When I heard they were making a LEGO movie I was like – well there you go. Hollywood has completely run out of ideas.
Apparently there are no more movies to make so now they will just cycle through toys. Eventually they will run out of toys and then they will start making movies about cleaning products – LEMON PLEDGE – THE MOVIE, THE WINDEX TRILOGY, A TOWN CALLED SWIFFER etc.
But then I saw the trailer for THE LEGO MOVIE and it really surprised me. I can say with all honesty that I want to see it so badly I’m not sure I can wait until it opens on February 7th. It looks… well… awesome.
“Everything Is Awesome” is the ridiculously upbeat and ultra high energy single off the movie’s soundtrack and if you are not already singing it over and over in your head then you will be by the time THE LEGO MOVIE hits screens and it’s marketing campaign is in full swing.
I was not at all shocked to learn that veteran ROBOT CHICKEN and MAD TV Composer Shawn Patterson wrote it. Shawn and I are all “social and what not” on the internets so I reached out to him and asked a bunch of dopey questions.
KABLAMM! So how do you like being introduced as a veteran composer? Weird, huh?
SP – Right now in my mind, I’m crawling towards you with my walker and tennis ball cane….
No, kidding. In some ways, I suppose I like it. With every project, I learn something new that I did not know before and a lot of this comes from collaborating with different directors and projects.
But, honestly, I would say, I wear the title as a badge of honor. There’s a level of assurance a producer or director gets when hiring a “veteran” composer. Unless a veteran becomes rigid and resistant to new musical ideas or direction, being called this means you’ve been around the block. When you’ve been around the block, it should mean you have a pretty decent grasp of your craft. For example, when a director mentions a specific genre or period of music, you not only can fully grasp what they are talking about, but you can capture the magic of the style, write it, embellish on it, and deliver the goods. I work with directors old and new with varying degrees of experience and I always hear enormous ranges in styles of music that they might like to have as part of their score or song. As a veteran composer, I almost always grasp what they are going for. And if it’s a style I have never written before, with a tiny amount of listening, I can grasp the essence of it and deliver. That’s what being a veteran means when someone hires me. They can kick back with a cocktail, work on their spray tan, and I will make them come off looking like a million bucks. I enjoy that part of my job.
How did you end up getting hooked up with THE LEGO MOVIE?
SP – Back around the time CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS was released, I was in touch with director Phil Lord. We chatted a bit and I was going to send him some samples of my work. I was a huge fan of the book and used to read it to my kids. When I saw the film, I knew I wanted to work with Phil & Chris Miller. Interestingly, though, it was my work with director Chris McKay from Season 5 of ROBOT CHICKEN that brought me in. McKay and I work great together and he reached out and asked me if I would be interested in writing something specific for the film. Early on I sat with McKay and we watched the rough animatic and I knew I could give him what he needed.
When did you actually write the song?
SP- A while ago now, back in 2012 I believe; it was initially written to be played under a big montage moment in the movie.
Was it specific for the movie based on the needs of the story or were you just feeling particularly optimistic one day?
SP – Ha. No, it was written specifically for THE LEGO MOVIE. The lead character, Emmett (played by Chris Pratt) was this super optimistic, bubbly character that we wanted to define his life’s joy of fitting in and being central to a bigger vision. So, that was the initial inspiration.
Composing is some pretty solitary work – maybe the lyrics “Everything is Awesome – Everything is cool when you’re part of a team” is really like an ironic commentary on those lonely work conditions… is “Everything Is Awesome” Shawn Patterson’s “cry for help”?
SP- No, if I wanted to be part of a team I would have remained miserable playing in bands as I used to on the East Coast before I got serious about composition. A great thing about my work is the collaboration with people that have a vision for the music, then, I am largely left alone to work in the studio. Then, I reconnect with the director/producers and show them what I have composed. There have only been a few jobs in my career where there was extreme isolation for long periods.
The LEGO MOVIE soundtrack lists four different versions of “Everything Is Awesome” – did you produce them all?
SP – Sadly, no. I only produced the “Unplugged” version of “Everything Is Awesome.” I was having discussions early on to produce a version for the film with Katy Perry but that didn’t pan out. But, down the road I expect to produce more of the songs I write. That’s an incredibly fun part of the song process for me and I feel like, if people like the song, they are gonna love how I produce it.
Did Lonely Island provide their own rap lyrics for the version they recorded with Tegan and Sara?
SP – I believe so. My song was completely written and they later came in and contributed some additional lyrics and performed the rap section; the bulk of the song is still there by me, they really just expanded it. I really would like to release my original demo on iTunes. I’d love to have people hear it.
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/128399415″ params=”color=ff5500″ width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
What’s going on with Robot Chicken? Have you started recording season 7 yet?
SP – Oh yeah, I am in full swing on season 7. It will take me into summer and then I hope to have an actual vacation that includes warm sandy beaches and sleep. We just wrapped score and songs for the RC DC Comics Special 2, which came out pretty awesome. It’s really funny. Some of Seth’s (Green) performances as Batman had me in tears on one of my songs. That’s a great sign; after you’ve watched something 700 times and you’re still cackling over it.
I made a point of checking out season 6 again to specifically pay attention to the music – it’s ridiculous the sheer volume of completely different music cues in every episode – I was going to count them but that’s really too much work for me. What’s the average per episode?
SP – Great question. I have no idea. And yeah, it’s sometimes a bit crazy, looking back and the range of styles within one single RC show. Some episodes are heavier in score and song than others, but I never really have the time to think about it when I’m in the episodic crunch.
The parodic (is that a word?) nature of ROBOT CHICKEN means you are often writing music that sounds SIMILAR to existing music but different enough to NOT be that music. That’s gotta be a difficult thing to do on a regular basis.
SP – It can sometimes be difficult and a lot of this is dependent upon how close the guys want me to get to the original reference and if the punch line of the joke is riding on the song/score parody itself. I often feel that if the style, tone, appropriate mix, and time period of the song is in the zone and the audience can get the joke from it, then we’ve done our job. The guys are pretty in tune, obviously, to the power of this. When I am writing score, its way less restrictive and it’s very often pretty wide open.
Each episode is made up of short scenes that don’t usually have any connection to each other – do you score an entire episode together or scene-by-scene?
SP – I often just write chronologically within an episode. But, it can vary. Sometimes I’m inspired by a particular sketch within an episode, it may call for some musical style that I am fond of or don’t get to write much of, so I might just be into starting there first. If there is a daunting amount of dramatic action in an episode, I may also write that first, since producing that takes a huge amount of time. Then, I can save the little one off or odd style cues for last.
How’s your crazy west coast rock star life going?
SP – Not as crazy you’d think. I am, in fact, a slave to the music.
I’ve made my love for TITAN MAXIMUM extremely clear in the past to you and everyone else who worked on it. I have recently decided that it should have, no MUST have a second season . . . how do we make that happen Shawn? What can you and I do to set this into motion ?