Darren Fung is one of Canada’s most accomplished music composers

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Darren Fung. Photography provided by CW3PR Inc.

Based in Los Angeles, Darren Fung is a talented, award-winning music composer. Born in Canada with strong Chinese roots, Mr. Fung’s music is a medley of the East and the West. His love of music began at the age of three and lead him to become an accomplished composer. After a lifetime of living in Canada, Darren Fung moved to the United States to create music for film and TV in a new location. 

Fung has a colorful, diverse and nostalgic style of music that has a powerful, yet gentle affect on the viewer’s senses. “With over 100 composition credits to his name, Darren Fung is seminally gifted and a highly influential composer who is well-respected in the TV and Film scoring worlds. Fung is one of Canada’s most accomplished composers, thrice nominated for a Canadian Screen Award. Most recently, he scored the The Great Human Odyssey, a mini-series that explores the roots of human kind. The project opened to widespread critical acclaim in Canada, winning the 2016 Canadian Screen Award for Best Music and receiving a nomination from the International Film Music Critics Association. (The Great Human Odyssey premieres in the U.S. this fall on PBS.) Darren utilizes an epic, large-scale orchestra and choir to bring this special’s score to life, replete with memorable melodies and unique musical colors. His diverse credits also include a recreation of Canada’s second national anthem (the beloved Hockey Theme) for CTV and TSN and the theme music for CTV’s flagship morning news show Canada AM. Additionally, Darren scored Bell Canada’s Orchestra advertisement spot (for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics), which was voted as Canada’s top commercial by readers of The Globe and Mail. Darren’s feature and short film scores have been heard at prestigious film festivals around the world, including Toronto, Cannes, and Sundance. After Fung studied at McGill University and worked full-time as a composer in Montreal, he moved to Los Angeles and is represented by Maria Machado of Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency and CW3PR.”

In 2016,  Mr. Fung spoke with local Texas writer, Nicolette Mallow, to discuss the bird’s-eye view of his life lived in music and how he came to be in California with his wife and daughter after many years in Canada. 

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Darren Fung and orchestra. Photography provided by CW3PR Inc.

Nicolette Mallow: Will you please tell me a little about when your love for music began and when you learned to play an instrument? 

Darren Fung: I started playing piano when I was 3. Music has always been part of my life. After piano I dabbled a little in violin and then the saxophone. I loved trying new instruments and playing the music in my head. 

NM: Yes; I read in other interviews that you tend create music with a large scale orchestra. That makes sense given you learned to play so many instruments… What number of instruments (musicians) entails a large scale orchestra? 

DF: A large scale orchestra can be 40, 50, 60 people. Even 90-100. For me that means anything over 40. Over 40 is a pretty big orchestra…Now, do I prefer to work with a recording group? I also like the challenge of not having a large scale orchestra and doing other things that are not orchestral.

NM: Your online biography states that you “caught the composing bug at age 15” when you wrote a piece for Edmonton Symphony Orchestra’s Young Composer Project … Did you always know that music was your life calling? 

DF: Yes and no. I always loved music, but at the age of 15 is when I knew I wanted to be a composer… But it was hard for my family at first to accept that I am good at this, good enough to make a career of it. My mother is a Chinese tiger mom, and she wanted the best for me growing up and had a preset idea of what my future looked like. She wanted me to pursue something more secure than music. Music or a creative career was too risky. So, when I first began music school instead of pursuing a life as a lawyer… it was hard for her. Culturally there were some conflicts and it would’ve been easier and more accepted had I chosen to be a doctor, lawyer or engineer. My mother is very supportive now and she is very happy for me that I chose music. 

NM: I understand the family and cultural aspects of what you just said. My Latina mother was most displeased, if not furious, when I said I was going to Savannah College of Art & Design 12 years ago instead of Barnard or Stanford to be a psychologist or doctor. But she, too, is now very happy for me that I chased my artistic dreams.

DF: Yes it can be hard at first to choose your own path. 

NM: In regards to music composition, what are some of the most distinct differences between the Canada and US? 

