Composer and musician Steve Moore would be an icon in the world of synth-driven music, were it only for his work as part of the stellar duo, Zombi, with drummer Anthony Paterra. That group released five full-length LPs between 2004 and 2015, and the prog-rock scope of those albums are insanely stellar. However, in recent years, Moore has turned to scoring films, working on films like Joe Lynch's 2017 madness-in-an-office-building Mayhem, and the 2014 Adam Wingard/Simon Barrett slasher action film The Guest. The end of last year saw the release of director Joe Begos' Bliss, and the director's VFW is due out on home video at the end of March. All of the scores for these films are unique, but still very much identifiable as Moore's work. Bliss' score was just released via Relapse Records, and Moore was kind enough to talk to us about that.
STARBURST: Given that Joe Begos was making Bliss so close to VFW, how did that affect your composition work?
Steve Moore: If anything the quick turnover made it easy for me to give the scores their own identity. Because Bliss was so fresh in my mind while working on VFW, I could be sure I was making different choices. I had a very busy few months between gigs and felt completely fresh going into VFW.
Having worked with the director on The Mind's Eye - which was early on in your film scoring career - what was the difference, coming back with five years of features under your belt?
I think Joe and I have grown a lot as artists since The Mind's Eye, and so one thing that's changed is our expectations of ourselves. I expect more from myself now than I did five years ago, Joe is the same. Another major difference is that we're more experienced now, and our communication and workflow is really smooth, so we have more time to fine-tune each cue and give the score lots of personality.
Your early composition work was under the name Gianni Rossi. Why did you go with a pseudonym for Plotdigger Films' Gutterballs and Star Vehicle? Was it because those films are just so over-the-top?
I honestly can't remember whether it was me or Ryan Nicholson who came up with the idea to use an alias, but at the time we thought it was really funny and decided to go with it. I originally intended to keep the alias a total secret, but I'm just too proud of that funny stuff.
When did you decide to start leaning more into scoring films than working on Zombi, and what was the impetus?
Tony and I haven't lived in the same city for close to 10 years now, so that's the main reason we were sort of off and on during the 2010's. I can score films from home, but Tony and I live eight hours from each other so we can only get together every once in a while. However, Zombi is working on a new record so hopefully you'll be hearing more from us soon.
The score for Bliss is akin to a decayed, hazy take on Vangelis' Blade Runner, run through with brilliant flashes of guitar, a comparison I think I made because both films are about a desperate search for identity while trying to survive. How do you begin your work on a score for a film: is there an overall aesthetic you're after?
I like that observation. For me, working on a score starts with talking to the director, getting his or her thoughts. I like to find out if there are any specific films or scores that have influenced them so I can do any necessary research before I start. I also like to do an in-person spotting session if possible. If the filmmakers have made a temp score I like to give it a listen on its own first, without watching the film, just to get an idea of the sonic territory the filmmakers want to cover - if I do it this way I don't get too influenced by the way the temp score itself, just the way it works with the film. Once I've listened to the temp score and watched the film I start to consider what my angle will be and how I can give the score my own voice.
The guitar work is subtle, but much more prevalent than on your previous scores. What made you want to bring it in for pieces like Diablo or You Don't Give It Up?
The guitar was mostly Joe's idea, but I was super into it - once we started adding it we both wanted to use it in every cue. Also it was kind of like a dream come true to have a director tell me, "I think you need to do a bass solo in this cue".
The score for BLISS is out now from Relapse Records.