Interview - Michael Kramer : Our exclusive interview on Lego Star Wars The Freemaker Adventures

By Mulder, Los Angeles, 09 june 2017

"Anyone who's grown up with LEGOs knows the thrill of disassembling a set to create something entirely new from the same pieces. The music of 'LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures' does exactly this. It draws from the same familiar building blocks forged by John Williams: the indelible epic themes, the operatic drama of the orchestra, the fearsome brassy fanfares, and the quirky character music that brings so much humanity to the void of space. By combining these elements in an exciting new configuration, the Freemaker score breaks new ground, yet still captures the intangible heart of Star Wars. " – Michael Kramer

Q: What can you tell us about your background?

Michael Kramer : I grew up studying classical piano and playing in rock bands, but it wasn’t until college that I caught the film composing bug. I always struggled being creative on my own, but the collaborative nature of TV/film was immensely inspiring and really unlocked my inner artist. I’m extremely grateful to be a film composer - there’s nothing more magical than being able to influence other people’s emotions with music. It’s straight up WIZARDRY. 

Q: You have worked on several short films between 2006-2015. What do you like most about this process? Which software do you prefer to use?

Michael Kramer : I love working on short films because they give you the freedom to take more creative risks. Because your “canvas” is a lot smaller, it’s not a big deal to scrap everything and try again if your 1st attempt goes awry. I’m mainly on Logic Pro these days for writing, and Protools for mixing.

Q: What can you tell us about Lego Star Wars: Freemaker Adventures? (13 episodes, 2016)?

Michael Kramer : Freemaker Adventures takes place between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and follows a family of salvagers trying to make their way in the universe. What I love about the show is that it has something for all ages - it’s the perfect blend of snarky, silly, epic, and heartfelt. This really been a dream project for me. Besides working with an incredibly talented production team, being able to play around in the Star Wars universe is so surreal. Plus, as a composer, I feel like I’ve learned so much from studying and working with John Williams’s music. What a dream job!

Q: What do you like concerning the Lego world (toys, games, series)?

Michael Kramer : Working with the Lego brand has been a big highlight of my career. I think it’s such an enduring brand because it give kids tools to unlock their imaginations. Yes - you can follow the blueprint, but you can also tear it down to rebuild something entirely new! I’m fortunate that the Lego TV shows I work on are as equally inspiring for kids imaginations.

Q: What are the main keys of success in creating a good score?

E Michael Kramer : Everything starts with being true to the story. Sometimes it’s tempting to fall back on music styles or instruments that are popular or “of the moment,” but all the most compelling and original ideas will flow from letting the story and characters be the central inspiration.

Q: Music is very important in the series Ninjago: Master of Spinjitszu. It is a vital part of the storytelling. In order to create the perfect ambiance, how did you succeed to find this perfect tone?

Michael Kramer : I like to think the score to Ninjago is successful because we never treat it like a “cartoon.” When I sit down to score a scene, I view the characters and situations as real people in real circumstances. As a composer, the story has to be 100% real to me. This way the music I write has the best chance helping others suspend their disbelief as well.

Q : Were there any creative challenges in composing the music for this series since 2011? If so, how did you overcome them, or how did you work through them?

Michael Kramer : Thankfully, the Hageman brothers (the writers) are constantly pushing the bar every season. So the score changes continuously to keep up with their imaginations! From pirate sea shanties to disco beats to ragtime, I feel like we’ve explored so much musical territory. There’s never a dull moment!

Q: Where did you record this score and why?

Michael Kramer : For Season 1 of Freemaker Adventures, we ending up recording an 80 piece orchestra overseas in Eastern Europe. Recording with live players brings SO much excitement and emotion to a score. Being in the recording studio is what I live for - there’s nothing more exciting than having a room full of crazy talented humans playing music that came out of your head. It’s a rush.

Q: Can you tell us how you chose the instruments to create this score?

Michael Kramer : For Ninjago, I’m constantly collecting new instruments to expand the sound of the score. Often it’s pretty exotic instrument like Bawu (bamboo flute), or Zhonghu (bowed string), but other times it’s a simple as claps and shouts. It all comes back to finding the right color to match the emotion of the story.

Q: What is your favorite scene in this series and why?

Michael Kramer : My favorite scene in the series is at the end of Season 3 when Zane sacrifices himself for his friends. There is a flashback of all his cherished memories with his fellow Ninja. It’s a really powerful moment and was so inspiring to score!

Q: Can you tell us an anecdote concerning your work on this series?

Michael Kramer : During Season 2 of Ninjago, we flew out to Denmark to meet with all the directors at Wil Film Animation and Jelly Sound. Before we left, we assembled a “Ninja ensemble” from the creative team to record various shouts and chants that we’ve used throughout the show. Watching everyone let their guard down and get completely into character while screaming and shouting was a RIOT.

Q: Which director do you dream to work with and why?

Michael Kramer : For me, working with JJ Abrams someday would be a dream. His work has such a perfect blend of epic yet intimate and dramatic yet fun. Like Steven Spielberg, he knows how to create a movie that is both entertaining and moving. Can you hook a guy up?? haha

Q: What are your current project(s)?

Michael Kramer : Right now, I’m finishing up Freemaker Adventures Season 2, which will premier later this summer on Disney XD. Also, Ninjago Season 7 is airing as we speak on Cartoon Network. On the big screen, I’ve just finished working on a really cool drama-thriller film called Valley of Bones.

Photos : Copyright Disney XD

We sincerely thank Michael Kramer for answering our questions and Adrianna Perez for helping us to have this great interview..