Tuned in Exclusive: Teen Wolf Composer Dino Meneghin Teases Season 5 and Discusses the Evolution of the Show’s Sound
I’ve always loved the sound of Teen Wolf, so I jumped at the chance to talk to composer Dino Meneghin. Dino uses an orchestra as well as sound design to give this show a unique and distinctive sound. How has the sound changed over the course of the seasons? What inspires him? What can we expect this season? Dino answers those questions and so much more.
TV GOODNESS: I usually donâ€™t watch the title credits, but for Teen Wolf I watch it every time. I love the music.
Dino Meneghin: “Thank you.” [Laughs.]
TV GOODNESS: Talk to me about composing that piece. How did it come to you? How long did you have to work on it?
Dino: “I think we started it in Season 2. We didnâ€™t have an opening title sequence in Season 1.
Jeff Davis, our show creator and show runner, talked to me about the concepts he had visually. He gave everybody some ideas of things he liked. Originally Jeff had thrown out this idea of having a more dub-step [sound] because everybody was doing that at that time. Then we quickly decided that wasnâ€™t a good way to go because it would date quickly and we just wanted to find something else. It was really just a process of me watching the cut.
[For] title sequences, a lot of time Iâ€™ll turn off whatever temp music they have and just tap along with it and just try to find a tempo that, for me, somehow works with the visuals. You can always tweak individual cuts, but a lot of times thereâ€™s a pacing everyone has in mind, even sometimes before they get the music.
We tried something that was more EDM and we decided against it. We had two more versions and then I stumbled upon this really simple ostinato. There really isnâ€™t a melody to speak of, but it became one of our main Teen Wolf themes, this really simple ostinato that we use throughout the whole thing. Jeff really responded to that.”
TV GOODNESS: Letâ€™s step back for a moment. When did you hear about this project and what made you want to do it?
Dino: “I had worked on a reality docudrama with Laura Webb, whoâ€™s the music supervisor on Teen Wolf. It was MTVâ€™s first scripted show and she and I have always had a really great working relationship. So, she called me and said, â€˜Hey. Do you want to throw your hat in the ring? Send me a reel.â€™ So I did and I didnâ€™t hear anything for five months. I just figured the show never went past a pilot phase or they just didnâ€™t like my reel.
Then I think it was in December of 2010, Laura called me and said, â€˜Jeff Davis really likes this reel and would love to talk to you.â€™ I ended up talking to Jeff on the phone. I was actually on tour at the time because I had been playing guitar with Michael Buble. So, I ran out into the parking lot of whatever stadium we were in and was talking to Jeff. Two weeks later I left that job and started on Teen Wolf.”
TV GOODNESS: What was the first piece of music you composed for the show?
Dino: “There were some incidental pieces. I think the first really thematic thing we spent time on was Scottâ€™s transformation. In the first episode heâ€™s in the bathtub and he starts transforming, his nails come out. There was this piece that we did- I wonâ€™t say itâ€™s was a weird piece, but itâ€™s one of the odder pieces that Iâ€™ve written. It was something that actually happened pretty organically and as soon as Jeff heard it, he liked it. That was what helped solidify me on the job. As soon as I sent that to Jeff he was like, â€˜Ok, great. You get this.â€™ We had an understanding about the music at that point.”
TV GOODNESS: I know you use classic orchestration as well as modern sound manipulation and production techniques for the show. Can you talk about what kind of instruments you use and how you come up with the more unique sounds? Sometimes when Iâ€™m listening I wonder what object youâ€™re using to make certain sounds.
Dino: “Some of the things you hear that you might not be able to identify, a lot of that is sound design work that Iâ€™ve done or that Iâ€™ve hired people to do. Sound design is a big part of what I do because Iâ€™m a big synth geek. Some of it is working with software synthesizers or hardware synthesizers and tweaking them until we get a sound thatâ€™s interesting. A lot of it is experimentation.
Because it takes a lot of time, youâ€™re not generally doing it while youâ€™re on deadline for the show. For example, there will be a period of about a month before I start a season where itâ€™s literally just recording myself goofing around with synthesizers. Or sometimes Iâ€™ll go around and get field recordings of things, like maybe there’s a pole that sounds really cool. Then youâ€™ll take that sound and stretch it out and smush it and chop it up and it comes out sounding like something else completely.
