We chat to composer Jason Gallagher about scoring Z Nation…
Now in its third season, Syfy’s hit zombie show Z Nation has proven to critics and fans that it is far more than a Walking Dead knockoff. It stands on its own as an entertaining zombie roller coaster ride with the viewer always wondering, “What next?” A prime example of this being the last five minutes of “Escorpion and the Red Hand,” with Dr. Merch walking into the crowd full of zombies. What’s Murphy going to do now that his last hope is dead?
A major contributing factor to Z Nation not always explored is the show’s score. The score can do everything from make a dramatic scene even more intense to warn the viewer that something bad is lurking. We decided to speak with the show’s composer, Jason Gallagher to learn more about his process and what he thinks about season 3 so far.
Musically, what has been your favorite score this season? And for the entire show, first 2 seasons included?
Doc has had some great moments this season so far. One of my favorite moments is this storytelling scene of his I just scored. You’ll just have to wait to see what it’s all about, but it’s sweet, funny, and awesome.
Screenrant raved about your score to the episode titled “Escorpion and the Red Hand” saying it was some of your best work of the series. What did you do differently for this episode than you have for others?
I think this season has been darker and crazier than the last two, and when you have the chance to set the tone for those storylines, it’s really fun. I think I take the same approach to every episode, which is trying to live up to the amazing work of our directors and editors. That particular episode was edited by my buddy Stuart Acher, and he had a lot to do with how the music worked. We went to Boston University’s film school program together and happened to end up on Z Nation together. I guess it turned out to be a pretty good reunion!
Which character were you saddest to see die this season?
Nice try! While I can’t give you any spoilers for this season, I can tell you there are some surprises, and people definitely die! The saddest death in previous seasons was probably Mac. He was a fan favorite for sure, and we had to watch it through Addy’s eyes.
Z Nation can be very bloody/intense at times and then quite humorous at times. Do these opposite emotions in each episode make it easier or harder to score?
I have a mandate from Karl Schaefer (the co-creator and showrunner) to keep it all dark. I don’t play to the comedy or ridiculousness at all, and that keeps us in this crazy, apocalyptic world. So even if Doc is smoking weed with a zombie in an elevator shaft, it’s still a tense moment, instead of a wacky comedy, and the music needs to reflect that.
What do you say to critics who have called Z Nation a knockoff of The Walking Dead?
I think everyone who works on Z Nation are big fans of The Walking Dead! And while there are similarities, once you watch a little Z Nation, you quickly realize they’re two different shows, and they’re both pretty great.
At what stage of each episode do you begin working on it? Do you see it after it already fully shot?
Usually I’ll get the locked picture edit of the show, and I’ll meet with the director to discuss the music. Sometimes I’ll get a call from the editor or director early on, and we’ll collaborate on a piece that needs to be used in the edit, or even in the shoot, like the Mahler opera in episode 3 this season, which I sang myself! Just call me the fourth tenor!