Scoring mixer by day, punk rocker by night, Jason LaRocca remains in demand. LOS ANGELES, CA—Engineer, producer and film and television music scoring mixer by day, punk rocker by night, Jason LaRocca has an enviably busy schedule. Heading into the final quarter of the year, LaRocca has been working on two movies, Oldboy and Homefront; 1940s LA crime series Mob City, debuting on TNT on December 4; ABC’s Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, which kicked off in early October; as well as Once Upon a Time, which recently began its third season on ABC.
“You’re either doing nothing, or you’re doing it all at the same time,” laughs LaRocca. “I’ve got the shows all happening at the same time-ish.” But he’s thankful to be working: “It’s been great—hopefully it doesn’t stop for a while.”
LaRocca got his start at the age of 18, taking over from a friend as studio assistant for film composer Mark Isham. Having made the transition to scoring mixer, LaRocca worked with Isham on the films Warrior and The Mechanic, and TV series Crash. The working relationship continues: Isham composes for both Once Upon a Time and Wonderland, and also scored Homefront.
Both Oldboy, directed by Spike Lee, and Homefront, directed by Gary Fleder, are set for release November 27. “I’ll have to see which one sounds better and go to adjoining theaters and check them out,” says LaRocca.
Isham’s score for Homefront, with a screenplay by Sylvester Stallone and starring Jason Statham, Kate Bosworth, James Franco and Wynona Ryder, is a hybrid of string and electronic elements, says LaRocca. “But it didn’t really branch into full orchestral. I had some string things on it, but pretty small ensembles, with a lot of electric guitars, electric bass, drums, almost a band ensemble, and a lot of pads and electronics.”
In contrast, Oldboy—a remake starring Josh Brolin and Elizabeth Olsen of a Korean adaptation of the Japanese manga—features a score by Spanish composer Roque Baños that “is just really great, dark orchestral, some pads and cool low drum sounds and a couple of little loops. But sort of chamber orchestra, and a lot of really great dark piano melodies; really great stuff.”
Orchestral tracking dates tend to be on a scoring stage at Warner Bros. or The Bridge, says LaRocca. “If we’re doing something smaller, solo instruments or things like that, I actually have a pretty large iso booth in my mix room so I can do a lot of stuff there, or at other studios— wherever people are comfortable.”
Typically, says LaRocca, television scores are recorded and mixed in 5.1 as a matter of course. “I do a Decca tree and I mix it in surround. I mix it sort of true to how I recorded it in the room. It comes out in 5.1, we get it to the stage in 5.1 and they mix it primarily in 5.1, but I’m sure that a lot of people see it in stereo.”
Once Upon a Time is typically mixed like a movie score, he continues. “I do five or six 5.1 and 5.0 stems; I don’t usually do any stereo stems for that show.” The spinoff series, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, is mixed in the same way.
Television scores are no less labor intensive than film scores, at least during the early episodes. “There’s actually a lot of original music written for each episode. I’d say between 20 and 25 minutes of original music will be written and recorded every episode; that’s a lot. And then there will probably be another 10 to 15 minutes that will be edited and cut from previous episodes. So our first couple of episodes were ginormous.”
It’s not unusual for LaRocca to perform as a musician on some of his projects. A guitarist and singer who formed LA punk band The Briggs in 2001 with his brother, Joey, also a guitarist and singer, LaRocca also gets calls for a variety of music sessions.
“I’ve done some stuff for David Banner, who’s a hip-hop artist, and I do some stuff for Diane Warren every once in a while,” he reports. “I do some stuff on some of the scores I work on if there’s time for it. I did some stuff on Homefront. I definitely have enough stuff happening to call myself a musician.”
In their heyday, The Briggs shared the stage with the likes of Bad Religion, Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly. The band’s 2008 single, “This is LA,” has become a favorite at LA Kings and Galaxy games. The band took a hiatus is 2010, but last year, the band reformed for some shows and to record a new single, “Panic.” As a result, the band was recently voted Best Punk Band 2013 in LA Weekly.