Post-apocalyptic chaos ensues after electricity stops working in the IFC’s film Radioflash starring Dominic Monaghan (Lost, Lord of the Rings) and Brighton Sharbino (Zoe Valentine), with writing and direction by Benjamin McPherson (Man in the Moon). The father and daughter pair make their way to safety while the score from composer Ramin Kousha layers the film in dread and hope.
In Radioflash, Monaghan plays Chris, father of Sharbino’s Reese. The pair seem like a relatively happy couple despite the death of the family’s matriarch. However, their quiet dinner gets weird fast when all the electricity goes out from one minute to the next. Reese heads to the garage to use an old radio left by grandpa Frank played by Will Patton (Swamp Thing, Halloween). Chris and Reese start making their way to grandpa’s house as the world slowly crumbles into chaos.
PopAxiom found a working radio and was able to contact Ramin despite the electromagnetic disturbance to talk about making music for a tornado of sharks and the end of civilization as we know it.
Iran to Los Angeles
Born in Iran, Ramin says there’s a musical core that comes from his ancestry. “I learned piano when I was five or six years old. After a couple years, I started to get private lessons and learned about musicianship, harmony, and different areas of music. At the same time, I was playing around with Persian instruments like the Santur and Setar.”
Ramin eventually “… moved to L.A to study film composition.”
After a rich education that includes meeting a legend of film composition (more on that later), Ramin opened his own studio “…doing freelance work for different projects while meeting producers and directors and getting more work as a composer.”
Movies At Home
Growing up in Iran meant that getting the latest Hollywood films wasn’t as easy as heading to the local movie theater. “We didn’t have a cinema to go watch English language foreign movies. It was T.V. or DVD and then later online. I would watch everything usually a couple of months after a movie was released in the U.S.”
There was also a healthy community of film lovers who helped each other out. “People would pass around movies too.”
Storm With Teeth
One movie that got passed around by word-of-mouth A LOT back in 2013 was Sharknado. Ramin composed the score for the zany film about, well, a shiver of sharks inside of one of nature’s most potent wind events. What was the experience like for Ramin? “I had so much fun.”
A twist of fate connected Ramin to the cult-favorite film. “I had a previous relationship with the director, Anthony C. Ferrante. We often talked about our upcoming project and when he mentioned he was working on Sharknado I was really interested and that is how I got involved. Suddenly it became this big movie of the year. I was lucky.”
Working on Sharknado was fun, but also fast and furious. “They gave me two weeks. It’s a very fast process.”
It’s normal for composers to score films and television programs with temp tracks chosen by the director or editor as a placeholder. For Sharknado, Ramin says, “Some scenes had a temp track. I believe the opening had some.”
Of course, the main attraction is the title of the film. For Ramin, the storm of predators wasn’t even there. “While I was working, they were doing the visual effects. So, my picture had no sharks. They would write on the screen, ‘tornado of sharks’ or ‘sharks flying.’”
Ramin and the film’s editor Simon Van Gelder were loosely working together before Radioflash. “I was sending him demos for various projects. He introduced me, and I started scoring some scenes and was brought on for the project.”
In regards to the previously mentioned temp tracks, “Radioflash didn’t have any temp music.”
For the most part, Ramin likes that better and instead prefers to get into the director’s head. “Ben and I watched the film several times, and he told me about his vision.”
Ramin elaborates on his communication with the writer/director, “Ben is an amazing painter and was able to visually describe the story with his unique artistic approach. It helped me understand his vision and the direction he wanted for the music.”
Another essential part of Ramin’s relationship with the visionary behind the film: “Ben is open to trying new ideas. First we tried sampling many instruments such as guitar, violin and cello as well as many Iranian instruments such as Santur, daf and kamancheh. Later we started mixing these sample sounds with many synthesizers and analogs. The unique part about the Radioflash story was that the movie starts in today’s modern era with internet and technology accessible and therefore I used mostly electronic combined with the orchestra. As the movie goes on, the power and internet are no longer available and my music shifts to use more organic and orchestral instruments.”
Setting the Mood
After the viewings, discussions and creative powerpoint presentation, Ramin “… had 1 or 2 weeks to put together the sound palette.”
“The opening scene was very challenging,” said Ramin. “I tried many different styles and sounds to put the audience in the right place and did a lot of experimenting with Middle Eastern instruments.”
As for the experience of working on Radioflash and making the end of a civilized society sound creepy and cool: “It was challenging, but it was super-fun.”
Ramin is a mix of musical influences. “What I do right now is a combination of my Persian background, my orchestra training, and using analog synths.”
Up next Ramin says, “I just finished a project with a French director name Kader Ayd, the story is about the famous French singer Charles Aznavour who passed away one year ago.”
Who would the composer love to work in the future? “… Alfonso Cuaron or Paul Thomas Anderson. I love Get Out, so I’d love to work with Jordan Peele.”
Ramin rattles off many names when asked who influences him from a classical or composition point-of-view. “Strauss, Arvo Pärt, Ennio Morricone and Alexander Desplat. When it comes to more synth scores, I love John Carpenter, Cliff Martinez, Jóhann Jóhannsson. Alexander Desplat is another. I try to listen to all kinds of music and scores to broaden my musical taste and knowledge.”
Oh, about the legend that Ramin met in school: “I was lucky, there was a class at UCLA where John Williams came as a guest. We had a great conversation. He started teaching. It was a couple hours in a very small group, so we could sit down with him face-to-face. It was an amazing experience.”
Radioflash is available on VOD.
Thanks to Ramin Kousha and Impact24 PR for making this interview possible.
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