Publication: Mars Investigations
Every week, Josh Kramon uses every tool at his disposal to manipulate your emotions. He doesn’t do it because he likes it; he does it because it’s his job. (Okay, he probably likes it, too.) As the composer for Veronica Mars, he’s responsible for underlining the tone of the show with his many, many music cues, whether they go *rumblerumblewibbleboom* or *pingwahdahdoodoo* or *duhnuhduhbumchduhnuhnuhnuh*. He was kind enough to speak to MI.net about the process of creating a mood so that you’d never notice it, his favorite way of ending an episode and why, if you’re not watching children’s television, you just might be missing out. Then he and spacecitymarc geeked out about the Beatles and the Kinks, and it all just fell apart.
MI.net: How did you end up working on Veronica Mars?
Josh: I did my own record [Forward] a couple years ago, and Rob heard the record through a mutual friend. He liked what I was doing. He thought the sound could work for the show. We created an original sound for the show, but he really dug the CD.
MI.net: How long after the album came out did Rob approach you?
Josh: It came out in November ’03, and the pilot was that spring, so it wasn’t that long after. The spring of ’04. Right? Yeah, we’re ’05 and ’06 now, so it was ’04 and ’05. So yeah, it was spring of ’04. So five months after.
MI.net: Are you primarily a performer? You’ve done a lot of TV and commercials.
Josh: Yeah, right now, I make my living off doing TV shows. That’s what I’ve been doing for about nine years. I used to be in a band called the Imposters in the mid-’90s. We were signed to Interscope. I started doing this in ’96. I still like to do my own stuff, really just to get it out of my system. I don’t make a living doing it.
MI.net: Have you considered suing Elvis Costello for stealing your band name?
Josh: Have I what? [laughs] Yeah. Well, you know, what’s funny is that we did copyright the name, so it’s like, are we really gonna go after Elvis Costello for a band that’s broken up whose record on Interscope didn’t even come out?
MI.net: The album didn’t come out at all?
Josh: No. It came out on the net and bootlegs and stuff like that, but no, not officially. But that’s a whole other story. [laughs] That’s my past life.
MI.net: How has the experience of working on Veronica Mars fit in your expectations?
Josh: It’s been great. It’s really been, by far, one of the best collaborations I’ve had working with a producer. Because Rob is really strictly about art and being creative. When we did the pilot, Rob was pretty specific about wanting a really atmospheric, kind of modern noir type of vibe. And we really nailed the pilot, so it’s been pretty smooth since then, as far as sound for the show, as far as textures and stuff. He’s also given me a lot of creative freedom as well, which has been great. There’s a lot of trust. You don’t get that a lot working on TV shows. There’s a lot of trust on this show. The show’s got a really specific look to it, the colors and everything, and the music really needed to reflect that and help exacerbate that kind of atmosphere. And that all came together in the pilot. Where a lot of shows, it can take five, six, even seven shows to really, truly find the sound, we found the sound right away, and it’s been an absolute pleasure to work on since then.
MI.net: What has changed most since the pilot for you?
Josh: As far as what the music’s trying to do, it hasn’t really changed much. In fact, the finale of season one was a bit of a diversion, because it was more action-driven and a little more macabre, with Logan’s dad, that type of stuff, so the music was a little more abrasive and it was a slightly bigger sound for the last show. But for the most part, the textural and the atmospheric part of the music has stayed the same. What I try to do different is I try to keep it fresh, I try to bring in different sounds here and there, even though I’m doing the same thing with them. Not to where the sound of the show is changing, because Rob really loves the sound of the show, but I try to maybe every show use one or two different instruments or one or two different textures mixed in with what I’ve already been doing, just to keep it fresh. Keeping it fresh, but without changing the sound of the show.
MI.net: What instruments do you use for the show?
