ABC has always been a solid network for flourishing shows that include "Lost", "Grey's Anatomy", "The Practice", "Boston Legal", "The Wonder Years", "NYPD Blue", "Growing Pains" and one of their latest, "Once Upon A Time". Their great streak of past hits has continued with another hit show that came out around the same time as "Once Upon A Time", which at the time seemed destined to be yet another retread that wasn't going to last one season.
Yet, with strong writing, an appealing cast that features Emily Van Camp, Madeleine Stowe and Gabriel Mann and the strong backing of series creator Mike Kelley, "Revenge" has become a major hit series now entering its' third season which premieres on September 29th. The plot of the show is simple: The daughter of a framed executive makes it her mission to infiltrate upper Hamptons society and exact revenge on the people who set her father up. However, the outcomes of each episode and season so far, haven't.
Tagging along and creating this world through his musical gusto is the work if iZLER who had personally hadn't heard of until I heard some of his music for the series which is outstanding and many reasons why fans of the show have been clammoring for his music to be released for quite a while now and is now a reality thanks to Intrada Records next week which will no doubt please fans without question.
In this interview, I get to learn more about this unique composer who surprisingly down to earth and alot of fun to speak to. A true class act that took time out of his very busy schedule to talk to me and for you guys to read about how he's able to juggle two hit television series ("Revenge" and "Shameless") and how the soundtrack for "Revenge" has come to be. So sit back and read on to the musical stylings of iZLER.
Hi iZLER, how are you and thank you very much for granting me the time to conduct this interview with you today. It really is an honor to do so.
iZLER: Likewise, and thank you.
Please tell the readers about what made you become interested in music and composing.
iZLER: I don’t remember a time when music wasn’t in my life. I started taking piano lessons at age 6 maybe, but even before that, I was always sitting at the piano with my grandmother in Prague, making up stories and putting music (if you could call it that) to them. My grandma is still an amazing musician today at 97, but if you think of her musical education - from Gustav Holst himself to playing in all sorts of London orchestras throughout the war years, she clearly had a lot to teach me. Then my dad started to give me guitar lessons at around age 7. Cut to – my twenties spent on a tour bus with a guitar in the cargo hold …..
You are one of the hottest composers on television, composing for ABC’s “Revenge”. Please tell us about the show and how did you get on board the project?
iZLER: Very kind of you to say so by the way. I heard about “Revenge” when it was a script during pilot season a couple of years ago, and immediately fell in love with the whole Count Of Monte Christo theme. People say it’s a soap, but to me it’s always been a melodramatic thriller, almost in a film noir way. Obviously, that’s just my way of interpreting it in order to be able to go to certain musical extremes, but it’s served me well.
Tell us about the approach you took in writing the score for the series?
iZLER: Well, exactly that really – I remember watching the opening scene of the pilot and thinking it had the potential to be much more interesting and cinematic than the average “TV score” (whatever that is), and the first melody that started to play in my head became the main “Revenge” theme. When I started to orchestrate it, it just started to take on a life of it’s own, and sort of fell into that idiom somewhat. It just felt right, I can’t quantify it much beyond that. There’s no good reason it should have a noir influenced score, although I’m sure I could make up all sorts of silly reasons to justify it, but the most important thing is that it felt right. Although, there’s all sorts of modern elements to it, the main melody is very much rooted in that world.
Is there specific musical plan for you in mind in regards to the score for each particular episode?
iZLER: Whenever I can, I try to give each episode it’s own identity and feel. Sometimes that can stretch over the course of a longer story arc, and sometimes a single episode can really lend itself to being a sort of self contained mini movie. Episode 214 - "On The Boat" was the best example really. That’s why I chose S.O.S in morse code as the main rhythmic motif. I was just bloody lucky that it worked! These ideas and theories are all very well until you actually play them against picture and then it becomes rapidly obvious whether they’re going to work or whether you’re going to come unstuck.
Does the input of each director for each episode figure into what the music will eventually sound like?
iZLER: Most of the time, the schedule on a show like “Revenge” means I never even get to meet the directors…it’s more the producers who I have week to week creative conversations with. The notable exception of course being Philip Noyce, who directed the pilot – he was very much a driving influence behind the sound of the show and I worked very closely with him, which was truly a great experience. He’s made a film or two!
You’ve been on the show for three seasons to date. Have you found it harder or easier to write fresh material for each season?
iZLER: It gets easier in the sense that you become very well acquainted with the characters and feel of the story, but you can never become complacent. To be honest, it’s never stopped being a challenge and that’s what I love about it.
How much music have you written for the series in general so far?
iZLER: There’s certainly a lot of it!
Do you think that your music has been vital to the success of the series?
iZLER: It would be far too presumptuous of me to even comment on that. I’m just happy to be on a show that so many people enjoy.
Intrada Records will be releasing a soundtrack from the series. How did you put this album together?
iZLER: Let’s just say it took some time! In the course of the first two seasons I must have written somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty hours of music, so shrinking that down to a (listenable) album that pleased the fans, but didn’t become horribly self indulgent was a challenge. In the end, I just tried to put together an album that was fun to listen to from start to finish, but within that, there are little chronological passages of story. It should be a good ride hopefully.
