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An Interview with Cory Perschbacher, Composer

by Mike Haberfelner

September 2013

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First of all, why don't you introduce yourself to those of us who don't already know you?


My name is Cory Perschbacher, and I compose music for films and other media.


How would you describe your overall musical style, and any musical genres/musical instruments you feel particularly at home at?


Since I take on film projects of many genres, I've had to broaden my range of musical styles. I try not to be too predictable in my music. I don't want to have a certain "style" for each genre of film either. Each film is different and deserves a score that is unique and exclusive to the movie. I find that I change a little musically each time I work on a new score. It's really a cool thing.

I am most comfortable playing piano/keyboard, although I feel I am better at drums and percussions. Oddly, I haven't done too much with drums in my scores, but that's about to change very soon with some of the upcoming projects.


How do you usually approach writing a filmscore, and what do you usually have/would you like to have to go on before you start writing your music, the general idea, the actual script, the raw footage or the already edited movie? And how closely do you work with your directors, producers and the like?


I just ask for the picture-locked version of the film to work from. It's never fun to have to change the score around because a second or so was cut or added to the part that you already had worked out with precision. I work really close with most of the directors. It's really their film and vision. I have to get into their heads a little. The stuff I'm most proud of is the stuff where the director and I communicated a lot, and were specific on details about the entire score. It is, however, really fun to be given musical freedom.

I like to get the know not just the directors, but the actors, producers, editors, and such. I have met some really cool people who are going to have or are having great success while I've been doing these films.


Do talk about a typical Cory Perschbacher studio session for a bit?


I don't have a particular routine, but I like to have at least 3-4 hours to record, and no distractions. There have been a lot of different places where I've recorded music. Many times I'm set up on the floor with just a laptop, midi controller, one mic, and headphones, though most of the time, I'm recording at a kitchen table or a very small computer desk. The main thing I require to be able tap to into the right mood for the movie is simply time. I may get right into it immediately, and I may not get into it just right for an hour. That's why I like to have a few hours to work. After sending a mock-up version of the film, it's time to record the musicians. This part is awesome because it's when the authenticity sets in. Once it's all recorded and mixed just right, it goes off for the director's approval.


What got you into making music to begin with, and into scoring films at that, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?


I wanted to be an actor and a scientist in elementary school because of Ghostbusters, but I was too shy to perform in front of people, and science seemed like too much effort to have to put into, so I spent time drawing and playing the piano in my house. In high school, I got a four-track recorder, and realizing that I can't sing well, most of the music I made was instrumental. The desire to do music for film came to me almost the same time that I started recording music in the 10th grade. The marriage of music and picture is a wonderful thing, and I knew I wanted to be a part of that as soon as I recorded my first song.

I was far too shy to take lessons from someone for music as a kid, although I did get training in audio engineering, and graduated from the Academy of Recording Arts in Oklahoma City back in 2003. I use the skills I learned there to this day.


I've read somewhere that your first filmscore was for a movie called Bikini Vampire Babes - now what went through your head when you first heard the film's title, and what can you tell us about this first experience of scoring a movie as such?


When I first heard the title from the director, Ted West, I immediately wanted to be a part of it somehow. Originally, I came to Ted about photography for my band, and found out that he was making a feature film. I had always wanted to score a film like most musicians do, and this is how I got my start in the industry.

Scoring a film was new to me, and I didn't really know what I was doing at all when I worked on Bikini Vampire Babes. It was difficult because instead of opening the movie in an editing program, I just let it play on a DVD player while recording a piano track as I watched it, which made syncing nearly impossible. It was definitely a learning experience. I didn't feel like I was a composer really until the film I did after that called, The Unusual Calling of Charlie Christmas, which was directed by Adam Hampton. 


What can you tell us about your filmwork since, and how do you think you've grown as a composer? Oh, and do talk about some of your career highlights for a bit!


Since my first time composing for film, I have learned a lot, and every time I do a new project, I learn more and grow musically. I understand the dynamics of director/composer relationships and communication better each time. The ability to tap into a certain emotion becomes easier and easier as well as finding the right feel/mood that the director is looking for. I still have a long way to go, though. I have so much to learn and grow from.

I've received two "Best Original Score" awards, one for Hunter Perschbacher's Sparrow, and one for Mike Manero's The Box: Emma's Journey. I never expected to get an award, and not just because there are not too many festivals that have a category for composers, but because there are a lot of excellent composers out there with more talent, bigger connections, and better software and hardware. I actually feel lucky to have the chance to score any quality film that comes my way, and it feels like a career highlight every time I get asked to work on one.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


There are quite a bit of exciting projects coming up. Hunter Perschbacher's Return of Hours, Choice Skinner's Alexus, Brandon Heitkamp's Disavowed and Lonely Road, Tony Germinario's Death's Door, Sean P. Cunningham's Stranger, Stuart Brick's Stay At Home Dads, Adam Hampton's Rough Cut, Alex Preston's Look Alike, and there are some great stuff coming up from Shane Phebus, Mark Williams, and many more. I try to stay as busy as possible. 


I'm sure you've also made music outside of filmscores. So what can you tell us about your "standalone"-music?


I have hours and hours of solo music I've recored since 2001, but it's more for myself than anyone else. It's like therapy for me. I'll show my wife and sometimes my kids, but that's about all who get to hear my "mess-around" music. I've also done music for commercials and local news channels. I'd love to get into television more and perhaps video games.


Musicians who inspire you?


Danny Elfman and John Williams are my favorite composers, but I also really love Alan Silvestri, John Corigliano, James Horner, and Elmer Bernstein. Every time I watch a new movie, though, I'm inspired a little by the score. I guess I could say that I'm inspired by every composer that I've heard.


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Ghostbusters, Batman (1989), and American Psycho are the three movies that I can put on anytime.

Ghostbusters has always been my absolute favorite, though. It was wonderful as a kid because by saying, "I ain't 'fraid of no ghost", I felt courage enough to go into dark rooms. I remember being in the fourth grade, and hearing someone saying that Ghostbusters was a comedy, which shocked me. To me, it was a very serious film. I didn't understand the comedy aspect of it until my teenage years, and even more in adulthood. It was the movie that seemed to grow up with me, and change as I changed.


... and of course, films you really deplore?


I usually find something that I like in every film, so thinking of a movie I deplore is very difficult. Sometimes, I say I don't like a movie, but it always grows on me, and I end up thinking it's not so bad. I'm sure if I thought hard enough, I could come up with one that never grew on me, but for the most part, I don't have any movies that I can't watch.


Your website, Facebook, whatever else? 

I'm also on YouTube, Twitter, and all the other popular sites. 


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



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On the same day
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A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
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directed by
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written by
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Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD