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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
    Orcas Island


    Garritan Orchestral Libraries and Northern Sounds are pleased to present this "Meet the Artist Interview" with


    John M. Keane is the composer for the current most-watched TV series: "C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation" on CBS. In each episode, John's music adds a crucial element to the story that keeps viewers involved and in the moment. His music is always there to punctuate the point. Subtle yet effective, composers are often the unsung heroes of many films and television projects.

    John Keane has been in the music business since he was only 11 years old when he and his brother, performed as the Keane Brothers. After being one of the youngest performers ever to appear on the Tonight Show, they landed a network television show shortly after the release of their debut record. The Keane Brothers went on to release four albums, the first of which was produced by David Foster. In addition, they had their own prime-time variety series. John also has he worked as a session drummer for a number of great producers, and can be heard on records from Chicago, Celine Dion, Michael Bolton and others. John also wrote the theme and the thematic material to the Reality hit "Amazing Race".

    Here is a short clip of John's music from CSI: http://www.garritan.com/mp3/CSI.mp3

    John's website is at: http://www.jmkeane.com

    It is indeed an honor and a privilege to have John Keane as our guest. Many thanks to John for taking the time to answer these questions and to Northern Sounds for hosting this Interview. Thanks to Scott Cairns for assisting in this interview.

    And thank you all for your participation.

    Gary Garritan




    Member: D Montesinos
    Congratulations for your work!!, Really Good!!; I would like to know something about your beginnings, "Looking for an Agent", having your first gig etc....

    I didnít start looking for an agent until after my first job. My first job composing for television was a movie on TNT called ďKeep the ChangeĒ in 1991. I was introduced to the producer of the movie, and based upon our conversations I composed some themes, he liked what I wrote, and I got the gig. That helped me get my next gig. It was difficult to get gig after gig so, it was touch and go for a while until I got a chance to work on a TV series in 95. Iíve been working ever since.


    Member: Scott Cairns
    I was wondering if you could walk us through a typical week for you, i.e.; how many minutes of music do you usually need to compose for a CSI episode?

    Every show starts with a spotting session. By the time I show up, the producers have a very good idea of where they want music, and we discuss thematic ideas and nail down the tone and vibe of the various scenes and the overall feel of the show. Based upon this meeting, the music editor creates a cue sheet. I return to my studio and start composing the cues, usually always in order, from top to bottom.

    There has been more music in Season 4 than previous seasons, it currently averages about 25 minutes per show. Given that I only have a week to compose the music for the show, I have to write at least 4 minutes a day. Whatever I donít make I play catch up later! Depending on the show towards the end of the week, a producer will come by my studio to preview the score or Iíll send a CD of the music. Late in the week I will usually have another spotting session for the next show. Often, I work through the weekends to complete the score for the Monday mix. Then it starts over again!

    Do you ever bring in live players?

    Yes, on occasion I will bring in a live player or singer. More frequently Iíll bring someone in for a sampling session to create new sounds an episode. Given the short turnaround for the music, most of the show is composed using synths and samplers.

    Whenever I need piano Iíll play my Yamaha C7. I find it makes a huge difference over the sampled pianos. Even adding one live element inside of a sequenced cue can make a big difference. I would much rather use live players all the time but given the schedule, time doesnít permit.
    I look forward to the opportunity to use more players. I enjoy working and recording with live players more than with boxes.


    Member: David Govett
    Nice music.


    How stressful is episode TV work?

    Very. Schedules are tight and creating music on demand, on a weekly basis, while trying to keep it fresh, can be challenging. It requires that I spend a lot of time in my studio. I think Post production has really gotten more condensed in both features and TV over the years. There have been some episodes of CSI in the past that are spotted on Thursday and due on Monday.

    Luckily that has not happened this season.

    What kind of deadlines and how many minutes of music etc..?

    I have weekly deadlines for the music, delivering on Monday for a Monday/Tuesday mix. Many times I work on 4 consecutive shows and then have a week off. Most times the show finishes dubbing on Tuesday and airs on Thursday. CSI has the tightest schedule Iíve ever worked on.
    It averages about 25 minutes per show.

    Are you able to juggle other projects at the same time?

    I have in the past, (ďAmazing RaceĒ) but currently, CSI keeps me busy enough. The shows goes on hiatus in May and gives me the opportunity to pursue other projects over the summer. I also like to take some time off.
    It also depends on the project. If it were a project I really wanted to do Iíd work out the schedule.


