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Composer Daniel Licht Creates The Fun Musical Menace On The Hit Series "Dexter"

For the past eight seasons, Showtime's hit series "Dexter" has transcended the screen and become an international sensation. Every week, fans all over the world are shocked by the thrilling story lines. A show that is creative and original with more twists and turns than the entire series of "Saw" films, this show is easily one of the more memorable in the history of television.

Profile of Daniel Licht, the Composer of the hit Showtime Series, "Dexter" and The Sundance Channel's Mini-Series "The Red Road"
Courtesy of Getty Images

Along on this fun, bloodcrudling ride was the music of composer Daniel Licht, a rather underappreciated composer who in the 1990's wrote some very and original with more twists and turns than the entire series of "Saw" films, this show is easily one of the more memorable in the history of television. Daniel has also lent his wonderful talents to shows such as "Body Of Lies", "Deception" and his latest, "The Red Road" starring Jason Momoa and Martin Freeman airing on the Sundance Channel which has now been reknewed for a second season by the network.

For this very special interview with Daniel, he candidly shared with me his thoughts on "The Red Road" and how he got involved with the mini-series, as well as his much phrased work on "Dexter" and his thoughts on working in television as well as his upcoming projects. Ladies and gentleman I introduce you to Daniel Licht.

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

DL: I played music from a very early age. Everyone played an instrument in our family and we grew up playing music together. I started playing guitar in true garage bands at age twelve and got hooked on jazz at age fourteen. I would go out to jazz clubs in Detroit as soon as I learned how to drive.

Let’s talk about your recent work on the Sundance Channel Miniseries, “The Red Road.” What got you interested in working on this project?

DL: I was interested in working on this because of the high caliber of talent associated with this project and the reputation of the Sundance Channel doing challenging work.

Did you often collaborate with the showrunner or episode directors when writing the music for the miniseries, or because of limited episodes, was your musical plan mapped out ahead of time?

DL: I always discuss the sound and emotional direction of the music with the showrunner and other producers. In contrast to film, on a television show the composer does not work with the director, the exception being a pilot where the overall feel of the score is being established. The main reason for this is because directors are generally only hired until they deliver their cut. They do not typically stay on for post production.

Did the musical themes come to you naturally as you were watching an episode for the first time?

DL: I prefer not to read the scripts of shows I am working on in order to remain objective. The composer is the last chance for producers to get the emotion of show tuned-up, so I prefer to see an episode fresh and react. That way I can make sure the score enhances the dramatic impact of the story. Sometimes it’s after days of pacing and tossing and turning in my sleep.

Typically, how much music is there per episode? How much music did you finally end up recording for the series?

DL: I think there was maybe 20 plus minutes of music. I always prefer less music. My motto is less is more. Frequently producers will be nervous and want to fill up every beat with score and inevitably most of the non-essential music will be stripped out.

Will there be a soundtrack release of the miniseries?

DL: I hope so, and I have been exploring options for that.

Let’s go to your most popular work on the unforgettable and thrilling Showtime Cable Series, “Dexter” which ended not too long ago….you deserve every possible award for your work on this show! How did you get involved with the series?

DL: I was recommended by music supervisor Gary Calamar. They were looking for someone who could handle the gore, the Latin feel and the dark humor. I happened to have experience with all of the above by chance having done horror films and comedy as well.

When you first started the series, did you think it was going to become the huge hit that it was?

DL: I knew that it was good, but I had no idea that it would become an international sensation!

How important was it for you to incorporate Rolfe Kent’s main title theme within the score?

DL: I rarely used Rolfe’s theme. There were only a few instances where I was asked to work with his theme in all eight seasons. I think that the intent was for it to stand apart from the show’s body, more like a main title song.

How did you approach the music for each season? Did you base it a lot around the introduction of new characters?

DL: The music was absolutely influenced by new characters. The Ice Truck Killer had his sound, Lila had hers, John Lithgow’s Trinity had his, etc. As well new situations would call for new themes: love themes for different characters, emotional themes developing as entanglements grew.

Because the show went for eight seasons, was it hard for you to come up with new themes and musical material during the series’ run?

DL: No, not at all. It was nice to have themes to fall back on and it was fun to create new themes or just think of new ways to present older themes.

Which season was your favorite to score?

DL: They all had their favorite moments, but I would have to say that season four was the tautest and most interesting for music.

Milan Records has released a score album every series. Will we be seeing another one for season eight?

DL: Yes. Season 8 soundtrack will be out in July.

You’ve worked on a lot of horror projects before joining “Dexter.” Would you say the macabre is a genre you love scoring for the most?

DL: It is a genre that gives a lot of room creatively, but I like working in many genres. Variety is always good.

Who is your favorite director that you’ve worked with so far in your career?

DL: I’ve learned so much from all of them. I have been very lucky to get a chance to work with so many great artists. A really smart director can be the best teacher for a film composer because they will have no pre-conceptions about how music should work with film. Many a film composer has gotten credit for the brilliant idea of a director they have worked with.

Please tell the readers about your future upcoming projects.

DL: Right now I am working on the Season 8 soundtrack for “Dexter,” as well on a very exciting video game for Bethesda soon to be announced.

Very special thanks to Daniel for being so gracious with his time for this interview. A true class act and I really appreciate this time with you. You're great keep writing masterful tunes. Also special thanks to Jana Davidoff for setting up this great interview and going to bat for me. You're an angel!

"The Red Road" airs on The Sundance Channel. Please feel free to visit the shows' official site @

"Dexter The Complete Series" is now available on CBS/Paramount Blu-Ray and DVD from Amazon @

The soundtracks to the hit series "Dexter" are available from Milan Records and ready to order from Milan Records, Amazon and iTunes. Season 8 will be released sometime soon.

Please feel free to visit Daniel's official site @

Here Is Daniel Licht's Bio:

"Composer of the Emmy Award winning show, Dexter, and hugely popular video games, Silent Hill and Dishonored, one of Daniel Licht’s first experiences as a musician resulted in him hanging out with Miles Davis and playing jazz with Don Cherry in New York City. Licht continued to develop as a musician by playing around the world. In Germany, Holland, and Northern Europe he performed and composed music for theatre and dance companies, then Licht went on to Japan and Indonesia where he participated in Gamelan orchestras on the islands of Java and Bali. These travels broadened Licht’s definition of music. You may be surprised to know that knives, duct tape, wine glasses, saws, scissors, and even human bones (!) have been used as instruments and recorded at his studio.
It was his good friend and colleague, composer Christopher Young, (Spiderman III), who beckoned Licht west. Once in Hollywood, Licht began collaborating with directors and producers on a variety of projects such as the Stephen King’s thriller, Thinner; Ben Stiller’s drama, Permanent Midnight and the Bradley Cooper comedy, Kitchen Confidential.

His irreverent combinations of musical styles soon earned him a reputation as a wholly original composer and he became the favorite of iconoclastic film-makers. Indie icon Leon Ichaso had Licht score his film Hendrix, Sundance Film Festival’s darling Gregg Araki hired him for Splendor and Academy Award winner Xavier Koller asked Licht to score Cowboy Up. Clive Barker handpicked Licht to score Hellraiser: Bloodline, and ABC selected Licht to compose music for their sleeper hit Body Of Proof. NBC requested Licht to score Deception and contribute additional music for their hit action-thriller, The Blacklist.

Most recently Licht collaborated with Sundance Channel to create the musical sound for their six-part dramatic series, The Red Road, starring Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones) and Martin Henderson (The Ring). Today Licht is concocting another score for the latest video game by the maker’s of Dishonored."

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