Composer Pat Irwin discusses Rocko’s Modern Life, The Good Cop & More

Rocko's Modern Life Pat Irwin

Nickelodeon’s animated show Rocko’s Modern Life was a staple for a lot of kids in the mid-’90s and over the years has even garnered a new generation of viewers through reruns. So when Nick announced it was making a new feature film version of the show with the original voice cast members, fans were over the moon. The film is called Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling and will be released soon. On top of the original voice cast members coming back to the project, the show’s composer Pat Irwin will also be creating new tunes for the latest installment. Irwin scored the entire original run of the show along with hits such as Pepper Ann, Nurse Jackie and a few episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants to name a few. Aside from Rocko, Irwin’s music can also be heard on Netflix’s The Good Cop, which just premiered starring Tony Danza and Josh Groban. We decided to speak with Irwin about creating these iconic scores and more in this interview.

You scored the iconic Rocko’s Modern Life for Nick. Can you tell us how that came about and what initially attracted you to the project?

I was in a band called the Raybeats that was making a little noise around New York City when Nickelodeon was starting out as a network. It just so happened that an executive at Nickelodeon was a Raybeats fan and he recommended me for the job. I’ve always loved cartoon music and this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

Whenever you are looking back on Rocko’s Modern Life, what do you remember most about working on the project?

I remember the musicians. We had a phenomenal band and we really began to play like one. Kevin Norton, who at the time was playing with Anthony Braxton, set the tone for everyone. David Hofstra played bass and tuba. He was in the Raybeats for a while and he also played with the Contortions, The Microscopic Septet, John Zorn, and just about everyone else in the Downtown music scene. Art Baron played the trombone and Rob DeBellis played the clarinet. Art was in the Duke Ellington Orchestra. He’s a master and brought a depth of playing that set the tone for not only the band but my writing. Rob was playing in a band called Big Trouble and was also playing in a band led by the great Don Byron. Don had just put out a record called Bug Music that featured some of the great cartoon music written by Raymond Scott. These musicians raised the level of the whole experience.

Over 20 years after Rocko’s Modern Life went off the air, Nick is bringing it back with a new feature film titled Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling. Are you doing anything to update the score? Also, are there techniques or instruments that you used on the original that aren’t available now?

I used the same band on the movie that played on the cartoon, so it was kind of like a family reunion. Dan Rieser also played drums on some of the cues. Dan has worked with me on The Good Cop, Nurse Jackie, and Bored to Death, and is one of my favorite musicians.

You are currently scoring Netflix’s The Good Cop. Is there a different approach to scoring live action as opposed to animation?

When you score for animation the music gets much closer to the picture. Sometimes it feels like you’re inside the drawings. When you score for live action it’s up to the composer to find more distance.

Even though Rocko’s Modern Life and The Good Cop are two completely different shows, are there any similarities between the two show scores?

To be honest, I can’t find any similarities between the scores for Rocko and The Good Cop except they’re both written by the same composer.

Your résumé includes four episodes of SpongeBob Squarepants. Can you tell us a little about that?

The score for SpongeBob was created using mostly needle drops. The music editor, Nick Carr, and I had worked together on Rocko and Pepper Ann. Nick pulled together the library for SpongeBob and asked me to contribute.

Would you like to score more SpongeBob?

I love SpongeBob and would gladly score more if I had the time.

If given the opportunity to score any of the Marvel projects, which one would you pick?

Marvel! I’m a Silver Surfer fan.

Learn more about Pat Irwin here: http://patirwinmusic.com/

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