    Member: Tumababa
    Well as someone who doesn\'t have much experience with electronic music I was wondering what kind of approach you take when dealing with synthesis and beats.

    Sometimes Iíll create a rhythmic bed and add to it. Other times, Iíll create a motif and arrange rhythmic elements around it. It really depends on what scene Iím writing for and what Iím trying to achieve in that scene. At times I will start writing without picture and then adapt the piece to fit later. One of my goals when writing electronic based stuff is to make it interesting.
    I try and keep an open mind when creating and that means changing it up so Iím not approaching it the same way every time.

    I think that is one of the great things about the DJ scene. Putting things together from such different genres thus creating something new.

    That is to say, how do you take a can of paint full of more or less every color and then come out with distinct shades in the end?

    Interesting question. When I listen to someone like ďSquarepusherĒ I ask the same question in so many words. A track like ďGo PlasticĒ begs the question was there a definite idea in mind or was it the result of a lot of experimentation?

    I personally think itís a little of both. All this technology gives us a staggering amount of choices. Choices being a good thing most of the time however, having done over 80 episodes I have a pretty good idea where I want to end up. It ends up being a process of finding, making and editing sounds and discarding stuff to make it what I want.
    I have also had some happy mistakes occur.

    Ultimately, It all comes down to choices. I make them based on what feels right and is musical and works with the picture.


    Member: Alan Lastufka
    Do you hear the music already finished in your head or do you begin with a simple melody and build upon that?

    Sometimes I hear exactly what I want and other times Iíll go after an idea by trying different arrangements or lines around the melody. As I add parts other parts come into my head.

    When Iím working on a piano cue most times I will know what I want to do in terms of arrangement except when adding an ambient element which is always present in CSI cues. Finding the right texture requires some time to audition and or create and then processing it and then that tonal relationship might trigger another idea.

    One of my frustrations in working with samples is hearing things and not being able to execute them because of the limitations of the samples. Some times I will have to adapt an idea to make it work or flow the way I want them to because it doesnít sound realistic.


    Member: Sharmy
    I have watched the Amazing Race since it's inception. Though I can't stand the airport delays (hehe), for some reason it is my favorite reality show and in no small part because of the music. I think it is the only reality show I have taped just to listen to the music afterwards. It says you did the theme and other thematic material. How involved are you with the show? Also, if you do score the show your [how do you] approach to setting up the tension scenes so well.

    I wrote the theme and 5 episodes worth of music the Amazing Race. I have not been involved since the first season. I hear they continue to use my music.

    It was a tremendous amount of work to do both shows. AR was averaging 30 to 35 minutes of music! Iím glad that I got a chance to work on the show and that it has become such a success. Since I worked on it there have been a number of different composers that have been involved in the show.

    I do remember having to get used to scoring a scene at a ticket counter with music that would be appropriate for a nuclear disaster!
    The producers really wanted a sense of urgency and tension in all of the scenes.


    Member: KingIdiot
    A lot of your electronic sounds have a very organic touch. Any tricks that you cant live without that lead to this?

    Iím glad to hear you picked up on that.
    I sample live instruments and then use external and computer processing. I then have patches made using those samples with many variations and tunings. Often times I will layer them. I recently created some great ambient beds using all acoustic instruments. Itís very abstract stuff but inside of a cue with some harmonic elements itís very interesting.


    Member: Mark D
    When you sit down to write music for a new episode, what sparks your inspiration?

    It is certainly nice to be inspired but it is not essential when writing music by the yard! Sometimes I am inspired by a show or a scene or a great piece of music. My job is to write music on demand.
    It can be daunting to look a cue sheet and see 28 minutes at the bottom but as I start writing and begin making progress Iím on my way.

    A big part of episodic television is about getting it done on time since thereís another show waiting on deck. While also making sure itís the right music. I try and do the best I can given the limitations of time. I have to write a lot of music in a short amount of time. Some shows turn out better than others but I always try and make sure that Iím happy with end result no matter what the conditions.

    How do you prevent the "same ol' stuff" syndrome?

    I donít think that can be avoided. I try and approach every episode as a new show, instead of re using material. That helps. I also listen to all kinds of different music.

    The show has a certain format or formula. Treating scenes differently is sometimes helpful. For a long time I was creating mostly ominous ambient cues for the interrogation scenes and now Iíve been using rhythmic elements inside of those cues and that gives it a different feel. On the other hand, familiarity is not always a bad thing. I guess adding or treating a scene slightly differently helps it from getting stale.