Josh: There’s a lot of Rhodes piano, Wurlitzer piano, vibraphone… I use some traditional sounds, but I process them a lot. Like I’ll use an acoustic piano, but I’ll use a lot of compression and delay and filters on it, so it doesn’t necessarily sound like a traditional piano. And there’s electric guitars. I process them a lot, filter them a lot. I use live bass. Actually, I don’t program any percussion. I like to use all live percussion. Some drum programs, programmed drum machines.
MI.net: Do you play everything yourself?
Josh: Yeah, I do everything myself on the score. I’ve never hired a musician for this one. There’s not a lot of orchestral music in this, and I play all those instruments. I play guitar, piano, bass and drums, so I haven’t needed it.
MI.net: Which would you say is your main instrument?
Josh: Well, I started on guitar, so that’ll always be my main instrument. But for writing for TV, you have to be somewhat proficient on piano, because beyond just playing piano, if you program drums or you’re programming strings, you’ve gotta do it all on a keyboard. So you have to know the piano really well. So although guitar is my first instrument, piano is by far the most important instrument for working on TV shows, especially when you’re doing everything yourself.
MI.net: How do you go about writing a score? At what point do you enter the process?
Josh: What usually happens is they already have what’s called a cut of the show that the network’s seen it, the studio’s seen it. Then I come in at the end of that process when there’s about a week before they’re actually gonna mix all of the sound for the show. And we do what’s called a spotting session, and that’s where we all sit down with Rob and all the producers and look at the show and decide where there’s gonna be music and what going to work and what’s not. We also talk about the songs, too. I don’t make any decisions as far as that’s concerned, but they do that in the same meeting, where we talk about the score and the songs all at once.
MI.net: Has there ever been a time where you’ve wanted to underscore a scene and somebody else was pulling for a song?
Josh: There’s sometimes – and it’s actually cool, because the show we just did I actually got to do this – the end of the show, where there’s sometimes a dramatic montage with a lot of emotion in it. I love doing stuff like that. I love doing things that are wrought with emotion, because musically, it’s a great thing to be able to do. And a lot of times, the ends of the shows, that’s where they put a song in. So if once in a while I get to do those last scenes, I’m happy. And actually, I have been able to do that the last show I actually did. I don’t need to do every one, but it’s nice if maybe I could do every four or five. But besides that, there’s a lot of score on the show. Sometimes there’s maybe 30 what’s called starts. Starts is like a fancy way of saying cue, a piece of music. But there’s sometimes between 30 and 35 starts, albeit some of them very short. And then there’s maybe three or four songs, so I get the opportunity to play my music for the show.
MI.net: How long on average does it take you to score an episode?
Josh: It’s more how long I actually have. [laughs] We usually spot on a Wednesday, and then they mix the show the following Wednesday, so usually by that Tuesday I have to have the music to someone who’s a music editor. He’s someone who takes the score and the songs, puts them all together in a ProTools session and takes them to the mixing stage, where they mix everything. So essentially after that Wednesday, I have three full days, and then if you include the weekend, that gives me five full days to do the score. So it’s pretty tight.
MI.net: Have you ever not made it?
Josh: No. I have a little bit of OCD, which, this is actually one business where it’s actually pretty good to have. That’s why I called you right at 2:00. I always make sure all that gets done right away. You kind of have to, because some of the deadlines… I mean, this show’s somewhat average, but I’ve had much more intense deadlines even than this show. You would think they would be impossible, but somehow you just get it done. There isn’t really necessarily a specific technique or process to getting it done. Because when you go in to start working, you’re not really an organism. You’re not really thinking. You’re just going in and doing it, so once you finish it, it’s really hard to go back and say, “How did I do that?” It just gets done. When I’m working on Veronica Mars, I don’t even have a specific way of approaching a scene. I really just feel it and write it, and that’s how usually you get the best results. The main thing that’s actually thought out and put together ahead of time is the sounds. I have all my sounds up that I know I’m going to use, so I don’t have to think about finding sounds, so I can just write. The writing isn’t really done with any specific technique or thought process. The more you can just vibe off of it and go with your first reflex on a scene, I think the better music you’re gonna get, the truer it’s gonna be to the scene.
