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Tuned In Q&A: Music Composer Jesse Voccia Talks Bosch Season 2 

Tuned In Q&A: Music Composer Jesse Voccia Talks Bosch Season 2

bosch

Bosch is back for a second season on Amazon Prime. The crime drama based on Michael Connelly‘s popular book series once again features Detective Harry Bosch (Titus Welliver) chasing down the bad guys. The cranky cop’s fresh off a six-month suspension when he starts investigating a case that has mob ties. The stakes are high. The casualty count will most definitely run higher than in the first season.

An element that helps give the series its noir-like vibe is the music. TV Goodness recently hopped on the phone with Bosch‘s music composer, Jesse Voccia.

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Voccia talked about his biggest influence, his favorite musical moment in Season 2, what movie may have inspired him while creating Bosch‘s sound, and the importance of Los Angeles to the show and to his music. And find out why he considers himself a “method composer.”

TV Goodness: So you started composing music when you were a teenager?

Jesse Voccia: Probably before that. We had one of those little organs that had the numbers under those keys. I would write down the numbers there in crayon. My mother still has them. I should check them out to see if they’re any good but it was a habit I picked up very early. It’s true.

TV Goodness: That’s amazing.

Jesse: Really? Everyone in my family — on both sides — were musicians. My dad’s dad was a church organist and pianist and wrote religious music. My mom’s dad was sort of like a French-speaking Elvis Presley kind of character in this small town in Maine. He could play every instrument and had this booming voice and knew every song. He never turned it off. He was great to be around. So fun to be around.

TV Goodness: Who and what is the biggest influence on your music?

Jesse: I have to say my mother’s father, my grandfather. Because he really showed in daily life how music brought people together and how it could express very complex ideas and very deep feelings towards people. It wasn’t the type of family that could really talk about their feelings a lot but the music filled everything in. As we were growing up, he always had this amazing ability to support us in the actual act of making music. He knew how to make us sound good. He knew how to sort of break things down so that we could participate in a way we could really feel good about. And as I got older I became more aware that he was doing that.

So it was always about making other people look good and sound good and be creating these moments in the family that were very memorable and very positive and it’s something that I look back on often. So it always gave me the confidence to be like, whatever musical situation I get into whether playing with a band or playing in an unfamiliar place with strange people that seem kind of hostile, I always had a feeling like it was going to be alright and I could do something that was going to be interesting and entertaining and appropriate and unique to me. That carried into my film work once I spent more time doing that and less time performing and experimenting with musicians in the studio or whatever I was doing then.

TV Goodness: What was your big break in composing for film and tv?

Jesse: There was a film called Bloody Murder 2: Closing Camp. That was in the late ’90s. My mentor, the person that sort of brought me into this world — he gave me quite a bit of that to do. That was my first solo flight if you will. It was so much fun. It was worse than it sounds, for the type of movie it was. But it was perfect for that kind of movie. It was just so much fun. I got very lucky with that person who gave me that chance to do it and I loved everything about it. I loved being in the studio. I loved having a sort of semi-competitive kind of spirit in the troop. That was when I was 25 years old — it’s been a few years since then.

TV Goodness: Who was your mentor?

Jesse: He was a guy named Steven Stern. He had worked for Hans Zimmer and he had just left and kind of struck out on his own and he had this thing that he used to say. He always used to say, ‘Life always rewards a leap of faith.’ When I was 19 years old, I packed up my car and I just came out here and lived on someone’s couch that I didn’t even really know but they wanted me to be in their band so I thought I better do it. This is a great chance. I lived across the street from Guitar Center in Hollywood. Looking back I cannot believe I did that. But I did it. It worked out pretty well. This city’s always been very kind to me. And a lucky place for me.

TV Goodness: Los Angeles plays a big part of Bosch. Does the city help inspire or inform the music you create for the show?

Jesse: Absolutely. One-hundred percent. To see the locations and the care that went into the casting to get the exact right guy that lived on that street or right girls, in this case. It feels like I’m writing music from my own life. I used to live down the street from that bar or whatever it is. As a musically sensitive person, even if I’m just stuck in traffic, I hear the music that the city is making whether it’s noise coming out of a car a few cars down or something blaring out of a store, whatever’s happening.

It kind of all makes this big cloud that I can draw from. All the different cultures and the time and the lineage and the historical role that Los Angeles has played in music and pop music in the last 50 or 60 years. And my role in it as well. Both in movie music and in pop music. It’s always meant a lot to me. Like The Doors and all that great stuff from the ’60s and ’70s. The Laurel Canyon scene. All that stuff. All of that really, in my own way, it went into Bosch. Even going back to the ’30s and ’40s and the noir movement in cinema. We kind of drew a little bit from that as well.

TV Goodness: Who did you work closely with to come up with the sound for the show?

Jesse: It was Eric Overmyer the showrunner, Pieter Jan Brugge, the producer, and the author of the books, Michael Connelly’s very, very involved. In fact, he kind of said if we didn’t shoot in Los Angeles, he didn’t want to do the show. His commitment to the Los Angeles feeling gave me a lot of confidence to put that into it. Every chance that I can find to sort of insert the L.A. feeling into the music I did.

He really loved the movie The Long Goodbye — it was a key thing for him when he was in college. He saw that film. When he moved out to L.A. — when he decided to be a writer and stop being a crime reporter in Florida — he actually lived in Elliott Gould’s apartment for two years in the movie. It’s a spectacular view if you’ve seen the film, you can’t forget it. This big elevator goes up to this tower. It’s embedded in the hillside there. Every kid that comes to L.A. dreams of living in an apartment like that. And he actually did it. So we had a lot of conversations about that in the beginning.

