Set in the ’70s and focused on the teenage years of one of the world's most infamous serial killers, My Friend Dahmer left an indelible mark on 2017 cinema thanks to its unsettling story, powerful performances, and emotional music. In a new installment of our Q&A features, Daily Dead caught up with composer Andrew Hollander to discuss creating the score for Marc Meyers' haunting coming-of-age film.
Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us, Andrew, When did you initially become interested in music and what did you listen to in your formative years?
Andrew Hollander: I first became interested in music when I was a little kid listening to records that my older sisters had. It was a lot of stuff from the ’70s: Elton John, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, The Who... I would just go into my room, close the door and listen to records for hours.
When did the idea of becoming a composer on film projects first appeal to you, and how did you get into the industry?
Andrew Hollander: I started playing piano when I was around 12. At the same time I started watching a lot of movies, everything from stuff in the theaters (’80s movies like all the John Hughes stuff) to Hitchcock films. I started really paying attention to the music in all of these films, from the score to the songs, and it hit me that that's what I wanted to do. I got my start by scoring small indie films by up and coming directors. I moved to New York City after college, so there was a lot of talent around, especially coming out of NYU.
You recently composed the music for My Friend Dahmer, which explores the high school years of real-life serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer in the 1970s. How did the opportunity to score the film come about?
Andrew Hollander: My agent called and said they pitched me for the film and that the director wanted to meet. A few days later I met with the director, editor, and one of the producers, and we were all very much on the same page regarding the role the score needed to play and we all got along really well. They hired me and we got to work.
Did you work closely with director Marc Meyers to evoke the kaleidoscopic music scene of the ’70s?
Andrew Hollander: Marc already had a very specific idea of the songs he wanted in the film. He wanted to not only be sure that it was totally true to the time period, but that it was also very accurate regarding the music scene in that part of Ohio at the time. That was all him along with the music supervisor, Jonathan Leahy, who got all those songs together. They really did an amazing job.
What musical approach did you take to portraying a complex and dangerous character like Dahmer?
Andrew Hollander: Very subtle. I wanted to enhance the feeling of something being not quite right just under the surface. It's a very sound design score approach. I used a combination of electronic instruments, a couple of analog synths, and a few acoustic instruments that were heavily processed, manipulated, and then re-recorded.
What musical moment are you the most proud of when you look back at composing My Friend Dahmer?
Andrew Hollander: It's so hard to say. I think it's one of those films where all of the elements, from the acting to the production design, just all work and complement one another really well. Marc had a very clear vision for how he wanted this film to feel and I think he did a beautiful job bringing everything together.
Growing up, did you enjoy watching horror movies or thrillers? Were there any horror film soundtracks that have stuck with you and inspired you over the years?
Andrew Hollander: I enjoyed watching all kinds of films when I was little, but I remember when I was around 12 or so I saw The Shining on TV and I was terrified. To this day, that's one of my favorite films and one of the best uses of music in a film I've ever seen.
What projects do you have on deck that you can tease, and where can our readers find you online?
Andrew Hollander: Right now I'm scoring a really amazing documentary called It's A Hard Truth. You can find me at andrewhollandermusic.com