MICHAEL WANDMACHER (2008 & 2009) - Page 1

With a background in commercials, film, shorts, indie films (Cry_Wolf) and electronica as Khursor, Michael Wandmacher’s latest pair of scores are for the high profile 3D remake of My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009), and The Punisher: War Zone (2008), the sequel to the 2004 film based in the popular vigilante character.

In our interview, Wandmacher describes scoring a movie designed for the 3D realm, as well as his large-scale orchestral score for The Punisher. Only a handful of the composer’s scores are available on CD and as MP3 albums, but they’re solid works by a composer who melds orchestral and electronic elements with exception fluidity.




Mark R. Hasan:  How did you get involved in film scoring, because you have a very interesting background?

Michael Wandmacher:  I don’t know; an act of will, I guess! I actually went to school, got a journalism degree, and after college I started working at a couple of advertising agencies, and also moonlighted writing music for commercials.

Through that job I met various filmmakers, and worked on short films and a couple of independent features, which kind of parlayed itself into meeting people on the west coast.

I was invited out there a few times, and I met some people on the way there and handed out my music, which eventually got into the hands of some people at Miramax, and I started working on some of Jackie Chan’s really early films - Operation Condor 2: The Armour of the Gods (1998) / Long xiong hu di (1987) - that were going direct to video thru Dimension at the time.

When Twin Dragon (1999) / Shuang long hui (1992) came up, they were doing a theatrical release, and they said, ‘You can do it, but you have to move out here to Los Angeles,’ and that was almost ten years ago to the day now, but that’s kind of how it happened.

I’d been playing bands all through college and high school, and I’ve always loved music, but I don’t have a formal education per se; I’m pretty much self-taught.


MRH: Your early years sound really interesting, because you basically learned by tackling every kind of idiom and genre that’s out there – short film, commercial ads, and independent films.

MW:    Commercials, in my opinion, are especially a good training ground because you’re kind of forced to tackle every kind of music there is; you never really know what kind of stuff is coming down the pike, in terms of genre.

In one week, you’re working on something that’s kind of atmospheric and soft and light, and the next week you’re working on something orchestral, and after that you’re working on something mental. It can change day to day, and you’re also working by committee, so you’re dealing with copyrighters and account execs and people like that whose job is to mirror the jobs of producers and directors and editors in the film world, so it’s kind of a good way to cut your teeth and learn both the process of it, and the politics.


MRH: Your latest film score is for a remake of My Bloody Valentine, this classic Canadian slasher film from 1981. The genre itself embraces a lot of experimental musical ideas, aggressive sounds, and I’m curious what kind of sound you settle for in the remake?

MW:    My Bloody Valentine 3D was a lot of fun. It’s a very fun movie. It’s kind of a rocket sled ride from frame one. I like to say it starts on furious and ends on insane, and the score very much matches that center all the way through the film during the action scenes, the chases, and things like that.

It uses a lot of classic horror devices in the music - the Boo! moments with big aggressive brass, lots of atonal, aleatoric elements  - and a lot of things I threw in the bucket of my own which were electronic elements, like heavily processed power tools, metal pot drums, and custom elements that I took from the general environment. We destroyed a piano in the process; it was falling over and as we took it apart, we sampled it frequently.

I like lots of scores with dynamics… When the killer is actually there and the game is on, the music is very aggressive and very much in your face, but in the moments leading up to that, the music is extremely quiet and very, very still, so that the added shock value of this massive dynamic range assaults you.


MRH: When you were spotting the film, did you see it in 3D, or did they give you the flat version?

MW:    What’s funny is that one day I would get “one eye.” When you see the picture ‘flat,’ you’re looking at one eye or the other eye (it’s either the right eye or the left eye), and one day I would be looking at the right eye, and the next cut I would be looking at the left eye, so I would put the two up and A/B it, and the character would move from one side of the screen to the other.

It’s kind of funny, but the thing that I found most interesting was that in 3-D, for some sequences, especially when there’s an intense depth of field in a shot, it might hang on screen a little bit longer than you would see in a 2D film, and then because there was a real physical aspects of watching a film like this in 3D, your brain literally needs a little bit more time to process all of the visual information that’s in front of you.

It’s an interesting process, learning how a 3D film is made. It’s intensely technical and intensely laborious, but the end results are amazing, especially in horror; it’s the perfect genre to exploit that technology.

Read the CD review!

Read the album review!

My Bloody Valentine 3-D

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