DF:  The biggest diff between the two is that Canada is more comparable to the Indie film scenes—the budgets are not that big. The AFM call them low budget films because we are lucky if we got around $3 million budget. We are supposed to do more with less. However, since we are so close to the states we have a lot of similar musical influences.

NM: Reading about your career I saw the phrase “musical colors” mentioned in writing. Can you tell me a little about what musical colors means to you?

DF: Instruments or sounds are our palette. Composers (and musicians) can kind of make whatever we want out of it. Musical colors are why I think I love orchestra so much because there is so much available. So many colors and moods to portray. Not to say other genres of music don’t have that. But I am a classically trained musician, and to be able to take that stuff and play away. It’s endless and I never know what will happen and I love it. 

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Darren Fung and orchestra. Photography provided by CW3PR Inc.

NM: Were you nervous or excited to recreate the 2nd national anthem for Canada? 

DF: Both. When I recreated the 2nd national anthem for hockey night in Canada, we wanted to pay homage to the original, but with a whole bunch of orchestrations and differentiators. For the longest time it was a really iconic song in Canada. Everyone knows the song and it’s equivalent to Major League Baseball’s classic tune “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”…At the time I was working with CPC and they wanted to make it their own. I was 26 at the time and I didn’t want the country hating me as the guy who guy who f*cked up the hockey thing… However, I was thrilled to be part of the project. And at 26 I got to work with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and specific members who the company hired to play. So to be given that budget and content for a major broadcast was amazing. 

NM: The Great Human Odyssey sounds amazing. What was it like writing for this TV show?

DF: It was 85 minutes of music in 7.5 weeks. There was material to score but we didn’t start writing till 7.5 weeks before we recorded… Niobe Thompson (Producer and Director of The Great Human Odyssey) sort of talked about bringing me on board as he was shooting. Almost two years before he started editing, I saw some raw footage. And I have to admit that when I first met up with Naobi, there was not a lot of money and I was not really sure the resources were available to create what he wanted with an orchestra and choir. But then he showed me the first warrior of this man jumping across ice flows. Drone shots across ice flows, and the backdrop was spectacular. The costumes, everything was visually stunning. And I realized we needed to get the music to match the greatness of the film… Fast forward in time and he then needed trailers. Then suddenly later on I am going to Prague so I can record a couple of cues to cut… Fast forward to the final count down where we are talking frame by frame, intentions, character and motivations; figuring out the music for each character and each scene.  

NM: Do you have any hobbies that you enjoy to keep you balanced outside work?

DF: Hockey and rowing are my two hobbies. Often I get up at stupid-o-clock in the morning around 5 A.M. to go rowing before work. What I love about hockey and rowing is that it’s two completely unrelated things to music. I meet people who aren’t in the business and it’s not a sedentary job. I get to move around and I get to blow off a lot of steam. I keep biz cards on me, just in case, but I like that it’s totally separate from work. Honestly I worry about the day where I might have to give one or both of them up… I find so much sanity and comic relief in hockey and rowing. Im horrible at both… but trying to get physical activity is necessary. And it’s fun to go have a beer with the guys sometimes. 

NM: Are there any genres in film or television that you would like to write for that you’ve yet to work on? 

DF: I’ve been lucky so far and enjoyed all my projects. But I would like to write for sci fi or opera. I haven’t yet had the chance to do either. Also, Animation is something else I am interested in. I like changing things up and I just finished up on an installation work for a gondola ride in Banff. So long as it’s a great project with great music: count me in! I am always looking for new projects and I came to LA to establish myself here.

For more information about Darren Fung please read his online bio. And to hear many songs or tracks from Fung’s music portfolio, please check out his SoundCloud page.

Composer Pieter Schlosser enriches television, film and video games with his musical vocabulary

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Pieter Schlosser. Photography provided by CW3PR.

Pieter Schlosser is an award-winning television, film and video game composer known most recently for scoring NBC’s hit show You, Me and the Apocalypse. Based in Los Angeles, Schlosser grew up traveling the world with his family, enriching his musical vocabulary with each new culture and each new country.

