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BACKSTAGE - INTERVIEW WITH COMPOSER KEVIN KLIESCH

Heavily involved in music from an early age, musician Kliesch has worked on a vast assortment of projects during his career. Composer for the DC Universe Animated Original Movie 2013 title Superman: Unbound, a small sampling of his recent assignments include ThunderCats, Tangled Ever After, TMNT, X-Men: The Last Stand, and The Muppets, among a host of others. Kliesch's latest work can be heard in the new DC Universe Animated Original Movie title Justice League: War, the soundtrack of which is available to own February 4th, 2014 as a digital download and Amazon-exclusive compact disc. The soundtrack to the film Justice League: War features music produced, engineered, orchestrated and performed by Kliesch.

Justice League: War features an ambitious, invigorating score by Kliesch, perfectly complimenting the film's many action-packed moments, but also adding tone to the film's rare quiet moments. Taking cues from the big-budget Hollywood blockbusters, the score to Justice League: War looms large, but only equal to the action on screen, never overtaking it or drowning it out. The soundtrack to the film Justice League: War features music produced, engineered, orchestrated and performed by Kliesch. Kliesch discusses working on the Justice League: War animated feature below with The World's Finest...

The World's Finest: Is there any intimidation that comes with having to score a movie with a very packed cast? Does a larger cast change how you'd score a movie.

Kevin Kliesch: I didn't feel intimidated by the augmented superhero cast at all, since the addition of other characters didn't change my approach to writing, which was to support everything happening on screen. I wasn't writing to a cast of characters; I was writing to the story.

I didn't feel intimidated by the augmented superhero cast at all, since the addition of other characters didn't change my approach to writing, which was to support everything happening on screen. I wasn't writing to a cast of characters; I was writing to the story.

WF: For Justice League: War, did you come up with character specific themes? And, if so, how did you characterize each Leaguer musically?

KK: From the very beginning, I was instructed by the producer and director not to write character-specific themes. Their reasoning behind that was that this is the first time the superheroes meet each other, and they're all going through a sort of "getting to know you" phase. The only theme they wanted was that of the League itself, which I hint at throughout the film, but the full-on theme is only presented for the first time in the end credits. However, they did want an identifiable sound for the film's antagonist Darkseid, so instead of a theme, I came up with an interesting sound for him, which kind of sounds like a very low-pitched monster breathing.

Also, I could't resist the temptation to throw in my theme I wrote for Superman in Superman: Unbound. So that's kind of a little easter egg for the listeners.

WF: I noticed, while watching Justice League: War, that the score sounds like a mix of a traditional synth score with a more edgier tone. Is that intentional, perhaps a way to signal how this movie is the start of a new era for these animated movies?

KK: The score itself is similar to what I did on Superman: Unbound, in that it is a hybrid score of orchestra and electronics. But as you pointed out, the director, Jay Oliva, wanted this score to veer away from the orchestral sound and move into the grittier tone of electronics. Jay was starting to grow tired of hearing the same orchestral palette used on each of the DC movies, so he asked me to start taking it in a new direction, which was great for me since it made me think a little differently about how to approach a scene without using the traditional instruments of the orchestra.

WF: Justice League: War is a straight-up action movie. Is it difficult scoring a movie where the vast majority of the running time is fisticuffs and explosions?

KK: Scoring Justice League: War was a challenge because a good portion of the movie involves fighting. Keeping it fresh and innovative was the hardest part for me, especially at the end of the movie, where it just turns in to one huge all-out battle. I really hate copying and pasting things I've written before, so everything had to be new material. There were also some serious sound effects that I would be competing with, so my natural tendency would be to steer clear of those, but Jay just kept asking me to push the music as loud and hard as possible in those scenes as well.

WF: As a quick follow-up to the previous two questions, are there any Justice League: War moments in particular that you're very fond of, in terms of both the actual scene and your score work?

KK: Ironically, the one moment I'm most proud of is the actual Justice League theme I wrote that you first get to hear fully orchestrated in the end credits. It's the theme that I wanted to use throughout the whole movie, but I was constantly rebuked by the director in favor of a non-orchestral approach. There's a funny story about that theme - when Jay first heard the fully orchestrated version, he looked over at the producer, James Tucker, and said "we should have used that throughout the movie!"

WF: This is your second score for the DC Universe Animated Original Movie DTV line. How would you compare this project to your first, Superman: Unbound - harder? Easier? Why?

KK: Scoring Justice League: War was a bit harder than scoring Superman: Unbound, for the simple fact that I had less access to the traditional orchestral instruments that I'm comfortable writing for. I had to come up with a pretty sizable palette of sounds that could convey the drama on screen without calling too much attention to itself. Also, not relying on themes for the characters presented a little tougher challenge.

WF: Taking a quick break from Justice League: War, can you fill us in on your other projects you're working on, both present and future? Where can we expect to see your name pop up?

KK: Aside from scoring Justice League: War, I'm currently scoring Sofia the First for Disney, which is about as far from superhero music as you can get. We were just renewed for a third season, so I'll be working on that well into 2016. As for future projects, who knows? Hopefully another DC movie!

WF: Swing back on to Justice League: War as we slowly wrap this up - Justice League: War - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack will be available from WaterTower Music on February 4th, 2013. Is it encouraging to see such support from WB for these animated feature soundtracks? Is there a kind of vindication, to see your work out there for sale?

KK: I'm honored to have the score released on WaterTower, and excited that there's still a market out there for this kind of music. I'm very happy that the DC fans enjoy not only the movie, but the music that goes with the movie. In this era of the 5-second video clip and the 30-second iTunes music preview, it's great to know there are fans out there that still want to sit through an entire album of score.

WF: Any final thoughts on Justice League: War? Anything you'd like us listeners to keep our ears open for as we snatch up the soundtrack release next month?

KK: I'd encourage listeners to keep an open mind about a score that doesn't contain a lot of themes. I've gotten lambasted before about this on Superman: Unbound, but on Justice League: War I was purposely asked to keep the character themes to a minimum.

In a film like this, there are necessarily more sound effects than a "normal" film, and usually in the final mix of a film, sound effects generally win over the score. This film is no exception; there is a lot that I put in to the score that simply can't be heard when viewing the film. So, if you like what you hear of the score when you watch the film, rest assured there's a lot more that you haven't heard.

That being said, there's a lot of great material on the disc, so please go out and enjoy it!

The World's Finest would like to thank Kevin Kliesch for his participation in this Q & A!

Want to purchase "Justice League: War - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack?" Check out Amazon and WaterTower Music to get your copy!

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