Scoring the Sharknados
August 19, 2018
The Musique Fantastique SHARKNADO Score Retrospective
By Randall D. Larson
It’s been a wild journey working on the SHARKNADO films (six movies, five years–crazy). One of the things that has been so satisfying is the musical accompaniment to our crazy images. The talented Ramin Kousha kicked things off in the first SHARKNADO with his epic, pulsating score. Picking up the mantle for the remaining five films were composing Gods Chris Ridenhour and Chris Cano (not to mention scoring assist from the great Eliza Swenson and Mikel Shane Prather). With each subsequent SHARKNADO film the Chris’ upped the ante and brought sweeping themes and actual live orchestral flourishes to the franchise. One of the things I’m most proud of with the films is tackling different genres within the movies and whenever we went full INDIANA JONES or STAR WARS, they were there with the musical accompaniment that hit it out of the park. There has been a ton of passion that went into all six movies, and everybody contributes to the whole, but always getting us to the finish line—accenting emotions, driving the action or in the case of THE LAST SHARKNADO making us cry—The Chris’ have been there for the franchise. It’s been one of the best rides ever and I can’t thank them enough. Always embrace the ‘Nado!
– Anthony C. Ferrante, August 18, 2018
Whipping up a whirlwind that surpassed even previous Syfy channel monster mixes like Roger Corman’s SHARKTOPUS and Jim Wynorski’s PIRANHACONDA, The Asylum’s distinctively successful 2013 exploitation film SHARKNADO, broadcast on SyFy and soon thereafter released on home video, became a television phenomenon, quickly outdoing in sheer audaciousness even the tentacled carcharodon of Mr. Corman’s previous SyFy invention. When a freak hurricane swamps Santa Monica, thousands of sharks are sucked up into the cyclone’s funnel to be flung hither and yon to terrorize the waterlogged populace, and nature’s deadliest apex predator rules sea, land, and air.
Directed by Anthony C. Ferrante, the film reveled in its made-up science, its tongue-in-cheek storyline, and its outrageous confidence, and fans gobbled it up. Before you can say MEGA SHARK VS. GIANT WHATSIS, The Asylum, frequently derided for their “mockbuster” films that rode in on the coattails of mega blockbusters with their own cheap knockoffs, became known for this fanciful, fun, and fantastic freak of nature. Naturally a sequel surfaced, which switched the devastating series of hurricanes to the east coast as tornados hurled sharks within and without to gobble up the Big Apple in an even sillier and ridiculously entertaining follow-up also directed by Ferrante and featuring the hero duo from the first film. SHARKNADO had officially become a franchise, one that Ferrante would lead with increasing amusement for a total of six incarnations, each one brimming with more sharks, more ‘nados, and more cameos as celebrities lined up to have their turns being munched on by flying great whites, makos, and hammerheads alike.
One aspect of The Asylum’s films, love them or hate them, is that their musical scores have always been straightforward, honest, and very effective at giving these absurd films the kind of epic symphonically-styled powerhouse backbone that helped them to work. The first SHARKNADO was scored by Iranian-American composer Ramin Kousha, a composer of independent films and shorts since 2010, in his first assignment for The Asylum. Kousha’s score gave the outlandish story just what it needed to work – by playing it straight, bestowing dramatic intensity to the credulity-straining events in the film and giving them a dynamic of weight, tension, and irony that enabled the film’s effectiveness and its audience’s suspension of disbelief – or as much of that as could be expected for the spectacle of sharks being sucked up in a tornado and flung to the far reaches of southern California. “There were textural and melodic themes used throughout the film that was established early on the process of scoring and can be heard throughout the score,” said Kousha of his approach to SHARKNADO. “Melodic elements were not as important as the textural items. It was more important to create a mood for the film rather than specific characters.”
