Please introduce yourself, what you do, why you do it, and what you want people to know about you.
My name is Shaun Chasin and I’m a Canadian composer for film, television, and video games based out of Los Angeles.
My music can be heard in hundreds of episodes of television spanning from reality shows like Pawn Stars to the theme song for the anime Beyblade Burst. You can also hear my music in games like PUBG Mobile, Ring Of Elysium, or Way Of The Turtle.
In terms of films, my latest score was for the comedy Domino: Battle Of The Bones, starring Snoop Dogg and David Arquette which after its theatre run can be viewed on streaming platforms and on DVD.
What qualities make you different and unique from everyone else in the industry?
I think at a fundamental level, what has allowed me to flourish in this industry is not actually the quality of my music, but how easy I am to work with. Don’t get me wrong, the quality of the music has to be high of course, but what I think keeps clients coming back to work with me a second time (and beyond) is how comfortable and fluid the whole experience was.
It’s easy for us to forget that directors and game developers have probably been working on their project for many months, if not years before they even consider bringing on a composer. Because of this, it can be hard for them to trust a new outside person with their project that they’ve spent so long carefully thinking about, planning, and creating.
My job as a composer is not just to write music, but to write music that works for their project and to allow the collaborative process to be as smooth and effortless as possible. When they are unhappy with aspects of the score, I can’t be too precious about my work and must be able to adapt quickly and make any needed revisions without making them feel like they’re pulling teeth to get the score they need.
I also keep in mind that, for the most part, directors are not musicians and it can be hard for them to clearly express what it is they want out of a score. I try to do my best to encourage them to use emotional language as opposed to musical language and interpret that correctly.
My goal as a composer is to ensure that when the project is done, the director can walk away feeling like they were in good hands and they were taken care of. I want them to always feel confident that they can come back and know exactly the kind of high quality they can expect and are entitled to – and I think they do.
Describe THAT moment when you realized you wanted to do what you do now. Who did you tell first? What has it been like since that moment?
I was about 9 years old when the Zelda game The Ocarina Of Time first came out for the Nintendo 64. I remember playing it and being so absolutely immersed in the world of it all. A large part of that, I know now, was because of the composer Koji Kondo’s fantastic score. In addition to the music being so perfectly fitting and gorgeous, the thing that actually struck me most at that time was the realization that I wasn’t hearing a real orchestra.
Even then at that age, it was clear to me that the sounds were fake instruments but that didn’t take away from the score’s beauty or emotional impact. The fact that the instruments weren’t real actually somehow made it all feel more accessible.
As a tech-savvy child, learning that music could be made with a computer made the whole process of composing seem so much less daunting and, for the first time, like something maybe I was capable of. I wouldn’t really try my hand at it for years to come when I was in high school, but the seed had been planted and I knew then what I wanted to spend my life doing, even if I was unable to express that in words at the time.
Today, more than 20 years after my first playthrough of Ocarina Of Time, I make my living writing music not only for video games but for films and television as well.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had to face and how did you overcome it?
As creatives, it’s easy to look back at a body of work from a finished project and misremember how effortlessly it all flowed out at the time. We are perhaps too quick to forget the daunting feeling we all experience right at the beginning of a project before a single note of music has been written. I know I’m guilty of this! After every single project when I look back at a full score of polished music, I instantly forget all the struggles and missteps involved in finding the sound of the film and all the work that had to be done in terms of developing a musical vocabulary that was tailored to the project.
There is a great saying I’ve always loved, attributed to a plethora of different people including Igor Stravinsky: we must attempt to free ourselves from “the tyranny of the blank page”. It’s so much easier to make adjustments and revisions to an existing work than it is to create something from nothing.
Starting a project is, in my experience, always the hardest part. Because of this, I find it’s so useful to simply generate something, anything at all, as early as possible. This doesn’t have to be good, it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be something.
Eliminate the blank page as quickly as possible. From here it will become obvious what is working for the project and what isn’t and we can make adjustments and rewrites accordingly. Now, we have begun to establish a musical vocabulary and set of tendencies that will define the sound of the project.
The first note of music is always the hardest to get out.
If you had to pick the TOP 3 people you’d want to meet that could take your career (or business) to the next level…who would those 3 people be?
Though he wouldn’t be helpful in advancing my career, I’d still love to shake the hand of the great John Williams as his music has been so influential for me as well as most of my colleagues.
In terms of the other two, I’m always happy when I cross paths with like-minded creatives who are deeply passionate and driven and want to tell great stories. These are the kinds of people I love working with.
Being a part of projects alongside people who truly care about the stories they are telling will never not be thrilling to me.
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