Greg Edmonson [Interview]


I am so damn excited to share this incredible interview with you fine folks today! But, first I want to take you on a personal journey as to why I am so personally affected by today’s guest, the Award-winning and absolutely brilliant musical mastermind, Greg Edmonson.

As many of you may know, I am not particularly the most knowledgable person, or even a fan of, the world of science fiction. I am always under the opinion that the real world is scary enough (and this was pre-November 4th 2016 America & Brexit-era UK, even). In fact, I have been known to call in some friends to help me out when we have guests on that may have had some great success on projects like Star Trek, Star Wars (DO NOT confuse them, all my fellow casual series watchers! Also the Captain Kirk/Star Wars joke isn’t funny. I know, I tried it.), or anything that has really had an impact in the world of fantasy and science fiction. Specifically I tend to call on my dear friends over at the Super Geeky Playdate podcast, as Brady, Bryan, & Adam are my most trusted confidants in the world of geekdom. If you’re not already listening to them, you owe it to yourself to do that.

But, I do tend to find myself dabbling in the field ever so slightly, which can even lead to unhealthy obsessions which seem to be a real commonplace for fans of these genres. But for me, it’s always with projects that sort of teeter along the lines of fantasy and science fiction, but don’t contain a completely impossible sense of realism. It’s as though they have taken something that may seem impossible at the time, but have simply implemented the impossible into true to life scenarios. And that is the paradox that I love and enjoy in projects like the series Black Mirror, the video games in the Fallout franchise, the entire catalog of writer/director Charlie Kaufman, and of course…..FIREFLY!

I was a late addition to the world of Firefly. I knew the show existed, but didn’t get into it until about 8 years ago on a Sunday sitting in a trailer in the desert outside of Doha, Qatar. I watched the entire series in a day + Serenity, and instantly joined the plethora of fans in the Firefly cult following who are rightfully pissed that the show never got to continue on. I could rant about this part of the show’s history, but that proverbial horse has been beaten into non-existence at this point. If you are unfamiliar, a quick Google/YouTube search will have you spiraling down an enraging rabbit hole worse than anything Tim Burton could have ever put out.

And I am not trying to blow smoke up my guests ass as I segway into finally talking about our amazing guest today when I say that the score and original music of Firefly is absolutely incredible and extremely crucial to what the show became. I’m not sure if this has already be proclaimed, and I’m not likely to look it up, I am going to say it now: If the ship Serenity is the 10th member of the crew, the music is the 11th. It’s that damn empowering, and not to mention the BEST opening title song from any television series in history. I wouldn’t even say it is “arguably the best”, because it’s really not up for debate. I honestly feel as though a proclamation of this nature will not require any gear up for on-line hatred. Who can really debate this?

So with all of that blabbering in mind, I am just so damn excited to share some words from the man who performed a crucial element in the world created by Joss Whedon. The show would have been great without Greg’s involvement, but I dare say it wouldn’t have been OUTSTANDING had he not been so kind to throw his amazing abilities into the already extremely talented mix of artists who made the show possible. And the amazing Mr. Edmonson has been so kind to tell us all about it right here, Folks! And as our guest tend to do, he has also gone on to do even more amazing work! In fact, some of you may be tuning in for different reasons than Firefly, and are screaming at your keyboards right hoping I wrap this shit up, or have not even read this portion. And that’s okay. I just hope that you enjoy this amazing interview with one of the most talented humans the world as known that we are so fortunate to have grace our digital pages.

So Folks, pleas enjoy some great words from the brilliant Greg Edmonson!

*****

How did you find yourself working as a composer of film, television, and more? What drew you to this line of work? Was it a deep-rooted ambition that you can always remember having, or did you simply find yourself in this world one day?

I originally moved to Los Angeles to work as a guitarist, but early on I got an opportunity to write for Hanna Barbera (the animation company). Soon that led to working with Mike Post who was doing quite a lot of television (L.A.Law, Quantum Leap, etc). I found that I really enjoyed writing to picture. The difference between being a composer versus being a player is a little like the difference between being a director as opposed to being an actor. The director has much more responsibility, but is ultimately in control of how the project turns out.

Also working with the brilliant musicians in Los Angeles was and remains such a joy. To hear them bring something to life that you wrote is a wonderment that I have never tired of. I find myself incredibly grateful every single time that I set foot on a recording stage.

So even though I was trained as a musician, the opportunity to work as a composer just fell in my lap and I ran with it! I think that it is one of the best decisions that I have ever made.

I will just come out and say it right from the jump, and I believe that many of our readers will agree with me here…..Your work as a composer on the cult classic television series Firefly is hands down the best there ever was. I will argue that forever and with anyone. With that, I am curious to know what your thought process was in scoring this legendary program that was taken from us far too early? What elements from the show did you feel needed to be emphasized with your work?

How I got the gig was somewhat of a miracle. Everyone in town wanted to work with Joss Whedon, given his great success with Buffy & Angel. But Joss wasn’t really taking calls from agents, so his office just told you to send in a CD and they would get back to you if they were interested. So I sent in a CD and promptly moved on to something else.

