LOS ANGELES, CA/DETROIT, MI—Joe LoDuca is a rarity among scoring composers, having remained in his hometown of Detroit while maintaining a successful Hollywood career. That distance, and a credit list that stretches back to the early eighties, has also given LoDuca some unique perspectives.
Trusting clients and strict adherence to deadlines enabled him to work remotely for many years, says LoDuca. But eventually he and his family succumbed to the lure of Southern California. “Now, we’re out here more. I’m here half the year, especially away from the Michigan winters. And it’s great, because I can work more closely with people, musicians and studios and engineers, and I’m enjoying that,” he says.
LoDuca, a guitarist, and his band played the local clubs with the likes of Bob Seger and Ted Nugent while still in his mid-teens. He later received classical music training in Michigan and New York, hung out with some of Motown’s legendary musicians and immersed himself in the jazz scene. Then, in 1982, he was hired to score Evil Dead, the debut feature by director Sam Raimi, another Michigan native. That film also marked the beginning of a career-long working relationship with actor and filmmaker Bruce Campbell, yet another local.
“I was in the first generation where the technology was affordable; if you had a musical idea, you could realize it,” says LoDuca. When he subsequently got into production for commercials, then films, he was challenged with delivering audio reliably and quickly, something that we now take for granted.
“Because we decided to raise our family in Michigan, I was probably among the first using—from a daily production standpoint—ISDN lines and arcane protocols to wake up my music editor’s computer in the middle of the night so I could do transfers and download from the ISDN lines onto a DAT. Compared to what is happening now, it was a lot more effort to be remotely based.”
For comparison, he says, “I just had a session in Michigan using SourceConnect to Utah. It used to be a two to three-second delay. Now it’s a slapback—80 milliseconds. If you know the people that you are communicating with, once you’ve established a shorthand, it’s like you are in the same room.”
Some of LoDuca’s Emmy-winning and-nominated work includes Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Leverage, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princess (Varese Sara-bande released a 20th anniversary seven-CD boxed set of LoDuca’s music), The Librarians (entering its fourth season) and American Gothic. Ash vs Evil Dead (Campbell plays Ash, the character he introduced in Raimi’s Evil Dead) is starting its third season. LoDuca also recently finished Chucky 7: The Cult of Chucky and an independent thriller, Bad Samaritan.
“I’m doing my first sitcom, Disjointed, a Chuck Lorre production. It’s about a pot dispensary; Kathy Bates is the star. What’s real interesting is that our showrunner, David Javerbaum, is a lyricist, among his many talents. We’ve done song parodies, original songs and an incredible sequence for a fantasy, small-town America, Hollywood musical, a huge production number with 150 dancers.”
LoDuca, who now has a house in Los Angeles, says, “I was going to build a studio in my garage.” Then a room became available on the nearby Warner Bros lot. “It’s so convenient, and everybody here is so nice and supportive.”
His production facilities are essentially mobile: “I’ve got a trashcan [Apple Mac Pro computer], a Universal Audio Apollo interface and some SSD drives. I have a studio and an engineer in Michigan. We’re in constant contact through the day; our information is synched.”
Unlike the days when he had to drive a reel of tape to the airport for FedEx delivery, he says, “The bandwidth here and the speed of transmission is amazing.” When he travels to Michigan, he says, he carries his trashcan.
In the new room, he says, “I kept my old Genelecs. I know what I can get out of them and my mixes translate well. But because I’m lazy, I also kept the ADAMs that were here in the Warner Bros room; those are very nice, too, and they’re another reference.”
Although the room was acoustically treated, he says, “Adding a couple of Delta H Design’s ZR Micro panels made a really dramatic difference. My imaging fell into line and my low-end problems disappeared.”
Despite the technological progress that LoDuca has seen over his career, he’s still old school when it comes to recording. At a recent big band session, he and the musicians were talking about the effect of the room on the performance, he says. “Everybody is listening to the room as well as each other. Somehow that has gotten lost—not with people who know the difference, but with the generation of musicians with laptops in their bedrooms,” he says.
“You don’t necessarily have to record everybody at once, but it gives musicians the experience of what it sounds like to play together. If there’s a way economically to work it out, I am thinking more and more I need to get everybody in the same room. It makes all the difference in the world.”