Sundance 2011 Interview: HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN composer Adam Burke

Allison Loring

by: Allison Loring
February 10th, 2011

The music for HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN was created by not one, but three, composers (Russ Howard III, Darius Holbert, and Adam Burke) who vary in style and background, but came together to score the tale of a Hobo (Rutger Hauer) turned vigilante as he comes upon a town ruled by violence.

A favorite at this year's Sundance Film Festival (which, as announced today, will also be screened at this year's SXSW Festival), I set out to learn all things HOBO when it came to the film's music. After getting a chance to speak with Russ Howard III (you can read our interview here), I was lucky enough to get the same opportunity with composer Adam Burke.

Check out our interview after the break!

How did you begin composing for film and television?
I grew up making films with director Jason Eisener and writer John Davies. Way before budgets or expectations – it was just a way to have fun and be creative. 

We were really into the horror films of the ‘80s and would spend hours re-watching scenes that had great synth music [like HALLOWEEN III]. Years later, I started making film inspired electronic music under the name 'Judge Bitch' with Jason cutting my tracks to footage from older cult movies, kind of like a montage of our favorite films. Through Judge Bitch (and with contacts gained while working on set as a boom mic operator) I received offers to compose music for a few short films. My first substantial composition was for Jason's [Eisener, HOBO’s director] TREEVENGE.

How did you get involved with HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN?
I've been involved with HOBO from early on in the process. I composed music for the short EPK videos, the synth music for the feature trailer, did the location audio for the behind the scenes footage and was a daily boom operator for the feature shoot. I helped out with writing sessions as well and am also an extra a few times in the film. Including the feature composition, I have been lucky enough to be along for most of the ride. 

What made you want to work on this project?
I've been very fortunate to work with my friends; it's always been a dream of ours.

Were you a fan of grindhouse films prior to working on HOBO?
Very much so. During pre-production it was great to revisit some of our early inspirations such as STREET TRASH and ROLLING THUNDER. Dust off a lot of the VHS.

You were one of three composers on the film – did you know the other two composers? Had you worked together before? How did you decide who would compose what components of the film?
I had worked previously with Darius Holbert [also a composer on HOBO] on TREEVENGE. I was fairly new at composition at that time and Darius really helped me out by fielding any questions I had.

Jason and producers Niv Fichman and Rob Cotterill divided the film into cues that would suit our individual strengths, mine being ‘80s inspired synth score.

What was the process for creating the music for the film? Did you begin creating prior to seeing it or did you compose along with the film itself?
I started to gather sounds while Jason was editing HOBO, but didn't compose anything until I had rough cuts of my scenes. 

For my compositions, I used a variety of synthesizers, both hardware and software. I used a lot of the synthesizers that had been used on our favorite film scores like the Prophet 5. Lots of arpeggiating.

What influenced you in creating this score (other films, styles of music, etc.)?
Obviously, after seeing the film, John Carpenter and Alan Howarth are huge inspirations for us. Vince DiCola and Claudio Simonetti as well. HOBO was really a big opportunity for us to put the style of music from our childhood into a film.

How long was the composing process (a week, a few months)?
The deadline for all completed cues was a little over a month after we received the picture locked cut. Most of my cues were roughly finished within a few days and then fine-tuned over the following weeks. 

What do you have coming up next?
Currently I'm co-writing a feature for Yer Dead productions with HOBO writer John Davies. It's a martial arts film in the style of HOBO. For composition I have a few things on the go, including a possible feature in late spring.

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