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A "Hair-Raising" Interview With Composer Dino Meneghin of MTV's "Teen Wolf"

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If anyone remembers (like I do) the original 1985 film starring Michael J. Fox as the shy, but fun loving teen who had well a rather interesting issue that pretty much teenagers have gone through physically. Of course, "Teen Wolf" dealt with this and the pressures of popularity which was what alot of teens have gone through during their lives. Add the element of the a "family trait", the film was a twist of the typical teen comedy genre during that time. The film was a hit thanks to it piggybacking Fox's breakout starring role in the unforgettable and timeless(!) "Back To The Future" that had blown up the competition during that summer.

When I first heard that MTV was planning a television series inspired by the film, I thought it would be something like "Degrassi" or "Freaks And Geeks" and boy was I wrong about the tone. Then again after teens have gone gaga for films and shows like "Twilight" and "Buffy The Vampire Slayer", it wasn't surprising that "Teen Wolf" would incorporate all of these elements to make a darker, sleeker version of that film that would expand on the original storyline (without the original characters) and building a new world that teens have really enjoyed so far for three seasons.

Dino Meneghin has had a rather enjoyable and easy task of having to build and create this musical world for these characters that their storylines gradually shift from episode to episode and season by season. Dino is a great musician and composer that really has captured the essence of what the show is about and how to make it more exhilarating by seasons' end. In this special interview with Dino, he happily shares with me his thoughts on the series, how much much he has written and the composer that has inspired him to write he has for the series. So sit back and enjoy, not too comfortably however.

Please tell the readers about what made you become interested in music.

DM: I started playing guitar when I was about seven years old. My family won a coupon for lessons at the local music store at a school raffle. There was always something about music- the power it had to effect people, that I was drawn to. I've always loved the science of sound and the manipulation of it, whether that's through orchestration or complex signal processing. It's a wonderful marriage of the technical and the emotional.

Let’s talk about your hit series for MTV, “Teen Wolf” now heading into its’ fourth season. Please tell us about the series and how did you get attached to it?

DM: I worked with music supervisor, Laura Webb, on another program for MTV called Taking the Stage. I was on tour with Michael Bublé in 2010, and she called me and asked if I wanted to send my reel for this new show that MTV was doing. I had never done anything scripted, but I had a pretty good reel from doing music for advertising. I sent it through and didn't hear anything for about six months. I figured I hadn't gotten the job. In December of that year, she called and said that Jeff Davis had seen my reel and wanted to speak with me. We spoke on the phone- I was in the parking lot of some big venue somewhere, and we were talking about our favorite movies and composers. A few days later, Laura called and asked if I'd be interested in working on the show. I finished up the tour with Michael and came home and started working on Teen Wolf!

Let’s talk about the music for the series, was it easy for you to find a tone for the music right off the bat or did you have to dig deep to find that great theme that would be the basis of the score?

DM: There was a period during the first season where we were really finding the tone of the music. Jeff Davis' tastes can be somewhat eclectic, so it was up to me to find a way to unify all of the things that he was passionate about into a sound that reflected the character of the series.

Did you pretty much get a sense of what the directors want musically for their particular episodes?

DM: Yes. I'll speak with the directors, the editors, and Jeff Davis about what they want when we watch the episodes at our spotting sessions. The fun part with this show is that we're always trying to go new places visually and musically. It doesn't allow for a lot of resting on our laurels, so to speak.

As each season goes along, do you find it harder to come up with fresh material musically with each storyline that shifts as well as characters that have come and gone?

DM: I think I find it easier as the season goes on because I'm so much deeper into the process. I always find that the beginning of a project is the hardest- when you're looking at a blank screen and trying to come up with a theme for a new character.

Do you reuse themes from previous seasons to keep the music consistant in terms of tone and thematic material?

DM: I like to write as thematically as possible. In our show, there's always a lot going on, so anything we can do to organize everything for the viewer is useful. I like to do lots of variations on themes to reflect what's happening with the different characters.

Please share with us about the recording sessions for the series are like.

DM: I do a lot of the work myself, but we'll have a few big sessions per season where we'll get to bring in some of LA's best musicians to add the live elements to the score and bring it to life. I like to keep the sessions very small, in terms of the number of people there; I like to keep it all business when we're recording. That being said, I always get to work with great people, so the sessions are always very relaxed. I've done my share of recording sessions as a guitarist, so I like to always keep it fun and easy when I'm on the other side of the glass.

All told, how much music did you record for the series so far?

DM: Well, we do roughly 30-35 minutes/ show, and since we began, we've done 36 episodes so far, so that means anywhere from 1080 to 1260 minutes of music!

Do you have favorite characters on the show that you’ve created particular themes for that you really wanted to stand out?

