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Going Head to Sneakerheads

Netflix’s hot new comedy series, Sneakerheads, has a head-spinning hip-hop/trap score; composer Haim Mazar discusses the tech, inspiration and process that went into it.

Haim Mazar’s latest score is for the Netflix comedy series, Sneakerheads, mixing hip-hop, trap and fantasy elements.

West Los Angeles, CA (October 28, 2020)—Some filmmakers have their go-to composers: think Steven Spielberg, who favors John Williams, or Steven Soderbergh and Cliff Martinez. For everyone else, just like the vast majority of actors, there’s the audition process.

“I think that’s always the best way to showcase your work,” says Haim Mazar, whose latest work can be heard on Netflix series Sneakerheads. “Give me a shot. If you like it, let’s do it.”

Mazar studied for a year at a Berklee International Network school in his native Israel before transferring to Berklee College of Music’s Boston campus. Based in Los Angeles since 2008, he’s racked up a long and eclectic list of credits, from biopic thriller The Iceman through animation and reality series, to multiple Disney Imagineering Parks stage shows.

A while back, Mazar’s manager sent him an audition pitch. “There were three scenes, with no explanation about what the show is or where music should go. I did something really quick over the weekend,” he says, and Sneakerheads creator Jay Longino and director Dave Meyers liked it.

Haim Mazar
A journeyman composer, Haim Mazar’s work has been heard in everything from biopic thriller The Iceman to multiple Disney Parks stage shows. sean galland

Perhaps it helped that Mazar’s former neighbor appeared in one of the audition scenes as, well, a neighbor. He sent the actor a message and a screenshot. “He knew the creator and sent a text to say that he should check out my work. I got a call the week after that and I got the job.”

Mazar crafts his scores in a West L.A. facility with a live space, a writing room and a complement of instruments that are half acoustic, half electronic. “I use analog and sampled instruments, and I’ve got a collection of electric pianos, synths and all sorts of fun toys.”

His main DAW is Apple Logic. Because Mazar typically works on orchestral or hybrid projects, he says, “I’ll do a mockup of an orchestral score and use a lot of libraries like Spitfire Audio. I have them all on SSD drives, which is part of the reason why I have a lot of RAM, so I can stream samples very quickly.”

To support that workflow, he says, “I have the latest Mac Pro; I like to work on everything on one really, really powerful machine, so I don’t use slave computers. This computer has 12 cores and 256GB of RAM, and I can extend it to 1.5TB.”

He has a duplicate setup in a home studio, he says. “I have two kids, and with COVID-19, I have to have a home rig.”

Mazar has long favored Apogee and uses the company’s Symphony interface together with Universal Audio preamps. “I’m a big fan of Dynaudio speakers,” he says, “and I do a lot in surround, too. I use Blue Sky bass management; I’ve had the controller for 10 years; it’s really solid.”

If a project requires a live orchestra, he will output it to Pro Tools and take it to one of the established scoring stages. But during the current pandemic, he has been taking advantage of the Eastern European orchestras in Macedonia, Prague and Budapest, he reports. “There are a lot of amazing remote recording services.”

Sneakerheads, which premiered Sept. 25 on Netflix, follows a stay-at-home dad, a former sneaker collector, who tries to track down a pair of rare and lucrative shoes worn by Michael Jordan. Mazar’s resume is varied, to be sure, but none of his credits suggest a particular affinity to hip-hop, which features throughout the series.

“I’ve always been a fan of hip-hop and grew up listening to it—and I still do. I have a very eclectic taste and grew up in a very eclectic environment; that allows me to tap into different projects,” he says.

There are also some weird and quirky elements, he says, “Things that put this into a fantasy world at times. It also tells the audience, don’t take us too seriously. Dave wanted the music to not necessarily make it silly—because the music is serious—and to use elements from the trap world, but to use them like a film score.”

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There are musical themes, too. “I was able to repurpose melodies and signature sounds, and use different variations throughout the show,” he says. “There are also some piano themes, more heartfelt cues. Especially toward the end, it gets a little bit emotional.”

The challenge was to be authentic, says Mazar, not least because Meyers is an established music video director who has worked with Kendrick Lamar and Travis Scott, among many others. “We wanted it to sound like one big soundtrack that follows throughout the season. Sometimes in my cues, I’ll insert one or two lines of rap between the dialog lines so that it feels like a song. It feels like a fun ride; you’re going on an adventure with them.”

Haim Mazar •