Composer George Martindell is the “percussive” half of Science Friction.
That big break can come in unexpected places—or the local coffee shop. In 1999, Science Friction co-owner/composer George Martindell ran into the head of NFL Films (a company he had previously worked for) who was familiar with Martindell and Frank Sonsini''s (the other half of Science Friciton) progressive/hard rock band. Past the usual “How are you? What have you been up to?” chit-chat, the NFL Films official became intrigued with the duo''s next project: a synth and electronic-drum-based instrumental soundtrack that was both unique and creepy. That chance meeting led to the creation of the TNT Network''s documentary Faces of Evil. And so began Science Friction.
How do you two split the duties?
Frank Sonsini: I write and compose on synthesizers, guitar synth, acoustic and electric guitars, and bass guitars. With these instruments, I can compose whole string and horn sections, as well as write rock tracks and other genres incorporating the guitar synth with the rack of synths that I MIDI from a central controller.
George Martindell: I am the percussive half and incorporate and compose music using myriad electronic drum sets. I use four different digital drum modules, which contain hundreds of various acoustic and electronic percussive instruments. I am also able to tweak these sounds and manipulate them from these modules.
Sonsini: We write our music together, bouncing ideas and genres off of each other until we find a groove or a sound that we''re looking for.
Martindell: The actual engineering, recording, and mastering is all done by Frank. After the initial recording, we both analyze and mix the tracks, each of us bringing ideas to the table by suggesting certain effects, equalization, and other key components.
Sonsini: The same goes for all other areas of our business. George promotes us and makes the needed contacts.
Composer Frank Sonsini works “horror magic” from one of the many axes found at Sci Fri Studio.
Are you working out of your own studio?
Sonsini: Yes, we own our own studio called Sci Fri Studio. We use the Roland VS-2480 24-bit, 24-track DAW. This is an incredible piece of equipment: From the initial recording, through the mixing, and all the way to the finished master, this DAW has incredible sound quality and everything you need to do the job. We also use Tannoy monitors for mixing.
Martindell: It also has the ability to mix in 5.1, which is a good tool to have in our studio arsenal.
You''re working on sound effects for your catalog. How did the catalog come about?
Martindell: We have been recording sound effects for years now and we decided that they were unique enough to use them in sound design/Foley situations. It was great fun recording most of these. We would trundle around, sometimes at 3 in the morning, to get the sounds of the local tree frogs and insect life. We would also capture the sound of almost everything that wasn''t bolted down and invented some of the strangest sounds one can make with a gloppy shampoo bottle or a child''s toy [laughs].
Sonsini: Since acquiring our new publisher, Audiosparx, we''ve submitted many volumes of sound effects and music for purchase for use in film, television, video games, and other media applications. Another publisher, ACM Records, has had volumes of our genre-specific music for purchase for years.
Do you work mostly in the dark/sci-fi realm?
Martindell: For the most part, we have created music for horror/sci-fi films and media productions because that is our favorite style of music to write. We have always incorporated this style into other areas and genres of music we compose, as well. Adding that realm of music to a classical or ethnic arrangement always gives the track and production that eerie quality.
Sonsini: We have been providing ethnic and rock tracks for a number of television shows for several years. For example, E! Entertainment Channel has used our music in productions such as swimsuit specials and celebrity countdowns.
You''ve been working on the animated series Dr. Shroud since its debut. What''s the next chapter? Martindell: We completed the music and sound design for his current episode, “Skeletons,” and have begun to compose for the next episode''s production. We also provided music for a DVD release of this series, and Dr. Shroud is currently being optioned by the industry in New York and Hollywood as we speak.
Sonsini: Our methods for composing a project are a mixture of the conventional and unconventional. To start, we generally begin with what the client is trying to communicate to us, such as what instruments he would like to hear and the mood that he wants to invoke.
Martindell: From there, we watch the film footage to get a feel for what''s going on and where the scenes of the film are heading. Then we choose our instruments and the mood we will create. At that point, we will run through a few rough takes to get us on the right track for a particular scene.
Sonsini: After we''re comfortable with how the soundtrack is coming together, we then do the actual recordings. Once the tracks are chosen for all scenes in the movie, we will do the tedious task of mixing and mastering each track to fit the mood of the production. At that point, we assemble the tracks onto a CD along with a cue sheet to guide the client in applying the music to his production.
What''s next on your plate?
Martindell: We are in the pre-production stages of a feature-length film we are scoring for a film company based in New Jersey. The film is the horror/suspense genre, and we have begun to score and compose music of a dark and orchestral nature, including heavy strings, percussion, and dark sound design.
Sonsini: We keep adding new material and music to our publishing companies catalog so that we can have our music library well-rounded to suit more television, film, and media needs, and to reinvent the wheel of soundtrack music [laughs].
Martindell: As we often say to interested producers, “Even silent films had music!” At that time, in that medium, the music was the backbone of those movies. It really helped carry the viewer along from scene to scene. Music is very important and should be very impactful.
Sonsini: It''s electrifying when both the film and music worlds collide!