Kevin MacLeod is a composer par excellence. From a Dr. Who documentary (A Matter of Time) to TV series (six episodes of On the Bench) to horror films (In Case of a Zombie Attack, Once upon a Midnight Dreary II, and infomercials--"Dr. Abergel"), his music lends atmosphere and emotion to the story. For those among us who might not be acquainted with his work, I'll start off by saying that it can be found (and listened to) at www.imcompetech.com, which also features little insights into how each piece was composed and the instruments utilized.

First of all, Kevin, let me say how much I appreciate your agreeing to this interview. It was such a wild idea I wasn't sure whether you'd want to or not, so thank you very much! I'm sure our readers (and writers) are going to enjoy it...and now, I'll let Kevin speak for himself:

Have you always had a leaning toward music or was it something that came to you after you'd decided on another occupation?

I started young. You pretty much need to start young. I actually don't remember that far back. Oh, I was a computer programmer before I did composition full-time.

What's your educational background? Did you study music as a child? Where, if any place, have you studied as an adult?

I went to University of Wisconsin for music education... but I got a job programming before I was certified to do anything.

Is composing your fulltime occupation or do you have a "day job," now?

Just music.

--which, I suppose is enough, isn't it? It's always great to be doing what you enjoy. What type instrument do you use to play your music? I envision you standing before a full orchestra but I'm sure that isn't so.

Yeah, orchestras are incredibly expensive. I have a video over on YouTube that shows one of my set-ups. It is just a little MIDI controller, and a laptop. I'm glad there is a good illusion of an orchestra, though!

I've enjoyed reading the little anecdotes you've included with your music. Which do you like best: writing a soundtrack for a movie, writing something for a video game, a score for a musical, or for something like a podcast or radio drama?

Musicals are the most difficult, but I really like them. Audio dramas are probably the ones I like best. You only need to control mood and pacing with sound there. There isn't a need to work around visual cues.

Do you have a favorite piece among all of them? How did you come to write it?

Gah! I can't answer that! I will say that my more favorite ones, I marked with a star on my site. Usually the last thing I did is the one I like best, and then my like of it fades over time, but a few stay alive. Gagool is a good example. It was written for an audio dramatization of King Soloman's Mines, and the point where the witch lady gives an extensive monologue.

I see that your Archives only go back to 2006. Is that when your website went online? When did you get the idea to have a website?

1995. Remember that programming job? Yeah. That was then. I switched to a blog format in 2006.

Have you ever come across any of the trailers on YouTube which have used your music? If so, do you remember which ones and what did you think of them? Do you still get a thrill out of seeing your name credited or is that "old hat" by now?

Yeah. All the time, actually. One day 7 of the top 20 videos had my music in them. I'll be walking past my friends who are watching videos, and go "Oh! That's me!" Credits are not really a thrilling thing. They are a marketing thing. I do like the IMDB credits page. It actually motivates me to take more work. Now if only I'd get more listings on that. I've done projects that are listed there... but I never took the time to figure out how to edit the entries. No worries.

As I mentioned to you recently, I was channel surfing the other night and heard some familiar music and realized it was Laid Back Guitars and Tango de Manzana being used as background for an infomercial. It gave me a little thrill to realize that I not only recognized the music but kind of knew the person who'd composed them! I suppose most people don't look at the credits in movies, etc., (I do!) so for those folks, are there any recognizable titles you've written for which they might recognize?

I do the DVD Extras on Doctor Who, and a pretty cool film in the UK that was called "Simon and Emily" when I had it. Also just did a short for Michel Gondry, but I don't know the title or release on that one. I've done TV programming for BBC, CBC, NBC, and a lot of other stations in... nearly everywhere; China, Poland, Netherlands. I really- honestly - do not know the industry that I'm a part of. I don't know who is big, or what is popular. So if you're super famous - you'll have to let me know. I don't have a TV, and rarely go to see movies.

I watch Dr. Who on DVD, as well as a lot of other BB shows, so I'm going to look at those credits extra-closely from now on! I think thus far, my favorite piece is "Pilot Error." Do you remember how you came to write it?

That's just a straight-up rock piece. I don't remember exactly what that was for, but it sounds like background music coming from a radio or TV. It may have been in the background of some movie or another.

Falling back on the stereotypical interview form, I'll close this in the usual way: Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for anyone who might be thinking of going into some form of music--playing, composition, etc.--as a career?

For composers, I have several!
Number one: Write a lot of music, and get fast doing it.
Number two: Figure out a way to get your music in front of as many
ears as possible. I think that's foolproof, actually. Even if you start out not very
good - you'll get good quickly because it is all you do! For a musician? I don't know. You'll probably need to ask a musician.

Thank you, Kevin, for giving us some insight into your life as a composer.

Cheers!

And let's give a big cheer for Kevin MacLeod--Hip, Hip, Hooray!--for all the beautiful music he's created and allowed so many of us--myself included--to use...for free. I, for one, have a little roster with the names of people whom I have to pay back when my tenuous finances settle down, and Kevin's is high on that list.

(The trailer below is a montage of scenes from some of my trailers, set to four of Kevin MacLeod's pieces--Achilles, Beach Bum, Bright Wish,and Tango de Manzana.)


11 comments

  1. Nightingale // November 12, 2008 at 11:35 AM  

    Excellent interview, Toni, and thanks for introducing us or allowing us to get to know Kevin. I for one will be looking for his music.

  2. Miss Mae // November 12, 2008 at 11:48 AM  

    What a swell idea to have Kevin here! I use his music for my book trailers. He is so talented! Thank you, Kevin, for making it possible for folks like me to be able to enjoy your work.

    And thanks, Toni, for allowing us to get to know Kevin better! What a wonderful interview.

  3. Mary Ricksen // November 12, 2008 at 1:26 PM  

    Kevin sound like a real talent who has found his dream and lives it.
    I'm going to look for his music for my next trailer.

  4. Skhye // November 12, 2008 at 4:03 PM  

    Wow! Fabulous idea to interview the man behind audio ambiance on so many book trailers. ;) Since I'm a fool for documentaries, I'm certain I've heard tons of his work.

  5. Debra St. John // November 12, 2008 at 4:50 PM  

    Great interview, Kevin and Toni. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us...fascinating.

  6. Ashley Ladd // November 12, 2008 at 9:32 PM  

    Thanks for talking to us Kevin. How impressive.

  7. Mary Marvella // November 12, 2008 at 11:51 PM  

    Excellent interview, Toni! What a coup. Seems everyone was impressed as I was.

  8. Beth Trissel // November 13, 2008 at 12:47 PM  

    Wow! Great interview. Sorry I'm late getting over here. Thanks so much to Kevin for being our guest.

  9. Cassie Exline // November 14, 2008 at 5:56 AM  
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  10. Cassie Exline // November 14, 2008 at 6:01 AM  

    So sorry to be late in commenting, I was here, but had to go to work. Kevin's a master. His music is inspiring. What a wonderful, wonderful interview. He's an awesome artist and sounds like a wonderful man. Thanks, Toni.

  11. Joanne // November 16, 2008 at 9:02 AM  

    Thank you for the interview, Toni. I am a musician and have taught piano lessons full time for over 30 years. Both of my adult sons are full time musicians and composers. Kevin is working at what he loves most--music.