    I always write new music for each episode. I find that if I go looking for a new direction and itís a subtle change or approach from what I normally do than I can be satisfied that Iím not being repetitive. Even after as many episodes as Iíve done Iím still finding new ways of approaching scenes.

    Do you have to write a lot of music and pull out the best bits, or do you end up using the majority of music you write?

    I edit as I go. I donít move on from a piece of music until I get what I want. Sometimes, I will come back to a cue and re-evaluate or tweak it but generally I keep moving forward using most of what I write.

    What is your preferred way of writing? Do you work methodically in a certain structure or is it all creative inspiration?! For example, do you start with a basic patch on the keyboard (e.g. Piano) and work on the main theme/melody, and then build on that?

    If I know I want to use strings for a scene than I will start writing using the strings. I will either start by playing a melody or singing a melody over some chords to develop an idea.

    A lot of times I will use a scratch pad string patch and then replace it with the individual string sections. This helps to write the cue and then I can expand on the arrangement.

    If I were doing an orchestral project I would approach it differently but for the show this process seems to be the most productive.

    Do you feel time pressure actually helps you produce your best work?

    I think it important to rely on your instincts. A lack of time forces you to do just that. Pressure also creates stress, which is hard to deal with on a continual basis. Itís nice to have the luxury of time to get it right.
    Iíve been writing under pressure for such a long time and it hard to imagine doing it any other way.
    I will say that Iím not aware of a composing gig that doesnít have pressures.
    I think itís the nature of this kind of work


    Member: Marsdy
    Hi John, Congratulations on CSI! Do you ever get "writers block"? If so, how do you work around it and still meet deadlines?

    Oddly enough I donít really experience any ďwriters blockĒ. I guess it liken it to boredom being a temporary lack of imagination. There are so many possibilities that it more of an issue of whether I like what I came up with or not.
    Sometimes if I donít feel like writing I go and sit at the piano and play some Bach 2 part inventions or listen to some music or just take a break. I re approach it and suddenly Iím back in the creative process being productive.


    Member: John De Borde
    Thanks for doing this interview John, quite a treat!... I would be curious to hear about what kind of team (if any) you've put together to meet the demands of working on a weekly drama (music editor, engineer/mixer, assistants?).

    The music editor is part of the production team on the show. My new assistant Chris has just recently been introduced to the dark world of CSI. Keeping the studio alive and maintaining it is a full time job. Also creating patches from sampled and existing material is a big part of his job as well as editing in logic and recording. It requires a lot of different skill sets.

    When I start the season I set up my palette of sounds and set the effects. This is when I bring in an engineer to set up the reverbs and EQ sounds. These EQís and FX stay the same for the season. I have a couple of FX units that are floaters that are used to make ambiences and process other sounds. I mix as I write. When Iím done with a cue myself or Chris will lay it down to another layback Pro Tools computer. Whatever engineering needs to be done on a daily basis i.e. recording live instruments is done Chris. All the mics are dedicated so the process is streamlined with no set up required. Having things already set up makes it more productive and more creative for me.

    It takes a lot to get all the gear working right. Iím most productive when I alone in the studio with few interruptions. For the most part composing is pretty solitary work.

    Specifically (in addition to any general thoughts you might have), how you work with them, at what point did you decide you needed them and where did you find them?

    Ever since Iíve been writing for episodic Television Iíve had an assistant. Itís essential that my focus is on the music and not the gear.
    Chris is a graduate of the Berklee Music production and engineering program. I found him through their alumni program. A great resource for anyone looking for an assistant.


    Member: Bruce A. Richardson
    Let\'s take it away from CSI...in general, how do you motivate yourself when faced with a project you may not particularly believe in artistically, but where the check beckons?

    I guess thatís different for everyone. Some gigs are harder than others. Writing music can be hard work. In my experience sometimes making music is about making the people that hired you happy using your talent to enhance their project. I would always look for the opportunity to hone your craft in any situation and become better at what you do.
    I try to look at opportunities as a chance to learn something.

    How much do you blur the lines between music and sound design in your work?

    I donít think of it in terms of blurring the lines between music and sound design. To me itís the sound of CSI. I guess it kind of a hybrid. The textures and ambience I create for the show are very detail oriented and require their own kinds of arrangements. Itís a different kind of composing but I find it interesting and effective to use these ambiences and textures in conjunction with conventional instruments ultimately creating a deeper dramatic impact for the show.

