CS Score! Interviews We Summon the Darkness Composer Timothy Williams
Get ready for an exciting CS Score! Are you ready? Seriously. Are you? Good. Because we are taking a deep dive into the soundtrack for We Summon the Darkness from Lakeshore Records. And even got the opportunity to speak with the film’s composer, Timothy Williams. So, let’s not waste any more time and get right to this thing!
WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS SOUNDTRACK REVIEW
We Summon the Darkness opens with a dark, ominous track full of eerie noises and echoey rhythms before introducing its main component: 80s synthesizers. And it’s this throwback to the old school days of film scoring that really gives Timothy Williams’ entertaining, though haunting, score its flavor.
Think Stranger Things meets John Carpenter’s Halloween.
There are moments of levity, such as the lighter synths found in the tracks, “When Will the Sun Rise,” and, “Flamed,” but the rather brief soundtrack — totaling 40 minutes in all — mostly sticks to the shadows and revels in dark underscore with the occasional burst of madness. Listen to the track titled, “Jaw Breaker,” which sounds like a wild gothic rock concert; and “12-Flamed,” which utilizes a wide variety of electronic beeps and blurps to great effect.
Williams’ score, as is the case with a majority of film music these days, lacks a true main theme; and each track is almost too short to fully absorb. Yet, I found its ominous nature and clever use of synthesizer a unique and engaging throwback to the film music of a bygone era.
FILM SCORE NEWS
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Varèse Sarabande Records Announces Expanded The Running Man Soundtrack
Oh boy! Fans of composer Harold Faltermeyer (Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop) got some good news this weekend as Varèse Sarabande announced the expanded release of his score for The Running Man. The original album released in 1987 featured 17 tracks, but this new edition gives fans 35 cues to enjoy as well as a booklet with extensive liner notes by film music journalist Daniel Schweiger.
I’ll try and get a review for this in my next Score! Until then, purchase the album today by visiting https://www.varesesarabande.com/collections/cd-club.
TIMOTHY WILLIAMS INTERVIEW
ComingSoon.net: I just listened to the soundtrack to We Summon the Darkness the other night. It’s creepy, but fun — but also really creepy. So, thank you for that.
Timothy Williams: Good, good. That was the hope.
CS: How did you get involved with We Summon the Darkness?
Williams: Yeah, so the director, Marc Meyers, whose work I’ve admired greatly, he did My Friend Dahmer, which is a very cool HBO film, gave me a call and was interested in having me do the music for We Summon the Darkness. And he immediately said that it was set in the 80’s, which I lit up over because I have a bunch of vintage synths, the Juno 106, the Korg Monopoly and a bunch of other stuff from the 80’s, and so, we were literally just talking over Zoom and I was showing him all this stuff. And I said, I think this would be really cool to do a retro score, but you know, obviously color it in a really creepy horror, you know maybe with like hints of John Carpenter. And he was really excited about that idea, so that was kind of the road we went down. And he sent me a cut of the film, which I watched it. And I have to say I really loved it. It’s one of those films, it’s difficult to talk about too much because there’s a few twists in it, but the idea that you think you’re going down one road of a film, and suddenly it turns and becomes something else.
And what I loved was that ultimately, the serial killers are really bad at what they do, was sort of the premise of well, what if Jason were really bad at killing people? And so, for me, there was this just really great kind of dark comedy to it. And it’s such a fun film. It cracked me up, especially towards the end, when weed whackers are used as weapons. I was like, this is really funny. So for me, it just like, it had so much energy. The acting is amazing. I loved Alexandra Daddario. She just was just — commanded the stage, and Maddie Hasson and Amy Forsyth. They were all so good. And the guys, you know, Keean Johnson, Logan Miller and Austin Swift, they were just fantastic. And then obviously Johnny Knoxville has a great step-out. So just for me, it was just a fun film, and I think that it’s probably the funnest film I’ve ever gotten to score because, you know, Marc who just basically said, look, do what you think is right for the film. Follow your instincts and just go out there, make it creepy, but take risks.