This summer Pieter Schlosser was interviewed by a writer in Texas, Nicolette Mallow, to discuss topics like how world traveling influenced his music, the differences between scoring for the UK versus the US, what lead him to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston and other miscellany.

Pieter spent a great deal of his childhood traveling, living in Guatemala, Austria, Panama and Costa Rica. He attended Berklee College of Music in Boston before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in television, film and video game composing. A multi-instrumentalist and polyglot, Pieter has had his work featured in the music of Grammy-nominated world music group Editus. Last year, he worked with the Costa Rica National Symphony Orchestra, arranging a full orchestral performance of his original music. In 2014, he won the ASCAP award for Top Television Series for his work on Freeform’s The Lying Game. Pieter Schlosser also composed the music for Lifetime’s The Client List and provided additional music for ABC’s Resurrection and The Astronaut Wives Club. Pieter worked on Desperate Housewives and is credited with bringing the signature Latin musical styling to the show. Currently, he is composing the music for the highly anticipated IMAX film, In Saturn’s Rings. He is also scoring the major motion picture, What About Love, starring Sharon Stone and Andy Garcia, set for release in 2017. Pieter worked in Hans Zimmer’s Remote Control Productions studio for 5 years alongside many high profile composers on various projects, such as Friday The 13th and the Transformers film and video game franchise. In addition to Transformers: The Game, Pieter demonstrated his versatility by providing additional music for some of the most popular video games of this generation with Gears of War 2 & 3 and The Sims 3.”

Nicolette Mallow: Will you tell me about your childhood background in music and how growing up in so many countries influenced your career?

Pieter Schlosser: Music was always around when I was growing up and it was always playing in the house. My mom played piano, it was an old upright piano that ended up in our house. My dad was always a big fan of music, too. Dad loved to play jazz. Classical was favored by my mom. The love of music was inherited from my parents. When I was in Guatemala, I didn’t play an instrument. I just listened to music and sometimes I even stole my mom’s tapes and records. When we moved to Austria I was 8 and that’s when I began to start playing piano. There is a mecca of music in Austria. Everyone plays music. I wanted to join choir and that’s where it all really began. After spending three years in Austria, my family and I moved to Panama. I kept singing in the choir. It was a Swedish choir in Panama and we sang around Christmas time. There was one person who played saxophone and I thought it looked really cool and so I began lessons. Then we moved to Costa Rica and I made a friend with someone on the island and I joined band and played jazz. As I became obsessed with music, my grades began dipping… I loved moving around the world, even if my brother didn’t like it so much. My dad worked for BHL and that’s why we moved around the globe so much.

NM: Did you have a favorite place out of all the countries that you and your family resided? Was there one musical style or culture that inspired you the most, or did they all equally fulfill your musical talents?

PS: It’s hard to say because, as a kid it was pretty normal having all these different cultures and musical styles around me. I cant say or pinpoint one thing that influenced me most. Growing up in Guatemala, Austria, Panama and Costa Rica is like having a little book of musical notes and rhythms that I can use—and the combination of all these things is a nice balance that enriches my craft.

NM: What lead you to Berklee College of Music in Boston?

PS: While I was in Costa Rica, the Costa Rican-North American Cultural Center had a series of Universities do a Master class followed by a concert. Berklee College of Music in Boston was always there including many other amazing programs from Miami and Texas. At one point I called or wrote a letter “Hey can u send me a Berklee sticker with the logo?” And I put it on my saxophone case. Suddenly I decided that’s where I wanted to go. It was the only college I applied to and I sort of felt a calling to enroll. Austria was a back-up to study jazz, but I was set on Berklee. So I applied and sent in an audition tape to Admissions and eventually I was offered a partial scholarship to attend. I accepted.

NM: How did your professional career in film and television begin?

