Netflix’s fantasy action/drama series The Order has elements like werewolves, magic and mystery. But its atmosphere is heightened by its music by award-winning composer Patric Caird.
Aside from The Order, Canadian-born Caird is probably best known to us Americans thanks to his musical work on Cartoon Network’s Ed, Edd n Eddy. The jazz soundtrack made the series stand out as one of Cartoon Network’s most successful series. The soundtrack also drew from Caird’s own foundation as a jazz saxophonist. But Caird has tons of credits to his name–400, in fact, for animation, documentaries, comedy and drama. He has also received a Genie Award (Canada’s Oscar) for his work on the film Here’s to Life!, starring Kim Hunter, James Whitmore and Ossie Davis.
He’s also won two SOCAN Music Awards (Canada’s PRO), several Leo Awards (British Columbia’s AMPAS), the award for Best Original Music from the Yorkton Film Festival and The Park City Film Music Festival’s Gold Medal for Excellence in Film Music. He has also been nominated for the Gemini Award (Canadian Emmy) for Best Musical Score and also earned a Canadian Screen Award nomination for Best Original Song for his collaboration with Sonya Jezebel Cote for the film Tru Love.
Check out this interview I conducted with Caird a few weeks ago via phone. In this interview (condensed and edited for clarity), I picked Caird’s brain about his career, his first composing gigs, and how his time on The Order reflects his various musical influences.
Season 1 of The Order is now streaming on Netflix.
How did your career in jazz get started?
I started playing tenor saxophone when I was a kid. I had a really great teacher who terrified us all int practicing as much as we could. I remember…when I first heard John Coltrane and it changed my world. I started practicing as hard as I could and I decided that’s what I wanted to be, a tenor sax player.
I started practicing four hours a day and skipping classes and getting caught in the band room practicing…when I got out of school, I went to college, but it took too much time away from practicing saxophone so I quit college and started working in jazz bands. Obviously, there’s not a whole lot of work for a jazz saxophone player, so I wound up playing [in] a lot of blues, some R&B and rock bands to make a living.
How did you come to work on Ed, Edd n Eddy and start your TV composing career?
I was still working as a saxophone player, playing in a big blues band. We were touring the country four times a year, I was on the road 180 days a year. I was living in a co-op with my young family and living in the co-op was animator Danny Antonucci with his young family. To look at him–he wore spiked hair, leather jackets–he looked like a punk. And I was this long-haired jazz musician dude.
We finally started talking to each other and realized we both loved Frank Sinatra and scotch whiskey, so we sat around listening to Frank and drinking scotch…He loved jazz music too, and through Danny I got involved with a company called International Rocketship in Vancouver which did a lot of interesting animation in Vancouver and had a bunch of great animators. Then Danny did a show called The Brothers Grunt for MTV and as interestingly, the producer on that show was Dennis Heaton who was the showrunner and creator of The Order, so that’s an interesting connection there. So I did the music for The Brothers Grunt and Danny’s next show was Ed, Edd n Eddy for Cartoon Network. We worked on it for 10 years. I think we did 6 seasons of TV, three specials and a feature. That was a lot of fun.
Speaking of The Order, I have listened to some of the music for that show as well, and of course it’s a completely different show than something like Ed, Edd n Eddy, but it’s interesting how composers can switch up their style depending on the story. It’s interesting to me how elastic composers have to be depending on the story. What were some of the differences for composing for the Order rather than Ed, Edd n Eddy which is moe jazz oriented?
Right off the bat, it’s a different musical palette. Ed, Edd n Eddy was a live six-piece jazz band that I would get the cartoon and write it all out by hand and take the pages into the studio with six musicians and we’d record it, which was wonderful. It’s actually sort of one of the last shows for a budget with live musicians. With The Order, we have a budget for live players…but I’ll get the picture and I’ll sit down with my computers and samplers and synthesizers and the instruments I have here and instruments that I hire people to play, and I do it all here myself in my studio.
Do you have any inspirations you draw from for The Order since it’s a horror-action-drama?
