Award- Winning Composer Shie Rozow on New Resident Alien Inspired Soundtrack


PH: Hi there Shie! I’d love to hear a little about your background in the industry. 

Shie Rozow: Hi and thanks for your interest. I’ve been writing music since I was a child but didn’t really get serious about it until my early 20’s when I realized that I couldn’t not compose music. It’s not just something I do, but it’s part of who I am. I was accepted into the Rimon School of Jazz & Contemporary Music in Israel, where I grew up, and after 2 years I managed to land a partial scholarship to Berklee College of Music, where I earned my degree in film scoring. Following my graduation in 1997, I moved to Los Angeles with the goal of working as a film composer and have been working in the industry ever since. 

I spent the first 2 years of my career at a post-production facility that did music for shows like Modern Marvels, Biography and Forensic Files. There, I worked as composer/music editor/music supervisor. In late 1999 I left the company to go freelance, and as one does, I would take on whatever work I could find. I then met the late Virginia Ellsworth, who was a semi-retired music editor at the time. As digital was becoming the standard, Virginia needed some help transitioning from working in mag to working in Pro Tools. As part of my film scoring degree, I had to take music editing classes where I learned both analog and digital editing, so I had a good grasp on both and was able to help “translate” analog to digital for her.

Thanks to V, I was introduced to music editor Angie Rubin, who introduced me to Richard Ford, who hired me as his assistant on Training Day, which was my first major feature film. Richard then hooked me up with my next job, and one thing led to the next as music editors began recommending me. Before I knew it, a few years went by and I was known as one of the top assistant music editors in LA. Eventually, it was time to step out of the shadows of others, and I started getting calls to music edit. Then the same thing happened,  a few more years passed by while working on some incredible films, and I became primarily known as a music editor. During this time, I was still scoring short films, indie films and a bit of television. Though recently, I’ve been focusing on moving more towards composing. 

PH: Can you talk me through how you knew you wanted to work with music as a career? 

Shie Rozow: After high school, I served in the Israeli Defense Forces as is customary for all who grow up in Israel. As I neared the end of my 3 years in service I had to figure out what to do with my life. I was drawn to veterinary school due to my love for animals and was doing some part time work as a veterinary assistant for our local vet. I had also dabbled in the world of computer programming, so that was another option. But as I mentioned before, I eventually realized that I am a composer. I don’t know how not to be a composer. I hear music in my head all the time, and composing is as natural to me as breathing. I had been writing music and creating synth sounds since I was a kid, though I never took it seriously. So when I had to decide what to do after the military, I decided to study music. I’ve been very fortunate to have made it this far. I often joke that I hear voices, but rather than being put in a straight-jacket and locked up I get paid to write them down. It’s pretty amazing that I still essentially do what I did as a kid, but I get to do it professionally, all while working with some of the top talent in the world on incredible film, TV and video game projects.

PH: Who are some of your influences? (Personal and/or professional?) 

Shie Rozow: There are so many. Personally, I’ve always looked up to my older brother. He’s an entrepreneur and watching him turn ideas into realities has always been an inspiration. I’m inspired by people who overcome adversity and dedicate themselves to making the world a better place. Some are famous like Malala Yousafzai, others are not, like skateboarder Justin Bishop who lost his eyesight but still skates and teaches other blind people how to skateboard. I’m blown away by Paralympians who don’t allow their conditions to define them and are driven to excel despite their challenges. These people influence how I try to live my life and be a better human being every day.

Musically I’m influenced by music of all styles. I love aboriginal music from all over the world, especially South American music. There’s something about the rhythms and the sound of the different flutes they use that speaks to me. I’m a huge fan of Paul McCartney and his work both in the Beatles and since then. I also love the music of Mozart, Beethoven, the late Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner, and Vangelis. I grew up listening to a lot of music of the 60’s including Italian pop, which my father loves, while my mom took me to listen to the Philharmonic Symphony, under the baton of Zubin Mehta, where I was introduced to lots of classical music. I spent 15 years working closely with Danny Elfman and got to see his process up close and personal—what a privilege and a gift! I’m constantly introduced to new music in all styles from R&B to Hip Hop, to Dance, to Rock & Roll, to Indie artists. It all influences me. I think my musical brain is like a blender. All these things go in, get mixed together and what comes out is somehow influenced by them all. 

PH: Let’s talk about Resident Alien. How did you become involved? 

Shie Rozow: I was hired as the music editor on the pilot. They didn’t have a composer yet, and I was tasked with creating a temp score. As well as that, I helped find and cut the songs that were used in the pilot.

PH: How did your role as the pilot episode’s music editor inspire your unique perspective on the show’s tone and musical identity? 

Shie Rozow: I fell in love with the show because of how unique it is. It was quirky, at times silly, while also having some very serious moments. The show also dealt with very serious topics, all of which really spoke to me. So the challenge was to figure out how to come up with a musical language that addresses all these different facets of the show. I started out casting a very wide musical net and we narrowed it down from there. Andy Seklier, the picture editor, had done some early rough music editing, and he was very influential and helpful in finding the tone as we worked together. Often, he would come into my room to listen to options before narrowing them down to just 2 or 3 to present showrunner Chris Sheridan and director David Dobkin.

PH: You wrote, recorded, and mixed the album in a very tight turnaround. What was that experience like? 