Soundtrack fans and collectors seem to think that putting the soundtrack together is an easy thing. In your own words, how would you describe the process in preparing a soundtrack album of your music?
iZLER: A whole lot of listening, re-mixing, re-editing, mastering and whole lot of not sleeping. But then most composers aren’t strangers to that. Trying to stay objective about your own material can be tricky, but I had some good guidance!
Talk about your experience of having a soundtrack released.
iZLER: Without wanting to sound like a pompous arse, it’s always such an honor to have something released like this, but I am especially proud of “Revenge.” It’s been an incredible two year ride to get here, so I’m over the moon that people are going to get to hear it now as a standalone body of music. It should stand up with or without the picture, that’s the real challenge.
You’ve also worked hard on the Emmy Award Winning series, “Shameless,” which stars Emmy Rossum and William H. Macy, which is now in its’ fourth season on Showtime. What attracted you to the show?
iZLER: It was a really interesting take on the English version of the show. I think it’s really become it’s own thing now, and some of the writing and performances have been extraordinary.
Talk about your approach in writing for the show?
iZLER: Well, by the creator / producer’s own brief, I keep it as irreverent and unpolished as possible. And that’s what makes it fun.
The music is the opposite of what you’re doing on “Revenge.” Is it harder for you to write for this show which is a comedy-drama, where as “Revenge” is more dramatic?
iZLER: Yes, but you can’t take it any less seriously. However funny it might be, these people are still going through incredibly messed up circumstances and situations, so you have to give it the respect it’s due. As funny as it is, that show can get pretty deep.
Is it hard for you to come up with fresh material as the series goes along?
iZLER: Well, with “Shameless,” it’s actually taken some pretty drastic left turns, so that really helps to keep the musical ideas flowing.
Have you thought about putting together a soundtrack of your music for “Shameless?”
iZLER: We haven’t really talked about it yet, but you never know.
If you were to put one together and produce it, what would it consist of?
iZLER: I think a fun thing to do would be to put out the music for the first episode I scored – when they first came to me, Mark Mylod and John Wells wouldn’t even give me picture to look at. They just wanted me to write an album that would eventually make it’s way into the picture, so that it sounded more like a band than a composer. That sort of mini album was pretty cool to do, a sort of book of character themes.
Do you find it difficult to work on two different shows simultaneously? How do you handle the pressures of scoring two hit series?
iZLER: Coffee, family, and more coffee. Also coffee!
Do you have a favorite director that you have worked with?
iZLER: It’s hard to pick one, but some of the notable ones have been Philip Noyce of course, but then Robbie Pickering, Daniel Casey and J Van Tulleken. Those last three I guarantee you will be hearing a lot about in the coming years.
What was the hardest film or television show you’ve had to score?
iZLER: All of them and none of them (figure that out ….)
What is your favorite film score that you haven’t written?
iZLER: The one I’m working on now (but that would be telling).
What is your favorite film that you have scored?
iZLER: Again, hard to nail down one, but “On The Ice” was a really unique film that gave me a great opportunity to do something different. And “Natural Selection” just because it is a flat out brilliant movie.
What is your dream project?
iZLER: Well, like anyone else I have my favorite directors, David Fincher, (Steven) Soderbergh, Joe Wright, Aronofsky, Scorsese, and of course, I’d die to work with them all, but the thing that fires me up is the unexpected. Whether it’s an action movie, a comedy, an unknown director, or a legend, it doesn’t really matter. They just have to be doing something that really pushes them to the limit, and then my job gets exponentially easier. If they’re willing to push themselves, then I have to too.
Please tell the readers about your future upcoming projects you may have.
iZLER: There are a few which of course I’m not allowed to talk about yet, but suffice it to say I am incredibly excited about and can’t wait to share soon. And of course Season 3 of “Revenge” is about to kick off!
I really want to thank you once again iZLER for granting me this interview and I wish you continued success on the show for seasons to come.
iZLER: Thanks so much, my pleasure.
Very, very special thanks once again to iZLER for being very gracious for his time and for writing the excellent music for the series which I'm looking forward to hearing on Intrada Records. As well as very very very very special and heartfelt thanks to Jana Davidoff-Morrison for pulling another great rabbit out of her hat for this one. You're wonderful keep it up!
Please visit iZLER's personal website at http://www.izler.com/ for the latest updates on his work and on both "Revenge" and "Shameless"
The upcoming "Revenge" soundtrack album will be released on Tuesday by Intrada Records. http://store.intrada.com/ look for their announcement on Monday night
Head over to the "Revenge" series website to watch episodes and learn about the series at http://abc.go.com/shows/revenge with Season 3 premiering on September 29th!
Click here for an exclusive free download of "Requiem For Amanda" from the upcoming "REVENGE" soundtrack at http://abc.go.com/music-lounge/blogs/soundtracks/revenge-soundtrack-free-download and check out an video interview with iZLER at the site as well!