Spinema Issue 68: Talking Film and TV with Composer and Cinephile Yoav Goren

Goren’s latest Globus album and his numerous scores for films and television are incredibly strong, but maybe not as strong as his love for film and desire to share his art

Lend an ear to SPINEMA: a column exploring all movie music, music related to movies, and movies related to music. Be they film scores on vinyl, documentaries on legendary musicians, or albums of original songs by horror directors, all shall be reviewed here. Batten down your headphones, because shit’s about to sound cinematic.

As I noted in my last Spinema interview, one of my favorite discoveries when reviewing music is finding out the artist is involved in the film world, as well. It give me the excuse to share their art with a whole other set of readers and lovers of great art. Yoav Goren’s Globus is another such example. I was enamored with the latest Globus release, even highlighting their awesome Bowie cover on The Farsighted.

Thanks so much for chatting about your experiences in film and music. Before we dive in, let’s start with the basics. Who is Yoav Goren, the artist?

I am a artist who finds himself endlessly exploring the vagaries and challenges inherent in the human condition. A fortunate man, to be sure, who is blessed to be able to depict our whimsical world and its dominant species through this mystical and sacred mode of expression called music. That’s the big conceptual picture. Practically speaking, I strive to make art composed with rich emotional content, hybridizing orchestral themes with modern rock and electronic elements to produce an epic music experience.

With songs and pieces features in everything from American Gladiators to the Olympics, to trailers for Hollywood hits like Carlito’s Way and X-Men, you’ve been involved in doing music for the world of film and TV since the early 90s. How did that career come about?

I trace back the origins to when, as a child, I discovered within my dad’s record collection, an LP called “Soundstage Spectacular”. This album was like the greatest hits of big orchestral movie themes, and I remember being drawn into a captivating visual world that stirred up emotions that I couldn’t quite understand — and despite the fact that I hadn’t seen any of the associated movies. My fascination with film and film music developed as I studied the two at NYU, where I started scoring several student films. And when I moved out to Los Angeles and got a job selling keyboards and synths at a music store, I started meeting a lot of interesting musicians. One of which was a fellow named Jeff Fayman, who hired me to teach him how to use his new computer-based sequencer in his apartment in Santa Monica. Through the course of several lessons, we discovered we both really loved soundtracks and cinematic music, and he turned me onto some themes he had written for a couple of movie trailer jobs. So we started composing some pieces together, wanting to create a demo reel in order to pursue film scoring work. We thought we may utilize some of Jeff’s contacts in the budding trailer industry in Hollywood as a stepping stone towards that career, but we ended up actually getting quite a bit of work scoring trailers instead. By the mid 90’s, I was able to quit my sales job and devote myself entirely to our budding little production company, Immediate Music, where, over the years, Jeff and I scored and placed music in thousands of trailers, TV spots, commercials, video games and television productions.

Have you always been a film fan? What are some of your favorite movies, both as you were growing up and today?

I’ve always been a devout film fan, so much so that I pursued film studies and thought that would be my career path. Growing up, as a child I absolutely loved the big epic swords and sandals movies — like “Spartacus” and “Ben Hur” — as well as Sci Fi flicks like “Planet Of The Apes” and “2001”. Some of my favorite movies in my teenage years were the Sergio Leone westerns such as The Good The Bad and The Ugly and Once Upon A Time In The West. For me, these films are the highest form of pure cinematic artistry — the way the visual style, pacing and music together create this bigger-than-life effect — and have deeply affected me as an artist. During my university years, I became heavily enthralled with European cinema — Italian post-war, French New Wave, New German Cinema of the 60s and 70s. Some of my favorite films were L’Eclisse, Nights Of Cabiria and Stroszek. These days, I am drawn to a fairly wide range of genres — everything from Pixar films (Ratatouille) to Christopher Nolan (Inception) to gritty war movies (Zero Dark Thirty, 1917) and intimate character studies (Roma, Nomadland). And throughout my life I’ve been an avid documentary film fan. Cinema to me is a massive ignitor of emotions and existential questions, which in turn are the sparks for my own creative expressions.

