I'm not sure how to describe the recent hit Hulu Original series 11.22.63, which is based on the novel of the same name by author Stephen King. It shares elements of sci-fi, drama, action, horror and comedy, all mixed into a solid production starring James Franco. One of the main reasons why this show works so well, even as it jumps to and from genres, is the score by composer Alex Heffes. In an exclusive interview with Music Times, Heffes shared details regarding the music for the series and much more!
How do you think all of these elements can exist in one series? Well, when talking to Heffes, who agrees that there are so many layers to the show, I learned that music has a big play in making it all work.
How did you get involved with this project?
Well, the first two hours are directed by Kevin McDonald, who is a wonderful film director that I've worked with on many films Last King of Scotland and State of Play and Kevin had been hired to record the opening to our show. So he introduced me to the show's executive producer Bridget Carpenter and the people at Bad Robot so we talked and discussed and took it from there.
Do you think you were the perfect composer for this, considering your work in all of the genres that this show covers?
I'd like to think so! I know that the producers had seen quite a lot of movies that I'd done, and we had talked about the range of things I've done as being really useful because, you're right, this show does weave in and out of all sorts of different things. It's one of the great strengths of it. So yeah, I think being really diverse probably has helped to be honest. And that's one of the things I love about the show. You think you're watching one thing and it will suddenly take a U-turn and go in another direction, then it will skid back to somewhere else. It's only when you get to the end of the last episode and get an overview of the whole thing that you go "oh, that's what it's about."
How much creative freedom did you have on this project?
In a way, a lot, because no real tone had been musically set for the show when I came on; no one had found a score or an idea or a direction that they really wanted to go in, so it was really wide open. It's great, it also makes starting to talk about it more difficult because there's no starting point. Of course, having a wonderful blank canvas is a gift for a composer. So I just started writing music, you know we had a lot of discussion about it could be this, it could be that, and in the end I said, "Look, let me just write something and play a tune." And I did and they all came in and sat here and said "Yeah, great, that's what it is." I guess, generally speaking, the idea was to make it very real and organic and record with a live orchestra every week on Sony and Newman stages every week here in L.A., just to give it that movie quality and sort of a classic feel-sort of back in time. We wanted it to feel not too modern not to synthy, have something more classic about it. That was the starting point.
What do you hope that fans take away from the show's music?
I don't want to give away any spoilers but when you get to the end of the show you'll realize the show is about something a little different than what you thought it was at the beginning. There is a musical takeaway from that. There are themes that get developed in the show that start off being slightly incidental and by the end of the show get developed into the main theme. I don't want to give it away, but when you get to the end you'll realize what I'm talking about. You'll suddenly realize, "This is what it's all about." That's what makes it such a great show to me. It grows and exceeds and your expectations of what you think you're watching.
Do you have any advice for aspiring composers looking to get into the industry?
Yes: Love what you do, write a lot of music and be very patient. That's it! Some talent, love what you do and just hang on in there as long as you can.
The Original Television Soundtrack for 11.22.63 is out April 1, 2016 on WaterTower Music.
One of Alex's next projects is Bastille Day starring Idris Elba, which, according to him, tested very well with the ladies in the screening audience. Make sure to check out Alex's official website right here!