And so, it was a fun process. For me, normally when I’m doing something like using synths, often the more contemporary synths, you can save settings and you can come back to sounds. But the cool thing about working with these old analog synths is they don’t have midi. You know, once you find the sound, you kind of have to record it. And as you’re changing and manipulating the sounds, you have to record it in real time, because once you change the settings, the sound is gone for good. So it’s one of the things where I’ll never be able to come back and use those same sounds again because they’re gone.
CS: Interesting. So, with that style of music, where you can manipulate it to the end of time, at what point do you say, okay, this is enough, this is what I need?
Williams: Yeah, I sort of know the general area of what I’m looking for. But you know, when I hear it I’m like, that’s exactly what I want and I’ll do what you had to do back in the 80’s was you’d draw really crude drawings of where all the knobs are, so you can try and come back to it through sort of guesstimation. But yeah, you just have to kind of go with your instincts and just keep recording it in as you’re going. And then, I do a lot of cutting up and editing after I’m done. So I’ll find a sound that I really like in kind of a bend or something really growly or something really ominous sounding. And I’ll throw the audio into a little library of stuff and I can grab it and put it into a queue as it’s needed, but it’s quite a labor intensive process. So it’s not something I would enjoy doing on every film I do because it really does take a lot of time. But it’s very rewarding because even the percussion, trying to find things that were linn drums, and some of these 80’s type of percussion, layering those in, too. We were pretty clear that ultimately the score needed to serve the film and it wasn’t just about creating a retro 80’s score, it needed to be infused with a current sensibility as well. So we were just trying to go for a bit of a mashup of the two things, like an 80’s score now and a horror score with 80’s sensibility. So it was a lot of fun to try and find that.
CS: Was there a specific element of the film that you honed in on first and then went out from there?
Williams: Yeah, the first thing I found in sort of looking for sounds and trying to find, you know, that’s the hardest part of any film is finding where the heart of it is. And so, for me, I found this sort of — you’ll hear it when you hear the music, but it’s this kind of repeating low kind of thing that’s kind of ta-tunk, ta-tunk, ta-tunk, and for me, I described it to the director as being kind of like a predatory shark that’s swimming through the whole story. And I said I wanted this feeling that because you really don’t quite know who’s good, who’s bad or who the predators are or what’s happening. And I said, I want the sense of just this kind of creeping, this sort of creeping predator through the score. So that was the first motif that I created for it, I played it for him and he really liked it. So I was like, even from the get-go, when they’re starting out and they’re going on this road trip to this heavy metal concert, I said I want the feeling of something not quite right and something just kind of lurking in the darkness and slowly stalking them. And that was kind of where I started.
And then, obviously as the film progresses and there’s a little bit more of the dark comedy that starts to come later, that was when I wanted to try and push the score, still keeping it creeping dark, but with more fun to it and more sort of comedic, dark comedic sort of sensibility to it. So it does slightly shift towards the end, and there’s some great source music in it, too. I love “Heaven is a Place on Earth” is sort of cranked during all the mayhem that’s going on. Again, it put a smile on my face. I couldn’t stop laughing. And then, there’s these sort of fast cuts towards these violent scenes. It was very well-done.
CS: You mentioned John Carpenter as a source of inspiration. Were there other films or other composers that you pulled from as well?
Williams: Yeah, I’m a huge fan of Pete Gabriel. And again, I think his scores, he scored Last Temptation of Christ and Birdy and a bunch of other really amazing films. And he had a very sort of, a much darker 80’s kind of sensibility. One of the things that we were definitely trying not to do was to get close to Stranger Things, which again, has that kind of retro 80’s. But we’re like, that’s been done. We don’t want to do that. But Gabriel and that low kind of John Carpenter Halloween-esque type of feel with those kind of low, low notes in a sense were definitely things that I felt would — it was kind of a more darker 80’s feel. And I drew a lot on that.
