Interview with Silk Road Composers Mondo Boys

composers Mondo Boys

Supe Troop’s Laura Katz spoke with the composer duo of Mike Griffin and Mike Schanzlin, otherwise known as Mondo Boys, about their work on Silk Road, scoring to picture in general, and other important things – like soup!

Supe Troop (ST): How did you get into film scoring?

Mike Griffin (MG): Well we’ve been playing music together since we were fifteen, so it’s been kind of a journey. I went to film school and worked in story development and production for a bit. Mike S went more toward music production and industry stuff for a while, worked at Capitol Records and some other music companies learning more of the technical stuff.

Mike Schanzlin (MS): Yeah, while we were pursuing our own things, we kept writing and recording, lots of experimentation and just stockpiling tons of material. After a while, friends who were in film school started asking for help with their movies and writing to picture felt like a great fit. The first time we got to score a whole movie, Shangri-La Suite by Eddie O’Keefe, we were basically hit by a bolt of lightning and knew that this was our destiny.

ST: What do you look for when you are spotting a film?

MG: By the spotting session, we’ve probably already taken in the movie in our own first-watch way and noted our reactions to everything from cinematography, the shapes and lines, how it’s cut to create tempos, melody in the actors’ voices, biggest opportunity scenes or sequences. So, by the time we spot with the Director, we’re kinda just trying to copy their notes and get into their headspace about everything. We might also be making sure we calibrate the story in the same way as far as how emotionally connective or ironic certain parts are supposed to be, get a sense of the structure, get to understand their intention and wants.

ST: What was your favorite scene in Silk Road to score?

MS: Hard to answer this one without giving anything away, but my personal favorite is later in the movie as everything is basically falling into place for the DEA agent Bowden (Jason Clarke) to make his move. The dominoes are lining up and you know some real shit is about to go down, so for us it was just about finding a way to accent this sequence that was already sort of perfect.

ST: When scenes give you trouble, what are some of the things you do to make them work?

MG: Well, one great thing about a partnership is that you’ve got a fresh set of ears to run any ideas by. Sometimes I’ll be working on a cue for a day and don’t quite have that fresh ‘first watch’ perspective anymore, so it’s helpful to see how it plays to someone who isn’t deep in it.

MS: Yeah, there’s definitely a lot of back and forth between us as we write and I feel like we’ve gotten really good being our own internal sounding board. Usually by the time we’re presenting a cue to a director we’ve gone through a few rounds of tweaks of our own.

ST: Is there another composer you think really nailed a project or particular scene?

MG: We just rewatched Blade Runner the other night, and Vangelis’s score is legendary.

MS: Most definitely. Also, Emile Mosseri’s score for The Last Black Man in San Francisco has been a recent favorite over here. The visuals in that movie really set the stage for a cool score, the musical choices are all striking, and the performances are top notch.

ST: Do you have a favorite instrument to play? to hear?

MS: We tend to jump around a lot in the studio to keep things fresh; it’s always hard to choose a favorite. But piano tends to be my go-to instrument.

MG: Go-to instrument for me is guitar. To listen to, it could be cool synths right now. Actually, and some saxophone. Some soft saxophone and synthy layers is so spacey and can be brooding; it’s fun to listen to, get some Michael Mann vibes. 

ST: What music are you listening to right now?

MS: Emahoy Tsegue-Maryam Geubrou is taking me into the Fall vibe over here. It’s the best.

MG: Made a playlist that has some of the newer Bon Iver auto-tune stuff mixed with other styles like Tears For Fears, J Dilla, Billie Holiday, Coldplay. Funny how tones can, in some ways, fly around yet come together as a playlist. Got a good combo going right now. 

ST: What would be your dream project to score?

MS: Anything Tarantino or PT Anderson.

MG: Or Star Wars but some kind of future Star Wars that doesn’t exist yet where there can be some beats and synthy stuff as well as crazy big score. 

ST: What projects do you have in the future that you are excited about?

MG: We’re actually developing a musical right now that’s really been pushing us into a zone that we wouldn’t usually be exploring on other directors’ projects.

MS: And we’re also scoring an anime series that’s been super fun. It’s post-apocalyptic, based in the UK, so our music is this off-the-wall blend of all sorts of styles. Kind of like a musical collage.

ST: What is your favorite kind of soup?

MS: Ha, well a few years back it became a tradition for us to go out for ramen after a recording session or a notes session. It’s a great comfort food when you need a pick-me-up but also works as a celebratory meal.

MG: Actually MS, I think this is where we’re supposed to say our favorite is “Supe Troop.” High five.

ST: Wow, can’t argue with that one!!

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