Interview with Joe Kraemer

Joe Kraemer

Joe KraemerJack Reacher and The Way of the Gun

FSC:  What inspired you to enter the film music field?

JK:  When I was a boy, the first two albums I bought were the soundtrack to Superman The Movie and Magical Mystery Tour by the Beatles.  So in my mind, John Williams was as valid as Lennon and McCartney.  Throughout grade school and into high school, I continued to buy and listen to soundtrack albums with equal enthusiasm as rock music.
When I was 15, I met a filmmaker named Scott Storm, who cast me as the lead in a feature-length film he was making on super 8.  It was during the early days of shooting that I asked him what he did for music for his movies.  He explained that he would track music in from his record collection, things like Tangerine Dream and “No Quarter” by Led Zeppelin, or Peter Gabriel and such.  I told him how I had a four-track studio and a synthesizer/sampler, and offered to do the music for the film we were shooting.  He said yes, and we are still working together today, as I am slated to write music for his newest project, an animated short called “The Apple Tree” (which just finished a successful Kickstarter campaign).
FSC:  What is the number one thing that has helped you to this point?

JK:  I’d like to think it was whatever talent I have at music, but it’s probably just as likely that it’s who I know.  Connections and relationships are everything in this business – one can be a genius, but if they are a genius in isolation, they’re going to have a hard time getting hired to score films.  So I would say my friendship with Scott Storm, which led to me meeting Christopher McQuarrie, which led to my two biggest scoring opportunities yet, has been the thing that made the difference in my career.  But I also must say, I’ve worked really hard to perfect my craft, from composition to orchestration to conducting.  I really pride myself on doing the best job I can.
FSC:  What is your proudest work and why?

JK:  Jack Reacher is probably my finest hour as a composer so far, although there are things in The Way of the Gun I am still terribly proud of.  I just recently scored a short film called “Riviera” for a very talented young filmmaker, Cameron Radice, and I am really happy with the score for that.  I hear growth in my composition and orchestration since Reacher in that, so that makes me proud too.
FSC:  Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

JK:  Ideally I’d be scoring Reacher 2, MI:6, and STARBLAZERS for Chris McQuarrie, a film for David Hayter, a film for Ken Kokin, a film for Paul Osborne, a film for Scott Storm, a film for Dan Petrie, Jr.  Hahaha.   You know, I really can’t say.  Of course the dream is to be constantly working on better and better films, but you never know in this business, so I take nothing for granted.  I simply do the best I can on every film I get and hope somebody notices if I did a good job.
FSC:  What is one of your favorite film soundtracks other than one you composed?

JK:  Star Wars. The Indiana Jones scores.  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  Lots of John Williams.  I love Horner’s Star Trek scores, his score for Field of Dreams.  David Shire’s scores to All the President’s Men and The Taking of Pelham One-Two-Three.  Goldsmith’s score to Alien.  Tom Newman’s score to Little Women.
FSC:  If you just want to sit back and listen to music (any genre), what do you like?

JK:  I listen to music in the car more than anywhere else, but often I avoid music when I’m working, so I listen to comedy stuff, like Ricky Gervais’s podcasts with Karl Pilkington or standup albums by Jim Gaffigan.  When I do listen to music, it’s likely to be either something by The Beatles or John Williams.  But I also like The Beach Boys, Ben Folds, Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon, Led Zep, Supertramp, Randy Newman.  My daughter is 11 and really into K-Pop so I’ve been hearing a lot of Korean bands like Super Junior and EXO lately, Girls Generation, stuff like that.
FSC:  Okay, let’s be honest. Star Wars or Star Trek?

JK:  Star Wars.  But I do love Star Trek too.  I’ve got all the Trek Blu-Rays, and tons of the novels from the 80’s in a box in my garage.  I’m a big nerd.  But yeah, if it’s Sophie’s Choice, I choose Star Wars.
FSC:  What is a film score you wish you could have composed?

JK:  Star Wars.  That is, I wish I had written it.  If you’re asking which film I wish I could have scored, I’d say Valkyrie, and that’s nothing against the great job John Ottman did on that film.  But I will always feel like that’s one that got away…
FSC:  What is your favorite instrument to play?

JK:  I’m most fluent at the piano, but I also play guitar and bass.  I think in a band, I’d like to play bass and sing.  I’ve never played bass in a band, except here and there.
FSC:  If you could meet any musician from history, who would it be? Why?

JK:  Paul McCartney.  Why? Because I’ve already met John Williams.
I do harbor a dream of jamming with McCartney someday.  It would be cool to meet Copland or Stravinsky or Mahler, maybe Tchaikovsky or Brahms.  It would be fun to see if Mozart really was anything like he’s been portrayed in Amadeus.  But the great thing is, with most musicians, you really get to know them through their music, and sometimes meeting them is far less profound than you hope, because there is this connection to their music that you can’t duplicate sharing a few sentences with someone in passing.  So if I never do meet McCartney, I’ll be ok.  Like I said, I’ve met Williams in person, but I really feel like I’ve gotten to know him through his music, which I’ve studied for years.
FSC:  Thank you for your time.
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