Los Angeles based composer Kevin Lax is the mastermind behind the new Netflix original movie, Burning Sands.
A native of the Pacific Northwest, Kevin Lax came to Los Angeles to pursue film composition at USC. He garnered several awards for his concert works and film/video game scores. After graduating, Kevin began working with global artists on features, commercials, and music documentaries.
Word is quickly spreading about the talented young musician, whose quick wit and compelling scores captured the ear of renowned artists such as R&B royalty, Mary J. Blige, and international music icon, Chris Brown.
Lax recently debuted his score for the Netflix original, Burning Sands. The thriller follows Zurich Condoll (Trevor Jackson), a student at Frederick Douglass University, who becomes a pledge at a reputable African-American fraternity. Everything seems normal at first, but anti-hazing rules quickly drive “Hell Week” underground as the veteran members of his fraternity degenerate into a pack of vicious, drunken and sadistic louts who will push Zurich to his limits.
“While scoring Burning Sands, I tried to get into the head of Zurich, the protagonist of the movie,” says Lax. “I was trying to project what he might be hearing in his brain space in terms of intensity, solace, joy, and grief. In the end, the ideas manifested as a combination of hip-hop, traditional scoring sensibilities, African-American spirituals and Trent Reznor-like synth material, which I hope the audience enjoys!”
Aside from the Netflix drama, Lax is currently arranging and scoring music for multiple major film releases due out next year.
How and why did you get into composing?
Growing up, many of my activities revolved around music, whether it was practicing piano (plus guitar and vocal), composing shorts pieces, studying scores at the local public library, playing in the bands during high school (both jazz and rock), or singing in the choir. However, the thing that probably led me most to film scoring was a high school class I enrolled in called EMlab, where we worked with various DAWs and other music software to compose and produce music, as well as score films, which was unprecedented at the time. This next pointed me to taking classes at the local community college during high school in electronic music synthesis and jazz arranging. I decided to attend USC for college where I enrolled in their music composition and film scoring department. After college, I worked for a few composers, while also teaching piano before I ended up where I am today, which is a combination of composing/producing, performing piano, and arranging/orchestrating music. I got into composition because I think it’s unique in its creative and cerebral sensibilities needed, while also allowing for close collaboration with other creative individuals, such as directors, producers, etc.. It’s fascinating and gratifying to play a role that is highly influential but often works subconsciously, all the while trying to leave the audience with a memorable tune to hum home.
If you hadn’t chosen for music, what do you think you would do right now?
Terrific question. I think I would have pursued some degree in engineering, given my fascination with mathematics and complex systems, or decided to be a tour guide/park ranger since I feel a marked connectedness with nature and enjoy sharing the outdoor experience with others.
What or who was your biggest influence as an artist?
The two biggest musical influences in my life are James Horner and U2. Certainly, others exist, but what pulled me into the world of film scoring was James Horner’s memorable, emotional, and well-crafted scores, while U2, with its charged lyrics and melodic material, actually pulled me into emotive and expressive music,
What’s the hardest part about being a musician and what’s the best?
I would say the most difficult thing about being a musician, and specifically, a film composer is juggling the many facets of the career in a balanced and fulfilling way. What I mean by this is often, as with a lot of creative people, you have this strong desire to write and create which is frequently undermined by the other requirements of the job, whether it’s some technical quagmire, keeping the higher ups happy, or trying to secure a new gig. It rarely feels like I can just solely focus on writing music, as swimming somewhere in the back of my head is the various other questions or pending demands that I need to address. The silver lining from this is it forces you to compartmentalize and utilize any and all time to write because it’s a luxury to get whole days, or even long stretches of several hours to work uninterrupted. The best part, hands down, is being able to share your music with other people (your audience, colleagues, family/friends) after the long and intensive process of writing and producing a score.
What’s your view on the music scene at present? Is there a crisis?
I think there’s certainly a much larger draw to the music and film/TV/gaming fields as the current generation of young working adults try to merge their creative goals with viable jobs. All of this, in my opinion, is leading to an oversaturation of content and the number of creatives behind it all. However, the desire for content has never been stronger, so it appears there’s a way for this trend to continue along this path. That means adaptability and versatility will now be more important than ever.
All in all, I have mixed feelings about where we’re at currently. I feel some of the traditional aspects of composition are fading, at least in the main stream music. Consider how John Williams represents the end of an era. Then again, we also live in an unprecedented time where all music now exists to be interwoven and blended in new and unique ways, which is quite exciting.
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