MI.net: You’ve worked on a number of shows: Buffy, Life As We Know It, Malcolm In The Middle, Kevin Hill and Making The Band. How different is your approach to each one, and how do they compare with Veronica Mars?
Josh: God, that’s a hard question. My approach is almost always kind of like what I just described. You have to be able to just really be able to respond to the picture and the textures and be able to really get in there with the characters and forget everything else that’s going on and respond musically to that. And it’s really important on each show to establish a sound palette at the beginning of a show. Almost every show has a specific set of instruments that are used on the show. Otherwise, it’s gonna sound like you’re trying to write a bunch of different songs in a show. But the thing that changes is, obviously, every set of producers work very differently. That’s where you have to get a feel for how specific producers are about what they want on each show and where they want music. And then other shows, they’re much more into letting you just go and then when you turn the music in, they see it and then sometimes they send back some notes, establishing a score that way. But as far as the way all these shows are run, every show is completely different, so to break that down, I’d have to go into detail of each show. No show has really been the same, because at least for me, until the last couple years I’ve worked with a lot of different sets of people, and everyone works so differently. So it’s hard to say specifically how that changes. One of the reasons that I do the record stuff is because you’re really providing a service. You’re not there to completely express yourself creatively, you’re there to serve the show and also serve what the producers have in mind. So that changes with every project.
MI.net: You wrote the opening theme for Kevin Hill. Were you ever approached about writing a theme for Veronica Mars?
Josh: No, they were pretty much set on finding a song. I think Rob had two songs in mind, specifically. We briefly thought about doing a noir version of an ’80s song that maybe I was gonna do an arrangement to. But that Dandy Warhols song sort of just fell right in from the beginning. Which is happening more and more. I mean, I did the theme for Making The Band when it was on ABC, and early on, when I started do it, I did half-hours. I did a show called Nick Freno for the WB and another UPN show called Guys Like Us. Back then, I did the things for those shows because they were asking composers to just come up with instrumental themes. But since, I don’t know, maybe 2000, 2001, there’s been much more of an emphasis on using already existing songs, which in some ways, it’s a drag for composers. But in other ways, they’re using it to be able to promote the show, so a lot of times, it’s good for the show, because they can do a video and all that. So it doesn’t happen that much any more, where a composer gets the chance to write an instrumental piece for a show as much as they used to.
MI.net: How often do you reuse music, like for specific themes?
Josh: Maybe seven or eight episodes into a season, you naturally end up reusing material. Not really specific cues, but you end up reusing material from cues, just because you’ve got a piece of music for that type of scene or you’ve got a piece of music for this type of scene. So you naturally end up doing that.
MI.net: Do you ever get notes from the writers saying that it might be good to reuse a cue that you’ve already used?
Josh: Well, they temp in music before we spot it, so a lot of times there’s a piece of music in there. It may be an older cue that’s working really well, and we’ll talk about doing something really similar to that. So yeah, you reuse material a lot. There’s 22 episodes. That’s 22 hours or just under, maybe 20 hours of stuff. Even if you don’t do it consciously, you’re naturally gonna be reusing material.
MI.net: Are you doing anything differently for season 2 than you were doing in season 1?
Josh: Well, like I said, during the hiatus I make sure I have new sounds. I always buy new instruments and new synths and stuff, and I always make sure that there’s a new palette of sounds that go beyond the first season. I use the staple instruments – the vibes and the Rhodes and the guitar and stuff are always there – but as far as other synths and other textures and stuff like that, there’s a lot of new stuff. And I’m using some natural strings, which I’d really stayed away from last season, because I think some of the drama of the show warranted real strings. We were really trying to be as nontraditional as possible from the get-go last season with sounds and stuff and not do what people would consider traditional TV music. So there’s a lot of things I stayed away from in the first season and in finding the sound of the show. I think in the second season I was able to bring some of that stuff in if it helped the show, but mixing it with a lot of the more processed instruments that we were already using. It’s kind of nice to mix the two, because the show has some dramatic elements that benefit from using real strings or real piano, even. That’s the other thing, using real piano, which I didn’t do at all in the first season.
