Songlines Across New Zealand
  Vince Di Cola 27-09-2013 (via email)
SANZ: Is there any movie, TV or Game scores that you wanted to do but didn’t get the job and can you name them
VINCE: I would've loved to have been involved in one of the Transformers games (for obvious reasons!). Also, the movie "Rocky Balboa" (again for obvious reasons!).

SANZ: Out of the scores/music projects you have done what was the most memorable and what made it memorable
VINCE: An album called "Vince DiCola / Piano Solos" was released in 1986 by Artful Balance (the company went out of business long ago).  Just me and what I consider to be the greatest instrument of all time - an acoustic piano.  Some of the music was pre-written but there was also a fair amount of improvisation throughout the collection.  The album (also released in CD form) wasn't considered a huge success (a respectable amount of units were sold worldwide in the late 80's) but it received some very nice reviews.  I've always loved sitting down at and interacting with a really nice grand piano, and I'm very proud of the music on this album.

SANZ: How did you get the job of scoring the Transformers animated film
VINCE: The producers contacted my manager and a meeting was set up.  At the meeting they told me they loved my ROCKY IV score and felt that my 'sound' and style of composing would work really well for their movie.  I was given a short synopsis and asked to write an 'audition' piece based on that.  I composed a piece called "Legacy" that featured themes for both the antagonists ('good') and protagonists (evil) along with some battle action stuff.   For the finale of the piece I brought back the protagonist theme, but in an entirely different form; one that suggests a peace-after-the-war / calm-after-the-storm concept.  "Legacy" got me the gig, though none of the thematic material from that piece actually made it into the movie.

SANZ: How hard was it to score that film
VINCE: Working to storyboards only as opposed to finished picture is not something I'm really anxious to do again!  In addition, I had a relatively short period of time to compose about 75 minutes of music (I seem to recall it being something like 6-8 weeks to write and record all the cues).  That said, with the team of talent I had to work with it was an enjoyable and rewarding experience, and I'm very proud of that score.

SANZ: Did you ever sit down and watch the TV series before doing the score to just listen to the episode music to get ideas of what may be required for the film
VINCE: I purposefully did not watch any of the Transformers TV cartoons, and I was barely even aware of the franchise at the time I was asked to score the movie.  I did not want to be influenced by any other existing Transformers-related music.  Of course another factor was the limited amount of time I had to complete the score.  I simply didn't have the time to take a "Transformers" crash course.  The only sources of influence I was interested in were the storyboards and eventually the film footage itself, and I honestly feel the quality of my score turned out better than it would have if I had allowed myself to be influenced by any pre-existing music. 

SANZ: Once you finalized the movie score did you ever get round to watching the movie in its full form if so what were your thoughts on it.
VINCE: My friend and co-producer Ed Fruge and I attended a pre-screening and watched the entire movie along with the filmmakers.  A word about Ed here...  In addition to co-producing the music with me, Ed ended up playing a major role in editing the music to picture as well.  The finished picture turned out to be very different from the storyboards to which I had composed the music, and in many cases the music had to be edited to a great degree.  Ed did a fantastic job of overseeing that part of the process, so kudos to him for that!

My thoughts after seeing the movie for the first time were...  a) I was startled by how different the structure of a lot of the music was from how I had originally composed it, and...   b) the music was so buried in the mix by all the sound effects that it suddenly didn't matter to me how far the music had strayed from my original intentions because it could barely be heard!   However, I'm very grateful for the fact that the music in its original form continues to interest and entertain fans old and new.

SANZ: If someone told you back when you did the score that the Transformers score would still be talked about and loved 27 years later what would you have said to that 
VINCE: Listen...  I've been amazed at the amount of interest in the movie and my score ever since 1997 when I was invited as a special guest to my first Transformers convention!   I continue to be amazed, surprised and extremely grateful that the film and its score have enjoyed such longevity. 

