Music Interview with the Track Team (part 1 of 3)
Acastus: How did you come up with the band's name? Does it signify something special?
JZ: Actually, the Track Team isn't a band, but the name of our company. The Track Team, inc. if you will. It's a name Ben and a friend came up with some years back. When we were trying to come up with a name for our business we knew it was perfect for us. His friend was cool enough to let us use it. It's a little pun since tracks is another term for songs.
Acastus: How were you selected to work on Avatar? Any interesting stories from that process?
JZ: It's the old roommate story. Ben and Bryan had been roommates during the period that Mike and Bryan were creating the show. Around that time Ben and I were just founding The Track Team. We had both been doing commercials and some other random projects but were pretty wet behind the ears. They decided to take a bit of risk by hiring us. Our body of work was not stylistically like the music of Avatar. It was mainly electronic music and rock, but Bryan and Mike liked what we had done and believed in us. Of course we had to convince Nickelodeon that we were up to the task by doing a pencil test and pilot.
Acastus: The diversity of sound and music in Avatar is amazing. How did you come up with the general tone and unique sound that so distinguishes the music in Avatar?
JZ: Thanks! When Bryan and Mike first approached us to do Avatar they explained that they wanted a fictional and ancient sounding musical style. Those two qualities don't usually come together and this created a really fun challenge. We decided the best way to achieve this was to use ancient instruments from very old cultures but not completely follow the musical traditions, definitely to be cognizant and respectful of those traditions but not to try to be culturally accurate (hope no one is offended!). Of course we also wanted the epic scale of western orchestral instrumentation and so we found that between those two worlds there is a huge palette of musical expression. Additionally, the mixing of instruments from completely different cultures has had some really interesting results.
Acastus: What kind of direction do you receive from the producers and directors? How much freedom do you have?
JZ: We really have been given a lot of freedom and trust. There's a pretty unusual understanding there since Bryan is a musician and composer as well. There have been very few times where a musical cue was completely rejected. More often there is some comment to alter the existing cue to better achieve an emotional or narrative aim - i.e. a cue may need it's intensity level to be brought up or made to be darker, or less dark... we all believe that kids and teens are capable of feeling emotions very intensely and in a sense are more in touch with them than adults. Therefore the creators' expectations are very high and sophisticated.
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