MI.net: You’ve had one song of yours, “Supernatural Supergirl,” used in an episode. Did you push for that, or did Rob surprise you?
Josh: That was something where I think the editors had my CD and they just put it in and it worked really well. That’s how a lot of music gets put in there: the editors put it in and if it works, the picture doesn’t lie, you know? If something’s working, you don’t care where it comes from. There’s a song on my record called “Sister.” They used a little bit of that one, too. That was last season. I don’t remember which show that was. I think it was in show 2. But they’re not using them now. Now the record’s three years old. It’s old.
MI.net: There was one music cue in particular, in “Clash Of The Tritons,” when Veronica was planting a tracking device on Duncan’s car. I kept on getting emails from people saying that it was “Supernatural Supergirl” being used again. I compared the two, and it was just different enough, but do you ever repurpose your own material for use in the show? It sounded like maybe you used the same drumbeat.
Josh: No, if I did it, I can’t… So much music has been written, so I don’t remember. I can find out what that specific scene was. But I wouldn’t have done it consciously. If that was me in that scene, it’s coming from the same person, so I could have used a similar loop or some similar sounds, just because it’s me, you know? But I don’t think it was anything where they had that temped in and they said cognitively to do something like it.
MI.net: So it wasn’t a case of you saying, “Oh, it would be nice to use this song again, but the music budget doesn’t cover it.”
Josh: No, not that I remember. Like you saw in my email, I can be pretty forgetful.
MI.net: And similarly, a lot of people think that certain of your music cues are actually songs by Air or Sigur Rós when it’s actually your score.
Josh: Yeah, that’s interesting, because when we talked about the pilot, he was really into Air and Zero 7. I think there may even have been some of that stuff temped into the pilot. And I was really into a lot of that stuff at the time, too. So it kind of naturally just fell that way. The instruments that I mentioned that I use, those guys use a lot. And those are textures that just really work for the show. They work for the feel of the show, for the look, for the color of the show. It kind of fell right in. So yeah, that’s actually a very good observation.
MI.net: But it’s never a case where you’re like, “I want to go for a ‘Svefn-G-Englar’ feel right here.”
Josh: For a what feel?
MI.net: That was one of the Sigur Rós songs that a lot of people thought was in there.
Josh: No, them I’ve heard of, but I don’t know their stuff, really. I think I’ve heard them on NPR. Ironically, I don’t think they were ever specifically brought up or temped in at all. So it’s just one of those coincidences, I guess. But definitely Air and Zero 7.
MI.net: What other television show scores do you like?
Josh: Oh… [sighs]
MI.net: Do you pay much attention to other scores?
Josh: No, I know it sounds weird, I don’t watch a lot of television, really. I guess a lot of it is working in it and stuff. When I’m away from it, I like to be away from it. My kids watch these shows… They have some really creative stuff going on, actually, from these kids shows. Like there’s a show called Higglytown Heroes. I think They Might Be Giants do the theme song for it. But the score on these shows is like, every second of the show is scored, and every move that’s made in the show is scored. It’s an old technique called Mickey Mousing. They used to do in the cartoons, where you hit everything. Someone jumps off something, you hit it. Someone loses a hand, that’s hit. So you can see that a lot of work goes into those shows. Yeah, Higglytown Heroes, a show called JoJo’s Circus, there’s some really cool stuff. I like what they do on Desperate Housewives, the pizzicato string stuff. I think that’s pretty cool. Some of the stuff from there is nice. It’s not something you would immediately think of. I can’t think of much else.
MI.net: Do you listen to any movie soundtracks in particular? Are there any composers you like?
Josh: That’s kind of how I got into this. I was really into a lot of film scores, like a lot of the older stuff. Bernard Herrmann and Alex North, Lalo Schifrin.
MI.net: Do you have a favorite movie score?