Shie Rozow: I actually wrote it while we were still working on the pilot. I got off early one Friday, and when I got home, I couldn’t get the show out of my head (did I mention how much I like it?). I had all these ideas swirling in my head, and when that happens, I have to get them out. It’s like scratching an itch. I just have to do it or it’s all I can think about. So I started writing music inspired by the show just for fun and to get these ideas out of my head. Once I was done with the first cue, which was track 7, “Alien Murder,” I was having so much fun that I decided to do some of the quirky/comedic stuff. I just kind of got carried away and ended up pulling an all-nighter and churning music out all day Saturday until I felt I was done. I had scratched the itch.

The next morning, I realized I had written an entire score and decided to tackle the opening of the show. The show actually uses a song for the opening, but I thought it would be fun to try to score it with something unique—a song that both stands out as a one-off while also fitting with the tone of the rest of the eclectic cues I wrote. I then decided to record guitars and dobro because the samples really don’t do that stuff justice. I called up a friend, and a couple of hours later I was at his home studio, and we recorded it. This really was just like being a kid writing music in my room when all my friends were going out. This is my idea of fun.

PH: What challenges did you encounter? How did you resolve those?

Shie Rozow: There really weren’t too many challenges because this was just a fun exercise, so there was no pressure to please a client. The only person I had to please was myself. Musically, the trick was how to create what sounds like a single unified score that also had to straddle so many different emotions and moments. How could I blend pseudo-horror, like the murder with quirky comedic stuff, and dramatic music and emotional music in a way that sounds sincere and connected. In this case, the solution came down to the sonic palette. I incorporated some of the same sounds in both dramatic and light cues, so even though they are used in a very different way, there’s still some connective tissue there.

PH: Can you share how you created quirky swamp blues elements to the track “Somewhere, Not Here”? 

Shie Rozow: As I mentioned, this was the last thing I wrote. Since we used a song in the actual show, I wanted something that might have a bit of that feel, while at the same time still being score. I did write this one to picture. It needed drive, and it needed to establish that the show isn’t just one thing. It’s fun, funny and quirky, but also dramatic and has serious undertones. Being out in a cabin in the woods and having the small town feel, I thought something bluesy might work. I then alternated from major to minor chords, so it has this more ambiguous feel to it. I continued to add some of the percussive elements I used in some of the dramatic cues and just kept building on that, shifting to the lighter comedic vibe as the scene evolved, while keeping the driving groove underneath. It finally finishes with the groove in full swing again, landing on the alien turning his head toward the camera, with some of the more quirky/bendy synth sounds I use elsewhere as we see the alien for the first time.

PH: You also paid homage to the series’ more emotional moments with “The Overlook,” a simple and tender cue. Can you describe what was going through your mind when you composed that? 

Shie Rozow: The overlook is one of my favorite scenes. This is another one that I scored to picture. The trick with this one was not to let it get melodramatic. It was an exercise in restraint. I intentionally tried to support the emotional content of the scene with the absolute least amount of music that I felt was necessary. I think sometimes less is more, and this was one of those times. I also think it’s so easy to get carried away in the music and overwrite, at least for me. And that’s exactly what I did. I wrote too much and then started stripping away until I felt if I stripped away any more I’ll break it. 

PH: I’d love to hear a little bit about some of your other projects like Avengers: Age of Ultron and Shawn Mendes: In Wonder? What were those like? 

Shie Rozow: Avengers: AOU was very intense. We had a ton to do in a very short amount of time. I remember pulling all-nighters at Disney, listening in to the recording sessions remotely that were happening in London, downloading materials that had just been recorded there on breaks and lunch, and then cutting it and preparing it to be mixed right away so it could go straight to the dub stage, which was already underway.

Shawn Mendes: In Wonder was also intense but in a very different way. On that one there was a ton of music that needed attention. Lots of clips from concerts, home videos, B-roll, each needed a bit of TLC. Then we had some of the featured concert moments, where Shawn’s team were creating mixes in ATMOS, which I would then have to cut and sync up perfectly so everything looked correct. Finally there was the score part of it. Most of the score was edited using existing music by Ólafur Arnalds from his albums, along with some unreleased tracks he provided us. But there was about 15 minutes of score that needed original music and I was asked to write it. Because of the tight schedule and all the writing that had to happen very quickly, I wrote the entire score in just 2 days. I did a series of changes and tweaks to address filmmaker notes the following couple of days, and then it was off to the final mix.

Both projects were similar in that the timeline was very tight, but very different stylistically and in terms of the technical and creative demands. I’m very proud of my work on both. 

PH: Throughout your career, what have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned in your role? 

Shie Rozow: I’d say how to manage situations. When to talk, when to shut up, to pick and choose your battles. You can be the most talented person in the world, but if you’re a pain to work with, it doesn’t matter. It’s all about storytelling, not about the music. The music’s job is to help the story. And honestly, that’s what drew me to film music in the first place. I love telling stories with music.

PH: Would you like to share any upcoming projects you’re working on? 

Shie Rozow: I worked as Pinar Toprak’s music editor on Slumberland, which is coming to Netflix on November 18. I also scored the feature documentary The Last of the Winthrops, which tells a fascinating story of a woman who finds out that she is not exactly who she thought she was and comes to terms with these revelations. The film will have a limited theatrical run next month, and we will be releasing a score album in November to coincide with the film’s digital release. Music for the Screen Vol. 3 is underway, and I will be releasing it in December, making it my fifth album release in as many months. There are other albums planned, both soundtracks and other non-film/TV music in the works. And I’m putting the finishing touches on a book I’m writing about film music that I expect to publish sometime next year. There are other projects happening or coming up that I cannot share at this time, but I’m happy and grateful to say I’m staying busy with no end in sight. 

You can learn more about Shie on his website.


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