Being a musician in the film world, I’d could only assume you have a love and appreciation for great film composers. Who are some of your favorites? What are some of your favorite scores and soundtracks?

Oh yes, the great film composers are probably my biggest influences and guided me towards this privileged life of making music. Top of the list is Ennio Morricone and his Spaghetti Western scores, as well as such gems as Cinema Paradiso and The Mission. Close by are Jerry Goldsmith, Nino Rota, John Barry, John Williams, James Newton-Howard, Elmer Bernstein, Philip Glass, Hans Zimmer — really too many more to list. Some of my other favorite scores in no particular order are Gladiator, Birdy, Up, Lawrence Of Arabia, Planet Of The Apes (1968), “Inception”, The Godfather, The Fog Of War, A Little Romance, Pulp Fiction, Casino. If I spend another five minutes, I can come up with another hundred to add to this list!

Would you consider these major influences? What are some of your other main influences?

I would consider these film composers and soundtracks as major influences, but there are so many others. For me, the artistry of the Beatles is very high up on a pedestal. They were able to not only broaden the scope of rock ’n roll in their early writing, but also introduce a diverse array of styles and, equally important, production creativity that, until this day, just blows my mind. My songwriting sensibilities are greatly influenced by Sir Paul. I am equally inspired by later rock artists of the 70s mostly British Rock — Bowie, ELO, Pink Floyd, Queen. I also love the heavier modern emo rock of Muse and Linking Park. I can trace the rhythmic elements in my music to influences of James Brown, Prince, Funkadelic, Chicago, and Earth, Wind And Fire. And of course, Bach, Beethoven, Debussy, Mozart, Lizst, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev. More recent influences are the newer classical composers such as Max Richter and Ludovico Einaudi.

How does writing music for film and TV differ from writing music for your albums with your band Globus and other projects?

The biggest difference for me is in the inherent structure of a film/TV composition and its reliance on the visuals to dictate the underlying message in the music. Media music structure very rarely emulates what western culture has defined as song form — verse, chorus, bridge etc. So writing music for picture is actually more liberating in that way, because one is free to pursue upside down or sideways or abstract forms of structure if one chooses. It’s not only liberating, but it can also be creatively inspirational which can lead to exciting exploratory directions. The thing I personally enjoy about my approach to writing music for these media is the inception of a theme, a motif, which then both serves as a compositional anchor and springboard to varying arrangements, mutations and divergences. It’s really quite an organic creative process for me. Whereas writing and producing songs that are meant to stand on their own are a bit more corralled inasmuch as there is a certain expectation on the part of the listener, and for me as a creator there is a need to connect with that listener. So I find myself slightly more boxed structure-wise here, because the ultimate need is for the song to engage and compel an audience.

On your latest release you cover “I’m Afraid of Americans”, the fantastic collaboration from Bowie and Reznor. Reznor himself has become a pretty prolific film composer. Are you a fan of his film work, do you have any favorite scores or pieces of his?

I am a fan of Reznor, really from before he became an in-demand film composer. I very much got into industrial music in the 90s, and Reznor, The Prodigy, Massive Attack — these were big influences for me. But I love how diverse Reznor has become with his film scores. I was really taken by The Social Network, and absolutely loved Soul. Looking forward to seeing and hearing his work on Empire Of Light.

Through your work as a musical artist and a film composer, you’ve gotten to work with some of the greats, releasing an album with Leonard Cohen, even winning an Emmy for work on scoring the Olympics on television. Who are some of your favorite collaborators and what are some of your favorite projects you’ve been a part of?