Josh: For film scores, I don’t necessarily have favorite composers. I guess you could say Bernard Herrmann, but I have favorite scores. I love the Planet Of The Apes score by Jerry Goldsmith. It’s amazing, he used pots and pans as percussion instruments and used this really wild harmonic stuff, a lot of twelve-tone stuff. So yeah, I love Jerry Goldsmith. I don’t know who did it, but I love the score more recently of that movie Crash. It had a great score. I think it was Mark Isham who did that. I love Howard Shore. I love some of the stuff he does. There was a movie called The Game a few years back. That was a beautiful score, too.
MI.net: As someone who does this, do you cue in on the score when you watch a movie? Do you have a hard time letting it do what it’s supposed to do?
Josh: Sometimes I do. For the most part, I let myself just get into the movie. They say that if the score is good, then you’re not noticing it, or something like that. But I probably notice a little more than other people would. I don’t just go and listen to the score. But if the score’s really good and stands out, then I definitely take notice.
MI.net: How did you get involved in music in television? You said that you’d been a fan of a lot of movie scores. Is that something that you specifically aimed for?
Josh: While I was in the band the Imposters, I spent a little time studying traditional composition at USC for a year before we got signed. So while I was playing guitar and writing songs in the band, it gave me the tools to check that stuff out and study scores. Since I was kid, as much as I was into music, I was also really into film, so it was a natural thing for me to check out. You go through obsessive periods. It’s like you go through periods of where you’re really into a certain band. At least, for me, who this whole art and all this music and everything is my whole life, you go through these obsessive periods with either bands or types of music, and I kind of went through an obsessive period with film scores, where I was just listening to film scores. It was like a three-year period in the early, mid-’90s. So instead of listening to whatever band I was listening to, I was just checking out all these film composers. It was wonderful. I would rent movies and look at the score and study it and I would get the actual sheet music to the score, and I would study what was going on. I studied a lot on my own. When my band broke up in ’96, I had had it with the actual record business side of it, and by total fluke, I started working for a composer who did Buffy The Vampire Slayer and some other shows. His name’s Chris Beck, Christophe Beck. A really great composer, actually.
MI.net: Yeah, everybody at Mars Investigations is a Buffy fan, and so we’re very familiar with his work.
Josh: Yeah, and he does some great film work now, too. But I started working for him really not knowing the technical side of this at all. And I started working for him by fluke. A friend of mine was an agent, actually, but he was also a musician, and he decided he didn’t want to be an agent anymore. He wanted to go to the music side of it, so there was this opportunity to work for Chris. And we just shared the job. But it was a great learning experience. And a friend of mine was a music supervisor on a WB half-hour sitcom. It was a totally legit network primetime show, but they had no money for a composer. So he was like, “You wanna do this show? They don’t have any money, they can’t get any established composer.” Of course I did. [laughs] I would have paid them to just get the credit. So I put a tape together, an actual cassette of just some random stuff and I got the gig. And it ran for two years.
MI.net: What show was this?
Josh: It was called Nick Freno: Licensed Teacher. He was a wacky high school teacher. It was cute. But it got me in the door, is what it did. So right away, between working for Chris and then getting into that, I just kind of built it from there. And this business is, just so you know, the more people you know, the better. Once you get the job, you’ve gotta come through. You gotta do a great job and all that, but getting the job is a lot about knowing people. If you fuck things up, then you won’t work again, but…
MI.net: Have you become somebody’s mentor in the way that Chris Beck was for you?
Josh: Somebody’s mentor? I mean, I’ve spoken on panels, and I try to help people out. I have an assistant who, obviously, I try to teach him as much as possible. People call me, whether it’s for internships or wanting to talk about the business, and I always set up coffee with them and go talk to them and go give them advice. I’m always very, very open and accessible with that. I do stuff like that all the time. People just call, like, “Do you mind if my cousin calls you? He’s investigating the business,” or this and that. I always end up getting some coffee or lunch or whatever, giving advice because I think that’s important.
