Rich Dickerson – Music Composer
I played in a cover band for 12 years in the New York, tri-state area. I was the lead singer, sang three fifty minute sets a night, five to six nights a week. We had a huge sound system, light show, roadies, truck, manager, agent etc… Nothing in my life was crazier than those days. Someday I will write a book about it.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
What’s New Scooby Doo? is at the top because in addition to scoring the show which include multiple genres in each episode and writing the theme song I got to work with some great people at Warner Bros who I can call my friends to this day. I won an Emmy for writing the theme for ESPN’s animated, “Off Mikes” show – that was a total surprise. Was nominated for Cynopsis Kids Imagination Award for the “Yoohoo & Friends” Theme song. Shows like: “Yoohoo & Friends”, “Big Foot Little Foot”, “Action Dad”, “Lalaoopsies”, “Lala Girls”, “Where’s My Water?” “Julius Jr.” and “Dibo The Gift Giving Dragon” where all musically a lot of fun. Oh, and Icebox’s “Zombie College” because it was the first animation theme song I wrote and I got to sing it too!
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I am from Long Island New York. I was hired as VP of Music for the online animation network Icebox.com. I oversaw the music for 22 shows and was fortunate enough to write some of the theme songs such as Zombie College, Superhero Roommate and Navy Bear. I had come from working on live action films. One of the first things I noticed was how much nicer and down to earth and somewhat egoless the people in animation were. I loved it.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Once Christopher Keenan (Exec. Producer What’s New Scooby Doo?) asked me “how do you score the show AND write the songs?”. I told him a lot of the songs actually come to me in the shower or while sitting the in parking lot also known as the 101 freeway on my way to my studio in Laurel Canyon. If we are just starting to score a show or a DVD my partner Gigi Meroni and I have a discussion with the producer or director regarding the music direction of the show. This is always fun because you never know where it will lead. An example being working with David Feiss on Yoohoo & Friends we suggested using jazz flute as one of the signature instruments just because no one really does that which David loved. Another being for Disney’s “Where’s My Water” I went to Home Depot and bought flower pots, rebar, bricks, bottles etc.. and built a sort of drum set out of it which gave the show the authentic cacophony of discarded items found in a sewer. Gigi and I then start at 00:00 and address each scene until we get to the end. Some projects are wall to wall music and some are Mickey Moused and some lie somewhere in between. Once we score the episode or first few minutes of a DVD we send it off to the producers and wait for notes. Sometimes there are numerous notes and sometimes none at all. How music plays in a scene is very, very subjective. You need to be able to step back and try to see it through the directors eyes. Usually they have a vision how they want the music to sound in the show and it is our job to fulfill that and also bring some things to the table that they might not have thought of.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Gigi and I have been fortunate to have gotten a reputation as being very musically versatile. This comes from working at Icebox and on Scooby Doo. Both demanded the ability to work in any genre, write songs, and come up with unique musical ideas. That being our proving ground, we have been able to work on many different types of projects from pre-school shows like Lalaoppsies, Ella Bella Bingo and Julius Jr., action shows like Action Dad and Scooby Doo and off center shows like Yoohoo & Friends and Tvoovies.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Having to find the next project. Because it does not matter how long you have been doing this, who you know, how many awards you have, there is always a producer who has a cousin or room mate that plays bass, does “cool” sounds on their cell phone or something that will want to hire him or her as “composer”.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis, how has technology changed in the last few years in your field and how has that impacted you in your job?
We work with Logic. Technology has allowed us to have access to Orchestra’s, bands, horn sections, drummers etc… for very little $$. Which if you think about it is pretty crazy. Instrument libraries have come a long way. It is just like having the instrumentalist in your studio. In addition to using libraries Gigi and I also play a bunch of instruments so we cover a lot of ground. Also the use of things like FTP, Skype, file sharing etc… have enabled us to work on many international projects.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Keeping the work coming in. If someone would have told me that after winning awards, having a great credit list of quality work, a great studio and a great reputation for being professional and always delivering on time that I would struggle to get work I wouldn’t have believed it but…
If you could change the way the business works and is run how would you do it?
I would eliminate having to do “spec” auditions. Because you don’t get to sit down with the creator and or director of the show and talk about music. When I do get the chance to meet with the creator of a show they have many times inadvertently said one word that inspired a unique music direction or theme song. If I was back on the music supervisor side of the business I would suggest instead of having 10 or so composers do a “spec”. Have the creator/director meet with each composer for 5 minutes. It takes more than that amount of time to listen to one “spec”. THEN have the 2 composer’s he or she clicked with the most do a “spec” and make the decision from there. It saves an enormous amount of time for everyone.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
For me all the great people are the ones I have worked with and continue to work with. It may sound lame but I really mean it. There are too many people in animation that I have worked with that I feel truly love the work they do and respect the work I do to mention here. I will throw these instances out there: I had Randy Newman sing the What’s New Scooby Doo? song to me. When I met him he said he knew it and I said “yeah right” so he sung it – that was very cool. I told Flava Flav he could change the Rap section of the Yoohoo & Friends theme song which I had “Rapped” and wrote. He listened to it and said he liked what I did and just copped it – I still don’t think I can Rap but he did an amazing job. I produced Davy Jones of the Monkeys singing the Mr. Wong theme song and I had to dance for Rupaul during the vocal session for the Queer Duck song. He was having trouble coming in on the up beat and he suggested if I danced in front of him to the intro he would come in on time. Unfortunately there is a video of it in the Icebox archives somewhere – yikes!
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I have been fortunate not to have had anything that wasn’t manageable. The toughest situation for a work-a-holic like myself is when I am not working. Being in between projects is incredibly depressing for someone like me. It’s quite the roller coaster ride.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I wrote a children’s book called Fanny Foozle The Four Leaf Fantuckle Festival that came out as an ebook app last year and has done really well. It was nominated for Cynopsis Kids Imagination Award this year. The new ebook Fanny Foozle The Apadapalapa Apples comes out this year. It is a FREE app: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/fanny-foozle-storychimes/id568961765?mt=8
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I can always find a solution
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
I once saw a famous, wealthy composer being interviewed on the Today show which I thought was weird because really who cares about the composer of a show and they asked him the same question. He said “no because they are my competition”. I thought this old creep has more money than he can spend in five lifetimes and he can’t help out some kid out of college???! So here is my advise: They should be fearless, thick skinned, truly passionate, unique, tireless and understand that there is soooo much more to this business than making the music.