The sequel, released to SyFy in 2014, amped up the sharks, the tornados, the in-jokes, and the cameos the nth level, and its score reached an even higher intensity (and length; the first soundtrack barely reached 30-minutes, the second supplies a generous 77 minutes). Ferrante brought in regular Asylum composer Chris Ridenhour (TRANSMORPHERS, MEGA SHARK VS GIANT OCTOPUS, 2012 SUPERNOVA), who quickly brought to bear his knack for writing epic themes to the shark-infested table, assisted by his associate Chris Cano (they’d been sharing scoring duties for The Asylum since 2009, and Cano (like Ridenhour) had also scored various Asylum fare on his own, in his case, DRAGON WASPS, POSEIDON REX, etc.). For the sequel, Ferrante asked the composers for a classic score with traditional themes and big epic action moments. “We wanted a fresh start and created a score that established new themes for the characters and a more epic overall feel throughout,” Ridenhour said.” The score is truly infused with a ‘nado’s worth of exciting melodies and motifs, starting with an extended opening scene in which a plane piloted by Robert Hays, playing a character very like the one he played in AIRPLANE!, flies into a tornado full of toothsome selachimorpha. Faster than you can say “No, I’ve been nervous lots of times,” chaos ensues and Ridenhour’s progressive 12-minute tour-de-force becomes a dazzling and articulate riot of wild agitato. “That whole scene is almost a small movie unto itself and had a lot of great tension-filled, climactic moments,” said Ridenhour. “The flavor of the film was infectious. I also enjoyed the subway attack music Cano wrote. That was the first big action moment set in NY and set a great pace and frantic energy for the rest of the film.”
There are a few attempts at enhancing character pathos but mostly the score is active and brisk, focusing on the swiftly hurled sharks rather than the disposable characters. Cano’s aforementioned subway music maintains its ferociously aggressive orchestral attack through its entire three minutes, flecked by an electronic pulse; through energetic
cues like these music keeps the audience in pace with the action and from hesitating and questioning the incongruity of the film’s whole concept. Ridenour and Cano end the film with another extended progression of symphonic energy; Ridenhour had introduced his main theme, a sincere and vibrant French horn melody, early in the film and reprised it with trumpets during the stadium attack,” and then again very nobly for horns in opportune moments during the film, particularly in the tumultuous final track. Throughout the score, but especially in that last track, Ridenhour and Cano manage their digital samples quite dexterously, enhanced by the few live instruments the film’s budget would permit; the samples are quite convincing in the midst of the score’s more frenetic cues, and their digital orchestration really gives the film its epic movie verisimilitude.
As Ferrante’s second helping of savage weather and white sharks begat a third, then a fourth, fifth, and finally arriving at the unitary perfect number Six, the franchise’s grand conclusion beheld in tonight’s SHARKNADO 6: IT’S ABOUT TIME. Throughout their five scores for the colossal saga, Ridenhour and Cano continued to embiggen these films’ dynamic, interpreting even the most preposterously absurd scenes imagined by veteran Asylum screenwriter Thunder Levin’s into rousingly exciting and often even sympathetic music [Levin was joined in the writer’s room for SHARNADO 5 & 6 by the company’s casting director Scotty Mullen]. For this momentous occasion, we’ve joined Chris’s Ridenhour & Cano (unfortunately, we could not reach Ramin Kousha in time) for a comprehensive examination of their musical journey through the SHARKNADO infestation and safely (we hope) out the other side.
An Epic Chat with Chris Ridenhour & Christopher Cano
Q: What’s it like working for The Asylum?
Christopher Cano: The Asylum has been great. They went from doing just a few movies to fifteen or so movies a year. At some point, I guess they’d decided rather than hire new composers for each film they contacted us and asked if we just wanted to do all their films. We said “sure!” So over the last three or four years, we’ve pretty much done everything they’ve released – all the crazy movies and some of their Lifetime movies too. It’s been going well. I’ve done some work for other production companies now, so at this point we actually have several composers that we bring in to work with us just to keep our sanity.
Q: What is the role of music in The Asylum’s brand of filmmaking?
Chris Ridenhour: The main criterion is that the music generally needs to be upbeat and keep the movie and drama moving forward. Usually the directors are fans of classic orchestral film scores, Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams, etc., which is great, because I am as well. Melody and beautiful, rich orchestrations are my bread and butter.
Q: How have you managed with the deadlines and budgets you’ve faced, and being restricted to digital orchestras most of the time?
