Score - Zach Robinson and Doug Kaplan

Music was a huge part of this project.  That being the case, we thought we would toss Doug and Zach, our composers, some clean and honest questions about their process, their inspirations and all other goodness.  Like the score, they hit some serious zones.  See our next post for the FULL SOUNDTRACK.  Enjoy! 


How do you two know each other? How did you start working together? How do your styles compare/contrast and how does that influence your collaborations?

D: I met Zach online before he started school at NU in 2012. I saw a post he made about starting a math rock band in a Northwestern Facebook forum and friended him on the spot. We messaged and stuff, but didn't meet up the first few weeks of school. Later that Fall at a Co-Op party, a kid told me that I looked a lot like Jonah Hill. The lil' rascal was Newman - one of Z Rob's buddies visiting from LA. He introduced me to Zach and then it was instant bud zones 4 lyfe. I had recently started jamming with some buddies and we invited Zach to join our "band". We started playing as The Earth is a Man and had a lot of fun with our friends. 

I think that our styles have a lot of overlap. Zach effortlessly churns epic melodies, whereas I tend to make more atmospheric music. We have a lot of fun working together!

Z: What Doug said.


What do you guys do every day?

D: I'm doing different stuff every day. I work at a record label helping out with distribution, publicity, and general office/warehouse management. I also run another record label with my roommate/bandmate Max called Hausu Mountain. We've been getting ourselves REAL busy with that and have several releases on the docket. 

Z: I work for a film composer full time. We just finished up “Frozen” and “Muppets Most Wanted.” Pretty different from the “Telescope” music!  You can also check out my personal work here.


How did Telescope come about for you?

D: Matt, Collin, and Tish [that's Matt's alter ego] are some of my best buds. I lived with Matt for all 4 years of school and have seen his belly A LOT. They approached me about doing the music for Telescope and I was stoked. I told them that we had to get Zach involved, and the Telescope peeps were mega down - and so was Zach. Dat's how it happened!

Z: I’ll never forget when Doug approached me about Telescope, mostly because he was wearing a zebra unitard. He told me that Matt and Collin were making a short film and were looking for some retro-ness in their soundtrack. I have a musical project called D/A/D which is heavily inspired by the sounds of the 1980s so the pairing seemed natural. After getting off the phone with Matt and Collin, I knew this project was special and couldn’t friggin’ wait to get started on it.


How do you approach the creative process? What was your angle for Telescope? What were you trying to say with the sound?

D: I like to approach things from an improvisatory angle in the studio. 

Z: I work best with visuals and “Telescope” was pretty ripe with amazing and inspirational images to say the least. To sum it up in one sentence, our goal for the soundtrack was to create an emotional score with romantic melodies texturalized by ambient drones, experimental forms, and unfamiliar film score-like sounds, all while harping on the aesthetics of our retro fore fathers (takes a breath)!


Which artists do you draw upon for inspiration? Were there any others for Telescope, specifically?

D: Brian Eno, The Residents, Neu!, La Monte Young, Jerry Garcia, Robert Fripp, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Trey - I could do this forever!

For Telescope, we were trying to channel 70s Kosmische music, 80s new age, and canonical scifi/horror soundtrack synth zones. I found a playlist called *telescope* in ITunes and this is what I put in it : Klaus Schulze, Cluster, Tangerine Dream, Oneohtrix Point Never, Michael Stearns, John Serrie, John Carpenter, Popol Vuh, Golbin, and Vangelis.

Z: I worship Vangelis and Michael Stearns and I was so stoked to be able to pay homage to those homies. Also was listening to a lot of Jean-Michel Jarre during the writing process, and Wendy Carlos too. Retro-futurist art always inspires me with this stuff as well.


Were there any challenges that came with doing the score? 

D: I had to ship my Moog Voyager to and from LA. That was kind of a nightmare, but I pack a pretty mean box, so everything was A-OK. Also Tish wouldn't rub my back.

Z: The distance was probably the biggest challenge. Doug is in Chicago and I’m in LA along with the rest of the Telescope crew.


How did you achieve the instrumentation/voicing? 

D: We just follow our hearts to get to the tone zone. I wish I could answer this better, but there isn't any sort of method. Zach and I are pretty into synths so we know how to get the sounds we like. 