PS: After college I moved to LA. “The Record Plant” (a recording studio) in Hollywood was my first gig and I was a runner: food orders, trash, coffee and other office errands. During that time I met a scoring mixer who works with a ton of composers including Hans Zimmer. At the time he was working on the remake of “Italian Job”. Eventually we reconnected, and he hired me for little things in the studio. I got to attend a scoring session which was amazing. Ultimately, through him and my contacts with Berklee: I became an intern at Hans Zimmer. There’s no other place like working at Remote Control Productions. Anyway, that’s when I met Steve Jablonsky and later on Jablonsky hired me for “Transformers”. And then I started working on other film & TV projects.

NM: What is one of the biggest variations between scoring for television in the US versus music composition the UK?

PS: When we scored the UK version of “You Me and the Acopalypse” there are no commercial breaks. In the US version of the show, it’s 45 mins divided into 5 acts. Most shows in the US have commercials breaks excluding HBO or Netflix.

NM: Have you always liked video games?

PS: Yes, I like video games. When I was younger, I enjoyed watching my brother play video games much more than I liked to play myself. I am not entirely sure why I didn’t enjoy participating but I preferred to watch.

NM: In regards to the The Costa Rica National Symphony Orchestra, what original music of yours did they play? Is there a link or audio to hear this performance?

PS: The music community in Costa Rica is fairly small so everyone knows each other. I became friends with members of a band called ‘Editus’. In 1998 they were putting an album together which was titled ‘Calle Del Viento’ and released in 1999. I was just starting to write music then and I dared to pitch them the first piece of music I ever wrote.  They loved it and included it in their album! Fast forward 16 years to 2015 and I got an e-mail saying they would be putting on a concert over 3 nights of that very album but this time, playing with the Costa Rica National Symphony. They asked if I’d do an orchestral arrangement of the piece.  You can find the original recording of this piece called ‘El Sendero Menos Caminado’ (or ‘The Road Less Travelled’ which is a line in a Robert Frost poem called ’The Road Not Taken’). The orchestral piece recorded in 2015 I believe is currently being mastered and prepared for release. The song can be found on iTunes and Spotify.

NM: Now that you’ve obtained success and first-hand experience within the industry, do you have any advice or helpful insights for other aspiring composers?

PS: The best bet when it comes to writing music to picture, whether it’s film or television, the best route is to find some sort of mentorship with another composer so you can hopefully be getting paid while learning on the job. I wish there was a more solid answer. But I think its different for everyone and you have to figure it out as you move forward. It’s important to remember that there is not one way or one path to success in this field. Just remain passionate, and even stubborn to your craft, but keep a smile. It’s tough but hang in there and you’ll persevere

For more information about Pieter Schlosser, please visit his website at www.pieterschlosser.com. Schlosser also has a SoundCloud page that features various tracks of his music.

Roc Chen: Music Composer and Asian Creative brings cultures together around the world with the magical power of music

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Roc Chen. Photography provided by CW3PR.

Roc Chen is a Sichuan-born, award winning composer who has created music for film and gaming. Recognized within the U.S. and China, Chen’s music has the power and the beauty to bring cultures together form around the world, which is no easy task. His film roster includes “Chinese Zodiac” with Jackie Chan,  “Forbidden Kiss” and the Chinese adaptation of “Everybody’s Fine” (American adaptation ft. Robert DeNiro). Roc  also partnered with DreamWorks to create music for the film “Kung Fu Panda 3” and his music is present in the award winning, internationally broadcasted documentary TV series “A Bite of China”. Chen’s video game work even dabbles into “World of Warcraft” and “God of War” orchestrasas well as the “Might and Magic” series and his latest work underway with “Prince Adventures”. Recently partnering with Danny Elfman to bring music to Disney Shanghai’s newest ride, Alice’s Maze; Roc Chen’s music brilliantly celebrates the fusion of the American story line of Alice in Wonderland with Chinese culture native to the Shanghai location.

This summer Roc Chen was interviewed by Nicolette Mallow. The two discussed his background in music, technology, and the power of music and how it can feel like time traveling. Mallow also inquired about the challenges and rewards of merging Eastern and Western cultures for film, Disney, DreamWorks and much more. And Chen opened up about how his music can be like an invisible, magic mirror that reflects everything inside the listener’s heart. The written interview proceeded as follows.

