Exclusive interview for ScoreTrack.Net

"The Clone Wars" album

A new chapter of the Star Wars saga began with "The Clone Wars", the pilot for the CGI animated series produced by George Lucas. Kevin Kiner, composer for the series, granted us with this exclusive interview where he talks about "The Clone Wars", "CSI: Miami" and other aspects of his career.

Viviana Ferreira - Kevin, it is a pleasure to interview you for You have been working on scores for more than 25 years. When you write a score, what is your approach? What are your feelings?
Kevin Kiner
- My first step in the process is to watch the picture to see what emotions I need to enhance or support with regard to the drama that is in front of me. In that sense I think I’m almost feeling a bit like an actor, trying to reach the feel and atmosphere that the director is conveying with the picture. If it is an action scene, then I get quite worked up and have a lot of energy. It’s just natural to feel that excitement when you are writing an exciting piece of music.

- Since 2003 you´ve been working on CSI: Miami, tells us about the experience to be part of a hit TV show like this one.
- CSI: Miami has been one of the best experiences I’ve ever had scoring a show. The show is constantly changing its musical styles, from one episode to the next or even within a single episode. Being so eclectic is a great challenge, but it also keeps me very fresh. I’m constantly listening to new ideas in the music scene and keeping current with what is happening.

Kevin Kiner bonds with a Clone Trooper

VF – What can you tell us about the Star Wars: The Clone Wars score?
KK - I wanted this score to be something that moves forward from the previous live action films but also to retain a large element of the style that John Williams established so well. That was the biggest challenge for the Clone Wars score, to keep the classical sensibility of what John did, but to add my own voice with percussion and various ethnic modalities to that foundation. The sound of film scores is constantly evolving, and I wanted to have the Clone Wars score be at the forefront of this evolution – classical meets rhythmic ethnicity – if you will.

VF - For this movie you've worked with the City of Prague Philharmonic Orcherstra. How did you feel seeing 91 amazing musicians playing your music?
KK - Any time I’m given such a great palette I’m absolutely thrilled. I’ve worked with the City of Prague Orchestra on three previous occasions, and it’s always been with great results. The strings in Prague are unbeatable, and this time we used some of the younger brass players who have a bit more of an aggressive style, so it really complimented this particular score.

VF - Give us the name of a composer that can be considered a role model for you, and what kind of influences he (or she) brought to your style.
KK - John Williams has always been my model for what a great film composer should be. His melodies and classical approach are unrivaled. So in terms of influence, he has always been my number one choice. Having said that, I have my own voice and style just as any composer does, so I am always trying to blend that style – which has it’s roots in the rock music I grew up playing – with the classical and melodic sensibility that John brings to a score.

VF - Your next project is the documentary Crimes Against Nature, what you can tell us about this project?
KK - Crimes Against Nature is a documentary based on a book by Bobby Kennedy Jr. that chronicles the abuses the environment has endured under the current government administration. The music is very eclectic, going from solo uilleann pipes in one piece to a trip hop influenced groove in another. The trip hop vibe works very well in some of the wilderness scenes because it lends a sort of urban toxicity to the landscape. The film deals with a lot of the ramifications of coal mining and the urban sound is a nice element that plays the waste and desolation that are on the screen.

VF - Lets go back to the beginning: where were you born, and how did you discover the penchant for music?
KK - I was raised in Escondido, California (near San Diego). I started in rock playing as a guitarist for a lot of different bands. My main influences as I was growing up were “Yes”, “Pink Floyd” “The Eagles” “The Beatles” “The Stones” “Black Sabbath” “ELP” “ELO” “Uriah Heep” “BB King” etc. anything with a great guitar part that I could be the hero on. As I grew up, I got heavily influenced by jazz greats like Howard Roberts, Les Paul, Wes Montgomery, and even sax players like Charlie Parker and Coletrane.

VF – Of all the scores you have written, which one is your favorite?
KK - As far as my favorite work, it would have to be a tie between the score for a film called The Other Side of Heaven and the Star Wars:Clone Wars score. Those two are vastly different, with the former being a very warm, heartfelt Americana type of score, and of course Clone Wars being what we have discussed in this interview.

VF - And about the scores written by other composers?
KK - As far as my favorite scores from other composers, I’ll give you a few: Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Schindler’s List,  Superman (John Williams), Back to the Future (Alan Silvestri), Phone Booth (Harry Gregson Williams), Star Trek (Jerry Goldsmith), The Bourne Identity (John Powell), Babel (Gustavo Santaolalla), Beautiful Mind (James Horner), The Mission (Ennio Morricone), Out of Africa (John Barry).

VF – What is your favorite musical instrument?
KK - Well, I’m a guitarist so that has to be right up there. But I’ve always loved composing for string. I remember the first time I heard a string section playing something I had written – it was better than sex!

Special thanks to Kevin Kiner and Melissa McNeil for make this interview possible.