My relationship with Leonard Cohen was life changing. It was a very interesting and evolving one — it began with service (I sold him keyboards and then taught him how to use them) and ended with collaboration and friendship. I can literally trace back the beginning of my success as a media composer to the completion of The Future, the album on which I served as arranger and co-producer with Leonard. Those long conversations in his living room and in the neighborhood coffee shop were not necessarily about music, but they greatly formed my perspective on the meaning of life, crystallized my own identity, and catapulted my confidence as an artist. Immediately thereafter, I moved into another treasured collaboration in both music and business with Jeffrey Fayman, which has endured for thirty years. These days, I write on my own, but really enjoy collaborating on the production side of things. My brother Amit Goren is a documentary filmmaker, and our collaboration has spanned several decades and numerous films. More recently, I’ve had a blast working with the creative executives at Telemundo Deportes, where I’ve scored themes projects such as their World Cup and Copa America broadcasts. Also recently, I’ve been enjoying the process of what I call “Serial Collaboration” — where I ask a producer to create their vision for a demo song I’ve written, and then based on their work I’m inspired to put my spin on their spin! Did this on the latest Globus album with Matt McCloskey (Rev Theory) and Shimon Moore (Sick Puppies). Completely affording by modern technology, and so gratifyingly cool!

Before we begin to wrap, I want to ask you a bit about your current project, Globus, and your new album. If folks aren’t familiar with Globus, what would you say they could expect when checking out the new album?

Globus is an ensemble of immensely talented musicians and vocalists which I’ve brought together to create meaningful and impactful dramatic music. The new album is called Cinematica, and it’s a title I came up with nearly three quarters of the way into the production, because the content and sequence of the songs strongly felt like a visual journey. You will hear songs that evoke strong imagery and emotion, songs that engage and compel you to feel — sorrow, hope, anger, euphoria. You will be immersed in the music, there is no way to avoid it! The production intensity runs deep, but quite varied from song to song. The album skews towards alternative rock, but honestly, that’s a very loose definition, as there is a diverse range of styles, tempos, arrangements. Everything from lush or driving orchestra, heavy rock, hybrid electronica, to tender piano, psychedelia, spoken word and trailer-style choirs. This is an album depicting stories within the broad spectrum of the human condition. You will get the feeling of shared, bigger-than-life experiences of our modern times with your fellow humans on this planet. I strived to make listening to Cinematica equate to an epic journey, and my intention was to transmit my unquenchable curiosity and love of life to my fellow travelers.

Your career is so expansive and interesting, we could probably talk for hours and just scratch the surface, but I want to be respectful of your time. With that in mind, I want to focus on a few more questions and let you get back to your amazing work. As a matter of wrap up, what would you say to someone interested in doing music for the film world? What kind of advice do you have?

I can really confidently pass on this bit of advice because it’s taken (and is still taking) me literally decades to realize for myself. And that is, make the endeavor to identify, and then find within you, the passion that is your soul’s motor. What purpose do you wish for yourself in this life? Channel your passion to start finding the answer to this question. Then when it comes to making music, hone in on the style that best expresses that purpose and passion for you, and that will, over time, become your musical identity. The stronger that identity is, the better the chances that your talent will resonate to others with its creativity, uniqueness and authenticity. This talk of purpose and passion — it is weighty and certainly not easy to define, nor find. This will not happen overnight — it’s like that whiskey that needs to sit in a barrel for at least a dozen years in order to mature. So first and foremost, before any advice I would give related to a particular industry, it’s critical to find and then nurture, grow and ripen your unique creative voice. If you are honest with yourself with both your strengths and deficiencies, and continue an undaunted pursuit to better express your place in the arts (where there really are no definitions of right or wrong), I really do believe that it is only a matter of time before your creative energy attracts other like-minded creatives. Artistic talent and authenticity are the by-products of this journey to find your purpose and passion as an artist, and the more focused you are, the more engagement with others you will attract. The other parts of succeeding in the film word are more practical and logistical — there are endless resources that can direct you on how and whom to contact, how to get your music heard etc. In order to be best positioned to take advantage of these opportunities, commitment to be 100% focused on your passion and purpose is crucial.

That’s great advice! Thanks again for the chat and I hope to talk more one day about your music, your work in films and TV, and your incredible journey. In the meantime, where can people reading check out your music and follow what you’re up to?

My two artist monikers are the best ways to hear my music. Look up Trailerhead and Globus on the streaming services. For a deeper dive, check out my label’s website, imperativarecords.com. And if you really need more, the catalog I created with Jeff Fayman, Immediate Music, is online at BMG — bmgproductionmusic.com.

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