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Interview: Composer Andrew Gordon Macpherson Breaks Down the Vast Musical Landscape of “Kids vs. Aliens”

Friday, February 3, 2023 | Interviews


Deadly slime, flesh eating aliens, and a killer Halloween party where karma catches up to the class bully – what more could you ask for in a horror movie? These are the some of the elements that make up Jason Eisener’s outrageous new horror film KIDS VS. ALIENS. The official synopsis being: all Gary wants is to make awesome home movies with his best buds. All his older sister Samantha wants is to hang with the cool kids. When their parents head out of town one Halloween weekend, an all-time rager of a teen house party turns to terror when aliens attack, forcing the siblings to band together to survive the night. The film stars Dominic Mariche (Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Team Zenko Go), Phoebe Rex (The Last Divide), Calem MacDonald (The Umbrella Academy), Asher Grayson Percival (Scaredy Cats), and Ben Tector. 

Adding to the wild ride is the score by Andrew Gordon Macpherson, who describes his work on the film as a “non-stop musical ride.” A non-stop musical ride filled with everything from an anvil, synths, to a full piece orchestra. We spoke to Andrew in more detail below about his creative process. Here’s what he had to say…

Where did you get inspiration for the KIDS VS. ALIENS score? Did you watch any similar movies to get in the mindset of the film?

Masters of the Universe! The movie and the cartoons (He-Man and She-Ra) were big influences on the world Jason was creating and so I tried to soak that in with the music a bit. Ultimately, the edit “tells” me what it needs, but we jammed a lot of Fantasy/Sci-Fi and horror music, old PlayStation music, synth pop and sound art to make it happen!

Can you talk about your collaboration with Jason Eisener? How involved was he with your process?

Jason and I share music all the time. Whether it’s stuff I’m making or have found while digging or stuff he’s heard in films or on YouTube. We’ve made 40 documentaries together for Dark Side of the Ring and Tales From The Territories so our tastes are sync’d up pretty well.  This time, he sent me a script and I wrote about 10 demos of how it inspired me. He played them on set to get in the mood for certain scenes and then he edits with them, and I elaborate later. From there I just do what I feel works and we refine until it’s perfect!

Did you give any of the characters specific themes? If so, can you talk about those?

The first little woodwind phrase you hear in the movie is Sam’s theme. It gets repeated a lot on a lot of different instruments. I wanted something that felt sort of like the classic John Williams character themes; filled with wonder and mystery but could be developed for action and heroic music and even stripped back and distorted like it is in the end credits music. There’s a theme for the boy’s friendship, which is a bit sentimental. Despite their potty-mouths they are really close and go through a lot in the film. There’s a Billy/Villain theme which is based around a synth sequence and a Beast Alien/Secondary villain theme which is mainly percussion including the anvil (like the sound of his claws) and there’s a short woodwind motif whenever we see the spaceship.  I love painting with these and overlapping them and seeing how they musically intertwine like the characters do. 

How closely did you work with the film’s sound designer?

We had a kickoff meeting together before going our separate directions. I mainly tried to write “around” certain big sound moments like the sound of the spaceship and Sam unsheathing her sword; just giving as much room in the mix as possible for those sounds to cut through. 

You were able to record some of the score with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra. What scenes did you use them for?

There’s a scene at the beginning on a fishing boat that sets the tone. We wanted it to have a bit of a fantasy/folklore feel. Then it’s kind of synthy/pop music and a teen movie for the first half which is mostly me doing something like what I usually do for Dark Side of the Ring… then the back half of the movie is almost all orchestra because we wanted the big heroic moments and the more dramatic moments to have the power of the orchestra and be a non-stop musical ride. There’s lots of synths and sound design layered in as well, but it’s roughly divided into kids = keyboards and aliens = orchestra. 

What is your philosophy on scoring jump scares? Such as when Sam rises out of the water with Jack.

I studied jump scares a lot as a composer AND a picture editor. I think the best jump scares in cinema need TWO beats, not just one splash. It should be Low sound, high sound (or vice versa, so there’s contrast sonically). It should be a sort of misdirection first and then a STRIKE. So, I tried to do that musically anywhere it could help. 

Did you create the techno music for the party scenes? That music was a lot different from the rest of the film.

The first song at the party is the only song I didn’t write for the film. About halfway through it switches to one of my tracks. I wrote some stuff for it, but Jason loved that track (“Hysteria” by Flour) so my agent Sean Mulligan (who is also a successful music supervisor) tracked them down to get it in the movie.  

You collaborated with Judge Bitch on the opening theme song. Can you talk a little more about this?

Judge Bitch is the project of Jason’s childhood friend Adam Burke.  I’ve collaborated with him before and mixed and helped with some production his last few albums. Jason used one of those songs as temp music when he was editing the film and so I suggested we make something new that incorporates the main themes from the film but also has JB’s signature thrash.  He also made the film’s behind-the-scenes documentary for the Blu-Ray.  

What was your favorite scene to score?

There’s a cue called “Dive-In.” It’s mostly orchestra but with some synths. It’s after the aliens have invaded, Sam has to gather her courage and go find her brother…then she realizes the aliens dragged them out to sea and she’ll have to dive after them, culminating in her seeing the ship for the first time. So musically it goes from kind of a scared/determined march, to an almost super-hero theme of her suiting up in diving gear, to a confident strut down the dock, then a scary, quiet ambience underwater, culminating in a shocking, screaming reveal of the ship. It’s always fun figuring out the big emotional swings! 

What are you working on next?

I’m working on something new with Jason now that has yet to be announced and I’m working on a really exciting video game which also can’t be revealed yet, but Tales from the Territories and Dark Side of the Ring are available and please please please go check out KIDS VS ALIENS! Thanks

KIDS VS ALIENS is available to stream now on VOD.

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