Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bigfoot Diaries Exclusive Conversation: Talking Music and Movies with Des Moines' Rich Cantrell

Almost every local scene has it: That one musician who's versatility stretches beyond the ability of playing multiple instruments.

This person is also adept at creating songs from a theoretical standpoint, whether it's from writing profound lyrics or catchy melodies. This person is multifarious in his ability to write music of virtually any genre, and is held in high regard within the city's musical community.

In Des Moines, one of these people is Rich Cantrell. As a veteran of the local music scene, he has done it all. In the late '80s he formed Redwing, a noteworthy band that was known for it's Led Zeppelin style arrangements and it's dynamic live performances. In this band, Rich enjoyed being at the pinnacle of the Des Moines rock and roll scene, sharing the stage with the likes of other local favorites including DrasburyStone Sour and later, Slipknot.

"We had been around for three or four years before Corey (Taylor) formed Stone Sour," Rich told me in a telephone conversation. "We were always playing with those guys at places like Hairy Mary's. After Stone Sour broke up, it seemed that we were always playing with Slipknot..."

Rich performing with Cirrus Minor
(This photo and all others by Sherri Irons)

The rock and roll scene in Des Moines during the early '90s was a hodge podge of talented musicians. Redwing was a front runner at the time, captivating audiences with unshackled tenacity. It was they whom many thought might go on to gain national aclaim, but just about the time they started to slow down, Slipknot started to gain momentum in the national spotlight. Slipknot went on to play Ozzfest in '99 and the rest is history.

Redwing does occasionally perform and play on a rare occurence, and when they do, it is always a giant event that is met with hyper enthusiasm. They played a concert to commemorate their 20th anniversary on November 29th, 2008 at the House of Bricks, and it was completely sold out.

These days Rich is probably best known for playing keyboards with Cirrus Minor, a band that defies genre and is considered THE party band in the Des Moines area. They'll hit an audience with a variety of different styles, be it psychedelia, heavy metal, reggae or jam band, and they'll often mix it up in the same set just to keep the party fresh.

He's also in the hard rocking band Alchemist, a Pink Floyd tribute band called From the Darkside of the Wall, a Doors tribute band called No One Here Gets Out Alive, a punk outfit called Dumfux, another project called The Family which is a conglomerate of musicians from several different local bands, an acoustic duo with Mike Ruby called Ruby/Cantrell, and two other bands, Drop Dead Last and  Crown King Revival.

And as if that wasn't enough to keep him completely busy, he still manages to find the time to create musical scores for local film maker, Thor Moreno. Moreno has made several films in California and Des Moines, and each one he makes seems to get granted a bigger budget than the one before it, and the filming seem to get more technical with each venture. Of course with higher technology there comes higher expectations, and the need for an elaborate soundtrack intensifies. To Thor Moreno, hiring Rich Cantrell for this job was a no-brainer.

"I have known Rich since I was about 18 and have always regarded him as one of the most creative and talented musicians around." Thor told me, when contacted by email.

"I was honored when he accepted my invitation." He continued. "I have always felt that Rich goes out of his way to help me realize my vision. He is a true professional."

The latest film Rich will be working on is called Murder Incorporated. It comes on the heels of another project that Rich worked on, a film called IOWA, which will debut on December 15th at the Varsity Theater. (Tickets are on sale now... Get them while they are still available.)

Because writing a musical score for a movie seems like such a mind consuming venture, I thought it would be fun to pick Rich's brain about it, and see where his inspiration comes from. I learned a lot from talking with him, and I was impressed how congenial he was in accepting my questions, and how gracious he was in giving his answers. I have always found him to be nothing but extremely friendly when I've seen him out, so it shouldn't come as any surprise that he was so patient with me and willing to engage me in conversation. I have always respected Rich as a person and a musician and his time with me is very appreciated.

Rich creating music in his studio.
(Click to enlarge)

So How did it come to be that you are writing the score for Murder Incorporated?

