Q&A with Composer +Songwriter CRAIG WEDREN Talks: WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER and More!
Posted On 02 Sep 2015
Tag: Afghan Whigs, Afternoon Delight, Alive 2, All Access, All Access Music, All Access Music Group, allaccessmusicnicole, Amy Poehler, Blunt Talk, Bradley Cooper, By The People: The Election of Barack Obama, Carole King, Chris Cornell, Conor Oberst, Craig Wedren, D'Angelo, David Lynch, David Wain, Death Magic, Dischord Records, Epic Records, First Love Last Rites, FKA Twigs, Foo Fighters, Fresh Off The Boat, Fugazi, Greg Dulli, Health, High Art, Hodgkin’s Disease, Holly Herndon, Janeane Garofalo, Jefferson Friedman, John Cage, Kendrick Lamar, KISS, L.A. Philharmonic, Lapland, Laurel Canyon, Matt Novack, Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter, New York, On In Love, Paul Rudd, Pavement, Pearl Jam, Platform, Pony Express Record, Press Here Publicity, Roger Dodger, Role Models, San Francisco, School of Rock, Shudder To Think, Smashing Pumpkins, Sony Music, Team Love, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, Tim Nackashi, Velvet Goldmine, Wanderlust, Wet Hot American Summer
Craig Wedren is the critically acclaimed songwriter and singer who began his career fronting avant-rock pioneers Shudder To Think. Blessed with a uniquely beautiful voice and amazing versatility as a writer and arranger, Wedren has made a name for himself in both the traditional world of rock/pop and as a sought after film composer. In addition to his prodigious film and T.V. work, Craig continues to release groundbreaking original music, including his solo album Wand, and the song cycle “On In Love”, a collaboration with acclaimed classical composer Jefferson Friedman.
As a composer, Wedren has scored a host of popular feature films including Wanderlust, Role Models, School of Rock, Wet Hot American Summer, By The People: The Election of Barack Obama, Laurel Canyon, Roger Dodger, and Afternoon Delight, which was the winner of the Directing award for a US Drama at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Wedren has also written and performed music for televisions shows including Wet Hot American Summer First Day of Camp, A to Z, Hung, The United States of Tara, Reno 911!, Don’t Trust The B. In Apt. 23, Childrens Hospital, Burning Love, Wainy Days, Stella, and The State. He is currently composing the music for ABC’s Fresh Off The Boat, and Jonathan Ames new show Blunt Talk starring Patrick Stewart on Starz Network.
Wedren’s first emerged as singer and primary songwriter for Washington, DC-based Shudder To Think, a band that started out in the city’s legendary Hardcore Punk scene on Dischord Records, only to challenge and expand the aesthetics of the genre, and those of the emerging Alternative Rock scene. After breaking indie music tradition by signing with Epic Records (Sony Music), Shudder To Think released three major label albums including their opus, “Pony Express Record.”
Shudder To Think toured extensively with bands like Smashing Pumpkins, Fugazi, Pavement, Foo Fighters, and Pearl Jam; their videos were featured regularly on MTV. At the peak of their career, a battle with Hodgkin’s Disease grounded Craig and the band, but following successful treatments Shudder To Think returned with a new goal in mind – to create music for film. With Shudder To Think, Wedren scored the independent films First Love Last Rites and High Art, and contributed songs to Todd Haynes’ beloved Glam-Rock valentine Velvet Goldmine. Shortly after making the transition to film work, the band dissolved their partnership, and Wedren continued his dual career as both film composer and solo artist.
While continuing to grow creatively and commercially as a composer, Wedren has also developed a successful career as a solo artist. He released his first solo album Lapland on Conor Oberst‘s Team Love label, after which he toured the U.S. and Australia supporting the Foo Fighters and Greg Dulli of Afghan Whigs. His follow up release was the epic Wand, for which Craig toured the U.S. with Chris Cornell and worked with director Tim Nackashi to create a series of narrative, multi-platform 360 degree interactive videos whose engrossing, innovative technology continue Craig’s forays into the vanguard of music and imagination. Most recently, Craig collaborated with Jefferson Friedman on the album On in Love, which pairs his voice and lyrics with Friedman’s magnificent compositions for ACME chamber ensemble. On In Love will premiere with the LA Philharmonic at Disney Hall in January 2016.
