The simplicity is an illusion. What makes the work of film composer / producer Adam Bokesch so compelling is his ability to take complex arrangements and then chisel them down to their essential elements.
Perhaps his greatest asset is the breadth of his musical expertise. He is able to attune his skills to nearly any project or genre, applying the principles to projects from rap to rock to minimalist orchestral pieces. This allows him to help artists of all types realize their vision.
On the tails of his successful film project, “Last Call,” with director Ryan Moody, they recently collaborated on another project called “Obituaries,” starring James Franco, which is currently airing in select theaters. The music is as harrowing, deceptively simple, and compelling as the visuals it accompanies.
NYMM: Tell me a little about how you got involved with “Obituaries.”
AB: Initially, [Ryan Moody] contacted me with a basic idea and sent me a rough, unedited version of the film. The film goes through the lives of several people, and each person needed their own sound. He gave me some ideas of what the mood of each vignette should be, and then I worked on character-driven themes for each of them.
Even though some of the characters are a little quirky, it’s overall a sad story. It jumps between characters, so I knew there needed to be an overall blanket of mood, and none of them could be too goofy.
The struggle was in finding out what kind of theme needed to accompany each character without being too extreme and keeping intact the looming sense of death. It was interesting to work under those restrictions.
NYMM: How did you get started with film scoring?
AB: I’ve been doing film work for a while. I grew up with a friend who is a director in LA now, and we got
started by doing small, zero-budget films. There was something about putting music to his visual story that resonated with how music works for me.
Scoring has taken me to some pretty random places. I did the music for a training video for a taxation department. I’ve done some exercise and nutrition videos for a web series and then some more serious projects, like “Obituaries.”
NYMM: Are there any past projects that really stand out for you?
AB: A really good friend of mine was doing a web series called “The Observatory.” It was based on his observations of the extraordinary things in daily life that we tend to just pass by. He made some little two to three minute shorts about interesting and simple things he saw.
Just a few months ago, he was killed in a boating accident, which has been a really painful experience for his family and for me as well. It’s been a really special thing for me to have worked on that project with him.
NYMM: How is film scoring different from being a producer?
AB: The end goal is different. With film work, I’m doing most things by myself and creating it from start to finish, usually within my own head. When working on someone else’s content, it is more about bringing out the best in their work.
As a producer, you definitely leave your stamp on what you’re creating with someone, but it’s also so important to maintain the direction of the artist.
NYMM: Do artists usually know what they want on the front end?
AB: Some artists are very outspoken about what they want. My project with Fall John, “The Northside,” was like that. He knew what he wanted, and my job was to help bring that to life. Some artists may sing, and that’s their strong suit. I produced a hip-hop song recently, and the artist sent me a vocal demo that had no background music at all.
Dustin Ransom and I co-produced that song, and it was a lot of fun to create the world around it from scratch. We created something new while keeping in line with what the artist wanted. It was fun to have a blank slate like that.
AB: My job is to help create the textures and instrumentation that will go along with a song in order to bring out the best version of it. You become a coach in a lot of ways.
The studio environment can be very intimidating, so here, at my studio, I try to create a very relaxed atmosphere. The end goal is to create great music, so any way I can help that along is a good thing.
Artist Images by Jon Karr
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