BWW Interview: Composer Pat Irwin Talks THE GOOD COP and ROCKO's MODERN LIFE
Musician and composer Pat Irwin discusses his work on Netflix's THE GOOD COP and Nickelodeon's ROCKO's MODERN LIFE.
Tell me a bit about yourself, how did you get into music/know you wanted to do it as a career?
I knew I wanted to play music as soon as I saw the Beatles on TV. Seeing Goldfinger with the score by John BARRY hooked me on soundtracks forever. I started playing in rock and roll bands at a very young age and would play in local bars, VFW Posts, high school dances, and hotel lounges. I also started playing clarinet when I was 7 or 8 years old. I studied with George Zetzer from the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra.
You are a founding member of two bands and have played with many others, how did you get into composing for film/tv from there?
The first movie that I scored was MY NEW GUN, which was written and directed by Stacy Cochran. Stacy and I had a mutual friend who recommended me for the job. I had also played a concert of my own music at the Dance Theater Workshop in NYC and an executive from the Turner Broadcasting Network happened to read a review of the show in the New York Times. Based on the review I was contacted by TBS to score a documentary film that they were producing. I ended up doing several for them, which was a fantastic experience.
How did you get involved with Nickelodeon's ROCKO'S MODERN LIFE?
A producer from Nickelodeon, which at the time was a very new network, just happened to be a Raybeats fan. I'm still in touch with the producer!
You also scored the film version of the hit cartoon, ROCKO'S MODERN LIFE: STATIC CLING, is there a lot of similar music to the show? Or is it a completely different feel?
We definitely wanted to maintain the feel of the original cartoon. I ended up using the same musicians so it became something of a family reunion.
Did you use any unconventional instruments or sounds when scoring the movie?
I didn't use any particularly unconventional instruments for the movie. But for the original show I went all over the map. For instance, on one episode I used bagpipes for a "disco bagpipe" cue. One of the important instruments in the movie is a tuba. There are a couple of solo tuba moments, which are a bit out there.
How did you get involved with Netflix's THE GOOD COP?
I've been very lucky to work with some of the same producers, editors, and music supervisors on BORED TO DEATH, NURSE JACKIE, and now THE GOOD COP.
Where did you pull inspiration from for THE GOOD COP?
The creator of the show, Andy Breckman, knew that he wanted a piano driven score. In fact, at first, he wanted a solo piano. He mentioned THE FIRM, which was scored by Dave Grusin as well the Dave Brubeck song, "Unsquare Dance." I started with this direction but it didn't take long for me to realize that we could really use a bigger sound so I added vibes, bass, and drums. I went for a "crime jazz" vibe and pulled from influences like "Bullitt," "Peter Gunn," and "Man With A Golden Arm." Anything by Henry Mancini and Lalo Shifrin would point me in the right direction.
Does your approach to composing change for animation verses life action?
They're very different. In animation you have to be right on top of the action. You get inside of the drawings. In film there's a little more distance.
Do you have a favorite piece you've done?
The original ROCKO'S MODERN LIFE was unforgettable. I scored another cartoon right after that called PEPPER ANN, which was a wonderful experience. I wish we could have done a couple of more seasons of BORED TO DEATH (HBO) and I'm loving THE GOOD COP. The musicians on that one are on another level.
Is there one person you'd love to collaborate with that you haven't had a chance to yet?
This is a difficult question for me. I'd love to work with Sophia Coppola. I loved LOST IN TRANSLATION. I'd work with the creator of BOJACK HORSEMAN in a heartbeat. I've always wondered what it would be like to work with Quentin Tarantino.
Do you have any advice for aspiring composers, like anything you wish you knew when you were starting out?
Be patient. There are a lot more people working on the film other than the composer. The film, or the TV show, isn't just about the music.
Do you have other upcoming projects you could tell us about?
Right now I'm working on a couple of recording projects. One is with composer J. Walter Hawkes. We've been recording music for trombone, guitar, and eccentric electronics. I've also been recording with a band I call SUSS. We've got a new record coming out on label called Northern Spy. And I just finished up an EP with the PI Power Trio with drummer and vocalist Sasha Dobson and bassist and vocalist Daria Grace. We're going to be touring the West Coast with Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets. And lastly, I have a project called Music For Electric Guitar and Piano that I'm continuing to develop.
Pat Irwin's Website: http://patirwinmusic.com
IMAGE COURTESY OF PAT IRWIN