All Access Music writer, Nicole DeRosa had the pleasure of catching up with Craig between projects. Enjoy their chat below!
So, first things first, Craig…how did you get involved with the 2001 cult classic Wet Hot American Summer (featuring:Paul Rudd, Michael Showalter, Michael Ian Black, Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler and Janeane Garofalo)? It was a movie prior to it now becoming a TV show on Netflix is that correct?
I grew up with David Wain (friends since age 4) and Michael Showalter (friends and collaborators since college) who wrote Wet Hot. In our 20s, they were in a sketch comedy group called ‘The State’ (with a lot of other Wet Hot cast members), for which Theodore Shapiro and I wrote music. When it came time to make their first movie, Teddy and I were the natural choices as far as music was concerned.
I was also in a band then called ‘Shudder To Think’ then, so we came armed with song-skills, too, which played into the whole musical world of the movie, and the series.
For those that are not familiar with you and your music, how did you get your start? Who or what was the catalyst for you to want to live the life of a musical gypsy?
I was a radio-obsessed kid, a total sponge for rock, pop, punk, etc. Once I got past the ‘I wanna be a fireman/baseball player’ phase, I knew I wanted to play music. This would’ve been about age 9. Blame the band KISS. And my mom’s record collection (Elton John, The Doors, Carole King).
You have also worked on the scores for major feature films including Wanderlust, Role Models, School of Rock, Laurel Canyon, Roger Dodger and more. How is writing for film different than writing for a band?
Writing music film and TV is totally different than making records with a band, but very complimentary. First of all, songs made for radio or live performance are generally meant to grab your attention -they’re ‘foreground’ music; whereas music (usually instrumental ‘score’) written for movies is background music, meant to enhance the drama or emotion of a scene, but remain virtually invisible, so that the audience feels it without noticing it. Pop music is like the bratty ADD sibling of film score.
Who have been your inspirations growing up that also inspire you today?
John Cage, David Lynch, The Rolling Stones, my family and friends. I’m constantly listening to and watching new things, but like most of us, my original ‘mentors’ have remained the same.
You also continue to release groundbreaking original music, which includes your solo album, Wand and the song cycle, “On In Love” a collaboration with acclaimed composer Jefferson Friedman. What was the inspiration for that song?
Jefferson Friedman played keyboards in the final, touring version of Shudder To Think. While on an airplane flying from New York to San Fran, we made a pact to some day combine forces and make a weird record of classical-based songs, the likes of which hopefully only we could make.
It took about 10 years to get around to it, but with On In Love we made good on that promise. It’s a chamber record with vocals that I think sounds like nothing else. Jefferson also co-composed a lot of music for Wet Hot, the TV series, along with Matt Novack.
What was the first album you bought for yourself (that you can remember) ?
KISS Alive 2
What was the first song you fell in love with and why?
There was a song that my Aunt Carol used to sing to me that went ‘I love you, yes I do, I love something-something-something Craig I do…‘ which I think she just made up, but the melody of the first ‘I love you’ part creeps into almost all of my music. So I guess that’s the first song I fell in love with, for obvious reasons (:
Who is in your current playlist? What artists or bands are in current rotation for you?
I’ve been listening to the new FKA Twigs EP; Holly Herndon ‘Platform’; Health ‘Death Magic’; and the latest D’Angelo and Kendrick Lamar records, which have both changed the way I listen to -and create- music. Ridiculous.
What’s on tap next for you, Craig? What are you most excited about for this year?
I’m in the final throes of mixing my new record, which I’ll be releasing and performing later this year. I’m loving that right now. And I scored a new show called ‘Blunt Talk’ that premiered on Saturday, which I think is just great. Season 2 of ‘Fresh Off The Boat’ is ramping up, and so I get to make more ’90s G-Funk! And Jefferson Friedman and I are performing some On In Love songs later this year with the L.A. Philharmonic. That’s a whole new, thrilling realm! Thanks for asking (:
To learn even more about the multi-talented Mr. CRAIG WEDREN , visit him HERE .