EXCLUSIVE: 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' composer Dan Marocco reveals the secret sauce behind the iconic title track
Almost in the second half of 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine's sixth season, the best news that fans could have been treated with is the show getting renewed by NBC for another season! And while we're at celebrating the joyous day, MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) reached out to one of the most important people behind the scenes, who helps all of the hilarious elements of the story come together with the tightest, and most impeccable background score ever.
Dan Marocco - the man behind the ever so catchy and iconic title track of the show - told us what it takes to create the score for each episode so it is the perfect blend of all the aspects of the episode coming together. And also dug deeper into where he derives his inspiration for the music he comes up with, especially the title track which fans can recognize playing pretty much in any setting. Yes, it's that awesome! Here are some excerpts of Dan's conversation with MEAWW.
What are your go-to inspirations for composing something for a show like Brooklyn Nine-Nine?
My first inspiration is always whatever is happening on screen and then just trying to compliment the pacing and energy of the dialogue and actors. Musically, I started off thinking of the jazz scores of 70's police shows that kind of defined the police genre, and combined that with an 80's hip-hop sound, like the Beastie Boys that fit the tone of the show better. That led me into more of the funk sounds that were heavily sampled in retro hip-hop, and it has kind of grown from there. There are also a lot of references on the show to 90's music, so it definitely has a little bit of the best of the 70's, 80's and 90's feel.
How do you ensure to avoid cliches when it comes to comedy or any other genre? Is there a signature style you follow when it comes to distinguishing between the genres?
We definitely try to avoid using the music like a laugh track to sting jokes. The jokes are funny, the audience doesn't need me to remind them of that with stings or silly sounds. I see my job as making the pacing and everything work out so that you just laugh a little harder at the jokes you were already going to laugh at. The music really just supports the story and action, and really should be felt, but very rarely noticed.
Any episode from the show's recent past that was particularly enjoyable to compose the score for?
This season's Pontiac Bandit episode, A Tale of Two Bandits, was a lot of fun to work on. The episodes with Craig Robinson always have a great comedic rhythm to them and lots of action and music. Also, episode 2 of this season, Hitchcock & Scully, had a great sequence of 80's flashbacks that were a lot of fun to write the music for. I got to mesh so many ideas from the classic 80s cop shows together to create something really fun!
How did the iconic theme song come to be? What was the go-to inspiration behind it for you?
It definitely started with the horns, which the producers loved to give the instantly recognizable sound of a classic police show. Then it was just a matter of making something that felt like our show. I wanted to keep the energy up and make it fun to listen to week after week I use the horns in a much more hip-hop, sample-based way than an older cop show would, and added a really heavy building bass line that gives it some attitude. There was a lot of back and forth with the producers, at least 8 distinct versions and the final one was actually a hybrid of two of those. Once we got there, I think the only other major change was Andy's note to add lasers... which I did and actually adds a lot!
How would you say the show's background scores have changed over the years?
There's always been a lot of hip hop drums and driving bass, but it's become more guitar based than the keyboards and horns that I started with. I think that was just part of finding our own identity as a show. The jazzier stuff was definitely helpful as a jumping off point, but everything about the show, the dialogue, the editing, the pace of the jokes... all moves so much faster than an older cop show that a higher energy funk or rock sound just fits better.
Have there been any particularly experimental moments for you in terms of composing for Brooklyn Nine-Nine?
I get to write some fun, kind of one-off cues pretty often on the show.... sometimes it's a big orchestral piece to overplay the intensity of a scene or some ska music for an old Jake flashback, but it's all fun to play around with. There was a detail in the plot of the Season 2 Halloween about a flutist, so I decided to take my normal Halloween heist theme and add a jazz flute to the mix for Holt's turn winning. Maybe not super experimental, but it was a lot of fun for me. The other side of composing is figuring out the little things that work really well. It doesn't sound like much, but when I started using finger snaps in beats instead of snare drums I felt like I had unlocked something for our show.
What would you consider the most challenging aspects of composing the background score for a show?
I've probably written over 1,500 pieces of music for Brooklyn Nine-Nine. A lot of those are variations on the same themes, but keeping it feeling like our specific sound without just writing exactly the same piece of music over and over, and subconsciously boring the audience can be a challenge. Luckily I've got a really funny show to inspire me, and as the characters and stories develop, so does the music.
Any other upcoming projects that you're thrilled about?
I've got seven more episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine to write the music for this season, and hopefully plenty more after that! Right now, I'm honestly just really excited to see where those go. I'm a few episodes ahead of most of the fans, but I'm as excited as anybody when I get to watch a new episode, excited to see where the stories go and crack up at all of the jokes!
'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' airs on Thursdays, at 9/8c, only on NBC.