The following is an interview with Ed Goldfarb, who recently started working on music for the latest season of the Pokémon anime.
Where did you grow up, and how did you get into doing music?
I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area - both my parents play piano (my father professionally, in his youth) and music (Bach, The Beatles, dixieland jazz) was always in the house. I started piano lessons when I was six years old, and…I just kinda dug it, right from the beginning. I started writing little tunes when I was nine years old, and I had my first professional gigs when I was thirteen - writing arrangements for my junior high school musical, and playing piano at a friend’s dad’s 40th birthday party.
What was your early professional career like?
I got a degree in music composition from Cal Berkeley towards the end of the 20th Century, and have had an extremely eclectic career - I’ve music-directed theatrical revues, written for and conducted symphony orchestras, composed film scores, and even produced the occasional gold record (Boyz II Men’s “Thank You” being the most famous). I’ve also scored many advertising spots, and produced several hundred independent singer-songwriter recordings.
How much did you know about Pokémon before starting work on the show?
I’ve been aware of Pokémon since its introduction in the US in the 90s, but I’d not seen the show ‘til recently (I have an elementary-school age child). I love pop culture, extended mythologies and creatures of all kinds (real and fictional), so I can state without hesitation that I’ve become a very big Pokémon fan.
When did you start working on the show, and how did the new version of the Pokémon Theme develop?
My work on the Pokémon anime commenced with Season 17. The theme song is a “re-imagining" of the original, iconic “Gotta Catch ‘Em All” song, and it really rocks. I'm primarily a keyboard player, but I know my way around the guitar enough to arrange stuff, so I put together a guitar-centric version of the song, and enlisted my friend Ben Dixon to sing it, ‘cause he’s got a real rock tenor voice. The great Lyle Workman recorded the final guitar parts at his studio in Southern California, and Ben flew out to the SF Bay Area to record his vocals at my studio. The song was mixed by Jeff Saltzman in Portland, Oregon.
|The Sad Truth-All I Want is to Make You Happy|
The band listed in the credits is called “Ben Dixon and The Sad Truth”. Who exactly is that?
The Sad Truth are a pop songwriting and record-making project that’s essentially myself and my friend Jon Seltzer, who sang all of the songs on our “All I Want is to Make You Happy” album. Jon has a thriving career as a voice actor in L. A. (he’s heard on all of Nissan Automotive’s radio and TV commercials), and he was unavailable to sing the new version of “Gotta Catch ‘Em All”. However, the musical approach we ended up with isn’t entirely dissimilar to other entries in the Sad Truth canon, so it made sense to credit the performance of the song to “Ben Dixon and The Sad Truth”.
You also started to score the show for this season. What kind of sound are you going for there?
My approach to the score for the Pokémon show is to treat it almost like an opera or classic ballet - every character (including the Pokémon) has their own little theme (or leitmotif, in classical parlance) For example, Ash has a three-note theme usually heard on a trumpet, and it reappears in various guises throughout the score, sounding different when he’s enthusiastic, sad, mid-battle, etc.
How does working on the show make you feel?
I’m extremely proud to be involved with such a unique, well-crafted and entertaining program. There’s really nothing like it, and I think Season 17 has some of the best episodes to date, which is extraordinary for a program that’s been around the better part of two decades. Composing the score for the show has certainly made use of skills I’ve developed over the years as a professional composer, but the variety of tone and plot lines from episode to episode has afforded me a wide range of opportunities for musical expression. In a given episode, I’ll compose music that’s evocative of John Williams’ film scores, contemporary classical music, electronica - you name it. It’s a lot of work, but it’s great fun.