The World's Finest Presents


It Made Bruce Timm Cry: John Takis Discusses the
Batman: The Animated Series – Volume Three CD Soundtrack Release
Interview Conducted by James Harvey

After waiting over two years, the latest Batman: The Animated Series soundtrack collection from La-La Land Records has arrived. Collecting an abundance of scores over a massive four-disc set, Batman: The Animated Series – Original Soundtrack from the Warner Bros. Television Series, Volume Three includes some of the most sought-after music in television history. After two incredible collections, La-La Land Records has dug into the vaults once more to pull out more amazing work by Shirley Walker and her amazing team of composers. Involved in the soundtrack’s production is John Takis, producer for many of an assortment of DC Comics animation-based soundtracks for the specialty label. The World's Finest caught up with Takis to talk about the scope of this release and the legacy of this monumental music.

The World’s Finest: To start things off, and to get right to it — Batman: The Animated Series - Volume Three. Fill us in on your role (for those who may not know who you are) and tell us as much as you can about this soundtrack!

John Takis: I’m a freelance writer and producer working for several of the major soundtrack specialty labels. I’ve worked in various capacities on more than 70 projects to date, including animated DC series both classic (Batman: The Animated Series) and modern (Batman: The Brave and the Bold). I co-produced (with Neil S. Bulk) La-La Land Records’ premiere 4-CD release of music from Superman: The Animated Series, which came out earlier this year. I’ve been a devoted fan of these shows and composers since I was a teen in the 1990s, so it’s humbling to be involved with these extraordinary releases. I’m deeply grateful to MV Gerhard and Matt Verboys at LLL for opening that door.

Batman: The Animated Series, Vol. 3 is a 4-CD set containing 24 full-length episode scores and more than 5 hours of music. 8 of the scores are by supervising composer Shirley Walker, and the remaining 16 are by her amazing hand-picked team. Whether you’re a superhero fan or just love great music, this set includes some of the finest and most compelling material ever written for television.

WF: You say there are things on this soundtrack no one has ever heard before. Is there a way you can shed a light or two without giving away the surprise?

JT: If you look at the track list, you will see a newly released demo from Shirley Walker’s personal archives, as well as some fascinating alternate cues. Additionally, within the episode scores themselves, there are sections of music that were dialed out of the shows—meaning you probably never suspected their existence! Even more exciting is the fact that some of these passages were written to underscore key dramatic moments, where the producers ultimately chose to use silence.

WF: We previously talked to you during the release of the major Superman: The Animated Series soundtrack release. That came out in early 2014, and now we’re slowly inching toward 2015 with the new Batman: The Animated Series soundtrack, can you enlighten us on how much time goes into these releases?

JT: Counting the days between releases can be misleading. There’s usually a ton of overlap with other projects, and many other factors go into determining when a CD finally hits the market. In terms of scale, I think it’s accurate to say that most projects can be counted in months. Sometimes there are complications, and you wind up stuck in traffic—and other times, you have to hit the gas and pray you make your light!

WF: Comparing the Superman: The Animated Series soundtrack to the Batman: The Animated Series titles, how different is the process behind choosing which tracks to include?

JT: Every release is unique. Superman: The Animated Series was a show with more of a defined beginning, middle and end, and along the way there were clear story arcs. The New Gods saga formed the spine of the first set. If we do another one, we could theoretically take a similar approach with something like the Brainiac arc. With Batman: The Animated Series, you had a little more emphasis on the rotating gallery of rogues and gangsters. It’s not a black-and-white distinction, by any means— Batman: The Animated Series had continuity between episodes, and Superman: The Animated Series had plenty of colorful rogues. But you can’t easily point to Batman: The Animated Series and say, “This is where the story begins!” or, “Here’s the big series finale!” So that’s a consideration.

Ultimately, choosing material for these releases is not a question of picking the “good ones,” because every score is worthy. Shirley Walker set the bar high for herself and her team, and kept it there. For Volume Three, we tried to select scores that worked well together and showcased the series’ diversity. We also felt freer with this third volume to delve into the show’s weird and wonderful fringe—where Batman meets the Clock King, or goes to Japan, or winds up kidnapped with amnesia. Or episodes like “P.O.V.” and “The Man Who Killed Batman,” where we see Gotham City primarily from the perspective of cops and criminals, rather than Batman himself.

WF: Can you break down the actual process of getting the music from point A (Warner Bros.) to point B (La-La Land)? Is there a risk that a music source could be impossible to use? Just how complicated is this process?

