Interview With Rodney Whittenberg (2008)
For those of you who don't know, Rodney Whittenberg is the composer of Return To Sleepaway Camp. His experience and skills promise to bring the musical composition of Angela's mayhem to new levels. In this exclusive interview, Rodney discusses his work on the film and shares 2 cues from the film in mp3 form!
Sleepaway Camp Films: What sort of instruments/equipment did you use for scoring Return To Sleepaway Camp?
Rodney Whittenberg: After meeting with director of the film he asked for the impossible and that was a Bernard Herrmann score, none of the John Carpenter synth crap (not my opinion). But how to do that with the budget we had? So I was trying some things. Obviously I have to use some synth. But how to capture the feel and the live attitude of a real orchestra as well as pick up on the humor and camp in the film? So I thought what would John Cage do or Edgar Varese do. I thought prepared piano and percussion. I live in a 200 year old farm house and I converted a room to a small sound stage. I can record real instruments and watch the film. Just like they do in Hollywood. I also play or play at a number of different instruments. So the instrumentation is cello, prepared piano using guitar picks and mallets and drum sticks and anything else I can get my hands on to alter the way the piano sounds. The main sting is a note cluster on the piano that I play backwards. I used cello, percussion backward and bowed cymbals and brass section. The score is so much like a score from a horror film in the 70's, it sounds very live and organic. I really love the way it sounds.
SCF: What are your feelings of traditional instruments vs synthesizers?
Rodney: I am a oddball musician. I love anything that makes sound, noise, tone, so I don't make any distinction between real instruments and synthesizers. They are both great. It depends on what you're doing with it. When making a table, one made with a hand saw and a hammer and glue or one made with a table saw and electric saw nail gun, most people will say the first on is better and that leaves out the person using the tools. It would not matter what I used to make a table, I am not a craftsman. And it doesn't matter to me how the music was made, my question is does it work.
SCF: When scoring Return, did you listen to the original Sleepaway Camp film's score by Edward Bilous and incorporate any of that, or did you just do your own thing?
Rodney: No, I did not look at the original score. I looked at the film and looked for an interesting way to go.
Rodney's room where Return To Sleepaway Camp scoring was performed & recorded
SCF: Looking down your resume, Return appears to be your first score for a horror movie, or first fully credited one at least. With a background in diverse drama, how did you approach the decidedly darker tone of this type of film?
Rodney: I actually have done so many horror films. There's a really low budget hip hop horror comedy called Creepin and the cult film Infested written and directed by Academy Award nominee Josh Olson (the writer of A History Of Violence). The score for Infested was so much fun. Josh and I have been friends for years and to work with my friend was great plus, so much freedom. There's a wink to John Carpenter in the score as well as The Goblins and 70's and 80's horror films. There have been a number of shorts, and I also write for dance,
and I wrote a score for a dance piece about a vampire. I love music and and I love film whether it's a compelling and serious documentary, or if it a horror film. It's all examining the human condition.
SCF: Also, were you able to use your background in drama/documentaries to class up some of the non-horror scenes in the film?
Rodney: I don't know about classing it up but I do draw on my love of all types of music and really all types, from Tovan throat singing to Japanese Reggae and 20th century classical music to punk rock, and its 60's big brother garage bands like MC5 and the Sonics.
SCF: Has the lengthy post-production process allowed you any opportunities to go back and tinker with the score?
Rodney: Yeah, it gave me time to play and tweak the score.
SCF: What have you been up to since completing work on Return?
Rodney: Since Sleepaway Camp I have been working on a lot of film and TV projects. I worked with the classical trio Time For Three on a History Channel score, a number of docs, travelling film festivals as well as a science exhibit for the Franklin Institute. I am slated to work with my friend Josh again on the score to Until Gwen and another urban horror film called Nice Town and too many other projects.
SCF: I understand they intend on bringing you back for a next chapter, Sleepaway Camp Reunion?
Rodney: Yeah in 3D, I can't wait for Sleepaway Camp in 3D.
Hope you enjoyed the above! You can find more about Rodney and his music by visiting his website below.