MI.net: What does your assistant do?
Josh: After we spot a show, he digitizes all the shows. He sets up templates for me and palettes for instruments. He does some mixing, sometimes he mixes some of the cues and he gets them all ready to send to the music editors. Technical stuff.
MI.net: You’ve talked about Rob, but how much contact do you have with the rest of the writers or the crew or the cast?
Josh: Well, the cast I don’t have contact with, because they’re in San Diego and I’m in Los Angeles. Except for the premiere parties or whatever. But it’s really just whoever’s at the spotting sessions, which will be Rob, sometimes Jennifer Gwartz, another producer, will be there, Hans VanDoornewaard. I can’t even say I know how to spell his name, but he’s the associate producer.
MI.net: It’s a very Dutch name.
Josh: Yeah. [laughs] He’s the post producer. I mean, it’s pretty much just the weekly spotting. And this is a show where Rob is… You had asked about how it’s different from other shows. With this show, Rob has a pretty clear vision of what he wants, and I think from start to finish right down to the music, even with a spot, it’s pretty much me and Rob talking about what’s going to go down with the music. He has a pretty clear idea. There’s been other shows where even the creator of the show has no idea about music, so there will be other producers that they actually put on the show who are little more music-savvy, and there’ll be maybe two of them, and those’ll be the people that we talk about music and that have the ideas. Sometimes the writers will sit in on a spot. Like one week they’ll be there, and one week they won’t. But it’s pretty much Rob on this show. On other shows, that’s something different, but it’s Rob’s baby.
MI.net: Were you disappointed at all in not getting on the soundtrack, either your score or “Supernatural Supergirl” or “Sister”?
Josh: No, not really. Probably more the score than “Supernatural Supergirl,” ’cause I think the sound of the soundtrack was a little more kind of garage bandy than my stuff. I think my stuff would’ve been a fish out of water on it. But the score, yeah, it would’ve cool to have. I guess they decided not to put any score on it, but I would’ve preferred to have some score on it than any of my songs.
MI.net: What’s your favorite episode?
Josh: What is my favorite… That’s a really, really hard question. That’s a question that I’ll think of the right answer later, after you’ve already printed the interview. I think from last season, it’d be the last two episodes, probably the second-to-last episode. I don’t remember the name of it.
MI.net: Is that “A Trip To The Dentist”?
Josh: Yeah, I mean, the final episode was great, but I thought the one before it was fabulous. I mean, music-wise, the most fun last season was the last episode, because of all that fiery, all that stuff. But there was one this season that I loved. I have to think if it’s aired yet, because if it hasn’t aired yet, I can’t really talk about it. The one where Wallace at the end was leaving with his dad. That was a great one. That was show 6 or show 7. I don’t think of titles, I think of show numbers.
MI.net: Have you pushed at all or has Rob pushed at all for getting a cameo or just putting you in as an extra in a scene?
Josh: No, no. [laughs]
MI.net: You have no aspirations to be in front of the camera?
Josh: No, not at all. I like working behind the scenes now. Actually, I did that “Love Hurts” track that what’s-his-name from Dandy Warhols sang. That was my performance of it.
MI.net: I noticed that you did the Nazareth version instead of the Everly Brothers.
Josh: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, the Everly Brothers wrote… No, they didn’t write it, but they did a version of it. It was a woman, a woman wrote that. It was a songwriter from the ’50s wrote that.
MI.net: Yeah, that was Felice and Boudleaux Bryant for the Everly Brothers.
Josh: Yeah, very good. Are you one of those like encyclopedia music guys?
MI.net: Kind of. In another life, I was a grad student in sociology, and in our media class that I was the teaching assistant for, the professor actually introduced me in front of the class as, “He knows more about rock music than anybody I’ve ever met before in my life.”
MI.net: Which is probably neither here nor there.
Josh: Right. No, that’s great. I mean, I think I’m probably not as close as you are, but I think I’m pretty good. There’s a new Beatles book [The Beatles: The Biography by Bob Spitz], did you get that?
