dan marocco-brooklyn 99-interview-composer

Composer Dan Marocco has scored many movies and TV shows but none like the Andy Sandberg starring Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the former FOX comedy that was saved by the fans and continues on NBC without missing a beat.

Dan Marocco is approaching 20 years in a career scoring for film and television. He’s gone from playing with Dirty Sexy Money to Pillow Talk and faced a few demons along the way (Demonic, 2015). PopAxiom got into Dan’s mental squad car to talk about making music for the Brooklyn Nine-Nine and beyond.

Texas To Japan

Dan’s life started off in the United States where he was born into a musical family “My dad was a high school band director, so I’ve been around music my whole life.”

However, it wasn’t just any high school. Dan’s dad taught at a school in Japan. For Dan, his teens years were spent in the land of the rising sun “I grew up in Texas and had a very specific view of how the world worked, and that got turned on its head. All kinds of different influences … music and art. It really opened my world up.”

About Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Watching an episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine will instantly make you smile with its fun and infectious, 70s funk-inspired theme song “I wanted to capture the spirit of the show in the theme song. Make it fun, make it exciting.”

Brooklyn Nine-Nine had a five-season run on FOX but “The day when we were canceled the silver lining was the fan reaction. We’ve never gotten crazy high ratings … it was fun to see all the fans come out of the woodwork.”

Why does Dan think Brooklyn Nine-Nine is so loved? “I think it’s a fun, very comforting show to watch. When that got taken away I think a lot of people were like ‘no, no, no, don’t take that away!’”

Naturally, Dan was excited when Brooklyn Nine-Nine was saved by NBC “To have it come back to life was a really cool feeling. We get to do it again. It’s amazing!”

The feel-good sitcom exists in a weird place that thankfully repeals cynicism “The show sometimes deals with issues that are difficult for some people, but I think it does it in a loving way. There are occasions when it’s a little critical of parts of society I think, but it’s not a cynical show, for sure.”

There’s a saying that all press is good press and Brooklyn Nine-Nine benefited from the fan outcry “In the months since it was canceled and saved, I’ve talked to more people about the show than ever.”

How hard is it to keep a straight face while scoring an episode? “I don’t have to. I’m in my own room. I can laugh every time.”

Dan shares one of the show’s moments that kept making him laugh “… Probably around season three. It’s a silly thing. I’m doing a scene over and over. But Boyle says the line ‘Corn freakin’ noodle’ and the way he said that … I laughed every time of the 100 times I watched it.”

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Dan adds “That’s an awesome part of the job is to be able to laugh.”

Psychology of Scoring

The process for scoring begins with understanding what the story needs and what the filmmakers want. It requires a composer get into a particular headspace “I did a horror film … you can get into a pretty dark place. Working on this film 14 hours a day.”

Dan continues “When you’re doing a scene and rewatching it, you have to keep building tension and tension. When you watch that scene in the movie, it’s one, two minutes long. I lived with it for days.”

From horror to comedy and back again “It’s an interesting thing how what you’re working on can affect your psyche.”

While the horror movie might lead to the dark side, there is light to counter it “The flip side of that is Brooklyn Nine-Nine that just cracks me up.”

Dan shares a bit of difference between the process for TV and film scoring “For Brooklyn Nine-Nine, we’ll have a meeting going over the scenes and what each one needs. For a film, there’s a bit more back and forth mostly because there is just more time.”

Making Music

Whether it’s a week or a month, making music for TV and film includes a temporary or “temp” track “The first time I watch a film there’s usually a temp track there. If I feel like it’s off … I mute it out, I can do that separately. But for the most part, I watch it as is and learn what I can from it.”

For Dan, there are definitely benefits to temp tracks “It gives me an idea too of what the director and producer want. That gives me a jumping off point.”

Temp tracks can be music from almost any source “Often I provide temp music … that might work for it. I do that really early in the process that way I have a bit of a say in the direction and then refine it as it goes along.”

Sometimes though “There’s definitely a time when you get into ‘temp love.’”

What does he do to combat ‘temp love’? “… it’s fun to beat the temp and show people what I can do.”

Dan adds more to the talk about temp tracks “When an editor is cutting a film to the music he likes, he’s moving to the rhythm of that music.”

Back To Brooklyn

For the excellent Brooklyn Nine-Nine though “There was no temp track for that.”

So how did the song come together? “There was the idea of the horn sample, and beyond that, nothing was guiding it. More than 90% of the time there’s some temp.”

Theme songs are kind of going the way of the dinosaur, and many shows don’t use any sort of intro music at all “We discussed that for the opening. Should it be something that works in five seconds or ten seconds? Should we be able to adjust it for the needs of each show? But [producer/co-creator] Mike Schur was adamant that he wanted something substantial … that was there every episode.”

With the decision made and the horns as a foundation; idea “I had to build off that to make it exciting and punchy and try to make it something that people don’t skip through.”

Wrapping Up

When asked about what’s in Dan’s musical DNA he says “…gotta start with the Beatles and those Paul McCartney bass lines that are the heart of so many of the Beatles songs.”

Thanks to Sir Paul’s influence “I usually start writing with the bass which is not very common.”

But the bass proved particularly useful “Especially on Brooklyn Nine-Nine which has that influence.”

From specifically the composing side of things, Dan loves “Alexandre Desplat, John Williams, Thomas Newman … they’re fantastic.”

What’s next? “I’m doing thirteen episodes now of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and during the summer, the off-time, I’ll pick up another project. It’s always fun to work on something new.”

Thanks to Dan Marocco and Impact24 PR for making this interview possible.

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