Nicolette Mallow: Will you please tell me about your background in music? Did you always know that music composition was your life calling? When did you begin to play music and write music? As a child, what did music feel like?

Roc Chen: When I was a kid, sometimes I woke up in the middle of the night humming the melody from “The Godfather”, and I thought to myself, “Maybe I should be a film composer when I grow up!” Like many kids I learned to play classical piano at the age of 4, but unlike many kids I loved to keep the sustain pedal down to create a bigger reverberation (just like in film scores). And of course my piano teacher would always get mad at me for doing that. I’ve always known music, especially film music – it’s my life calling. However I spent my college life in what is considered a Chinese Stanford (University of Science and Technology of China). We had a large and great orchestra band there and the conductor asked me to be the assistant conductor, so I’ve had the chance to learn from each and every different instrument – not from a book but from a real orchestra band. Later on I also obtained a Master Degree in Composition from the Conservatory of Music. I consider myself pretty lucky to have a background in both music and technology!

NM: Art has the power to take us places, particularly music. Music can take listeners back in time within seconds. Music can evoke feelings or fantasies within us and it’s almost like time traveling… What do you feel are the most powerful components of music that allow us to transcend time, space and imagination?

RC: All the components of music such as melody, harmony, counterpoints are powerful enough to allow us to transcend time, space and imaginationbut personally I think the most powerful one is the abstract part within the music. Pop songs take us into a specific world because the lyrics/words are quite specific and straight-forward. But instrumental music such as film scores without any lyrics or words are abstract, so it takes people to their own and unique places, to the different secret places deep within each person’s heart. This is also the beauty of scores. Film scores, though there are specific picture/scenes synced with it, can allow us to re-create those scenes and characters in our own way when we hear music outside of the cinema. It’s like everyone is a director and everyone directing his own version of that film in his brain. This is the beauty of film scoring. And of course, there are certain skills and ways to evoke those feelings or fantasies in the way of composition.

There’s a music piece of mine, “Deep in Their Hearts”, which is originally composed for the most renowned documentary in China called “A Bite of China Season 2”. It has moved nearly a billion people in China and around the world. I tried to tenderly and beautifully play the piano with a melancholy and nostalgic melody. It was performed by beautiful strings, woodwinds, with some abstract inside harmony, fine orchestration and counterpoint. The result is this music cue, which has moved lots of people and has surpassed pop songs to reach the top of the Chinese billboard. Thousands of fans came to my Chinese Twitter to express their feelings hearing this music to me and it’s actually quite interesting to read those comments. Some people say it reminds them of their childhood loneliness, some say it reminds them of some moving moments in that documentary, some people say it makes them cry with happiness and some people say the woodwinds in this cue are funny and playful. It’s all different and I feel like my music is like a mirror – each person saw and found their secret place deep in their heart by hearing this magical mirror.

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Roc Chen. Photography provided by CW3PR.

NM: What are some of the distinct differences between Eastern and Western styles of music pertaining to film?

RC: Well this is a little bit of a huge topic that I could talk for days and write a book about. The scale of notes and melodies are different between the eastern and western worlds but as for the relationship between music and film: I think one of the most distinct differences is the eastern style is more implicit while western style is more straight-forward and passionate. As I’ve been traveling between LA and Beijing a lot, I also found this difference within people’s behavior between the two countries. I guess one of the benefits of my goal as trying to be the most international composer is I can always get to know more about people from both worlds.

NM: Would you please share with me the challenges of integrating Eastern and Western music? Is it difficult to please both audiences?  

