Composer Kevin Blumenfeld has enhanced scares through his music on The Walking Dead webisodes, and now he's bringing horror to the halls of higher education with his electronic score for go90's new murder mystery series, In the Vault. For our latest Q&A feature, we caught up with Blumenfeld to discuss his new project, working within the world of The Walking Dead, and the horror films that have inspired and influenced him over the years.
Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us, Kevin. When did you initially become interested in music and what did you listen to in your formative years?
Kevin Blumenfeld: I’d say I became interested in music when I was about four or five years old. My father started taking piano lessons. Which, in retrospect, is very hard to imagine. I’d sit at the bottom of the stairs and would just listen. When they finished, I would go up to the piano and start plunking around, trying to play what I heard. From there, it became a sort of addictive hobby. It was my outlet. I began coming up with my own melodies and tried to dissect other pieces of music by listening to them. This really helped me learn how all the moving parts worked and related to each other. I would just do this endlessly in my free time. I’d also “borrow” my sister’s Tori Amos tape of Little Earthquakes as well as Enya. All the super emotional stuff.
When did the idea of becoming a composer on film projects first appeal to you, and how did you get into the industry?
Kevin Blumenfeld: It wasn’t until my piano teacher brought over a tape of Hans Zimmer’s score for Rain Man that I became infatuated with film score. I just loved the emotional weight of it. Score was so structurally different from a typical song or even symphony. Other influences like Jerry Goldsmith, James Newton Howard, and Thomas Newman were all people I looked up to. I would look forward to getting the LA Times so I could thumb through the calendar section to see who’s scoring what. I was a total nerd about it.
You’ve composed the music for several horror projects in your career. What is it about creating music for that genre in particular that appeals to you?
Kevin Blumenfeld: I love scoring for horror and thriller films. Having a strong influence on the emotional narrative is a lot of fun. It’s one thing to make someone cry, laugh, or feel inspired, but to have a hand in terrifying your audience or filling them with a chilling sense of dread is a whole other messed up kind of fun. It definitely presents its own unique form of challenges compared to other genres. Timing of course plays a huge part, but sometimes it’s about finding just the right sound to evoke that unsettling feeling. I love trying to play the audience's predictions against them. A lot of people know that after a cluster build or swell of some kind, followed by that pause of silence, you should get ready for a jump scare. But then it doesn’t come where you thought it would, and you feel that sense of relief, then BAM!
Growing up, did you enjoy watching horror movies? Are there any horror film soundtracks that have stuck with you and inspired you over the years?
Kevin Blumenfeld: I’d have to say some of my favorite horror films are A Nightmare On Elm Street (the whole series, really), The Blob (1988), Evil Dead 1 and 2, Fright Night, The Shining, and the Friday the 13th series. I think Freddy’s Dead might have been a gateway horror film for me when I was a kid because it was a bit silly, but still messed up. Though at the time, I must have been nine, so I felt like a total badass watching it. If you went to the video store and it was checked out, it’s because I had it. That bed of spikes scene still makes me cringe.
As far as horror scores go, The Shining just might be my favorite. It just finds a way under your skin every time. Of all the styles through the decades, I think the score from The Shining was the most influential on the horror genre. Also, there’s Bernard Herrmann. He had this ability to play with dissonance and yet have these wonderful melodies and motifs to keep you engaged.
What can listeners expect from your work on the new horror/mystery series In the Vault?
Kevin Blumenfeld: My score for In The Vault is completely electronic. While a lot of it is very much contemporary, I wanted to incorporate a bit of that late’70s/ early ’80s synth appeal. It ended up giving the score a slightly more warm feel to it, whereas electronic music can sometimes feel a bit cold and disconnected, we wanted this to feel very much inviting as you take part in the mystery every week.
What types of instruments do you generally utilize in your scores?
Kevin Blumenfeld: My template changes from project to project. Generally, a traditional orchestral layout is where most of my scores start. But from there, you never know where it can go. Very often, sound design and various synth/electronic elements play a large role in adding to the texture of a score. A lot depends on the style of the project. I’m a piano-based composer, but one of the fun parts of this job is that you get to write for just about every instrument imaginable. Whatever it takes to achieve the desired sonic narrative.
I really enjoyed your work on The Walking Dead webisodes. How did the opportunity to work on that project come about, and what did you enjoy the most about bringing music to that world?
Kevin Blumenfeld: Working on The Walking Dead webisodes was so much fun. I was already a huge fan of the show, so it was thrilling to be able to contribute to that world. I got the call from Generate, who was producing the series along with AMC. I had something like two or three days to write about 18 minutes of music. Musically, we wanted you to feel like you were immersed in The Walking Dead universe, while at the same time have it feel like its own thing. So, instrumentally it’s very similar. I’d say my favorite moment was scoring the origin of “bicycle girl.” It was such an iconic image from the first season of the main show, so to have a part in the backstory was a lot of fun.
With new episodes of In the Vault premiering every Wednesday on go90, what projects do you have on deck that you can tease, and where can our readers find you online?
Kevin Blumenfeld: I’m actually just getting ready to start the next season of another go90 series, Play by Play, which musically, could not be more different than In The Vault. I’m absolutely in love with that series. The cast is so talented and I just love the characters. Aside from that, there a few projects that are currently in development that I’m looking forward to. But for the next few months, I’ll be working on Play by Play. People can find cues from various projects posted on my website at www.kevinblumenfeld.com. I also have a couple score albums available on iTunes. My score album for In The Vault hits stores Oct 3rd. I hope people check it out.
Photo courtesy of Leon Bosket:
Trailer via HollywoodLife: