SciFiPulse was recently fortunate enough to snag a brief Q&A interview with film and television composer Clinton Shorter.
Over his career Shorter has composed some brilliant soundtracks for movies such as District 9 and much more. Recently the composer has received an Emmy nomination for his work. Below is what he shared with us about his musical journeys thus far.
SFP: How did you get into composing for film and television. Was it something you’d always set your sights on?
Clinton Shorter: I had an experimental rock trio but could never quite wrap my head around writing in song form. One day, when I heard Mark Isham’s score to “Never Cry Wolf,” I immediately connected with it and decided to make the shift over to film and television scoring.
SFP: It’s fair to say that you have done a fair bit in television and movies thus far. But is there a project you have worked on that stands out to you as special over all of the other stuff you have done?
Clinton Shorter: It has to be “District 9.” It was my first large release feature film and it changed my career over night!
SFP: You’ve done the score for two pretty big television properties in ‘The Expanse’ and my favorite show of the moment ‘Colony’. How do you go about juggling your duties between those two series, because i’m pretty sure both have gotten a second year?
Clinton Shorter: I am also the composer of House of Lies and Code Black, so I’ve had four shows going on this past year. The first seasons of these two science fiction shows were easy as they were produced at different times. This coming season will have some overlap but they have quite a bit of time between mixes so it should be fine.
SFP: One of the things I enjoyed about some of the music you did for Expanse was the mix of having choir mixed with synth. It sort of suited the shows edgy dramatic approach. Given that the series has been given a second season. What do you hope to achieve musically in the second year. As in something that you haven’t maybe tried yet?
Clinton Shorter: I’m going to try and approach the action scenes from a different place palette-wise. Most of the action scenes came pretty early in season 1 allowing the sound of the show to come together over the first 5 episodes. I look forward to seeing where the storyline takes us.
SFP: I work with a music group each week where we just fool around with percussion, keyboards and guitars each week. We come up with some interesting ideas on the fly and at the end of a typical two hour session we usually wind up with something fairly cool sounding. Have you ever done anything like that with regards to your music?
Clinton Shorter: Oh absolutely. When I was a senior in high school we had a recording studio on the school grounds. My friends and I would spend countless hours in there doing just that sort of improv and experimentation. It was a special time.
SFP: Perhaps your break out moment was the work you did on the fantastic indie film District 9, which was a fantastic film with a pretty frantic music score from what I remember. How much would you say you have evolved musically since then and if you could revisit that score what changes if any would you want to make?
Clinton Shorter: I think I would change a lot on everything I’ve ever written to be honest. Composing for film and TV requires a lot of tinkering and experimentation so time constraints force you to move on when you don’t always want to.
SFP: You seem to have gotten quite lucky in the sense that you have got to do music for a lot of dynamic science fiction and fantasy films. Do you prefer doing music for those kind of projects or is it just how things have turned out?
Clinton Shorter: It’s really just how things have turned out, I don’t really have a preference. All I hope for is to work with good creative people who let me participate in their shows in a meaningful way.
SFP: Following up on that last question. Is there a television or film genre that you’d like to have a go at doing some music for. If so what is it and what sort of sounds would you be looking to include?
Clinton Shorter: The majority of projects I worked on prior to District 9 were more traditional dramas. It would be nice to score some of those again. As for sounds I really just try to find what is appropriate for what the stories call for.
SFP: As a composer you like many others are inspired by the work of other composers. Who would you say have been most inspiring to you?
Clinton Shorter: When I first started out I think I knew every single Thomas Newman score inside out! He really spoke to me more than any other composer.
SFP: Given that we have new musicians starting out every day. What would be the best advice you could offer to some of the many up and coming musicians that are out there?
Clinton Shorter: Work hard at your craft and stick with it. Hope for a break, not all musicians get them but if you are lucky enough to get one, you need to be ready for it. I got my break with District 9, which was like being struck by lightning. All I’ve been doing since then is trying to not blow the opportunity.
SFP: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us and best of luck with the Emmy.
Clinton Shorter: Thanks for having me!