SANZ: If you had to pick what would your favourite piece of music be from that film
VINCE: I would have to say the "Death of Optimus Prime".  That cue obviously supported a major scene and plot point in the movie, and I love the melody.  I'm proud of all the action material as well, but there's nothing else in the score that sounds remotely like "Death...Prime", which is another reason I'm so partial to it.

SANZ: Can you tell us the story/inspiration behind the song Dare
VINCE: That scene in the film has such a powerful theme of hope and triumph that it was relatively easy to write a song around it.  My friend Scott Shelly captured the feeling perfectly in his lyrics.  (Scott was also the guitarist on the project and served that role very effectively as well.)

There's a great story associated with "Dare".  I received one of the best compliments I ever received in my life at one of the conventions.  I was approached by a young man who told me that "Dare" actually played a major role in preventing him from committing suicide during a particularly dark period in his life.  The power of music can never be underestimated, and it doesn't get any more powerful than that!

SANZ: How did you and Stan Bush come together to work on it
VINCE: The record company that released the soundtrack was Scotti Brothers Records and Stan was signed to that label at the time.  It was an honour to have a vocalist of Stan's quality sing "Dare".  Stan delivered a vocal performance that was the perfect compliment to the power of the music and lyrics.

SANZ: What is the story behind the version Gary Falcone performed and was there a particular reason why it wasn‘t the final version used in the film( as I am guessing that was done before Stan came along)
VINCE: Gary is another amazing singer!  I seem to recall just starting to get to know Gary around that time, and when I told him about the movie and mentioned needing a singer on the demo of the song, Gary was happy and excited to be involved.  As so often happens in the music business, the politics were such that the record label fought very hard to use their own artists in the movie, and being that Stan was signed to Scotti Brothers and probably the only artist on their roster at that time whose vocal style fit perfectly with our song. he was the obvious choice.  I think it's fair to say that Gary's vocal performance on the demo inspired Stan.  Gary and Stan had worked together on many projects prior to Transformers, and since there's such a mutual admiration club among many singers and musicians in L.A., I don't think there was ever any love lost on Gary's part.  He was happy his friend landed the gig.

SANZ: What was it like to work with Weird Al regarding Dare To Be stupid (well that’s what it states on wikipedia page for your work In 1985, he worked with "Weird Al" Yankovic on Yankovic's homage to Devo, "Dare to Be Stupid") thought I would follow up in case whoever put that on the page got it wrong
VINCE: Believe it or not, to this day I have never met Al!  His song and performance were just perfect for the film so I think it was a great (and obvious) choice for Scotti Brothers to campaign for Al to get that opportunity.

SANZ: How much of a perfectionist are you when it comes to scoring (eg how many times would you go through a piece before finalizing it and can you give us any examples using the transformers soundtrack like how long did it take to write and perfect the music for Optimus Primes death scene (that is one of my fave/memorable pieces from the score)
VINCE: At times I can be too much of a perfectionist for my own good, whether it be as a composer, arranger, producer, player, performer or background vocalist!  Fortunately I didn't have the option of putting things under my 'musical microscope' for long on this project due to how little time I had to compose so much music.

Thanks for your kind words about "Optimus Prime".  As I mentioned above, that piece is a standout for me as well.  That was also probably the easiest piece for me to write out of the entire score.  The storyboards themselves suggested right away what musical approach to take for that scene, so thankfully the music came fairly quickly.

SANZ: In your opinion what makes a score/piece of movie music memorable
VINCE: For me it's always been the same regardless of what style of music I'm listening to...   melody.  Specifically in the case of movie scores, the picture itself and how well the music serves the picture also play a major role in the longevity of a piece of music or an entire score.