JT: Usually, episode sessions have been preserved on DAT (digital audio tape), either by the studio, the composers or both. On occasion, we’ll be working with multi-track sources, which is a little more complex. La-La Land handles the transfers and final mastering for CD. Once in a while, we’ll encounter a bit of mag wow or other minor flaws. We haven’t yet found anything that was beyond repair, although this underscores the importance of these releases from a music preservation angle.

WF: So … back to Batman. Another stellar collection of music, that goes without saying. Are there any real stand-out tracks on Batman: The Animated Series – Volume Three for you?

JT: It sounds cliché, but there really are too many to list in a simple Q & A! Emotionally, the hardest-hitting moments probably come in “Robin’s Reckoning”—Carlos Rodriguez is very proud of the fact that he helped make Bruce Timm cry in the editing room—and to the nightmare sequences in “The Forgotten” and “Dreams in Darkness.” Parental loss is the crux of the whole Batman mythos, and the composers really nailed that. The other thing I can mention is that my single favorite statement of Shirley Walker’s Batman theme is from “See No Evil,” when Batman shows up for the final fight. The runner-up would be the organ-powered “resurrection” in “The Man Who Killed Batman.”

WF: Is it a different sensation to hear the music by itself as part of a soundtrack release, as opposed to part of an episode?

JT: Very much so, and not only because there is unused music. You will hear a lot of detail and nuance that isn’t apparent with sound effects and dialogue competing for your attention. It’s familiar and startlingly new at the same time. Even with my high expectations and knowledge of the series, I wound up being surprised by just how powerful some of this stuff turned out to be!

WF: Having listened to this release, and the previous two, care to list off some of your favorites? And maybe some of the tracks you were surprised to see included?

JT: See my response two questions up. I do have a soft spot for villains that don’t get the most publicity, like the Mad Hatter (from Vols. 1 and 2) and the Clock King (Vol. 3). It’s very satisfying to have them represented musically on these sets. I also love strong stories that don’t necessarily involve costumed supervillains—like “Paging the Crime Doctor” or “I Am the Night,” both on Vol. 3. As for what surprised me … I was surprised that Shirley Walker wrote organ accompaniment for “Amazing Grace” during the funeral scene in “The Man Who Killed Batman!” That wasn’t used in the show.

WF: Why do you think releases such as this one (and Superman) remain so important? What is it about this music, and this era of animation, that makes these releases such landmarks?

JT: Scores like this aren’t really being produced in today’s TV animation scene, where you rarely hear thirty-piece orchestras on a weekly basis—unless you count shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy, which are very different animals. Excellent work is still being done—by Dynamic Music Partners, for example, or the composers of the modern DC DTV films. But it’s being done with tighter budgets, fewer live players, and with a very different aesthetic. These classic Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series shows are lavish and almost decadent by comparison, with that grand symphonic sound that thrived during the animation renaissance of the 1990s.

Second, these shows and scores were groundbreaking in how they dealt with adult subject matter. The way they handled death and mortality was remarkably sophisticated. Earlier, I mentioned parental loss as a recurring theme (which, of course, comes from the comics). But you also have stories that deal powerfully with loneliness, alienation and despair. Look at “Tyger, Tyger,” for example, or “I Am the Night.” It’s tempered by optimism, but there’s a certain sadness that infuses these shows that I don’t think has ever been replicated. And the music is an absolutely integral part of that.

Third, as I mentioned earlier, these releases serve an important function from a preservationist standpoint. The work being done by La-La Land Records (and other labels) is vital when it comes to making sure that this outstanding music is not lost to the ravages of time—and that it can continue to inform and inspire future generations of composers and storytellers. That’s what you’re supporting when you buy these releases, in addition to your own personal enjoyment.

WF: Lastly, as we wrap this up, can you give us one last tease, or perhaps some extra incentive, to rush out and order this soundtrack first thing on October 7th?

JT: In my estimation, this volume is every bit as wonderful as the previous two! I’ll also somewhat shamelessly mention the booklet that comes with the set. It’s beautifully designed by Dan Goldwasser, and contains lots of fascinating behind-the-scenes lore and fresh composer comments for readers to delve into. At the end of the day, though, it’s about the music—and I feel confident that you won’t want to wait one second longer than necessary to get these scores into your CD player. They’re that good!

The World’s Finest would like to thank John Takis for his participation in this Q & A. Check out his homepage at http://www.johntakis.com/!

The Batman: The Animated Series – Original Soundtrack from the Warner Bros. Television Series, Volume Three CD release is available to own from La-La Land Records starting October 7th, 2014. Head over to La-La Land Records for more purchasing details and much more.

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