Composing All Mod Cons – Interview with Katie Richardson

How did you begin the process of composing music for All Mod Cons?
Theatre is a really collaborative art form which is one of the things I love most about it. This process began with reading the play, having conversations with the director and creative team and trying to understand the general design, message and style of the piece. It’s so important that music in theatre supports the action and feeling of the play and Ronan the director really wanted the music to propel us from scene to scene so really that was our starting point.

Where did you find your inspiration?
The inspiration came from the play itself and from the different themes and characters within it. I am a singer before anything else and I really love vocal samples and harmony. I loved the idea of broken words as the play deals with issues of repression and struggling to be who you really are. I used lines from the play and cut the start and ends of the words so that they became unidentifiable sounds rather than full words/sentences with meaning. I also wanted to play with vocal pitch shifting as I was inspired by the topics of gender and toxic masculinity. I pitched my voice into different tones and octaves so the vocal sounds keep shifting and changing. The inspiration also comes from what is needed in the play for example the upbeat and percussive elements that we wanted to help support the rhythm and pace of the play. We started with a sound board and honestly the final music was very different than those starting points. It’s a constant problem solving exercise. Listening to all the different ideas and direction in the room and working out the best way to achieve the best musical outcome within the time and budget that is available.

How would you describe the music in All Mod Cons?
I think it feels quite current and fun. It is mostly light with little flecks of darkness and heaviness strewn through. I used lots of recurring themes in the music and stuck things together from different ideas to twist them together and make new sounds. I’m not sure how to describe the genre – it’s a mish-mash of lots of ideas and influences.

How long do you spend creating music for a production?
It’s a pretty intense process. A lot of writing and recording happens that never sees the light of day so you spend days and hours working on ideas that you won’t use. This is part of the development process when you’re working to a tight schedule and in my opinion is totally necessary and important. You try things that don’t work so you can cross those ideas off your list. You really use all the time you have and you have to come in to the room as prepared as possible with different options because sometimes you don’t have a lot of opportunities to try things out. I often change my mind moments before I play something depending on the feeling in the room. There is a lot of informed guessing and taking chances which is both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time! You get the eureka moment and then it gets easier. Often in this type of process that moment comes quite late in the day so there were definitely a lot of all nighters for this one!

What did you find most enjoyable?
I love working on new writing and being part of something that is coming together for the first time – Erica is a really talented writer and it was a pleasure to be able to contribute to her work. I also loved constructing the music, producing the tracks and working with such a talented team of creatives and actors.

What was the biggest challenge?
Getting it right and making sure it’s the best it can be in the context of the show – it’s always terrifying. I don’t want to make sub standard work. Also in general I think translating what people want when you’re writing for someone else project can be challenging. Everybody expresses themselves differently and explains music in such different ways that really understanding and being able to support their vision is super important.

How did you get into composing for theatre?
I was part of running a theatre company with some friends in my early 20s called Red Lemon. I think I wrote music for my first play when I was about 22/23 – it was a disco musical called Flesh Dense. We couldn’t afford to bring someone in to do it and as i had a music A level it was decided that I would try and do it myself. I was terrified and I honestly didn’t think I would be able to do it at the time but I loved it and became became completely hooked on writing and producing music after that. Now I’ve been doing it for over ten years and I’ve written everything from musicals to plays with music and sound design and have also got to play live in some of the productions. I learn on every project and am always excited to work on new projects with new people.

What’s your favourite example of sound design/music in a production?
That’s a really difficult question – I love so many different kinds of music and sound design I’m not sure if I could pick one. I’m very influenced by film music – song placement and scoring. I love lots of things in theatre – literally everything from musicals to classical scoring and more abstract sound design. I really love it when music is used in innovative ways in theatre and I adore live music in theatre also.

What else are you working on?
I’m releasing a single this week as Hex Hue called ’Numbers’ and I’m working on my own album which will be released at the start of next year. I have lots of gigs and writing sessions coming up over the Summer. I also want to develop some of my own ideas for theatre and have a couple of film scoring projects on the go. I am also hoping to spend some of this year studying. All go!