Christopher Cano: That’s just the industry now; at this level that’s the way it goes. One of the reasons why they responded to, especially Chris’ music in the beginning, is that he’s really great in making sample music libraries sound very realistic, which is not something every composer can do. So the producers were over the moon at having these scores that sounded very cinematic for their movies. It really helped to cover over some of the low budget-ness of the film. That really sold them on working with him and then with us together. The thing about The Asylum that’s great for us is that, whereas most independent production companies may not get their movies distributed well – they may not air on TV very much, for example, so if you do a film for them your royalties may be low, but with The Asylum, because they have a great business model, pretty much all their films end up airing somewhere, Netflix, Lifetime, or SyFy. So while the budgets are low, at least the films are getting aired and being seen, and then we’ll get some royalties for our work.
Q: How did SHARKNADO 2 arrive in your film scoring lap?
Christopher Cano: We’d actually passed on the first movie, because when the first movie was in production we had been so crazy busy up to that point we were burnt out. So we told them we needed to take some time off. We had no idea the movie was going to be what it turned out to be – at that point it was just another B-movie! But when SHARKNADO came out and it started to become this cultural phenomenon we were kicking ourselves! We talked to Anthony and the guys at The Asylum and they were great about bringing us on to the second one.
Chris Ridenhour: Of course, during the time the first SHARKNADO comes out, which we didn’t score, it becomes a huge pop culture sensation! So getting on board for the second one was a real blessing, and I’m very grateful to be a part of the franchise.
Christopher Cano: For everybody involved, SHARKNADO 2 was a huge jump from the first one. On a lot of these movies there’s no expectations because they’re so small, but that was the first time, really, that there were a lot of expectations, since everybody knew about it. They shot it in New York and everything was just a lot bigger on screen.Q: How closely did you work with director Anthony C. Ferrante on establishing the musical direction for this picture?
Christopher Cano: Anthony is a great guy and a great director and he’s very passionate about everything he does. He’s with the project all the way to the end, which is great. So we met with him and worked out all the details, and we were really happy with the way the second one came out. We tried to follow that format for the rest of the films.
Chris Ridenhour: With SHARKNADO 2 we hit it off with Anthony, and we found we were pretty much on the same page, musically. He was great in allowing us to pretty much do our thing, but he also had very specific dramatic ideas which helped us out a great deal. He really put his stamp on the movie in every way and gave it a great New York quality. Writer Thunder Levin was wonderful to work with as well – he is a great friend and one of my biggest supporters. SHARKNADO 2 is like a love letter to New York City. After that we dove into the next series of movies with the same kind of enthusiasm.
Q: What musical elements are central to the SHARKNADO scores and how have they developed across the arc of the series?
Chris Ridenhour: When I began on SHARKNADO 2, the main thing I wanted was a great theme for Ian’s character Fin. That was the first thing I wrote. The theme also had several variations that were used as his love theme with Vivica and Tara’s characters. The theme first appears when Fin is having a quiet moment in the plane, then weaves throughout the film in many dramatic sections, and then totally blossoms with big orchestra at the end when he saves the day on top of the Empire State Building. I also wrote a brassy theme as a personal tribute for the New York City firefighters which is also developed in the big moment with Fin on top of the fire truck cutting the shark in half. The whole ending of the movie came out great, I’m super happy with it.
Christopher Cano: It’s actually interesting that you mention that because as we’ve added new themes we’ve also kept the original themes that we’ve used throughout the first four films that we’ve done. So by now with the 6th film, we had so many themes that we used throughout all the movies that the whole score is based on all the themes from before! I think if you were to watch all the films, you will hear that, because we definitely made a conscious effort to stay thematic. With SHARKNADO 6, the opening credits is a song rather than orchestral, so there wasn’t an effort to solidly establish a main theme for this movie, which you can do with an opening credit sequence, but we definitely have themes that pop up everywhere, and for each one of the characters, too.
Q: SHARKNADO 2 references several other films (especially in its opening sequence) and features some in-joke casting and plenty of New York personalities in cameo roles. Are there any musical in-jokes in your score or references to these amusing elements in the script or casting?
