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Interview with Joel Goldsmith - Music composer of Stargate SG-1 & Atlantis
Date of publishing: 16th March 2006

Joel Goldsmith interview - Music composer of Stargate SG-1 & Atlantis Joel's career in music for film and TV began in 1978 when he worked on the low budget scifi movie Laser Blast and collaborated with composer Richard Band. His first solo scoring assignment came in 1981, with Olivia for German director Ulli Lommel. His early scores were essentially synthesiser only and his expertise in this field was utilised by his father in 1984 for Jerry Goldsmith's first completely electronic score - Michael Crichton's futuristic thriller Runaway. Joel also collaborated with his father for the short lived TV series' HELP and Hollister as episode composer while Jerry Goldsmith composed the themes. Joel collaborated proper with Jerry in 1996 on Star Trek First Contact and provided 20 minutes of additional music.

Joel composed his first symphonic score for another lower budget scifi thriller called Moon 44, and was an early score to reveal the obvious influences of his father. Later assignments followed in the form of Man's Best Friend, Kull The Conqueror, Shadow of A Doubt and Diamonds, all of which have helped re-inforce Joel's standing within the crowded composer market place.

Ironically his return to TV scoring has provided the young composer with his best output for TV's Vampirella but more importantly the TV spin-off - Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis. Here Joel has employed the dramatic sensibilities of his father to full effect and given the show a solid 'movie feel'. Joel remains at an early stage of his career which can only go forward as the composer moves out of the shadow of his famous father and establishes himself as a major force in TV and film scoring.

Gilles Nuytens: Firstly, I would like to congratulate you on your nomination in the Emmy Awards for the opening credits of Stargate Atlantis.
Joel Goldsmith: Thank you very much, I appreciate that.

Gilles Nuytens: It is one of the best opening credits that I've heard.
Joel Goldsmith: Well, thank you again!

Gilles Nuytens: Could you tell us a bit about yourself, how did you get into film music?
Joel Goldsmith: Film scoring has always been a huge part of my life. Growing up and watching my father work obviously gave me unusual exposure to the craft early on. I got serious about becoming a composer at around the age of seventeen. It really started by me fooling around with my dad’s synthesizers, then doing some electronic orchestration of various classical pieces and finally gravitating to my own compositions. During this time I also started helping my dad out in his home studio on films he was using heavy electronics. (“Logan’s Run”, “The Reincarnation of Peter Proud”, etc.).

Gilles Nuytens: What motivates you in your work as well as in your life?
Joel Goldsmith: Many things, fear being the most powerful motivator, fear of failure, fear of missing deadlines, fear of missing mortgage payments, fear of not living up to my potential. Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t get great joy from what I do, and the rush I get when I know I’ve excelled at something, can be great motivation to carry on, but fear is also a powerful motivator.

Gilles Nuytens: Are you the composer for all the music in Stargate or only a few episodes?
Joel Goldsmith: In the first couple of years there were other composers, Kevin Kiner, Rick Band, Dennis McCarthy did an episode but since then, it’s been pretty much just me. Recently, because of the crazy schedule and tremendous workload doing both shows, I’ve been fortunate to have composer Neil Acree to help me out on SG-1.

Gilles Nuytens: In Season 9 there seems to be a lot of new themes. Can you talk a little about them?
Joel Goldsmith: The producers reinvented SG-1 in Season 9. They introduced Mitchell, the Ori, made Vala an integral part of the team and we lost Carter for the first five episodes, therefore, I did expand on Vala’s Themes and developed three new themes for the Ori, the Dosi and the Priors. Each theme interrelates yet are somewhat unique as well. The beginning of Season 9 was a tremendous undertaking musically but I think it worked out rather well.

Gilles Nuytens: And how about the Themes for Atlantis Season 2?
Joel Goldsmith: We introduced Ronan, a terrific character. There is a great relationship between Ronan and Sheppard. One that is very exciting, giving dynamics to the show.