MI.net: Oh, is there?
Josh: Yeah, yeah. Are you a Beatles nut at all?
MI.net: I am, actually. They’re the reason why getting hit in the head with a baseball changed my life.
MI.net: Because my father rented Help! for me. He rented about four films for me the next day so that I had something to watch when I was at home from school. And Help! was one. My family had Sgt. Pepper, and I had listened to that a lot, but it was like all the pieces were there and that just sort of snapped them into place. And from that point on, I became a Beatles fanatic.
Josh: Yeah, good for you.
Josh: Yeah, yeah. Like I said, like with the film music stuff, I think I went through two or three Beatle phases where I couldn’t listen to anything but the Beatles. There was a great book about every session of every day of every Beatles record.
MI.net: Right. Is that the Mark Lewisohn book?
Josh: I think. It was sublime. I think I read it in like ’94, ’95, and it just literally went through every day and who performed on what, what day everyone was recording. I probably forgot most of it by now, but I had it pretty much down.
MI.net: So you could tell people “Happy anniversary of the day that ‘Taxman’ was tracked?”
Josh: Yeah. [laughs] Pretty much. Yeah, I have a four-year-old daughter, I got her listening to all their stuff. “Yellow Submarine” is her favorite, obviously.
MI.net: Has she seen the movie?
Josh: Not yet. I don’t know if she’s ready for the Blue Meanies yet.
MI.net: Oh, that’s a good point.
Josh: Maybe when she’s six. Or when they drop the apples on the people. I don’t want to have to explain that.
MI.net: As someone without kids, I don’t know what the appropriate ages for those things are.
Josh: Yeah, I don’t know, there’s no guidelines. I’m thinking, like, maybe six.
MI.net: Well, you know your kids better than me, so if you say that they’re not ready, I’ll believe that they’re not ready.
Josh: [laughs] No, no, not yet. Unless she wants to see it. I keep telling her about it, and she’s like, “Oh, the Beatles!” Like, “Not yet. When you’re bigger.”
MI.net: What do you listen to? What did you listen to growing up when you started playing music?
Josh: I know everyone says this, but I really mean it when I say “everything.” I guess it’s more about what I listened to when. The early influences are probably Beatles and Led Zeppelin. The Beatles for the songs and the textures, and Led Zeppelin for the energy and the groove. Those are the first two bands that really had an influence. But then I went, like, Kinks, the Who, early Peter Gabriel, Simon & Garfunkel, Neil Young. Neil Young’s probably my favorite guitar player. Because I like sloppy guitar playing. And then I got really into orchestral music. Stravinsky and Debussy and Ravel, that kind of stuff. And I got heavily heavily heavily, and still am actually heavily, into jazz. Coltrane, Charles Mingus – huge Charles Mingus fan. Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins. I can make you a list of like a thousand.
MI.net: What’s your favorite Kinks album or period?
Josh: Favorite Kinks period… ah… Believe it or not, it’s kind of a strange… There’s a record called Preservation Act Two that came out, I guess it’s like early ’70s.
MI.net: During their rock opera phase?
Josh: Yeah, there was Village Green, that was their first rock opera, I think.
MI.net: Kind of, yeah.
Josh: Which I love that. In general, there’s something about music between ’69 and ’74. I just find myself gravitating towards it for whatever reason. And like Curtis Mayfield stuff and Sly and the Family Stone. But yeah, Preservation Act Two has always been just a really special record for me. Even like some of the… “Schooldays,” Something Else, all the stuff. Even the late ’70s. I love Sleepwalker, I love that stuff. Misfits. I’m a Kinks fanatic. And to talk about more recent stuff, Wilco’s probably my favorite of recent bands. I listen to a lot, as you can tell, of older stuff. I just gravitate towards that, but I love Wilco.
MI.net: What phase of Wilco?
Josh: Actually, the more recent phase, not as much the earlier country-rock stuff. Everything like Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and then the one, what was the one right after it?
