As Richard Marvin explains in the beginning of our Q&A, he’s a veteran musician from the eighties when keyboards and synthesizes rose to prominence in orchestras, and for a period, became the signature sound on television and in countless films.

Whereas younger composers today have countless options to choose, shape and create new sounds, the palette during the eighties was more limited, and as Marvin progressed from session musician to solo composer, he’s taken that knack for innovation and applied a careful group of sounds for his latest film score, the sci-fi thriller Surrogates.

The film’s murder mystery element takes place in a future where humans use robotic surrogates to deal with work and unnecessary social interaction, as well as a detective’s decision to leave his cozy anti-social life and handle the investigation first-hand.

To some, letting robots deal with daily monotony sounds like a fantastic fantasy, but there are trade-offs within a marriage, particularly the emotional issues when there’s the loss of a child, and neither half wants to deal with the tragedy and push on.

Those unique conflicts, as well as the futuristic setting are some of the challenges Marvin faced in his first feature score after working for several years on some of TV’s most successful series.  Chances are you’ve been hooked on at least one of the shows Marvin scored or worked on during his early years, and in our conversation the composer talks about his latest project, working again with director Jonathan Mostow, and electronic elements in film scoring.




I am NOT Angelina Jolie!




Mark R. Hasan: How did you get into film scoring?


Richard Marvin: Originally I was a studio musician in the eighties in Los Angeles, playing synthesizers, keyboards, piano – anything with keys – in the film and television score arena.

I worked for such people as Mike Post, David Newman, Thomas Newman, Maurice Jarre, Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams – all the big composers of the eighties when synthesizers were really very popular. I worked on some great electronic scores like Ghost (1990) and Fatal Attraction (1987), Jacob’s Ladder (1990) – some really great scores of Maurice Jarre.

In the early nineties, as I was also doing most of Mike Post’s TV work as one of his synthesizer guys, he gave me an opportunity to help write on a couple of TV shows that I think were Hardcastle and McCormick (1983), and the A-Team (1983) and Magnum P.I. (1980), and I sort of got my first little experience with composing to picture.

Shortly after that, a friend of mine was a production designer on a small direct-to cable movie called Flight of Black Angel (1991), directed by Jonathan Mostow, and that was my first score on my own.

Gradually, I sort of stopped doing sessions; I think the last sessions I did were with Thomas Newman on The Horse Whisperer and Meet Joe Black (both 1998), and by then I was doing a lot of TV movies and direct-to-cable things. I also did a couple of things for Disney – the 3 Ninjas kids movies – and in the late nineties I stopped doing sessions and was writing and composing full-time, which led to getting into Jonathan Mostow’s second movie, which was Breakdown (1997), [and his third], U-571 (2000).

Then I got into doing TV series, with Six Feet Under (2001-2005), The O.C. (2005-2007), Without a Trace (2008-2009), In Treatment (2008) and Three Rivers (2009).

That’s a brief history!

Six Feet Under CD

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