RC: A lot of Hollywood films with pure western music are also enjoyed by lots of eastern audiences, but most of this music hardly reaches their hearts. So sometimes with only a few elements from the East can really move the eastern audience and ironically enough it moves the western audience too! Also each film project is different and I’m always very careful with this challenge by always listening to the director’s ideas regarding the direction of the film. I always offer my suggestions and opinions on the direction of music but I would respect my director’s opinion because it is the film – a combination of many arts. It’s a whole project we’re going to present to the audience, not just music. There’s a project I did, “Heroes of Might and Magic VII”, the 7th game of the famous “Heroes of Might and Magic” video game franchise. I write some of the cues in a pure-western style and some cues have a little bit of East and West combined flavour, it all depends on the specific occasion.

NM: What lead you to working for Disney Shanghai?

RC: I guess people loved what I did for “Kung Fu Panda 3” as Chinese music consultant and then I got introduced to Disney by my friends at DreamWorks. But really, I think it’s because of my specialty of knowing both East and West which lead me to working for Disney Shanghai.

NM: In regards to Asian American crossroads within the entertainment industry – how did you begin to infuse the American story line of “Alice in Wonderland” with Chinese culture native to the Shanghai location of Disney?

RC: First of all, it’s always teamwork! It is done by Danny Elfman, myself and another beautiful lady from Disney Imagineer. We put Chinese lyrics such as the translation of “Alice Are You Lost” and other lyrics originally written by Danny into the melody and make sure it really sounds great in Chinese. A lot of times you’ll hear directly translated songs sounding very, very weird after translation. This requires a lot of experience of the Chinese culture and customs along with musical experience of the tone, pitch and rhythm of each note and its relationship between other notes. We tried many different ways to avoid a common phenomenon in the Chinese music which is called “Dao Zi”, meaning the pitch of the notes will not violate or conflict with the tone of the Chinese words. I also had my female choirs friends at Beijing singing the melody in Chinese beautifully while we remote-recorded them here in Los Angeles. We also did a lot of tweaks during the recording session.

NM: Do you have a favorite genre of music that you love to write? You are obviously talented at composing many forms of music. But do you have a favorite style?

RC: Well…. It’s really hard to pick one favorite style for me as I’ve worked in a lot of different styles and genres. But my favorite one is the one that best supports the film. As long as the form of music can really do a good job to support the camera and film – that’s my favorite!

NM: Your career is most impressive and I have watched many of these films. However, I must admit that I have a fondness for “Kung Fu Panda”… Was that your first time writing music for animation? What did you enjoy most about this DreamWorks project?

RC: With this film, Hans Zimmer is the music composer while I worked alongside him as the Chinese music consultant. I offered direction and guidance on the Chinese instruments, Chinese musicians, the articulations and specialty of Chinese instruments. I also consulted on how to combine the instruments with Western orchestra music to the DreamWorks music team. I enjoyed turning the song of the last scene of “Kung Fu Panda 3” into Chinese and recording 40 amazing pop choir singers from Shanghai so when the film released, everyone was able to hear the final product of “animal” singing in Chinese happily in the end scene!

NM: Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to highlight?

RC: I just finished recording with an orchestra in Nashville for a new animation feature I scored, and I’m also going to score some new exciting feature films, animations and TV series but due to NDA reasons I’m sorry to say I can’t disclose them right now.

NM: Lastly, I grew up reading the book “Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan about four Chinese American immigrant families living in San Francisco. It’s a bittersweet, tragic and beautiful story that I still enjoy reading in adulthood. Since I was a child, I’ve always been fascinated by the history of China and I hope to visit someday. And of course when the movie came out I really enjoyed the soundtrack. My point in mentioning “Joy Luck Club” is because for years I’ve always wanted to learn more about the roots of classical music in China. But I never know where to start… Is there a book you’d recommend or a certain time period to study for those who want to learn about the roots of music in China?