But one day the phone rang, and his office asked if I would be free to take a meeting with Joss.

Our 5 minute meeting stretched into something much longer. We were just having fun talking about music and arguing about what was the best Jeff Beck tune (ha). We really hit it off and as I was leaving he told me to tell my agent that I had the gig. To this day I don’t have any idea what they responded to on my demo CD—-but I was thrilled.

They gave me the 2 hour pilot which was so good that I truly thought—I am working for 10 years on this show, because I saw what Joss had done. He had created a fantastic universe with 9 main characters who had such wildly divergent pasts that the story lines could go on forever without repeating themselves! Genius!

I loved every single member of the main cast. They were all so very unique! For instance, every one of the 4 women characters (Jewel, Summer, Morena & Gina) were incredibly strong— BUT in completely different ways. Nathan, Adam, Ron, Alan & Sean were just perfect. Anytime that our cast was on screen (especially all together) it was a joy to write for them. I still think that Firefly had the best casting job of any show that I have ever seen.

TV shows rarely hit their stride until the secondd half of the season, or even the start of Season 2. It takes a while to see what is really working and then build on that. Firefly had the magic from day one and it only would have gotten better as time went on. Joss had created this amazing post-apocalyptic world, where your resources determined your life parameters (not unlike the history of our country)—-so you could have six shooters and laser guns all exist in the same world. Anything could work! And since the cultures were all thrown together the music could be anything that the picture justified. So we mixed in all manner of ethnic instrumentation along with traditional instruments and I have used that combination ever since. Thank you Joss!

The work schedule was grueling, but not one single time did I ever sit down to write when I didn’t consider myself the luckiest man on the planet to be working on that show. So many wonderful opportunities to write. Big action cues, quirky & suspenseful music, all alongside emotional and heartfelt – it was all there in one fantastic show.

It was always fun to write for Mal and Inara—he loved her but he could never quite actually say the words. It just left him too vulnerable. But great writing and great acting revealed what was in their hearts in spite of their words. That type of nuance is a treat to write music for—sometimes music can say what the words don’t say. 

As you probably know after the show was canceled, I wrote a piece at the end of “The Message” to try to say goodbye to the show. It was a funeral scene with the whole cast standing in the falling snow and it just felt like I needed to find some closure to this incredible journey. I was deeply saddened to see Firefly end so prematurely, because I knew that the best was yet to come. It was already great and it was only going to get better (and better)! This was a show that just doesn’t come around very often.

To this day I remain in love with all things Firefly. It was an honor and a privilege to work on it.

You have had so much amazing success in the world of film and television, and especially in the world of video games. For the latter, I am very curious to know what it is like to compose the music to a video game in comparison to a feature film or television series? What sets it apart? And having worked on all three iterations of the Uncharted series in a 4 year span, what did you find to be the most challenging on the second and third go around? What were some things to wanted to accomplish whilst working on these projects that would set each game apart from the other?

I think that writing music for video games is very different from film or TV. In film & TV you get a final edited version of the picture and your job is to become a part of the story telling process. Games are never really done until the very end, so you must rely on the game director (Amy Hennig on “Uncharted”) and the team that puts the music into the game (Jonathan Mayer and the Sony team) to help guide you. With this guidance you use your imagination to visualize what the final product might look like. And then you start writing.

Games allow you a freedom that seldom exits in other formats—since there is no dialogue yet, you can write grand melodic gestures that would not be possible if all of the dialogue was in place. Also the time that you have to write is really incredible with a game. Sometimes it can stretch over a period of years. Film/TV is mostly limited to weeks or maybe a couple of months depending on the project. I so loved my time on “Uncharted”. It was a joy to write that music and I was surrounded by a supporting team that is as good as it gets.

As we moved on from Uncharted 1, it actually got easier for me to write the music. I knew the characters and what Amy was trying to accomplish. It really hit a sweet spot starting with Uncharted 2 which raised the bar for the whole video game universe. The score to Uncharted 3 was recorded at Abbey Road in London and is my best work in games so far. How very lucky I was to have been involved with such a great project!


For your work on Uncharted, you were awarded a pair of BAFTA trophies. We always like to ask our statue holding friends this one question: Where do you physically keep these awards? And does their physical location have any kind of significance?

I keep my award stuff in my studio, but for me, at least, it just documents a point in time. What I love and what matters more to me are the relationships and the friendships that are ongoing. While I am honored and thrilled to win awards, I am even more thrilled to have friends that will last a lifetime.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

Who knows what the future holds? I am actively seeking projects that I really can find an emotional connection with. I really love to write melodic music that has some emotional impact to it, and if I can help to bring that out in a story—mission accomplished!

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I do a lot of it. For a thousand different reasons, I consider my life to be so very fortunate. And more than anything else these days, I am extremely grateful for the opportunities that I have had. And I am excited to see where the journey leads next!

Thank you for the opportunity to tell my story!

Check out this wonderful video that a fan isolated for the aforementioned scene from “The Messenger” featuring Greg Edmonson’s amazing work. If this doesn’t make you choke up in at least the slightest, please check that you are indeed human:

 

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About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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