Chris Ridenhour: At first, I thought about doing some kind of homage to JAWS but I chickened out. You can’t outshine the master. If anything, I wanted to try and do something special and give the film a classic type score and try to avoid all the usual movie music clichés as much as possible. I wanted it to have a classy but contemporary feel.
Q: One of the roles of your musical scores in these films has been to play the straight man, keeping the storyline nailed down to some sense of realism or sense of “this might actually be happening, somewhere.”
Christopher Cano: You’re right. These films are edited and tend to play to the comedic vibe, with a lot of quick changes, sudden shifts, and things that we would normally deal with on a different kind of film. But the producers really want to play it straight, so we go into these films as if they’re the most epic films ever created.
Chris Ridenhour: That’s the fun part of the movie, keeping it serious. There are these crazy, improbable things going on with the story and it’s amazing to see how they keep topping themselves. The stories are obviously hugely over the top and epic and ridiculous at times, but with the music, we try to score it like a standard action movie.
Christopher Cano: Yeah. They’re supposed to be like serious films even though they’re silly. When I’m working on them – because I work out of my house – my family will pop in my studio occasionally, and the whole time I was working on SHARKNADO 6 they would come in and I would hear “whaaat is going on?!!” [laughs]. I’ll say “I don’t know – just don’t ask questions!” It gets pretty crazy.
Q: How long does it generally take you to score a SHARKNADO film?
Chris Ridenhour: Usually only a week to 10 days. With SHARKNADO 2 there was more time and a few versions of the movie. The extended theatrical/DVD cut is the best one. The music mix is much more upfront and powerful.
Q: What kind of recognition did your work on these films give you? And is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Chris Ridenhour: It’s all good. I personally enjoy it all. The best part for me is how my family and friends get into the fun of everything. My sister called me after I scored the second film and was telling me about how she is telling her friends that her brother worked on SHARKNADO 2. The other great thing was taking my daughter to the premiere. That’s what matters to me. I like being in the business of making people happy and entertained. If we can make some people laugh, have fun and feel good from time to time and make the world a happier place, then so much the better. I’m honored to be a part of it.
Q: Both you and Christopher Cano have worked together on several Asylum scores previously. How do you work together on scoring these films?
Chris Ridenhour: When you only have ten days to score a 90 minute film with wall-to-wall music, it’s a huge physical and emotional undertaking especially when you have to crank them out back-to-back year after year! Cano has been my wing-man for several years working alongside me with several scores. Collaboration really helps alleviate the deadline stress. In addition to Chris Cano, I also had my good friend Eliza Swenson join in on the fun.
Christopher Cano: Ridenhour and I work as a team but we have help. Eliza Swenson is actually the reason we got into The Asylum; she scored their earliest films. We met her through a connection and we formed a band with her. She’s an amazing composer and she’s been a huge help. Shane Prather came on
board a few years ago; he studied in Texas and he contacted us and wanted to come out here and make it as a film composer, and he’s been fantastic. At this point he’s just as busy as we are, scoring. Then we have two or three other guys who we’ll bring in when things get really crazy.
Chris Ridenhour: I look at ourselves now as a band; we’re a band but instead of doing songs, we do scores. But we still have that kind of band chemistry of collaboration that we did before. It’s been not only fun but less stressful. Just in the last three or four months we’ve done nine movies! We did four Shark Week movies – 6-HEADED SHARK ATTACK, FRENZY, MEGALODON, and SHARKNADO 6 – and then on top of that we did a couple indie movies and some other film scores, so it’s just been insane. All of them are different, stylistically, but with SHARKNADO 6, Eliza and Shane have been so wonderful and we really wanted to reward them with a little more of a piece of a pie on this one, so let them do a little more. I did the dinosaur sections and Eliza and Cano did the medieval scenes; then Shane and I did the Revolutionary War and Cano did the future; I did another part of the past, and then I did the ending with Cano, so everybody had their own little area to play around in. Then of course we’d play the cues for Anthony, and he’ll have his notes and the producers would have their notes, so there were a couple of cues where we had to go through some different versions to get it right so everybody was happy with it. The best thing about this one is that we have a new rerecording mixer, Clifton Carlson, and he’s amazing. On this film the music is really very, very present. The previous SHARKNADO films were a little more varied with all the wind effects and everything, and you couldn’t always hear the score. On SHARKNADO 6 the mix is amazing and the music is huge, and we’re super excited about that.