RC: This is a great question! But frankly, I personally think the best book of Chinese music history or Chinese musicology is not in English but in the language of Chinese. Just like if you wanted to learn the western musicology: you’ll have to read that greatest musicology book in English. When I was in the Conservatory of Music, there was a school book called “History of Chinese music” which nearly covers all different kinds of music from pre-Qin Dynasty times, to Tang Dynasty music, to Qing Dynasty and even modern music of China. It also covers the musicology of a lot of different areas of China such as the music from the north of China – which is so different from the south of China. Music from HeBei Province is also so different from the music from the ShanXi province or the ethnic Uygur group in Xin Jiang areas. I have this book in my Beijing studio and I’ve always wanted to purchase a English-translated version to keep in my Los Angeles studio. Without any luck, I Googled and searched Amazon and didn’t find this book or any book just as great. Maybe some book publisher could work with me to translate a classic book into a new one in English. For those who want to learn about the roots of music in China, most people will probably say the Tang Dynasty is the best time period to study as it is one of the most brilliant time for all kind of arts. But I would personally recommend the eras around the Qin Dynasty such as the Three-Kingdom era, Warring States period, etc. If you research it and dive deep enough, you’ll see music in those ages are clearly fundamental not only to Chinese music, but also to the music of the Eastern world.

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www.rocchen.com

‘Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories’: a podcast series launched by Parcast

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Photography provided by Parcast Network.

June 27, 2016— “Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories” released a thrilling, new podcast episode this week titled “Lights, Camera, Murder”. “Unsolved Murders” is a recently launched podcast series Produced by Parcast and co-Founded by Max Cutler and Ron Cutler (son and father). Parcast created this multi-dimensional podcast network as a flagship series with an acute focus on cold case files. The first three episodes of “Unsolved Murders” pertain to “The Axeman”, a serial killer in New Orleans. And the second series of podcasts within most recent episodes revolve around “Hollywood’s First Murder”. Please bear in mind these episodes are not intended for children—the podcast contains a great deal of graphic and bloody details—therefore viewer discretion is strongly advised. Nonetheless, “Unsolved Murders” is an enticing and haunting mixture of a classic radio show, a theatrical script and a murder-mystery-book-on-tape that morphed into the form of a modern day podcast. Narrated by Carter Roy and Wenndy Mackenzie, “Unsolved Murders” combines the beauty of audio and sound design with the articulate eloquence of literature and storytelling. The professional sound effects, dialogue and delivery within each episode of the show are compelling—and the audio is very clear and precise to the ears. Listeners can almost hear the amount of time, heart and energy that Parcast’s talented crew of employees dedicated into this podcast just by the quality of presentation and sound.

Reminiscent of a riveting and spooky time machine, “Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories” take us back, safely, to mysterious cold cases like The Axeman from the 20th century in New Orleans when his murderous and diabolical rampage in Louisiana began. Actors and a sound crew portray all the voices of the witnesses, the victims, the locals and the police. The footsteps in the dark and the screams in the night. The audience can feel the fright, and yet the lovely melodies from the jazz era that trickle in throughout the podcast add a sense of playfulness and lightness in the midst of a dark, heavy story. Listeners come to know the presence of The Axeman by the bone chilling audio of his weapon hacking into flesh and bone after carving his way in the back door with a blade. Even though the murderer is a mystery, the audience comes to learn about his obsession for jazz music and the fact he was a deranged man who believed he was inhuman. And by the end of “The Axeman” episodes, the narrators swap theories as to who they believed to be the violent serial killer.

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Max Cutler, Co-founder and President of Parcast, consented to a phone interview in June 2016 with Arts & Entertainment Writer for Examiner, Nicolette Mallow to discuss “Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories”, the launch of Parcast and The Axeman of New Orleans.

Nicolette Mallow: Will you tell me about your love for radio and storytelling? How did this all begin from childhood to adulthood?

Max Cutler: I’ve always loved radio and I was born into it. But I remember when I was 4 to 5 years old that it really became part of me. My dad (Ron Cutler) worked in radio and operated 12 national radio shows when I was growing up called Cutler Productions. His company was also the #1 in comedy. However, my love for storytelling happened as I got older and then I grew an interest in true crime and mysteries. Looking back, my dad had a profound impact on my career. He was also a storyteller that wrote a novel titled “The Secret Scroll” … As an adult I wanted to start my own company and I wanted to pursue the entertainment business. Obviously I love radio for many reasons but what I hope to gain from “Unsolved Murders” is not only to share crime stories and top quality audio productions, but I want to bring people together and help take away the daily stress of life. People are very stressed out sometimes and to help lessen the stress of others in the form of radio and storytelling for 20 minutes, or an hour, is a very good thing. Its important to relax and unwind.

