Interview With Composer Roc Chen
Creating music that marries Eastern and Western cultures is no small feat. And when it comes to collaboration for something as big as Shanghai Disney Resort, internationally broadcasted shows, or a film festival award winning production, there’s really no one better to speak to than composer Roc Chen.
Roc is a Sichuan-born, award winning composer recently partnering with Danny Elfman (Avengers: Age of Ultron, Alice in Wonderland, Men in Black 3) to bring music to Shanghai Disney Resort’s newest ride, Alice’s Maze. This music brilliantly celebrates the fusion of the American story line of Alice in Wonderland with Chinese culture native to the Shanghai location.
Roc’s music for film and gaming is also recognised in both the U.S. and China as well. His film roster includes Chinese Zodiac with Jackie Chan and Jet Li, Forbidden Kiss and the Chinese adaptation of Everybody’s Fine (American adaptation ft. Robert DeNiro). He also partnered with Dreamworks to create music for the film Kung Fu Panda. Roc’s music is also present in award winning documentary TV series like A Bite of China – broadcasted internationally.
Roc’s video game work includes World of Warcraft, God of War, the Might and Magic series, and his latest work, which is underway on Prince Adventures.
What inspired you to become a composer?
Music itself. When I was a kid, sometimes I woke up in the middle of the night humming the melody from the Godfather. With music always on my mind, I figured I should be a film composer when I grow up.
Do you have a ‘go to’ instrument you use to start on?
I learned to play classical piano when I was 4, but now really go to my music computer rather than go to an instrument. I have a background of both technology and music. I acquired my bachelor’s degree from one of the best science and technology universities in China before I acquired my master’s degree in composition from the Conservatory of Music. I always liked to tweak the tech side of music like a geek and use technology to help music.
What’s the best piece of advice someone has given you?
Once upon a time back in China days, a MIDI reaper (who does karaoke accomplice) told me that to be a great composer, you really need to learn everything/
What’s the most interesting experience you’ve had whilst working would you say?
The best part for me is when I read a script and imagine the film scenes and the film music in my head. Sometimes I instantly get the music theme for the movie when I read the script for the first time. Another interesting experience is when I apply my music to the film,. That’s when it feels like it becomes alive!
Is there a specific favourite piece of music that you’ve written for a series, such as a particular character theme?
Well it’s quite hard to pick but the theme I wrote for the documentary, “A Bite of China” is one of my favorites. I’m proud of it because it’s reached No. 1 on the Chinese billboards. It was a first for a film score to surpass pop songs and reach the top position.
What career would you do if you couldn’t do what you’re doing?
For most of the time I’m always stressed or worried. I feel like music can set me free from that. I really don’t know what I would do besides music.
What are your music recommendations?
I personally like to hear a lot of things , from classical music to pop hip hop songs. I think being a professional composer means you need to hear a lot of things including music outside of your comfort zone or your favorites.
We cover a lot of TV shows on the website, so one question we always like to ask is, what tv shows are you watching at the moment?
Currently I’m watching The Newsroom, I love the pace!
With no disrespect to the current composer, if you could score any tv show, past, present or future, what would it be?
Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul!!!
What are you doing next?
I’m working on a highly anticipated scifi film and some animation movies. Due to NDA reasons I can’t say the names right now. But feel free to guess!
You can find Roc Chen’s music on Spotify, by clicking here!
Dave has over 20 years experience in the digital industry, and is founder and editor of Geektown. Obviously a huge geek himself, he can often be found in front of the latest tv show or movie, on various video games, or with his head in a comic book.