Q: Are there musical gestures and patterns that may be common between these different films and series?
Christopher Cano: The producers definitely want a certain sound for the action films so that’s been our guide. They like percussiveness and they want things to sound orchestral and big, so when we approach these action films, that’s what we’re looking at. And because we have our own styles, I think that if you were to listen to a bunch of these movies together, there would be a familiar style or a sound to these action films, but the when it comes to the other movies – because we’ve done Lifetime movies for them and we also do their Christmas movies – those sounds fit into their own musical traditions. For the Lifetime dramas, we’ve tried to think “What if Bernard Herrmann was alive today and he was doing these Lifetime films – how would he approach it?” And that’s kind of how we do it, because I love Bernard Herrmann, and the vibe he has really works incredibly well with Lifetime movies! That really helped us find a way to approach these films. A lot of times we’ll hear scores for these Lifetime movies and at least to me they sound like pads, just kind of lifeless. So we try to bring in some dramatic moments and really amp everything up, and so far it’s been working pretty well. We have three Christmas movies coming up that we’re going to be working on, and that’s a whole different vibe. They want peppy, energetic music, very, very upbeat, and of course finding all the public domain Christmas songs that are usable and throwing them within the score really helps too!
Q: What kind of experience did you have on your second film in the franchise, SHARKNADO 3?
Chris Ridenhour: The second one had more pressure on it for us because it was the sequel to that first pop culture phenomenon, and since we were new to the franchise there was a lot more pressure. So by the time we’re in the third one, we had already established themes for the characters and kind of a raw vibe, so it was a lot more comfortable. In addition to that, the story was a lot of fun. That was one of my favorite ones, the third one. The most recent one, the LAST one is my second favorite because we got to do a lot of different time periods and all the different genres. That was really cool having that variety. I especially enjoyed scoring the ending of SHARKNADO 5, that whole thing with the Egyptian stuff, when they’re in the pyramid. That was a lot of fun to do.
Q: Have your musical budgets increased as the films have gotten bigger?
Christopher Cano: I don’t know what the budget was for the first movie, and I can’t imagine it was smaller than their regular budget, but they did increase for the rest of the films. I think it was with the third film that we started hiring an orchestra. We weren’t able to use the orchestra for the entire score but we used it for certain moments, or in key moments. This time around, with SHARKNADO 6, actually we did a different tack, we didn’t hire an orchestra but we hired a lot of individual players so we’d have acoustic instrumentation throughout the score more often. So we got a little more bang for the buck this time around.
Chris Ridenhour: One of the cool things was to have been able to work with a live orchestra on these movies. I’ve really wanted to explore making these sound like traditional action scores with rich undertones and thematic material, when possible. The orchestra has been 55-pieces and because of budget and time we had to be as economical as possible with our choices. There’ll be certain scenes that are well-suited to having a live orchestra and there are other scenes where we can get away with less live instrumentation – maybe a violin or a vocalist so we don’t necessarily have to have the full 55-pieces going on. For example, in one of the SHARKNADOs there’s a scene where Fin is at a farm with his family and playing with his kid and just being a father, and it was really wonderful to be able to explore that little moment with live instruments. It was a beautiful moment in the movie, and of course immediately after that they’re like in Vegas and sharks are everywhere! And there’s another little scene where April and Fin have a romantic moment, and Anthony wanted us to do an homage to the 1940s with a lush string sound, so we actually got a live string orchestra and were able to do that, which is very rewarding. There is so much variety and things you can do with these movies.
Christopher Cano: On SHARKNADO 6, we brought in a solo violinist and percussionist, we got a lot of vocalists involved, guitar players, horn players – everybody we could find!
Chris Ridenhour: Rather than bringing in the orchestra on 6, we went more with individual musicians and smaller ensembles on this last score – like friends of ours, Joe and Jordan Martone, they’re husband and wife; she’s a violinist and he’s an amazing percussionist. He performed all the percussion single-handedly and Jordan she performed in a number of scenes. Another cool thing was having all of my friends from my college conservatory days – and they’re like teachers now and everything – and I brought them on board to perform in the score. So I have a lot of strings and vocals and guitar, and they’re just over-the-moon excited about it because they can tell their friends they were playing on SHARKNADO!