And also, just the synthesizers themselves. The moment you start playing them, you’re immediately there and you do these filter sweeps or pulses or just the arpeggiated patterns all came out of the 80’s kind of synth revolution. And so, it was the moment you just start playing it, you’re right there, you’re like, oh yeah, this is really cool. And I was a teen in the 80’s, so for me, it was really fun to go and revisit all the stuff I kind of grew up playing, all those instruments were how I learned about electronic music. So for me, it was a lot of fun to revisit and just remind myself, oh yeah, this is how I do that. This is what I change to get that sound. You know, I’d completely forgotten because nowadays we can do so much on the computers. You hit a button and the sound is right there. But with these things, you kind of have to explore a bit and delve into it.
CS: And as you said, it’s a little bit more cumbersome to do. Do you miss that style, as opposed to some of the more lavish technologies that we have today?
Williams: I do a bit. I mean, you get some incredibly happy accidents that happen, feedback, you get all the kind of dirt and distortion that a lot of the newer stuff just don’t have or you push a button and it’s there, whereas this, you kind of have to do a performance where you’re not just playing notes, but you’re moving filters and tonality and adding grit. And sometimes, it’s terrible and sometimes magic happens and that’s it, that’s really, really cool. You’ll bend the pitch and it’ll suddenly work. And I did a lot of pitch bending in the score, just so that it gives that sort of sense of uneasiness. But it is, as you say, it is cumbersome. So I’m kind of grateful for some of these other films, where the deadlines are so tight you just don’t have time to have that time, as I call it, to play in the sandbox.
CS: Is there a specific track or sequence in the film that you’re particularly proud of that you want to call out for film music lovers to listen to specifically?
Williams: Sure, yeah. The opening track “We Summon the Darkness” was the track that I wrote last. What happened was I scored the film, and everything had been approved by the director and the film was all heading off to the final dub. And the director phone me frantically and said, “We’ve completely forgotten there’s a whole logo sequence that takes us into the film. We don’t have any music for it.” So I was like, “Okay.” So that night, I sat down and crafted kind of the sequence that takes you into the film. And it was tricky because we had started with a concept, the whole film starts with just this point of view of the road, and a rabbit jumps slowly across the road and the car sort of screams towards you. And we had really wanted that in silence. We wanted that sense of just like, the car and all of that.
So knowing how we crafted the score, it was then tricky to say, well, how do we take you into the film? But I sort of created something which I hope would evoke a little bit of a sense of the coming mayhem and creepiness of the film. So that was the opening track on the album is actually what covers the logo and takes you in. And often, that can be — I did the same thing with “Brightburn”. I finished the film and then they needed music for the logos to take us in. And funnily enough, that ended up being one of my more favorite tracks, because you’re writing it with the benefit of knowing what the score is going to be. So it’s kind of like an overture. I can kind of drop in hints of scenes and ideas of sounds that were going to be coming. So sometimes those are the cues that turn out the best because you really can foreshadow what’s coming.
CS: When you talk about Brightburn and some of the other projects you’ve done, where would you put this one in terms of either difficulty or overall satisfaction?
Williams: I think a lot of the films that I do, Brightburn was a film that was tricky because it was the first time horror had really been combined with superhero and trying to find the language for that was quite difficult. This one, I think was probably the funnest just because the movie cracked me up so much, and because it really gave me, Marc gave me complete license to do anything I wanted. He was just like, just have fun with it. And that’s such a rare thing. Normally when you’re scoring a film, there’s a language that’s already been established or the temp score kind of immediately dictates what the music has to be. And what I loved about this was he just said anything goes, just go out there. And you know, sometimes as a composer, when you get that opportunity, it gives you a chance to do things that you just wouldn’t take risks you wouldn’t normally take in the process. So I think for me it’s probably the funnest film I’ve ever worked on, and it was just a lot of fun. It was a great, great project.
CS: Thanks for your speaking with me. It’s a great score!
Williams: Good. Thanks, man. And yeah, great chatting with you.