SANZ: Are there any movie scores that stand out in your mind that you have heard
VINCE: There's a movie starring Kevin Bacon called "Murder in the First" (came out in 1995), and whenever the main musical theme is used in that film I just can't stop myself from crying!  Christopher Young's writing is so incredibly moving and perfectly captures the emotion of what's happening onscreen.  Also, there's a relatively old movie scored by Dave Grusin called "On Golden Pond" that I happen to love (the movie was released in 1981 and starred Henry Fonda and his daughter Jane).  Grusin's score to that film is another of my personal favourites.  Just about any score composed by Thomas Newman will continue to move and inspire me for a very long time.  In the action genre, the music John Powell composed for the "Bourne..." series is another standout for me.  In the horror genre, I can't think of any score more effective and powerful than Gabriel Yared's music for "1408" (starring John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson).  Just listening to that music alone for the first time while sitting in a dark room scared the hell out of me!

SANZ: Are there any composers/scorers you have high regards/high respect for.
VINCE: See above!

SANZ: What are your thoughts on movie soundtracks today that are mainly collections of common chart hits vs. songs/music being specifically written for films.
VINCE: I really miss the days when a song was actually tied in with a film's storyline in some fashion!  Honestly I don't hear much uniqueness in movie songs these days and can't help feeling that the main goal is to get the song on the radio and earn tons of money.  I'm not opposed to the idea of wanting a song to make money and be a hit.  I just wish there was more thought given to how well the song actually fits with the movie.   One example that comes to mind where I cannot envision any other song fitting a scene in a movie so perfectly (in my opinion, anyway) occurs in the movie "Manhunter", the first movie ever to feature the character Hannibal Lector.  (For those who haven't seen this movie, it's really worth watching despite the fact that the budget was much smaller compared to any of the Anthony Hopkins Lector films.)  There's a great scene where a serial killer is creeping slowly through a heavily wooded area toward a house where his next victim resides, and the filmmakers chose to use a song from the 70's called "In a Gadda De Vida" for this scene.  This song from the 70's was probably the first long-form song ever to make it onto pop radio, and it's so perfect for this particular scene it's almost as if it was written for this movie that came along decades later!  I can't recall any instance in the last decade where I got such a feeling from a song in a movie.

SANZ: This is a minor crazy little question if you ever did catch the animated transformers series/movie who would your favourite faction be
And why
VINCE: To this day I haven't heard any music from any of the Transformers cartoon TV episodes.  Regarding the animated movie, I guess it would have to be the Autobots because they represent hope and triumph against all odds.

SANZ: Do you have any advice for musicians who want to be composers of movie music
VINCE: This area of the music business has grown so competitive and much more difficult to break into today than it was when I was blessed with the few composing opportunities I received back in the 80's.  The only advice I have is more from a creative than business perspective...   Strive hard to compose music that's unique, and don't give into the temptation to emulate other composers just because you have access to the latest music technology that allows you to create a big cinematic sound.  It's easy to get caught up in the technology and write music that ends up sounding like the work of other composers just because you now have that capability.  Also, look for opportunities where you really feel you can support the picture effectively, regardless of whether there's a budget or not.  The best way to demonstrate your composing ability is to find picture to compose to, even if it's a little YouTube mini film one of your friends made.  I also suggest choosing something with a storyline that has a level of quality to it.  I'm not suggesting it has to have a high quality look to it with multi-camera shots and angles, perfect lighting, etc.  If you can get some footage that is engaging to the kind of viewer market you're aiming for, it will help if the acting and storyline are of a certain quality.  You may assume that someone 'in the bizz' is capable of ignoring the poor quality of what's happening onscreen and focus only on your music and how well it compliments the picture, but that's a risky assumption in my opinion.  In such cases I feel it would be better to present your music alone as opposed to putting it up against lame and/or hokey-looking picture footage.  Again, just my opinion.

SANZ: Are there any plans in store for you musically in 2014 if not do you have any other plans for 2014.
VINCE: There are a number of products being released over the next few months that I can't talk about just yet (one of which is very Transformers-related, by the way!), so keep checking my FaceBook artist page for information and details.
Thanks to all my fans for continuing to support me and spread the word!
Vince DiCola
September 27th, 2013

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