Jackson stated of the tight schedule, “and we had to score using players from out of the country, due to union and production company restrictions, so I had one day with the players and two days to mix in ProTools. I wrote the score using Apple’s Logic.”
Chatting about his affinity for the genre, Jackson told us, “Although I can score in many different genres, I’ve been a horror fan since I first saw Jaws, Halloween and Prophecy in the 70’s. It would drive my parents mad because I could not sleep for two days after [watching them], but I always had to go back for more. There’s a comfort I get from the genre, something I think most avid fans understand. A scary movie makes you totally forget about real life for a while. I think the world is a much more interesting place with horror films and books in it.”
As for his prolific working relationship with director Steven R. Monroe, “I love working with him and have been very fortunate to do several films with him,” offered Jackson. “After ten or so projects, we have a rhythm to our process and can work quickly. Films are usually temped with other music in the editing process. Monroe and I then discuss whether the temp works, what should be highlighted with certain instruments or motifs, etc., and then I start scoring. Interestingly, Monroe sometimes temps with my music.”
“This process is similar with other directors,” he continued. “There is variety in personalities, however. Some directors want to be extremely involved with the process, and others give me just a few notes and I turn in the score. I generally encourage directors to communicate with me in dramatic terms, rather than in musical ones, because the language is more universal.”
As for whether we’ll hear Jackson’s work in the upcoming Steven R. Monroe-helmed I Spit On Your Grave Too, “I hope so!” stated Jackson. “Steven and I have discussed a few ideas already, but the paperwork has not been signed. I’ve not scored a sequel so it would be great to see what problems or benefits arise.”
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