    The ambience on top of the music feels like the otherworldly part of the show. Cues arenít complete without the indefinable element or texture inside of the music. I guess most times it adds a darkness or unsettling feel to the show. A lot of times the ambience needs to be in a different key or very dissonant to be effective.

    So much of the show is about compiling evidence. Itís a great way to highlight all these different pieces of evidence and point to clues, sometimes subliminally and other times blatantly. I couldnít imagine doing it any other way.

    In the entire collaborative picture, are you satisfied that you get sufficient latitude there, or does the schedule necessitate more of a hit and run (and smile) approach?

    I try and do the best with the time I have. Sometimes, hit and run is good, it doesnít give me to much time to think. Iíve gotten used to working pretty fast and I actually like it that way.


    Member: Scott Cairns
    Your production quality has to be amongst the best I've heard on TV (or anywhere else for that matter) can you let us in on any secrets in that regard? Do you do all the mix downs yourself?


    Thatís good to hear because when the show is broadcast you never know what can happen! They use pretty heavy compression to stay within the legal broadcast levels.

    Every cue is mixed as I go. As Iím composing Iím settting levels and panning things. I donít have time to do mixing sessions. My FX are static and everything is mixed inside logic.

    I use some great reverb boxes like the Lexicon 960 and multi FX boxes Eventide Orville and Eclipse. I donít use any mastering gear on the final stage. Occasionally, Iíll use the Wave L2 ultra maximizer. But in general I try to keep my layback pretty hot so I get the max bit resolution. The music I write is pretty dense sometimes. Iíve been known to get into 3 digits on the track count in Logic. However, thatís usually on the longer cues. I like to have a lot of stuff going on inside of the music, it makes it more interesting to me and hopefully to the viewers.

    Gosh, I have so many questions... Could you go into detail about your music setup?

    I use Logic. I run 5 Gigastudios and 3 VST computers and 2 Powerbooks. (Reaktor, Kontakt, and Chainer VST host) Everything is routed into a Roland VM7100 digital mixer and summed to 2 Pro Tools outputs. Lots of outboard gear as well as computer processing. I also use a soundcraft Ghost console for extra inputs.
    The piano has a dedicated mic pre (Avalon 2022) and I use out board mic pres for all other recording. (API, Neve 1172)

    Have you ever been on a tight schedule and had equipment failure? Do you have a contingency plan?

    Iíve had fuses blow but nothing major.

    I have the entire studio backed up on an offsite back up computer. If there was a melt down I could always get back to all of my data.

    I also use Power backup units. (UPS) This helps regulate the power and in case of a failure it would allow 5 minutes to save data before shutting down.

    I think it is important to have some safeguards in place when working under pressure and with tight deadlines. It not a matter of if gear fails, itís a matter of when!

    I read elsewhere that you have particular EQ settings when using GOS, would you mind sharing the details of what you do there?

    I use the EQ in my digital mixer for the strings. I tend to roll off a little top end. Iím looking forward to the newest version of giga to able to use some of the channel EQ and VST capabilities. Hope it come out soon.


    Member: David Govett
    What tools are you using for the grooves. Sample loops, custom created loops? Acid, Project 5, or Reason for any of them?

    I use all kinds of programs for grooves. I have a bunch of custom Live sets with loops I played and manipulated. I will almost always use a multitude of different sources i.e. Reason, Kontakt, Live, Reaktor Stylus, (groove control patches only) and Devine Machine. I donít use sample loop Cds.


    Member: P de Caumette
    What is the piece of equipment you wish existed that would make your life easier (aside from a virtual slave composer) Thank you and good luck with the rest of your career.

    1.) 100 piece orchestra on a scoring stage surrounded by mics.

    2.) I would like to see more intuitive sequencer programs with Voice recognition and that could automate repetitive tasks and also do away with computer mice!

    3.) Getting rid of Midi slop.

    Member: KingIdiot
    Do you make loops and grooves and just keep them aside for future use?

    Absolutely, I organize them into groove folders on my logic computer. Or make Live sets and save them on a powerbook for later use. Iíll usually do it when I have some down time.

    Do you base everything off of some stereo groove loop you\'ve built, or is everything built up from scratch?