In the third season, we ended up using a sound a lot that was a sample of a dog from our dog ownerâ€™s group howling. She just had this really weird howl and we stretched it out and it ended up sounding really cool. We used that on a lot of the show.”
TV GOODNESS: The music, with this and any show, is so important to help set the tone or the scene. It really helps underscore emotional moments. I wanted to ask specifically about Allisonâ€™s death in Season 3. I just re-watched that scene to listen specifically to the music and I got emotional. Can you talk about composing that scene and making sure youâ€™re hitting the right notes emotionally?
Dino: “That piece was actually called â€˜Allisonâ€™s Swan Song.â€™ We took Allisonâ€™s theme that we had developed earlier in that season and I put it in that very ambient, spare setting. With Allisonâ€™s character, that was the first main character death that we had. Boyd actually happened before that, but Allison had been a main character from the first episode. I wanted to play it a little more â€“ not against type â€“ but instead of going big and melodramatic with it, I wanted to play it more spare, which I think worked well in that scene.”
TV GOODNESS: It did. Thereâ€™s so many great action scenes, as well. I was listening to the music thatâ€™s under the first appearance of the Berserkers. Can you talk about coming up with that?
Dino: “One of the main things to the Berserker theme was this sound we ended up coming up with that plays every time you see [them]. It was a sound design thing. With the Berserkers we really wanted something that was more raw and crude and ugly. I didnâ€™t really want something melodic for them because theyâ€™re just big nasty Berserkers. Once we found that sound, it was easy to build a track around it. We just didnâ€™t want anything too sophisticated.”
TV GOODNESS: How has the music changed since Season 1? Can you talk about the evolution of the sound?
Dino: “A lot of the composers Jeff Davis really likes and really gravitated toward are classics of the â€˜80s and â€˜90s. He loves a big John Williams or James Horner score. When we first started we were trying to work more of that stuff in. As we went through it, especially once we got through the first season, I think we all got more comfortable with giving the show its own identify musically.
In the first season, whenever we had a big, scary moment we tended to address that with the orchestra. My instinct now is more to address it with sound design. Weâ€™ll also bring the orchestra in there, but sound design has become a much bigger part of the sound of the show over time. Itâ€™s just been a matter of really trying to give the feel of some of the less self-conscious movies of the â€˜80s and â€˜90s. The Lost Boys was one of the first references Jeff gave me, not necessarily musically. He wanted to create a show that was scary but also fun.
To look at the show in that context, you can see where itâ€™s coming from and with what the show has become. Weâ€™ve also tried to do that with the music. We try to keep the music from becoming too clever or too self-conscious. Sometimes we just go big, strong and wrong.”
TV GOODNESS: Are you allowed to talk about any new music for Season 5 or is that too much of a spoiler?
Dino: “Well, hereâ€™s what I can tell you: some of the characters that weâ€™ve seen from the very first season are now taking hero turns.”
TV GOODNESS: My final question is do you have a favorite music cue and, if so, what is it?
Dino: “One that I wrote or one in general?”
TV GOODNESS: How about one of both?
Dino: “Ok. Let me think. I donâ€™t want to pick one of mine because [Iâ€™m] always so critical, but someoneâ€™s elseâ€™sâ€¦ There are a couple that are read standouts. Iâ€™m a big Ennio Morricone fan and pretty much anything from The Good, The Bad and the Ugly is great; classics like â€˜Gabrielâ€™s Elbowâ€™ from The Mission.
The thing that has always attracted me about him is that he writes incredibly memorable melodies that become an indelible mark on a movie, in a good way, and really add so much to the drama. Thereâ€™s something that I really like about it because Ennio Morriconeâ€™s music is never self-conscious. It always feels very heart-felt and very well-crafted. Itâ€™s just really good music. Itâ€™s not trying to make you think about how clever the composer is.”
Edited for space and content.
The 2-night Teen Wolf premiere event starts Monday, June 29th at 10/9c on MTV.
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