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They didn’t want it to be like your stereotypical lonely cop saxophone score. What I did was I collected a bunch of sounds that we’ve been talking about, sort of abstract things that reminded me of Los Angeles and my feeling of being here. And I kind of molded those into the textures and the glue that ties the show together. There’s not a lot of music in the show but when it is there it’s important and it’s special because it’s unusual. It’s heightening the situation. I always say it’s when it switches from prose to poetry. There are a lot of details. The show is like a book with chapters. The whole season is one story so it doesn’t have to resolve every 45 minutes like a regular TV show usually does. We’re able to get into details and into complex relationships. And let it burn at a pace that’s more like a movie or even lets things unfold at an even slower pace.

TV Goodness: Did you find any sounds from any unique places?

Jesse: Last season I used a lot of this instrument from Turkey called Yayli Tambur. It’s very tall for a stringed instrument and I play it with a bow. And it created this resonating kind of droning thing that was tied to Raynard Waits (Jason Gedrick) who was this serial killer on the loose. That tone was kind of the signature tone for that character. The (Harry) Bosch theme is a little more traditional with strings and piano.

TV Goodness: Because he’s a jazzy kind of guy, right?

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Jesse: He’s a jazzy kind of guy. And it’s informed by that style of music but it’s an abstract impression to me of that kind of music. It’s not too complicated. It’s not too demanding of attention where it has some big theme that’s beating you over the head all day. I think it suits the character. He’s very understated. He’s observant. If music can be observant. I feel the music has that character.

This season, without giving anything away, we have a new set of characters that are up to no good. There’s a little more of a conspiratorial atmosphere. There’s a kind of web and a connection between characters that are doing their misdeeds. So I came up with something that was maybe a little more romantic, a little more seductive, a little more from the noir vein. Before we started I got a beautiful upright bass which I learned how to play. There’s some electric cello that makes its way in there…

A lot of the score, actually, a lot of the sounds we’re hearing is made from a pedal steel guitar. To me, L.A. is a desert and it’s a city built on a desert. And so somehow it made sense to me to take this instrument that evokes driving through the desert at night and wrap it in this cloak of colored air and the light from the city and all that kind of stuff. It’s one of my favorite instruments and I always try to find a way to sneak it in.

TV Goodness: Do you have a favorite musical moment that you can tease for Season 2?

Jesse: I think probably my favorite material which comes back a few times across the season is at the end of episode one. The very last music we hear before the end titles. The show opens with these shots of a character and it’s from the passenger seat looking at the driver. It reminded me…when I’m working on it I watch it over and over and over and over for days sometimes. So it seems like that shot was on the screen for a long time. It reminded me of William Hurt in Body Heat. To decompress of course I just watch more movies while I’m falling asleep. The vibe of Body Heat was sort of sinking into me. And when I played it for the guys I was like, what do you think of this? I thought they’d say you’ve gone too far, Jesse. It’s not 1979 anymore. But they loved it. And they saw what I was seeing in it. And they actually encouraged me to go even further with it than what I came to them with in the first place.

In the relative world of Bosch, it’s kind of a sweeping, romantic, seductive kind of atmosphere. It was so much fun to do. The characters are just…I thought how were they going to top Raynard Waits because he was just so crazy and evil and delicious and deliciously evil. He was having such a good time leading the police on this chase and enjoying the attention and it was just feeding his beast, his inner demons. They really have come up with a cast of characters that’s, even more, fun than the first season.

TV Goodness: How different is it working on a project for a streaming studio like Amazon?

Jesse: Because everyone was coming back for the second season, I had really good relationships with the editors. When I get involved in something I get very committed to it. Jerry Goldsmith came up with this term called method composer, like a method actor. I totally know what he meant by that because from the time that I started getting the emails that the filming had started, I just…clear my schedule, Delores! We’re doing Bosch now. So for about four months it was my life. I was in Bosch world. I had a great relationship with the editors from last season and they knew that I was in the tank with them. So they started sending me scenes that depended on music. I almost always like to do things in order.

But from the time where they say okay it’s done to the time that we’re mixing it’s usually nine or eight days. And so to have the extra time to work on the really important stuff. And for it to start off with the music that was made to suit the scene instead of having a temp…maybe some people were in love with the temp. Then you have to kind of try to beat the temp. So it was really nice to be able to put the actual thing in the thing early. I started sending over new music maybe in August just for like random scenes across the whole season.

Everyone learned how to work great together from last year. Last year was like working on a giant ten-hour movie more than a series. This season it actually flowed perfectly smoothly. Everybody really knew what to expect and we learned our lessons. At least from the music department, I’d had access to the shows earlier in the season so we were just filling in the missing pieces as we were getting towards the big deadline.

TV Goodness: Do you work with an orchestra? Or is it just you and instruments?

Jesse: It’s me and a couple soloists. It’d be nice but it’s not really in the cards right now. My generation I feel like has always been self-contained.

TV Goodness: A one-man band…

Jesse: Part of my appeal I think to the people that bring me into their projects is I do play a lot of instruments and create a lot of unique sounds that help fill out that universe of the project. It’s nice to work with orchestras and all that. But in another sense that’s kind of — it’s just one sound. And there’s other colors that maybe fit into different types of stories a little better. I don’t think orchestra would really make sense for the show. It’s so internal and low-key and slow burning.

The ten-episode second season of Bosch is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Bosch Season 2 Trailer

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