MI.net: A Ghost Is Born?
Josh: A Ghost Is Born. I love that, it’s one of my favorites.
MI.net: You know, it’s interesting. They actually lost me with A Ghost Is Born.
Josh: Yeah, I love that record.
MI.net: I almost felt like Jeff Tweedy started believing his own hype. I don’t know. I realize that I’m sort of in a minority because they became more popular once they did that.
Josh: Right. Well, they never really became… For me, just being as a composer, I just love the texture stuff on it. Which wasn’t necessarily all Jeff Tweedy’s doing, but that’s one of the reasons I love that record. And his lyrics I think are sublime. And Dylan, too. I was a huge Dylan fanatic. I forgot to mention him. I mean, Bringing It All Back Home, Blood On The Tracks, those are really some of my favorite records. There was that Flaming Lips record I loved, too. Oh, what was the name of that record? The something something… Do you know the Flaming Lips at all?
MI.net: Yeah, is it Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots?
Josh: No. I want to say like the Doors record The Soft Parade. It has a similar flow to it.
MI.net: The Soft Bulletin, is that it?
Josh: Soft Bulletin, yeah, I love that record.
MI.net: That’s the one with “Buggin'” and “Waiting For Superman,” is that right?
Josh: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, “A Spoonful Weighs A Ton” and like, all that… I love that one. “The Spark That Bled,” I love that, too.
MI.net: I actually danced onstage wearing a frog costume in one of their concerts.
Josh: Oh, really? [laughs]
MI.net: It’s what happens when you win a contest.
Josh: How long ago was that?
MI.net: This was in 2003.
Josh: Oh, okay.
MI.net: So it wasn’t too long ago. I got a couple of interesting pictures of me with them.
MI.net: But anyway, I suppose I should probably wrap it up with a few actual Veronica Mars-centered questions.
MI.net: Kristen Bell is 5′ 1″. How much taller are you than her?
Josh: Is that a mathematical question? I was told there would be no math. Well, I’m 5′ 11″, so I guess she’s 5′ 1″? So I guess that would make me, what, ten?
MI.net: Ten inches. Okay. We just always like to figure out how much everybody we interview towers over her.
Josh: Yeah. [laughs]
MI.net: Which Backup do you prefer: the original pilot Backup, the stuffed interim Backup, or the current Backup that we know?
Josh: I think the original.
MI.net: Any reasons why, or is it just because it’s classic Backup?
Josh: Yeah, classic Backup. I told you, I always go back to the old stuff.
MI.net: You had nothing to do with the menu music on the DVD, is that right?
Josh: No. It’s funny, someone emailed me about that, too. Just the instrumental stuff, you mean?
Josh: No, it’s funny, I was just gonna call tomorrow, because someone was emailing me. They bought my record stuff but they were asking about that, so I’m gonna email them back. Because that’s done through Warner Home Video, and we’re not really a part of that. I don’t even think Rob was really a part of that. But there’s one person I’m actually going to call to find out. So if I do find out, I’ll email you that, too. That’s funny. I guess people are digging it, I guess.
MI.net: It’s like every scrap of music that’s on the show, people want to know what it is.
Josh: Yeah. Yeah, I know it’s the business side of it, but again, it’s hard because the whole DVD package was put together by different people than were working on the show itself. So that’s why we don’t instantly know the answers for that.
MI.net: Yeah, sure. It just seems strange that of all the music that could’ve been chosen, it could’ve been something of yours, it could’ve been the Dandy Warhols…
Josh: I know. Well, at least from what I know, what happens is, every department has their people and what I would assume is the Warner DVD packaging people probably have composers at work, where they do incidental music for all their DVDs. So that’s probably what happened. Like, there’s people who for UPN or Warner Bros., they do the music just for the promos for the show. So they don’t get the composers for the shows to do the promos, they have their promo music people. So what I assume is, it’s probably one of the people that do music for their DVDs. That’s an uneducated guess. I mean, for all I know, they liked the song, but I’ll try to find out.