    I build grooves a number of different ways. Sometimes itís one sample (kik, snr or hat) at other times Iíll start with a loop add stuff, record it, chop it up and make variations. Other times Iíll start with hand drums and add loops around those.

    I try and mix it up so I donít get locked in to one way of doing it.

    I always find that the music you use is very compressed/limited (works perfect), do you like this or would you like more dynamics?

    I donít use compression on my mixes. What you are probably hearing are the compression being used by the broadcasters.


    Member: kid-surf
    I've heard that you run Reaktor on it's own computer(s?). Why is that?

    Itís easier for me to use Reaktor this way in my setup. I always record the output of reaktor into logic and turn it into audio. That way I can run it through my FX and record them together and re use these sounds or grooves in other cues. Also, depending on the ensemble Reaktor can use a lot of CPU power. It doesnít work very well as a VST plug.

    Iím a big believer in dedicated resources. Even know these operating systems are supposedly capable of multi tasking I find my computers work better when I never turn them off and dedicate them to one program. I just consider them synth boxes.


    Member: Marsdy
    Do you have large templates set up with a broad palette of sounds to compose with, or do you start every cue with an empty canvas and load in the instruments as needed?

    I have large templates with static patches. Itís much easier to create music on a tight turnaround when all of the sounds are always loaded.
    I will use EXS24 to load individual patches that are not part of the palette.
    Each giga is dedicated to a section or category. For instance, Giga one is my Strings, Giga 2 is my ambient and metallic FX, Giga 3 is Percussion etcÖ

    I couldnít get any work done if had to start with a blank canvas every cue. To me, building a palette as you go would be a better approach for writing songs.


    Member: David Govett
    Perhaps you can share some of the business aspects of composing for TV like publishing rights, ASCAP, BMI, royalties, syndication, things like that. Those are areas many of us are new to.

    I would refer you to a great book on all of the inner workings of the business. Itís called ďMusic Money and SuccessĒ by Jeffrey and Todd Brabec.

    It has everything form music deals to BMI and ASCAPís current rates.
    They are far more knowledgeable on these subjects than I.


    Member: Alan Lastufka
    First, nice work on the show.


    Do you compose your music to finished video with the scene's pace and editing and dialogue already in place? Or do you compose to a particular 'mood' of a scene and let the editors handle where it falls?

    When I get a cut of the show it is what you called ďlockedĒ There are no more pictures changes other than missing CGI shots. At this point the editorís are finished with their work.

    Based on the spotting notes I start writing music from the top of the show.
    There are 4 reels (acts) in the show. I continue to write for all of the specified scenes on the cue sheet.

    When I deliver the music it goes to the dubbing stage where the mixers carve out the dialog, (make sure every word is audible) add effects and mix the music. The dub stage is where all of the post production elements are mixed into the show and then itís transferred to its final delivery format.
    Sometimes on the stage a producer will change were the music starts and ends and the music editor will adjust accordingly. Most times cues stay where they were spotted.

    Member: P de Caumette
    How did you get that gig (C.S.I)?

    William Petersen brought me to the attention of Jerry Bruckheimer. I auditioned some cues and Jerry liked them and here I am 80+ episodes later!

    How difficult do you think it would be for you at this point to switch to film vs. TV?

    I think there is still a stigma attached to television composing. From my experience itís a lot easier to get into TV from films than it is to get into films from TV.
    I look forward to the opportunity to do some films. However, if CSI was the last gig I ever had Iíd have to say it was an amazing ride.


    Member: KingIdiot
    Thanks for doing this interview.

    My pleasure.

    I have to admit I SERIOUSLY think that one of the main reasons that CSI did and is doing so well is the music. Its the music that makes these characters and what they are doing "cool". You've managed to find a nice balance of "cool music" and enhancing the drama. Its perfect for the show I'd say.

    Thank you. There are a lot of very talented people that make up this show. Iím proud to be a part of it.

    As much of a fan of 24 I am (I believe it is the best show on TV actually but we're talking about you), I personally think that you have made the perfect music for your particular TV show, and as much as I like Callery's stuff in 24, I think you deserve the EMMY.

    Thanks for your vote. Now all we need is to get you a membership!
    Iíve got a great job. To me, the success of the show is greater than anything I could have predicted and after that, itís all gravy.


    Member: kid-surf
    What role (if any) did your agent play in getting you on CSI?