DM: Obviously, the themes for the regular cast are very important because they'll keep coming back. The nice thing about new characters is that they give me a chance to write in different ways and expand the sonic palate of the show. So, to answer your question, I have no favorites...I love all of my children equally.

Which character was the most difficult to find a theme for and why?

DM: Deucalion took some doing because there are so many facets to his personality. I needed something that would capture his darkness but also his wit and the "fun" side of his personality. In the end, the cimbalom ended up working really well for his theme, and I like that I hadn't used anything in the dulcimer family yet.

What was the hardest episode of the series you’ve had to score to date and why?

DM: That's a tough one. Episode 8 of last season was challenging because it was the first time we had used flashbacks to tell the story. We had to find a way to illustrate the time cuts without being too over-the-top. Once we locked in on that element, however, it came together without too much pain.

Which composer has influenced your work the most?

DM: Ennio Morricone is a pretty big one for me. Who is your favorite director to work with so far in the series? Each director is very different. Some of them don't have much input as far as the music, and some get very hands-on. I've really enjoyed working with all of them. What's great about working on a television show is that you have the chance to work with many different directors in the course of a season.

Will there be an album released of the music for the series so far?

DM: Great question. Ask MTV.

If you were to assemble one personally, what music would make the album and why? That's a tough one!

DM: I think some of the main themes, like the "Scott/Allison love theme" would have to be on there. I think the Darach chant would also have to be there.

How do you feel about your contributions to the series so far and do you feel that as the seasons go along that you could expand on it more and more?

DM: We use a lot of music, so I don't think we really have much room to expand in terms of the amount of music I contribute. Every season, the way we use music changes and gets refined. I think as time goes on, I'll continue to have the opportunity to explore new musical territory and keep the sound of Teen Wolf fresh.

Aside from “Teen Wolf” you also worked on the reality series “Taking The Stage” created by Nick Lachey and Colton Gramm. Please tell us how you got on board the show and what your role was on it.

DM: I had worked with MTV on-and-off for years. When that show came around, a good friend of mine, Kris Pooley, had worked on the pilot but couldn't do the series because he was going on tour with Morrisey. They called me and asked if I'd be interested in doing it. I said yes and ended up working on the show for the two seasons it aired.

How do you feel about the show looking back a few years?

DM: I got a lot out of working on that show because of the young musicians I dealt with. I still keep in contact with some of them to this day. I was constantly amazed by the amount they were able to deliver in such a short amount of time. We would have a few days to put on these performances, and I'd have to get these kids ready to perform, and they never let me down. It was my only job to do that stuff, but these kids were also taking classes and exams and applying for college! And living in Cincinnati for several months at a time was a big eye-opener - I had never lived through a real winter!

What is your favorite film score that you wish you wrote?

DM: Easy. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly by Ennio Morricone.

Is there a film score that really has inspired your music throughout your career that just completely inspires you to push on to compose the great music you’ve written over the years?

DM: Well, the aforementioned Morricone score is a big one for me. The way that he changed the sound of the Western genre was really amazing. He took it from the big, lush, Copeland-esque Americana sound to something much more raw and brutal, yet beautiful and melodious.

Please tell the readers about upcoming projects that you may have.

DM: 2014 looks to be a very exciting year. I can't talk about anything yet, but when I can, you'll be the first to know!

A heartfelt thanks to Dino for this wonderful interview and now that I've interviewed you, I know you'll be a major musical force and hopefully you'll get a film to score...soon! You're a great sport! God bless ya! Also, very special thanks to Chandler Poling for going to bat for me and introducing me to Dino! You rock man, keep it up!

Please feel free to visit Dino's official page at http://www.dinomeneghin.com/ and check out music from "Teen Wolf" as well as his other projects.

Please check out Dino's official Facebook page for updates on Teen Wolf and his other projects at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dino-Meneghin-Composer-Page/400360650078191

Head over to the official MTV "Teen Wolf" page for all information on the series, episode synopsis and the official announcement of the upcoming season at http://www.mtv.com/shows/teen_wolf/series.jhtml

Here's Dino's Bio:

"Dino Meneghin is the composer for MTV's hit series "Teen Wolf," which will begin its third season in 2013. His score has received critical praise for its unique blend of classic orchestration with modern sound manipulation and production techniques, as well as its edgy sonic sensibility.
Previously, he served as the Music Producer for the MTV docudrama "Taking the Stage," which ran for two seasons.

As a guitarist, Dino has performed around the world with artists including multi-platinum pop vocalist Michael Bublé, indie-rock icon Liz Phair, as well as Josh Groban and The Calling.
Dino Meneghin received his Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Southern California."

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