I've always been interested in writing movie scores....a lot of what I write in the past has been geared more towards mood music....kind of a journey of emotions and imagination....and when I watch a movie, I do make a point to pay attention to the score...or the music behind the my long time friend...Thor Moreno...who had been living out in Cali...and doing short films and such...moved back to town and had a vision and a goal to produce a full feature film...and set out to do it....he had contacted me about acting in a scene for the movie "I Think I just Saw the Devil" I brought up wanting to write some music for the movie...and he agreed....that's pretty much how it all came he gave me a few scenes...and I got to work on it....and the response was great...ya know?,....people were talking about the music of the film, and I think it was then that we decided to partner up on any future endeavors in film making....after the success of "Devil"...Thor immediately started working his Movie "IOWA"...which I'm currently working on....and which will be released mid December of this year....and a couple months ago he got a call to direct the upcoming movie "Murder Incorporated"....which has a budget of 300k behind he called me and told me the news, and signed the contract....and when we get through the release of "IOWA"....we will get to work on "Murder Incorporated".

How is writing music for a movie different than say... writing a song, or an instrumental piece?

I try to watch....and capture the emotion of the scene...or interpret it in music, vs. writing what's in your head.

So, do you provide all the music yourself, or are you working with others?

I always write and perform the music... So, I will go in and record the piece as I want it ..and then, If I have something written that requires a more skilled player on an instrument, like a fiddle for example, then I bring someone in to record the track for me....I also scout for local bands original material to possibly use in the film, if its fitting to the scene.

Who are some of the local bands that you have solicited?

In the latest film "IOWA"...I have chosen to use a couple tracks from the band ISAAC the first film "I Think I Just Saw the Devil"...we used a couple tracks from CIRRUS MINOR.....and I will start scouting around some more here soon for the upcoming Project/Movie "MURDER INCORPORATED"

How do you handle "writer's block" or those moments when there is nothing clicking upstairs that seems relevant to the piece you are trying to create?

Man....I have been very fortunate to have my wife and kids beside me in all that I do....and they help me to keep the inspiration box full.....and doing sooo many different projects musically, keeps me well its pretty rare that I have a writers block moment.

Rich being interviewd by Sonya D. Doswell  at the
Iowa Motion Picture Association Awards ceremony.
He was nominated for best original score for his work
in "I Think I Just Saw the Devil."
Cool... Are there any challenges involved, or does it seem to come very easy to you?

Really, the only challenge is trying to convey the emotion of the scene into I'll sit and watch the scene and observe how it makes me feel, and go from there...but it generally comes quickly....and finding time in between everything else I have going on with show dates, and rehearsing, and family stuff.

Ok you mentioned that the latest film you will be working on (Murder Incorporated) has a budget of 300 thousand dollars. What does that mean for you?

Maybe the opportunity to hire a small ensemble/orchestra to perform/record the material I have written, to give the music a more acoustic and overall better quality sound..some of the violin and brass patches that I use, can't quite capture the way a real orchestra moves with dynamics and such...I mean, I've done pretty good so far, but working with a real ensemble would just be a more professional approach..which would be an incredible experience for me also, to direct an orchestra performing my music...but we shall see.

Is there any chance that the score of each of these films, or any one of them will be released on CD?

I'm thinking about compiling a disc of the first two movies and releasing it....but still undecided.

What factors are involved with that decision?

Some of the score that I have written fits certain moments of each I would have to go in and re-track or re-work the pieces to a more structured listening experience.

In an ideal situation, where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In ten years I see myself on an oxygen tank and a wheelchair....haha....but seriously....I just hope to be able to sustain myself and my family by doing what I love to do...writing, creating, performing, touring, and recording music man....whether it be with Cirrus Minor..or a band situation....or movie scores....or whatever.


Pertinent Links:

Cirrus Minor on Facebook

Murder Incorporated on Facebook

IOWA (The Movie) on Facebook

I Think I Just Saw the Devil on IMDb


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