It’s safe to say that Craig Wedren is one fascinating man.
The American singer-songwriter, musician and composer started his music career in post-hardcore band Shudder to Think, who continuously pushed the boundaries of the genre. During his time in the band, Craig battled Hodgkin’s Disease, which halted the band for a short while. However, after winning his battle, the band returned with a new mind frame and started to create music for film.
A short while later, Shudder to Think disbanded, however, Craig continued to create music both as a film composer and a solo artist. Over the years, he has scored a whole host of popular films including School of Rock and Wet Hot American Summer. Additionally, Craig has written and performed music for TV shows such as United States of Tara, Reno 911!, and Dawson’s Creek. Alongside his work as a composer, Craig has also developed as a solo artist, releasing albums such as Lapland and Wand.
Most recently, Craig has been working on the music for How To Be A Latin Lover, which stars Salma Hayek, Raquel Welch, Rob Lowe, Kristen Bell, and Michael Cera. The ending credit song, ‘No Estoy Triste’, was written and produced by Craig. Later this year he will also be releasing a new album, his first record since he became a father.
We recently had the chance to ask Craig Wedren about his musical journey so far, the transition from a post-hardcore band to a film composer, and much more.
Hi Craig! How’s 2017 treating you so far?
Great, thank you; and yours?
Good, thank you! You’ve recently been working on the ending credit song for the film ‘How To Be A Latin Lover’. How did you first get involved with the film?
A dear friend named Ken Marino was directing, and we like to work together whenever possible. He’s known me since my band days with Shudder To Think, and as such knows that I love writing songs as well as composing the instrumental score for films. He had some diverse musical concepts for the film, and brought me on to execute them all! It was a blast.
You wrote and produced ‘No Estoy Triste’ – can you talk us through the creative process and inspiration behind the track?
In our initial talks -even before the film was shot- Ken knew he wanted a very upbeat, family-themed end credits song; something that would appeal to adults and kids alike.
I wrote the music and basic melody fairly quickly, but without lyrics. Then we discussed the idea of having our kids talk about family and love, recording them, and using the recordings in the body of the song. You hear Ken’s daughter’s Ruby in the soundtrack recording, along with the rest of our kids and their friends shouting ‘no estoy triste!’ in the call-and-response sections.
I also wanted as many folks from the production of the film and music to be involved in the song -a real free-for-all; so the band you hear is me and Jungle Fire, who were our smokin’ hot house band for some of the Latin and funk flavored parts of the score.
How do you generally go about starting a composition for a film or TV show?
When I start a film or television show, I like to sit with the director and listen to music, so I can get a sense of what makes them smile (or frown). Then I’ll usually write a few sketches, often before the film is shot, based on my impressions of the script.
Once picture editing begins, I get sent in-progress versions of different scenes, which is when the real writing begins, the deep stuff.
You’ve composed a lot of music for numerous films and TV shows over the years. Can you pinpoint a favourite that you’ve worked on?
I just finished a show that was a blast called ‘GLOW’. It’s about women’s wrestling in the ’80s, and will be out on Netflix in June. It was a dream to get my Tangerine Dream on(::
For most projects I work with members of my team, Pink Ape; in this case Bo Boddie and Lara Meyeratken were my crew.
Lisa Cholodenko’s first movie, High Art, is also a soundtrack that I love very much, and my memories of that experience are dreamlike and wild. I scored that in 1998 with my band Shudder To Think.
And of course, Wet Hot American summer, both the movie (which I co-composed with the amazing Theodore Shapiro), and the Netflix series, for which Pink Ape members Jefferson Friedman and Matt Novack assisted like ninjas.
Who are your musical influences, in terms of fellow composers?
I learn a lot from members of my team, and always try to work with people that have complementary skills to mine. We teach each other new tricks by collaborating.
Jefferson Friedman, for instance, was a composer in the NYC classical world before joining Pink Ape; and Jherek Bischoff just finished composing music with Anna Calvi for a new Robert Wilson theater piece. So everybody’s bringing different skills and experiences to the party, and hopefully the best of it rubs off on on all of us.
As far as traditional composers, I like Brahms, John Cage, and Bernard Hermann. And Bad Brains and Kate Bush. The list goes on forever..
You started off your musical career in hardcore punk band Shudder To Think before composing for films. How did the transition come about?
I got my first home recording device -a 4-track cassette recorder- when I was fifteen, and immediately began creating ambient, experimental and often instrumental stuff which sounded like movie music.
When I went to college, Shudder To Think was making records and touring, so when friends needed music for their student films (many of them were in film school at NYU) they would ask for my help.
Some years later, around the time Shudder To Think got tired of the road, many of these same people -plus a few new friends we’d met along the way- were making their first feature films and TV shows. Again, they asked -and we were thrilled!
You’ve evolved so much musically over the years – where do you see yourself heading in the next few years?
Recently I’ve been performing live choral meditation music, which I love. It’s composed on the spot, using just a couple microphones and 2 looping pedals. I call them Sabbath Sessions, and am most excited to do more!
And Pink Ape will continue its forays into film and TV, in addition to an upcoming licensing library for some of our most awesome music.
I have some new Shudder To Think songs in development, and would love to make a Shudder To Think movie out of them!
And I have a new album coming out called ‘Adult Desire’, for which I have mad plans..
What are the main differences and challenges you’ve encountered in the industry during your career?
As a guy who likes to make lots of different types of music, for lots of different types of projects, it has occasionally been difficult explaining to producers, film companies, and record labels what it is, precisely, that I ‘do’. I like to do it ALL, which can be confusing from a marketing and branding perspective.
We also hear you’ve got a new solo record on the way. What can you tell us about your forthcoming project?
My new album is called ‘Adult Desire’, and is an extreme melt melodic, disorienting collection of songs about family, sex, and aging. It’s the first album I’ve written entirely since moving to LA and becoming a father.
I call it Domestic Surrealism.
What else can we expect from Craig Wedren this year?
This was a crazy school year for me and Pink Ape.
We just finished a ton of new movies and shows, among them :
GLOW, out in June; Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later, out this summer; Adult Desire, my new album; Permanent, a debut feature by Colette Burson; William, an indie feature written and directed by Tim Disney; and A Futile, Stupid Gesture, directed by my oldest dearest friend David Wain.
Plus I’m sure a whole lot more -Sabbath Sessions, Fresh Off The Boat season 4, baseball games, guitar lessons, school fundraisers, you-name-it!