Adam Berry Interview Feature - The Next Level

Adam Berry Interview

GotNext chats with Kim Possible composer about his past and current music contributions.

Article by Steven Howell (Email)
December 12th 2004, 10:00AM

As the composer for the spy-flavored, espionage hip animated series, Kim Possible, Adam Berry sets the emotional tone with his contemporary mix of rock and pop. You may recall his work in such films including Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins, Disney's Hercules and the ever-popular Comedy Central hit South Park. Recently, we caught up to Adam, who was kind enough to sit down with us and offer some insight on his latest work, previous contributions, and the origin of the infamous "Primus" moniker.

You're currently working on music for the show Kim Possible. How did you find yourself working for Disney once again?

Adam Berry: The creators of "Kim Possible" (Mark McCorkle and Bob Schooley) were also two of the three producers of "Buzz Lightyear of Star Command" and "Hercules." Over the last six years we've developed a great working relationship.

Could you describe the process of how Kim Possible is scored?

Adam Berry: I receive a tape of the episode I'll be scoring about a week before the final mix of all the elements (score, sound effects, dialogue, etc.) I compose the score, and make a preview tape which is viewed by the produces, director, and sometimes Disney executives, the day before the mix. I then get notes from the producers, director, and executives at Disney. The final phase of the process is making revisions and mixing the score. The unusual aspect of scoring Kim Possible is that we don't have a spotting session (a meeting in which the producer, director and composer talk about musical style and cue placement).

Kim Possible seems to be pretty aware of current teen trends. Considering this, why did the show go with a guitar based soundtrack and not something more pop influenced?

Adam Berry: One of the musical styles we discussed in the first season was Max Martin's producing style for Brittany Spears. I was surprised in close listening that there were some very cool "wah-wah" guitar tracks on some of the songs. And then when Avril Levine became so popular (the second season of Kim Possible) it was very easy to justify a guitar driven score. So that's part of the decision. The other factor is the clear nod to John Barry's "James Bond" scores.

With the final season of Kim Possible in the works, could you put into words, your feelings about the show and your work on it so far?

Adam Berry: Kim Possible is a great show to work on and I'm very happy with the music. When you are working on a project 12 to 14 hours (or more) a day, it's such a gift to be working on a quality show. It's also been fun for me to play so much guitar again. Most of the work that I do on other projects is orchestral so I rarely have the opportunity to exercise my guitar skills. I think I've played more guitar in the last three years than in the previous ten.

You've developed a vast number of straight-to-video, television, and independent film scores. What are your feelings on doing soundtracks for video games?

Adam Berry: I'm very interested. Several months ago my wife and I bought an xbox for our nephews to play while they were visiting. Once they left I put Halo into the xbox. After months of playing Halo (and now Halo 2) I'm hooked. I was very impressed by the role that Marty O'Donnell's soundtrack played in the gaming experience. So I've started thinking about scoring for video games.

You've been lucky enough to work on several different projects. Of all of them, what do you consider your ideal working conditions?

Adam Berry: The shows I've done at Disney are all ideal. Everyone at the company is so on top of their game that all I need to do is compose music. "Balto 2" and "Balto 3" at Universal were also great scoring experiences. To me an ideal working environment has a minimum of politics, and the director and/or producer is able to describe, at least generally, what they want.

Are there any jobs that you’ve have turned down in that past that you regretted in the future?

Adam Berry: Thankfully no.

How old were you when you first really got into music?

Adam Berry: Seven. When I started playing guitar I received so much positive feedback that I very quickly defined myself as a musician.

What was the big turning point for you in deciding that you wanted a career in making music?

Adam Berry: Most of the people in my life wanted me to have a vocation that I could "fall back on." I tried to study psychology and business. In psychology I was going to study how music affects the brain. With my business degree I was going to invest the money I made as a rock star.

Obviously I wanted to be involved in music. Ironically when I finally made up my mind to pursue music as a carreer and be a studio guitarist I developed tendentious in my left arm from over practicing. I was unable to play for the next six years. So I directed all of my energy into composing. I looked around and saw that the best way to make money as a composer was to write music for film and T.V.. At that point I started pursuing that goal exclusively.

What is the best advice you could give to someone who wants to get into the same/similar field of work?

Adam Berry: Become educated about the process of writing music.I don't mean go to school, (although that's what I did) I mean read some books. Listen to a lot of music. Study scores. Train your ear. Next, set some goals. Do you want to work in T.V., film, video games, or all three? Make some demo tapes, and start calling people who can give you a job. There is no one answer to success, except perhaps desire and focus. Everything else is preparation so that when the opportunity does comes along you do such a great job that people want to hire you again and again.

Who/where/what do you feel has had the biggest influence on your styleand preferences when writing music?

Adam Berry: A short list of composers who inspire me: Igor Stravinsky, Claude Debussy, Serge Prokofiev, William Walton, Edgard Varese, Witold Lutoslawski, Leonard Bernstien, John Williams, Danny Elfman, Gabriel Yared and Thomas Newman. The teacher who inspired me most about composition is Jim Hopkins at U.S.C.. Lastly bluegrass, blues and jazz guitar are a huge influence.

When I tell people that I'm interviewing Adam Berry of the show South Park, the first thing they ask me is "you mean the guy from Primus?" What's the story on the "Primus" joke?

Adam Berry: To be honest I don't know. While ego surfing I came across a site that said "This is a site dedicated to the music of Primus...and I don't mean Adam Berry." I don't know what the hell that means. I think that the confusion comes from the fact that I only wrote underscore for the show. When I first started working on "South Park" people would ask,"So you wrote that opening song?" I'd say "No, that's Primus."

They'd say, "Oh so you write the songs that chef sings?" I'd say "No, that's Matt and Trey." They'd ask, "Well what do you write?" I'd say, "You know those little bluegrass transitions, I write those and any music that happens under the action and/or dialogue." And they'd say, "Ohhhh."


[2003]   Beethoven's 5th
Kim Possible: A Stitch in Time
[2002] Kim Possible
[2001] Balto II: Wolf Quest
Small Shots
[2000] Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins
[1999] American Intellectuals
[1998] Disney's Hercules
Star Portal
[1997] South Park
[1996] Caged Fear
F/X: The Series
Friend of the Family 2

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