Gilles Nuytens: Did you compose a special theme for Ronan?
Joel Goldsmith: Yes, I did. Although it’s not an action theme, which you might have expected considering the character. Instead I scored his sensitive side, a more introspective look at a larger than life character.

Gilles Nuytens: Do you plan to make an extended version of the main titles music of both SG-1 and Atlantis? I would really love to hear that because 1 minute for this great music is not enough!
Joel Goldsmith: I have no plans of extending the SG-1 Theme as it’s already a bit of a medley of David’s Themes from the original motion picture. As far as Atlantis goes, I did record a 2-minute version which is somewhere in our archives.

Joel Goldsmith interview - Music composer of Stargate SG-1 & AtlantisGilles Nuytens: So you plan future releases of Stargate SG-1 and Atlantis?
Joel Goldsmith: Absolutely! I definitely plan on doing future releases of both SG-1 and Atlantis as well as other unreleased projects. There’s a lot of music I want to release but as you know Sony is involved. Sony bought MGM and right now I’m in negotiation with Sony to be able to release some of this music. We’re trying to obtain the rights and get everyone on the same page. In the meantime, I do plan to post music from various projects on my website “FreeClyde.com” including some rare SG-1 cues from earlier shows.

Gilles Nuytens: Could you describe the process of writing the theme to Atlantis?
Joel Goldsmith: I started off by reading the script because I wrote the theme long before they had shot the pilot episode. I had some discussions with Brad and Robert and we all agreed that I shouldn’t try to “reinvent the wheel” yet Atlantis should have it’s own voice. So, after I wrote my initial theme I demoed it and sent it to the guys. They gave me notes and I made changes and we went back and forth like this 4 times until we were all satisfied. We’ve actually posted on the site all of the demo’s I did showing the evolution of the theme from earliest demo to the final product.

Gilles Nuytens: When you arranged the Main Title for Stargate SG-1, did you work with David Arnold on it?
Joel Goldsmith: No, not really. David and I chatted on the phone once or twice, and then I just went ahead and basically adapted what he had written for the film.

Gilles Nuytens: You wrote the end title to Stargate SG-1. How did this come about?
Joel Goldsmith: I simply asked Brad if I could write an End Title. I’ve always liked it when a show had a different theme for the end credits. It always seemed like a bonus to me. So Brad agreed and I recorded it in Seattle when we recorded the Main Title.

Gilles Nuytens: The End Title is really good and it’s a good thing that it is different from the Main Title. But in Atlantis, it’s the same…
Joel Goldsmith: Yes, they are. I’m thinking about maybe making a new End Title for Atlantis next year. I don’t know… again, it’s a matter of time. It will depend on how much time we’ll have.

Gilles Nuytens: Could you let us know about your studio session with Rachel Luttrell (Teyla) for the song "Beyond The Night" featured in Critical Mass?
Joel Goldsmith: When Brad asked me to write the song for Teyla, I happened to be working with my sister Ellen on a children’s album she was recording. I thought it would be fun to write the song with Ellen. The writers of the show had supplied us with the lyrics and Ellen and I wrote the music. Brad sent Rachel down to our studio in Los Angeles to record her vocals. I was pleasantly surprised at what a skilled singer Rachel was and it made my job so much more enjoyable. But what was the most fun was having “Teyla” in the studio! After she finished recording the song, I told her, “You know, you don’t look so tough to me!”, she then grabbed a violin bow and proceeded to kick my ass with it! Ok, maybe that didn’t happen, but the part we had a great time and she did a great job was true. Rachel is a very nice person and I hope to work with her again one day.

Gilles Nuytens: Do you sometimes visit the sets of Stargate?
Joel Goldsmith: I’m one of the few people who live in Los Angeles and work on Stargate. I visit very, very rarely, I think twice in nine years.

