A Chat with Craig Safan + reviews of The Last Starfighter and Warning Sign

March 26, 2015 | By

Just posted is my lengthy Q&A with Craig Safan, a film composer I’ve frankly wanted to interview for decades. His music was among the first I bought on LP, and the experience of seeing The Last Starfighter (1984) at the York Cinema remains a sonic highlight.

The movie was fun, but the music in a Dolby environment was highly impressionable, because his score was probably the first that made my ears take note of good bass, or what I call the boom factor. Not bombast, but music that’s designed to envelope the audience and exploit the potential of multi-track audio, especially the subwoofer.

As Safan states in the Q&A, he’s primarily known for his big orchestral scores – especially Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985) – but there’s also his interest in electronic music which makes him a pioneer in applying synths to orchestral and all-synth scores just as instruments like the Synclavier were being adopted by Hollywood composers.

WarningSing1985_InvadaCDThis wasn’t a simple plug & play keyboard which allowed anyone to easily mimic an orchestra and deliver a cheap score; as Safan notes in the liner notes to Invada Records’s new LP and CD editions of Warning Sign (1985), there was much to learn and fiddle before one realized both the potential and limitations, and figure out ways to perform music and meet the dramatic needs of a film. Not something for amateurs, but certain creative problem-solvers would thrive in such circumstances.

The proof lies in the score’s resilience, because Invada’s album, augmented with a hefty amount of previously unreleased cues, sounds great and may be one of the most clean representations of the Synclavier’s emulations and sound manipulations. There are sounds many have heard in subsequent film scores, yet Safan’s creation and usage still seem fresh – a testament to the sublime recording and mixing of Dennis Sands.

LastStarfighter_Intrada2015CDIn addition to a review of Warning Sign, there’s also Intrada’s own expanded and remastered CD of The Last Starfighter, but prior to reading the reviews, I’d suggest listening to the 35 min. podcast that’s available on iTunes, Libsyn, and YouTube. (Because of time constraints and a tight film editing schedule, it’ll be a while before I can create and add some supplemental visual material to the YouTube version, so for now, it’s just audio-only.)

Also discussed in the podcast are ‘baking’ and mastering analogue recordings, a lengthy section on my favourite of his scores, Son of the Morning Star (1991), and some details on his new project, Rough Magic, a recording of sounds from caves featuring ancient Paleolithic paintings that’s slated for release in May via Perseverance Records.

Coming next week: Part 1 of the delayed Fabio Frizzi podcast, and coming shortly, another set of film reviews




Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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