    I did not have an agent at the time. I went on for 2 seasons without an agent. In that time I also wrote the theme and scored ďAmazing Race.
    Thatís not to say that an agent canít be useful or helpful, it just didnít factor in to my situation at the time.

    Every career is different. Things happen in many different ways. Expect the unexpected.

    As well who are you repped by? (The reason I ask is my wife is an agent at CAA. I think they rep Jerry?)



    Member: Joanne Babunovic
    Hi John, I enjoy your music, and thank you for taking questions. Practically every industry/job, (with the exception of pro football player) has seen an influx of women. But percentage-wise, and in comparison with other fields, composing is still an untouched frontier for females. Is that your observation too? If so, any thoughts on why that is?

    I donít have an answer for that. I know itís certainly not for lack of talent. Rachael Portman and Shirley Walker being examples.


    Member: Scott Cairns
    Sometimes when visiting composer forums I see posts like; "My CSI Style cue" Are you aware that you have created an identifiable voice and character with your music?

    No. But Iím glad thatís the case.

    Is this something you consciously did or is it simply your individuality coming out through the music?

    I think the show has afforded me a great opportunity to have music drive scenes that have little if any dialog. One of the early ideas for CSI was ďShow, donít tellĒ. This led to the montage style that is now such a big part of the show. Sometimes I approach them from a dramatic perspective to keep you in the mystery and other times they are more groove oriented. I try and make those moments count.

    Member: kid-surf:
    Hi John, Thanks for taking time out to share your wisdom with us!
    What do you like best about your music?

    Getting it done! Iím proud of the fact that the music I make for this show is unique to this show. When you watch CSI you know youíve entered the dark and quirky world of CSI. Iíd like to think that if you were in another room and CSI came on youíd know it by the music.

    It an interesting question. Iíve never given it much thought.

    What are some aspects of it that make you say "dang, I'm pretty good!" (I know what I like about it; just curious as to what some aspects are that put a smile on your face as you write)

    When thereís a great scene and my music makes it even more powerful or adds something that words cannot.

    In the big moments when I feel Iíve absolutely nailed it. Thatís a nice feeling.

    There have been times when I was writing a cue and it was not working the way I wanted it to in the scene. So, I start to take away some parts and suddenly the cue has a much bigger impact on the scene. Knowing when less is more puts a smile on my face.

    Have you done any films, any indie?

    Years ago, I did a little movie call ď100 percentĒ that had some wacky rhythm section based dub style stuff that I did in about 2 weeks. After that I did an Independent that ended up on HBO called ďA Better Way To DieĒ. Other than that I have done mostly television work.

    What (if any) types of film projects are you interested in?

    A film that would give me the ability to write something different that what I do for the show. Something that was compelling on some level. I like movies that have a great story and meaning that are also entertaining.

    And do you find it at all politically hard to get jobs in Film being known mostly for great work on CSI. Just curios if it affects someone at your level. (Sorry if that is a rude question... don't feel obligated to answer)

    I think itís a good question to ask. Just because you have attained a certain level of success in one area doesnít mean youíre guaranteed to move into another. There is a tendency to compartmentalize or categorize composers. That can make it difficult but not impossible. Thatís where an agent can really help finding the right project to help transition.

    Being visible and successful is helpful but it does not mean you donít have to aggressively pursue other projects.

    While working on CSI I have focused on doing the best job I can given the time factor. I believe that quality matters and hopefully that will lead to the next thing. Certainly luck doesnít hurt!

    Member: Marsdy
    If you could score any movie or TV show, what would it be?

    Iím not sure exactly what it would be because I would like to remain open minded about it. I do know that it would be completely different from anything Iím currently doing. Something orchestral would be nice.

    How about influences, favorite composers?

    There are so many. From the great Masters J.S. Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Mahler, Rachmaninoff, Copeland and on and on. There has been so much great music written.

    Film composers, Jerry Goldsmith, Bernard Hermann, John Williams, Randy Newman, Thomas Newman, to name a few. IMHO, these film composers have consistently done great work.

    Member: Joanne Babunovic
    The law of time dedicated to a particular task says the more you do something, the better you will become. So for those of us who, for a variety of reasons, cannot make music composition our full time career, any encouraging words that we can still reach our potential if we can only do as a serious hobby? Pretty sobering to know you will never be as good as you "could have been" because you did not, or were not able to make a career of it.

