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Kevin Riepl Inflicts Musical Mayhem For The Horrors Of Cabin Fever: Patient Zero

Profile of Composer Kevin Riepl of "Cabin Fever: Patient Zero"
Courtesy of Kevin Riepl Music

I have to admit two things. First off, I've never been a fan of the original "Cabin Fever" film which was directed by the fun Eli Roth and Secondly, the horror genre isn't one that I'm a real fan of to begin with however there are a few exceptions that I really do enjoy such as "John Carpenter's The Thing", "Ginger Snaps", "From Dusk Till Dawn", and "Alien" to name a few. "Cabin Fever: Patient Zero" is the third film in the trilogy of films that started out under Lionsgate's banner which is due to be released on released in theaters on August 1st and then on Blu-Ray and DVD in September for fans of the series to really devour.

Aiding to the maniacal horror mayhem is the very talented and versitile composer Kevin Riepl, who is absolutely no stranger to writing horror scores lending his primo musical skills to films such as "Silent Night", "The ABC's Of Death", and "Contracted". He's also been an excellent video game composer in the highest regard adding great music to games such as the blockbuster "Gears Of War", "Aliens: Colonial Marines" and "Resistance: Burning Skies" to name a few.

For this very special interview with Kevin, he candidly shares with me his personal insights on "Cabin Fever: Patient Zero" as well as touching base on his stellar video game work and his favorite scores he's written. So sit back and enjoy our fun conversation that took place recently.

Please tell our readers what made you become interested in music.

KR: My interest in music began at a very young age of 5 or 6 due to my uncle who loved playing his guitar and singing during family gatherings. Sounds coming from the acoustic guitar and piano made a huge impression on me. The fact that someone in my family was actually able to play these instruments enamored me. If I recall correctly, as it was so long ago, I listened to music differently after that. Thinking to myself “I want to be able to do that.”

Let’s talk about your recent work on the horror sequel “Cabin Fever: Patient Zero” that stars The Lord Of The Rings’ Sean Astin and is being released in theaters on August 1st. What got you interested in this project?

KR: The director, Kaare Andrews. I actually worked with Kaare prior to Cabin Fever: Patient Zero on his contribution to The ABC’s of Death anthology. On that project directors only had about 3-5 minutes to tell a story. I was impressed with Kaare’s ability to craft a very creative, impactful story in such a short time with very limited means. When I heard he was doing Cabin Fever: Patient Zero and he asked me, I jumped at the chance to work with him again.

How did you and the director Kaare Andrews of the film collaborate in terms how the music should sound and add to the film’s storyline?

KR: We spoke in depth quite a bit during pre-production about his vision and what the music needed to do. Early in the discussions we wanted the music to be influenced by the Caribbean region of where the story takes place while adding hints of tension using string elements like the original film. When I started creating some ideas, the music was sounding too regional. So we backed off of that approach a bit but at the same time I wanted to keep the music very rhythmic. That’s where the plucking strings ideas came into play and rhythmic bow scrapings became a prominent aspect of the score. We definitely talked through every cue that was written along the way and talked about the best way for each cue to be its best. Kaare has great insight on storytelling and how music should work within a scene, so his collaboration was welcomed.

In regards to putting together the score, were you and Kaare Andrews on the same page from the very start in regards to how the film sounded musically in particular moments which didn’t need that full bombastic horror stinger sound or just simply needed some atmosphere after spotting the film together?

KR: For the most part we were thinking similarly of what the score needed to do. But like I mentioned, it was an iterative process. Kaare was very responsive to everything I submitted and if we were on different pages regarding a certain cue we talked and figured out which was the best way to support that scene.

After watching the film for the first time, did the themes come to you quickly or did it take a little time for you to come up with the material that you ultimately came up with?

KR: From the start, Kaare knew he wanted some sort of sound or statement for the ‘virus’. Any time in the score where you hear those two low bass hits accompanied by the repeating delayed string glissandos, that signifies the virus. It wasn’t until I started messing around on some instruments that I started coming up with themes and ideas…once I picked up the banjolele and just started plucking some notes I knew it was a sound that I wanted. Whether it be the wavering repeating plucked notes or the minor 9th interval pattern, it was to be a prominent aspect of the score.

Let’s talk about the temp track. I know a lot of directors really tend to fall in love with them and give composers fits. Did this film have one and from that were you able to gauge as to what Kaare wanted or were you given the freedom to write what you felt was needed?

KR: What I liked about Kaare’s temp score was how well it did with setting the pacing. That’s basically all I took from the temp. Kaare was not married to it, so he did give me a lot of freedom when creating new original ideas for the film.

When you score your films, do you find it difficult to adjust to a scene that’s been edited down from what it once was and how does it affect the music?

KR: It sometimes is difficult because the scene might need to be completely rewritten if the pacing has changed. The tempo of the cue might be affected therefore throwing certain things off that are supposed to be accented. It really all depends on the extent of the edit. If only a few frames were taken out, it’s not much of a huge deal.

Were there any real musical changes that the film needed after you finished writing your score?

KR: Not really, and that’s mainly due to how on top of things Kaare was on the film. I would submit a full reel of cues once the reel was complete. He’d get right into it and give me notes and I’d go right back in and revise the cue. So by the time it came to finishing the score we had already been going back and forth to know what would work or would not work.

How much music did you end up recording for the film?

KR: About 80 minutes of music.

What were the recording sessions like?

KR: Being that there wasn’t a budget for a live orchestral recording, the limited live instruments used on the score were recorded right here in my studio. Those sessions went fabulous.

Will there be a soundtrack release for your score?

KR: There is in fact a soundtrack release. It was released by Sumthing Else Music, on July 22, and available on iTunes, Amazon etc.

After scoring the film, how do you feel about the movie now months later and do you feel your music has made it successful in your own view?

KR: I do, I think the music works well with Kaare’s vision.

You’ve also been involved in video games as well with some solid games under your belt such as “Aliens”, “Resistance: Burning Skies” and “Gears Of War”, one of the best--selling video games. Can you please share with the readers what were your experiences like on those series?

KR: Gears of War was great to be a part of because it was Epic Games’ first real story-based title, a new IP and altogether bad ass. I am proud to have been part of that franchise. Resistance: Burning Skies was great because it was the first time I collaborated with another composer on a project. For that game, the score was composed by me and Jason Graves, a friend and colleague who I respect and admire.

Do you find it enjoyable to work on video games as opposed to writing for a movie?

KR: I find it completely enjoyable to write for both.

Do you usually orchestrate your scores as much as you do composing them?

KR: I do my best to orchestrate while composing. But I always send off to an orchestrator and copyist, to get it all cleaned up and make sure everything is in its right place and voiced properly .

What is your favorite film score that you’ve written to date?

KR: The answer to that is always the latest score that I’ve written; that being the score for the film The Night Crew which just finished post-production. The release date is unknown by me at this point.

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

KR: I’ve liked all the directors I’ve worked with so far in my career. I know some directors are difficult to work with therefore some composers might have a preference over one or the other. But so far, I really have enjoyed each relationship that’s been created by working with all these directors.

What is your favorite video game that you’ve scored to date?

KR: I’d have to say at this point it’s ALIENS Colonial Marines. It was special to me because I am a huge fan of the franchise. So to be able to write a score where I was able to incorporate musical ideas from Jerry Goldsmith’s ALIEN and James Horner’s ALIENS scores, two composers I deeply admire, was huge to me and so much fun.

Please tell the readers about your future upcoming projects.

KR: The film I mentioned above, The Night Crew, was just completed. The Night Crew is a very cool gritty action thriller directed by Christian Sesma. Another project is a video game which has yet to be announced.

I really want to thank you once again Kevin for granting me this interview.

KR: Thanks Danny, for the interest and the questions! It was my pleasure.

"Very special thanks to Kevin for being so gracious and accommodating with his time for doing this interview with me. I'm forever greatful and let's do this again."

Cabin Fever: Patient Zero will be released on Blu-Ray and DVD on September 2nd from RLJ Entertainment and is available for pre-order @ http://www.amazon.com/Cabin-Fever-Patient-Zero-Blu-ray/dp/B00KTLO312/ref=sr_1_4?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1406615887&sr=1-4&keywords=cabin+fever+patient+zero

The soundtrack to the film as Kevin mentioned, is available from Sumthing Else Music Works at their official website @ http://www.sumthing.com/p/cabin-fever-patient-zero/ and also available digitally on iTunes @ http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/cabin-fever-patient-zero-original/id890955922 and on Amazon@ www.amazon.com/Cabin-Fever-Patient-Original-Soundtrack/dp/B00LVS2FQW/

Please feel free to visit Kevin's official website @ http://www.kevinriepl.com for updates on his latest and current projects.

Here's Kevin Riepl's Official Mini- Biography:

"Kevin Riepl is an award-winning composer for film, television and video games. His engaging and atmospheric scores have enhanced numerous films such as the horror/thriller CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO, CONTRACTED, THE ABCs OF DEATH, the holiday season horror hit SILENT NIGHT, as well as film festival winners and genre cult films including the emotional sci-fi short HENRI starring Keir Dullea (2001: A Space Odyssey) and Oddball Animation Studios’ stunning concept film, RUIN. Riepl is also renowned for composing the epic symphonic scores for blockbuster sci-fi action video games GEARS OF WAR, ALIENS, RESISTANCE: BURNING SKIES and the UNREAL series. His upcoming projects include the action/thriller feature film THE NIGHT CREW starring Luke Goss, Bokeem Woodbine and Danny Trejo. Riepl studied at the Mannes College of Music in New York. He lives and works in Los Angeles."