Q: What was your and Christopher Cado’s technique as far as interweaving the themes throughout the music for the sixth film’s new environments and such?
Chris Ridenhour: We do have a minor-chord Shark ado motif, and it’s kind of like a puzzle piece. When we see a character on screen we know we’re going to use their theme in one way or another. Sometimes if there are multiple characters it’s been fun to go back and forth. There’s a scene in SHARKNADO 6 where we have three of the main characters having a conversation, and in that conversation we went back and forth between different themes. By the time you get to do the sequel it’s just a lot easier to write them because the themes are already established.
Christopher Cano: We’ve actually been fortunate that no one can tell where each of us stops and starts. Obviously we can but we’ve pretty much been able to do these films in a way that no one can really tell that there are two people working on it – or three or more. We spend a lot of time making our templates the same, having the same libraries. As we’re working on movies, SHARKNADOes especially, we’ll be texting each other examples of what we did for this scene or that scene, and keep ourselves updated with each other’s work, because we all work at our own studios, we don’t get together for this. That works very well and that’s the only way we’ve been able to get through all these crazy waves of movies, just stay organized!
Q: How would you describe your working model? How do you choose who takes which scenes, etc.
Christopher Cano: A couple things: each one of us has our strengths that we go with. Ridenhour’s great with John Williams’ style, big orchestra stuff, he’s really awesome with that, so if it’s a scene that calls out for that, like a good example was in SHARKNADO 5, the opening scene was a takeoff of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, and I told Chris that, “oh, man, this is right up your alley!” And my style tends to be a little more driving. I come from a song background, I’m a drummer, so we have a slightly different approach. On SHARKNADO 5, I took the whole England attack scene. For action sequences I tend to be more percussive and driving. When we mix all that together it ends up sounding really cool. So we’re trying to play to our strengths, if possible, and so by this point we’re pretty much able to do anything that comes around.
Q: How have you dealt with the traditional conflict between music and sound effects in these films?
Christopher Cano: These movies are always a challenge because of the fact that it’s a tornado sound and we’re always fighting with the sounds of the storm. That has always figured into our scoring – we try as best we can to score around the sound effects so that we can work together on it. That was something that we discussed from the beginning, and the way that Chris and I usually work, and also with our team, is we’ll come up with the themes and key centers and that kind of thing ahead of time. We try and find the smaller story and character arcs within the film, so that way we can score each arc as a cue, so it keeps the music flowing and doesn’t sound chopped up. All those things figure into every movie we do, but it started with that SHARKNADO film.
Q: What would you say has been most challenging about working on the SHARKNADO series?
Chris Ridenhour: To be honest, I had a hard time starting SHARKNADO 2 because I was very intimidated by the success of the first film. Usually I’m just flying under the radar, but I knew every detail of this was going to be scrutinized. However, once I dove in I was having a blast.
Christopher Cano: The challenging part is usually the schedule. Just to give you an example, on this sixth movie, we were also in the middle of doing 6-HEADED SHARK ATTACK, FRENZY, and MEGALODON for Asylum, so we were already running at capacity and by the time we got SHARKNADO 6 locked, we probably had maybe two and a half weeks to get everything in. That’s challenging enough as it is, but then on top of that we had to get all these parts recorded, which meant getting them arranged and notated out for the players, so it was a period of time when files were just flying back and forth between all of us and all the players we got involved. The challenge was to stay organized. A lot of time composers will score something and then will have a little bit of time to live with it and make sure it’s working, but we don’t have that kind of luxury! We finished the score and sent it in and the first time we were able to hear it was actually at the review for the film. So we were hoping we got it all right!
Q: Another series you’ve both done, one of which has premiered this Shark Week, is the 2-/3-/5-/6-HEADED SHARK ATTACK films. How do you tackle that kind of an animal?