    I think there is a lot to be said for doing something for the sheer joy of it and out of that comes great things. Donít confuse the business of music with the process of making music, Thereís a lot of freedom in writing your own music and not having it edited by someone else.
    There are many ways to look at it. Life is short, donít underestimate the power of having something that you love to do.

    I would encourage you to pursue creating music regardless of whether you get paid or not. Enjoy the creative process.
    My 2centsÖ..

    What do you like to do when you are not working on music?

    Spend time with my family, drive fast cars, read and go to Hawaii.

    If you could have not made music your career, any other lines of work you would have enjoyed?

    Iíve always had an interest in racecars. Maybe competitive driving or something to do with high performance cars. The idea of going over 100 mph in 3 secs sounds interesting.

    Do you look forward to retiring like the rest of us?

    I think that I will always need to be doing something. Obviously, not at my current pace. It will be interesting to see what the future holds.

    Do you see yourself still writing music for a hobby after you retire?

    For me, I donít know if I would ever consider music a hobby but I imagine I would write music for music sake. That would be a lot different from the way I now write.

    I wonder how much (and what specific parts) of the various grooves and music beds that he creates for the show involve loops and/or samples, and how much he actually performs.

    All of the ambient and textural beds are made for the show. After years of writing for the show I have found my own way of making those beds using acoustic instruments and combining elements.

    Most all of the parts on top of those beds are sequenced using midi inside of Logic. The grooves are constructed using many different sources. I have not used a drum kit on a cue for some time. I have a lot of my own sampled library of samples grooves in various formats. Mostly using the program Live.

    Most all of the piano parts are live unless Iím using an upright sound and then Iíll use a sampled piano. Whenever I can, I try and use a live instruments. It really just depends on the cue Iím writing.

    Or in other words, of the myriad of different instruments and sounds that we might hear on the various music segments within C.S.I., how many does he perform himself, and of the ones that he doesn't, what resources does he use for those parts?

    I perform or sequence a majority of the parts in the music. Itís mostly out of necessity and lack of time.

    I use a lot of various stringed instruments from various libraries. They provide that ďworldĒ kind of sound to cues.Sometimes Iíll record a 2 or 3 note ostinato pattern on a dulcimer or another stringed instrument I have lying around. Then chop it up and use it in a cue. But mostly I use sampled instruments when it comes to these parts.

    There was one show this season that took place in the mountains and I wanted to have a different flavor so I brought in a guitar player who plays a bunch of different folk instruments. That worked out great for that show.

    I know he's a drummer, so I imagine he records his own drum parts, but I also hear some really nice guitar parts now and then, and wonder if he also tracks those himself or uses loops or other musicians.

    I have not used electric guitar in the show other than feedback for quite some time. There was one cue this season where I used a U2 kinda part but other than that there really has not been much electric guitar in the underscore.

    Maybe youíre referring to some of the licensed songs from bands that have been used in the show. There are usually about 1 or 2 montages using source (songs) in any given show.

    In the first season the show had a much more ďRock guitarĒ approach in the underscore. Since then Iíve have moved away from using electric guitar parts. When I was using guitar I hired some of the best session players out there.

    Shaz from CSI:Buffalo
    Thanks,(hey, the way it's going, eventually there'll be a
    CSI show everywhere, right?)


    Thanks to everyone for all of the interesting questions. I appreciate your interest in my work for CSI.

    Best of luck in all of your creative endeavors.


    The harder I work the luckier I getĒ Mark Twain

  2. #2



    What an interesting read! I never miss an episode (set the VCR to record, \'cause I\'m out at school in the evenings) and love what I hear everytime.


    Thanks for giving us the opportunity to talk to some of the working pro\'s in this business!

  3. #3



    Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to so thoroughly answer everyone\'s questions. A lot of valuable information in there.


  4. #4


    Thanks for the interview John. Great stuff [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Castle Rock, Colorado


    This is very interesting! Thanks for sharing your insights into the workings behind the scenes John.

  6. #6


    Thanks to John and Gary for this great interview.

    John also has a nice segment showing his studio and talking about his work on the C.S.I. season 2 DVD set.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Styxx's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    West Seneca, NY


    Thanks John and Gary for a very informative and interesting interview! My whole family (all 6 of us) never miss an episode! Love the music!

  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2004


    .... and the ones I\'ve seen here in Barbados have inspired me too.

  9. #9


    Many thanks for this interview!!!
    A2R Productions
    Music Productions
    Modern & orchestral film music :: rnb :: jazz :: hiphop and more


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