Z: Early on in the process, Doug and I divvied up the different sounds we were going to develop. Doug excels in creating drones, ambiance, and just insane sounds so he focused a lot on that. I did a lot of exploring into more cinematic synth-material: analog string pads, choir textures, bell patches, etc.

What was your best memory of the process?

D: Writing and recording parts of the score at Collin's apartment. We were sitting there with Matt, Collin and Bodge and they were giving us guidance the whole time. We had a lot of fun!

Zach's step-dad walked in on me scoring music in Zach's bedroom with my headphones on and really startled me! I think I startled him too because he wasn't expecting a bearded goblin in his son's room. That was pretty funny...

Z: Setting up our workstations in Collin’s apartment and just hammering out the score while Collin, Matt, and Eric edited. It was such a cool way to write, being in the same room as the other dudes and feeding off their ideas and energy. It was actually the most productive I’ve ever been when writing a score. Good vibes, good friends, good pizza.


What gear did you use?


D: I used a Moog Voyager and a Critter & Guitarri Pocket Piano GL for synths. I'm a pedal junky and couldn't even tell you all of the stuff that I used for all of the cues. I definitely used my Electro Harmonix Mini Q-Tron (Envelope Filter), Small Stone (Phaser), and Small Clone (chorus), MoogerFooger Ring Modulator, Boss DD-3, and a looper. Zach and I both use Logic as our primary DAW and assembled everything in there.

Z: Tons of sounds came from Doug’s Moog Voyager, including the lead synth in “The Archaeologist” which is my personal favorite. Other synths include Roland JX3P, Korg Poly-800, and Korg Lambda. Also a ton of soft synths, FM8, Arturia’s Jupiter-8V emulator, and even Logic’s ES2.


Can you talk us through the workflow?

Z: A lot of our material came through improvisation, which is not normally how I work but after Telescope I really would like to do more of it. Doug would create a lot of the textural foundations, pads that I could then create melodies or chord patterns over. There were plenty of times where we had to play music editors too. We worked with about four significantly different cuts of the film which sometimes affected the music so much we would have to backtrack and re-write certain parts entirely.


Was it hard to work in different cities?

D: Not one bit. We had already done a score where we passed stuff back and forth through the internet all the time - and that was when we were living near each other. It's always early working with Zach. 

Z: Not too bad when you use the net. The hardest stuff was when I needed to rerecord or fix audio from a synth that Doug had in Chicago.


Do you want to do more film/sound etc.?

D: Sound - yes. Film - only if I get to work with my buds. I never want to work on a film set again...

Z: Forever and always. Can’t wait to work with Dougie Doug again soon!


What's your favorite cue?

D: The Revelation. I think that it's probably the best example of how the two of us overlap. Zach made some wondrous things happen on the synth and I did a bunch of fuckery with choral samples. Fun times! 

Z: “Revelation” for sure. It’s the kind of piece I’ve always wanted to make and I couldn’t be happier with it’s place in the film.


What's your favorite song or whatever?

D: Phish

Z: Whatever.


What tone did you read from the visuals of Telescope?

D: Deep zones


Favorite sci-fi movie?

D: That's tough -- horror and sci-fi are my favorite genres and there's a lot of ambiguity between the two. If a zombie outbreak is caused by scientific research, is it a sci-fi or does the presence of the zombie make it horror only? You see the conundrum -- I'll try to keep away from supernatural driven things for this little list! Some of my favorites are The Thing, Altered States, 2001, The Fly, Tron, Blade Runner, Escape from New York, Fantastic Planet, Speed Racer, Repo Man, La Jetée, Predator, Children of Men, and STAR WARS YO! 

Z: If I honestly had to pick one, JUST ONE, it would be Blade Runner.

Blade Runner.jpg

What's next?

D: I'm working on putting out about 15 releases on my label in the next year. One of the projects we're working on is D/A/D - The Construct (this guy named Zach Robinson). I'm also working on new material for The Big Ship and Good Willsmith. We're going on a little tour in a few weeks to Akron, Ohio to play with some buds. Hopefully lots of fun and some good chillin'. I've also been working on setting up a small experimental music festival in January.

Z: “Telescope” feature.  Imagine this stuff with orchestra.