Christopher Cano: You know, we kind of keep the SHARKNADO vibe, although it’s slightly different. These are a little smaller scale films, maybe a little more personal because the groups fighting against the sharks have fewer people, instead of flying around the world with huge plotlines. So we’re aware of that angle. We actually have a theme that we’ve actually used in all the movies, so that’s what we use to keep everything organized.
Q: What was your process for coming up with a theme that suggested “2-headed shark” and then how figure out how to take it further with the increasing amount of heads throughout the series? Where do you start from?
Christopher Cano: I know what you mean! Chris had done 2-HEADED SHARK ATTACK on his own, and I came in on the 3-HEADED one, and I scored the opening credit sequence. I’m the type of composer who likes to use short motifs, especially for action moments, and I like to use them everywhere, so that’s kind of the idea with these movies. I put the theme, which was a cello motif, in the opening and as we move along in the story it gets more frantic. Now, these movies are not really connected other than in title. They’re not sequels and the characters are different in each one. So, for instance in SHARKNADO we have a theme for all the main characters, because they keep coming back. But in the 3-HEADED SHARK [etc] films, the people and situations are always different so the only theme tying everything together is this motif on the cello that we use as the “multiple-headed motif”—I guess you can call it!
Q: So as these things have grown, what kind of public response have you been aware of? There seems to be a polarization between people who love it and people who hate it. What kind of feedback have you received concerning your involvement in these films?
Chris Ridenhour: To be honest with you, the music on the previous films was so varied that most people didn’t hear the score, since it was so low in the mix. It’s more of the pop culture phenomenon kind of thing, everybody knows what it is, and it’s cool if somebody asks “what do you do?” “I’m a composer.” “What have you worked on?” In the past I’ve answered and it’s usually something they’ve never heard of, and now I can say “I worked on SHARKNADO” and it’s “Oh yeah! I know that” because everybody’s heard of it – but that doesn’t mean that they know the music. They know the films because they’re famous. For me, personally, I just love the genre, I love B-movies and I always have, and I love this goofy, campy, over-the-top, insane stuff. It’s my personality and it’s just something I think is really funny, and I have a lot of fun with it as a composer. Now, that said, I know there are people out there who are super die-hard, serious science fiction fans and some of them get offended by the campy movies, they think these movies are ridiculous and they get upset about that for some reason. I don’t really get that, because just think these movies are a lot of fun. I love serious sci-fi movies but I love all this goofy stuff, too. I’m ok leaving my brain at the door and grabbing the popcorn and enjoying myself and having some fun. That’s what these movies are, they aren’t trying to be anything other than funny.
Q: We were blessed with soundtracks from SHARKNADO and SHARKNADO 2, courtesy of Lakeshore Records, and from SHARKNADO 5 via BMG. What are the chances the other movies may see score soundtracks?
Chris Ridenhour: I’m really bad with this stuff because we’ve done so many movies over the years. We’re working 24/7 at this and when we have a day or two off it’s rare. So I haven’t really had time to address soundtracks, because we finish them so quickly and move on to the next project. I’m so picky with our music that if don’t have the time to master and mix it properly and make it work as a standalone piece of music I wouldn’t want to just push it out there without being able to make it a more polished album. That said, it would be cool at some point to put out a “Best of” compilation soundtrack of the coolest cues. But maybe I should think about putting something out from this latest one, because it is a really cool score and we went all out, 100 percent blood, sweat, and tears on this score!
Randall D. Larson writes a regular film music column at buysoundtrax.com and is the author of numerous soundtrack album commentaries (including SHARKTOPUS!) and several books on film music, including Musique Fantastique: 100+ Years of Fantasy, Science Fiction, & Horror Film Music, a series in its 2nd Edition which is slated to resume publication next year.
This retrospective interview was compiled from the author’s interviews with Chris Ridenhour (2014, 2018) and Christopher Cano (2018), and Lakeshore Record’s press release for the SHARKNADO and SHARKNADO 2 digital soundtrack releases, 2014. See the author’s 2009 interview with Chris Ridenhour about scoring such Asylum movies as TRANSMORPHERS, MEGA SHARK VS. GIANT OCTOPUS, 2012 SUPERNOVA, and much more, archived here.
Special thanks to Anthony C. Ferrante, Chris Ridenhour, and Christopher Cano.