Gilles Nuytens: Do you have an inside story, an anecdote or something about Stargate?
Joel Goldsmith: It’s a very difficult question. On a few occasions I was exceptionally proud and excited about a specific piece that I had written for a show and was absolutely flabbergasted when both Brad and Robert couldn’t stand the piece, they just hated it. And ironically there have been times when I seriously doubted the effectiveness of a cue and they just loved it. Sometimes it can be difficult to judge the quality of your own work.

Another incident was when I wrote the theme to Atlantis. There was a certain MGM executive, who shall remain nameless, who just did not like the theme. Brad and Robert had to fight a long battle to get the theme approved. Later, after I had been nominated, my assistant told me that this executive was on the phone. I knew he was calling to congratulate me. So when I picked up the phone, before he could say a word, I said to him, “I bet you don’t hate this theme so much anymore, do you?” and as any good executive would respond, he said, “I never hated the theme, I always loved it!”. Yeah right. Oddly enough, I’m kind of fond of that guy.

Gilles Nuytens: I never found the CD “Children of the Gods” in stores…
Joel Goldsmith: Good, you shouldn’t because that was a horrible CD! I had nothing to do with that CD. Both David Arnold and I took our name off of the CD. It was made against our wishes. It was an edited version of both the Stargate film and Children of the Gods scores together. The Children of the Gods score has never been heard by anybody publicly. We are planning on releasing it in it’s entirety.

Joel Goldsmith interview - Music composer of Stargate SG-1 & AtlantisGilles Nuytens: Do you sometimes listen to your music for pleasure?
Joel Goldsmith: Very rarely. I’ve just recently gone back and listened to quite a bit of what I’ve done over the last several seasons because of the upcoming CD projects. It can be a difficult thing listening to one’s own music for television. Because I work at such a fast pace, often there isn’t the refinement in the compositions that I would like to hear. But it is what it is and I’m proud of much of what I’ve done on Stargate and Atlantis.

Gilles Nuytens: What's the best memory of your career?
Joel Goldsmith: I would have to say having my father conduct my music.

Gilles Nuytens: Your father is Jerry Goldsmith!
Joel Goldsmith: Yes he is! I lied on the website.

Gilles Nuytens: How was it to work with your father?
Joel Goldsmith: It was great! What film composer wouldn’t want Jerry Goldsmith conducting their score! It was wonderful in a musical sense and very special personally. I’m glad we had those times together.

Gilles Nuytens: How do you feel about people downloading music illegally?
Joel Goldsmith: I wish I could say I’ve never done it myself but I can’t. But I feel strongly that we all should be aware that royalties from purchasing music is how the artist makes his living and believe me the vast majority of working musicians are not living in villas in the south of France! They are getting by just like all of us. So I say we shouldn’t steal music and support artists.

Gilles Nuytens: How do you proceed to create your music, do you use technology and instruments to serve your ideas or does the technology have an influence on your work?
Joel Goldsmith: The advantages of the newer technology by far outweigh the disadvantages. If Beethoven were alive today I believe he would be using sequencers and synths/samplers to expand the orchestral palate and exploit the freedoms that they bring. On the downside, if you have too many choices it can make the creative process more difficult. Limits and boundaries to some degree, have always been a good thing for the creative and the personal development of the artist.

Gilles Nuytens: Do you have a particular working method?
Joel Goldsmith: Not particularly, sometimes I’ll watch a scene and by the end I’ve already structured the cue in my mind and it’s really just a matter of putting it down. Other times, it could be like pulling teeth and can be a very tedious process. One piece of advice that my father told me was to “Just write! Don’t worry if it’s good or bad, just write, you can always change it later.” But what did he know…(laughs)

Gilles Nuytens: Do you have a scoop about Stargate?
Joel Goldsmith: Rob and Brad would be very pissed if I let the “cat’s out of the bag’s”! All I can tell you is to keep watching because Season 10 of SG-1 and Season 3 of Atlantis are going to be fantastic!!

Gilles Nuytens: Thank you very much!
Joel Goldsmith: Thank you and take care!

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Interview by Gilles Nuytens for The Scifi World


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