NM: Will Parcast and its podcasts networks focus solely on “Unsolved Murders” or do you and your team intend to cover and produce other topics of interest?

MC: “Unsolved Murders” is the first show but there will be five to seven new shows within the next year that cover other topics than cold cases, such as education or history. We started with this genre because I love mystery and true crime stories 100%. And there is also a large community that appreciates cold cases. So from a business standpoint it’s also a hot topic that has a market. “Unsolved Murders” is about my passions and entertaining the interests of others… Parcast came to be so that we could take audio and radio to the next level. There are many great, high quality podcasts out there that are up to par. But a large majority of the podcasts these days are lacking in sound quality and production with a lot of holes to be filled. Parcast has the most talented crew working with us and I am so grateful for my team that my father and I assembled. The whole company is very gifted and talented. We spent a lot of time searching and recruiting voice actors, writers, and we have a great digital engineer (Ron Shapiro) that brings the sound of the axe to life. It took about 3 to 4 months to get it right, but we are just very overwhelmed and excited about this start. “Unsolved Murders” already ranked #5 out of 300,000 podcasts. It’s just a really humbling experience and we all look forward to the future.

NM: “Unsolved Murders” begins with the story of “The Axeman” and all the podcast episodes about this cold case are so captivating. I didn’t want to stop listening to the audio. Although I admit I probably will not listen to the podcast right before bedtime. Anyway, the sound quality is amazing and I love the voice actors and the narrators. Y’all did a great job and I look forward to more episodes… How did you come to hear of The Axeman?

MC: Thank you. I am glad you enjoy it and I appreciate the compliments… The Axeman is ranked among the Top 10 serial killers to never be caught. Our podcast focuses on serial killers and cold case crimes that aren’t as well known as criminals like Jack The Ripper or The Zodiac Killer. We didn’t want to focus on the commercial cases the media already had a field day with. A lot of research lead me to the launch of this series about The Axeman. Another reason I chose this story is because it gets me upset when someone gets away with a crime and justice is not served, so this podcast is also a way to never forget the case. It’s just a very interesting and scary story about a clearly deranged criminal.

NM: Yes, he is very deranged. That episode entailing the letter written by The Axeman to himself and when its read aloud in that sinister voice on the podcast. The letter he wrote to the police. It was very creepy and disturbing how he claims that he is a demon, inhuman. And The Axeman even writes the return address as being from ‘hell’ just like the infamous Jack The Ripper… Did people really believe this guy was a demon? And was it ever made clear why he demanded people go to jazz halls and listen to jazz music in order to be spared from his axe?

MC: Actually, yes, many people did believe he was a demon. And many people even thought The Axeman was somehow Jack The Ripper manifesting in another continent at another time. You can’t make this up! We have to remember this is the early 20th century in New Orleans, a very superstitious place. When the newspaper in New Orleans published his letter in 1919, locals and immigrants were terrified and became very scared of this ‘inhuman’ criminal. Which is why most of the city went out that one Tuesday night to listen to jazz music at “12:15 earthly time” just as The Axeman demanded. However, there is a common theory that perhaps the The Axeman was actually a musician and needed to get paid. Regardless, The Axeman had a sense of control over this town and the fact he was never convicted only added to the stigma that he was supernatural. It was a huge topic all around Louisiana and a #1 hit jazz song about The Axeman was written about him.

For more information about “The Axeman” series, Parcast network and the podcast “Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories” please visit their website, iTunes or SoundCloud. (The podcast is also available on Google play for those with Androids.) Stay tuned and subscribe to receive the latest information of new episodes and upcoming shows.

 Note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com in June 2016.   

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Letter from the Axeman written to The New Orleans Police Department. March 13, 1919.