I’m a huge movie and television fan. When I’m not working I’m watching and listening to movies and TV. You’re affected by all the stuff that’s out there, and it’s hard for me to watch a show without hearing the music and critiquing it…I think there’s some really great music going on right now. I’ve been watching a lot of European crime drama shows, I like that sort of stuff and I like the electronic synthesizer related stuff quite a bit, which is interesting since The Order has a bit of that in it, but it has a lot more traditional orchestral stuff with the samples and the strings. One of the directions Dennis Heaton and I wound up going in is that he wanted to have more epic and operatic, so we fell into this thing for The Order and certainly for the Edward Coventry (Max Martini) character, is for it to get very big and opera-like. For the knights, the werewolves, we had kind of a military march happening, similar to Star Wars. We’d take these fields and expand on them throughout the episodes.
Do you have some soundtracks that are your favorites? What soundtracks are some of the best out there today?
There’s tons of them. I mean, I think when Breaking Bad first came out, Dave Porter’s work on that show…[what] he came out with…I realized later was this updated, American spaghetti western sound. The way they did the music in that show was incredible. I love the music to Lost, I thought it was beautiful that was a live orchestra, I think about 20 players. It was really compelling stuff that drew you in and touched on all the greats like Jerry Goldsmith and Elmer Berinstein and all those guys, but still was modernized. I think J.J. Abrams is really sensitive to music and a really excellent collaborator…I watch a lot of stuff, like I said, I’m really enjoying the more electronic stuff that’s out there. THere’s a guy named Eskmo that does Billions and a couple of other stuff that’s…really hip and musical. And in talking about the European crime dramas, there’s a lot of music in that world because it’s not coming from an American sensibility. Ólafur Arnalds who did the first season of Broadchurch was incredible. The way the music played and had a sensitivity and delicateness to it. Sometimes in American television we can get a little heavy handed and bossy and his music was almost cerebral and ethereal and spiritual.
Do you have any teasers for the next season of The Order?
To tell the truth, I haven’t seen the scripts for the next season. They’re writing them now, I’d imagine. The ending of the first eason was so ambiguous that I’m kinda with you on that, I’m in the dark. I don’t know what’s going to happen; I’m excited to find out.
I listen to a lot of soundtracks, and that’s pretty much what I listen to–I don’t listen to the radio. It’s funny, I spend about 10 to 12 hours in the studio and the last thing I want to do is listen to music [laughs] I like the silence after spending all day with music. But I always do a lot of research and listening to stuff. You were talking about the cartoon music; I remember as a kid being completely transfixed by the music in the Warner Bros. cartoons, like Bugs Bunny and the Road Runner and Coyote, and also The Flintstones was a big thing when I was a kid.
I remember being affected by cartoon music as a little guy, and it’s great that I’ve had a chance to make it , especially a show like Ed, Edd n Eddy where Danny was a really musical guy and he didn’t want anything to sound like anything that had happened before, but he wanted it to sound like a cartoon. I couldn’t do the cliche, but it had to be like a cartoon. So I think we kinda invented our own language of what a cartoon could be like for that time, the 90s into the 2000s.
Do you have any advice for young people who want to become composers?
It sounds silly, but I would say write as much as you can and study. It’s easy to do with DVDs and Blu-Rays today, there’s all these making-of resources and extra features so you can dig in and see the making of the movie and what the filmmakers were thinking about. As I mentioned, I dropped out of school because it took to much time away from me studying music even though I was in music school. I think it’s a great idea to go to music school and actually, after several years I’m thinking I would like to at least have had that formal education. But you can learn by yourself.
When I was jazz player, I would sit down and transcribe and learn John Coltrane solos and Sonny Rollins solos and Eric Dolphy solos and you can do the same thing with composing. You can figure who you like and what about their sound is exciting to you. With the tools we have today with our computers and samplers and stuff like that, you don’t have to go hire an orchestra. You can get a pretty close facsimile going fairly reasonably. So I’m saying keep learning, keep studying, keep writing and of course, you have to find people to let you put your music on their films, of course that’s networking and meeting filmmakers, and the best place to do that is to go film schools and meet people.