“Music is the shorthand of emotion” according to Leo Tolstoy. Well, you’ll find no greater range of emotions than in a horror movie! Indie Horror Online had the pleasure of speaking with composer Mike Trebilcock about his music, numerous film projects, and spooky interests…
Q: Tell us about Sematary Spawn and Music For Maniacs…
A: I write scores for films, and during the writing of Exorcism of the Dead, the director (John Migliore) asked for an end credits track that was kind of like Dokken’s Dream Warrior. Having been in a few bands in the 80s that sounded (and looked) like that, I took it as a fun challenge. It turned out so well, I really wanted to do more, and reached out to a few filmmakers to see if they’d like something similar. It turns out they did! Sematary Spawn started to take on a life of it’s own, and developed its own sound while still being an homage to those great horror soundtracks of the 80s like Return of the Living Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. There are two voices that have come out of it, the high Dokken rock voice and the growling creature Alice Cooper-esque voice that I refer to as Grave Robert. It’s been selling quite well (I just retain the song rights, but give them exclusive rights to use the songs unless under special circumstances), and it gives indie film-makers some great original music when they’re on a tight budget. A win-win situation for everyone I think. Sematary Spawn songs to date have been in Wrestlemassacre, Exorcism of the Dead, Slimoids, Lycanimator, The Curse Of Krampus, and Troma’s Grindsploitation 666. Sematary Spawn: Volume 2 will be coming in 2019!
Q: You’ve also created music for the theatre…
A: That started with Night of the Living Dead Live. I saw a small poster for it stapled to a pole in downtown Hamilton, and thought it would be fun to be involved in a little local project like that, being a horror fan, and especially a Romero fan. As I got more involved, it became apparent that George Romero, John Russo and Russ Streiner were actually the producers on the production, and it was being directed and written by Christopher Bond (with Trevor Martin and Dale Boyer) of the splashy horror-theatre hit, Evil Dead: The Musical. The music I did for it hearkened back to the original Capitol Hi-Q production library music that George used, and in fact he thought we had gotten ahold of alternate music from the library which was a bit of a compliment, knowing how important music was for him. From there I went on to arrange and play the tracks for Trey Parker’s Cannibal: The Musical. I also happened to be a big fan of that original film, so it was another thrill to work on!
Q: You recently produced a video for Among Monsters…
A: It was for their single called Near Dark. I produced, wrote, directed and edited. I also recorded and produced the music itself, so that was a busy few weeks! They wanted to release something that was a bit 80s horror-inspired in time for Halloween, and the result is really fun. The band performed really well, and our “Demon” actress, Amanda DeFreidas was spectacular!
Q: Your first major short film was Chewed..
A: Yes. The impetus of that one was a proposed series of episodes for something called Cronenberg Creek. I wrote it with something like Creepshow in mind. It’s a comedy/horror, but has some serious undertones about Mexico’s sometimes strained relationship with the US, especially with regard to the control of money and resources. I remember Romero saying, “Make movies, but for God’s sake SAY something.” So that’s what I tried to do. I had a great crew again for that one, and the actors were perfect. They had the tone down perfectly. Menacing, but cartoony and tongue in cheek at the same time. It was a great first experience and I learned a LOT.
Q: Tell us about Werewolf Camp and Throne of Dracula…
A: Every summer I do a movie-making camp for kids. Sometimes I have a script written beforehand, and sometimes we write it all together. All of the kids act, do stunts (carefully), sound FX, ADR, etc. And they learn a bit about editing, animation, and directing along the way as well. I had Werewolf Camp written already, because with 12 kids in the camp it was going to be hard to wrangle all of the ideas. Kid’s imaginations are extremely fertile ground, and just reigning in those ideas becomes the challenge. For this year’s camp we did Throne of Dracula, something we wrote together after reading a few of my scripts (as well as some by Chris Bond, Trevor Martin and John Migliore), and not quite finding a good fit for the number of kids, and boy/girl ratio (We had four girls). We had special guests come in and show them real stuntman techniques for falling and punching. I think that was their favourite part. I also create original scores for all of these films, and for the last two years we’ve had a theme song written and performed the the kids.
Q: Anything you can tell us about Simply Saucer?
A: Simply Saucer is one of the biggest, most influential bands to come out of Hamilton… or Canada. Their proto-punk space-rock has been praised around the world. I was lucky enough to join them a few years ago and record a single with them (Lo-Fi Garage Symphonette b/w Alien Cornfield on Label Obscura), as well as do a couple of tours. We’ve been joined on occasion by Craig Bell on bass – from Rocket From The Tombs, another truly legendary proto-punk band.
Q: You actually played the monster in Creature From Cannibal Creek!
A: I did! Another thrill. Along with doing the score, so I might be the world’s first composing monster, or “Componster”.
Q: How did your time with The Killjoys prepare you for all of this?
A: We shot 8 music videos over the years, so we were on set a lot, with a lot of time to sit around and observe. I loved the whole process. We also made a cameo in a film called Balls Up! So that’s something. Haha.
Q: What advice do you have for anyone hoping to get into the music business?
A: Diversify is what I would say. Keep expanding your skill set to include other genres, and other aspects of music. As hard as it is to make any money right now, there are opportunities in oft-ignored areas; arranging, copyist, management, production, composer, etc. Explore!
Q: What kind of movies do you like to watch? Do you have some favourite horror films?
A: I’m a die-hard horror fan, and as I’ve said, I’m particularly fond of George Romero’s work. Let’s see… some favourites… Night Of The Living Dead of course, Creepshow, also, Terrorvision, They Live, Hammer films, Troma films, Lifeforce, Chopping Mall, Drag Me To Hell… I could go on all day.
Q: Thanks for your time! Anything else you’d like to share with us?
A: Thank you! I guess some future stuff that’s in the works. Look for Creature From Cannibal Creek! I’m also writing a non-horror feature screenplay that started as horror, but the story took a different turn. It’s called Love Yourself. I’m also currently writing a short that might yet be expanded into a feature called Frankenstein Rides Again. All coming soon to a drive-in near you!
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