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Meet Shaun Chasin

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shaun Chasin.

Shaun, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was born in Canada in Toronto, Ontario. I grew up with a loving and endlessly supportive family surrounded by a plethora of cats. I was always into music and played guitar but never really took it all that seriously growing up. In high school that changed when I switched to a school for the performing arts where I was able to study music more formally and began to dip my toes for the first time into studying composition. I knew music was what I wanted to do, and in particular, I knew I wanted to write music for movies and video games. I didn’t know how to go about this, but by the end of high school, I knew this is what I wanted to do.

Risks are hard to take though. I ended up going to the University of Toronto for computer science. This seemed more reliable as a path to a stable future, and besides, the notoriously selective UofT jazz program wouldn’t have me! What I didn’t consider though is that many of my friends had gone into film school. Their student films needed music and of course I would be the one to try my hand at it. Batman screen wipes to six months later where I am now swamped with student films to score and completely neglecting my studies at U of T. I knew it was time for a change and time to stop wasting my time there. I applied to Berklee College of Music in Boston and began attending the following semester. There I studied film music and composition with a minor in video game music. This is where I needed to be; I grew so much here as a musician and as a composer. Upon graduating, I was accepted into the University of Southern California’s Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television graduate program.

I packed up my blue hatchback and drove for five days diagonally across the continent until I reached Los Angeles. The USC program was an amazing stomping ground. I was able to study with composers whose music I had grown up with, like Bruce Broughton, Christopher Young, and Garry Schyman. I was particularly excited to study with Garry as his scores to the Bioshock video game franchise rank amongst my all-time favourites. Besides studying music, what attending this program meant was that I was right next to the USC film school which housed some of the potential next generation of great filmmakers. Many of these people who I met and began working with while we were both students are people I still work with today.

Since graduating in 2014, it’s been a fun road to see my career unfold. Something you hear a lot in our industry is that you don’t get to pick what kind of career you’ll have but if you stick it out long enough, you’re sure to have one. Over the last decade, my music has been in hundreds of episodes of television and dozens of video games from small indie projects to international hits like PUBG Mobile.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Now that my career has a more stable trajectory, it’s easy to pretend it has always been this way but the fact is that it was very slow getting started. It can be discouraging to pitch for so many projects and be rejected so many times. The truth is that this is simply the nature of the industry. It was enlightening when I was having coffee with a much larger composer and he was bemoaning the fact that he had just lost a large movie to an A list composer after he had pitched so hard for it. This is the nature of our business. It’s highly competitive and thick skin must be developed. This of course makes the feeling of elation that much more significant whenever you do land a great project that you’re really excited to work on!

Can you give our readers some background on your music?
I’m a composer for all sorts of media. I write music for film, television, and video games. When I receive the film, there is no music, or sometimes temporary music is being used. It is my job to, in collaboration with the filmmaker, interpret the emotional needs of the movie and provide musical underscore that will support and enhance the narrative and contribute to the story.

For video games this means much the same thing. The player of a game is still experiencing a story or scenario that may need music to support their actions. A fundamental difference between a linear medium like film or tv and an often nonlinear format like video games is that players can take wildly different amounts of time to do the same thing. This means that your music will be experienced in dramatically different ways by each player. This means that creative methods must be implemented so that your music is able to continue indefinitely while still following the actions of the player. This can be something as simple as various layers of musical tension coming in and out of the score dynamically as the player does certain things. For example, an aggressive percussion layer may be tied to the number of enemies on screen. When they are being attacked and ambushed, the music is at its most aggressive. As they are able to defeat them, the music calms down reflecting the amount of danger the player is currently in.

Amongst the projects I’m most proud of would have to be my theme song for the anime Beyblade Burst. When I was growing up, a previous iteration of this show was on TV. Being a fan of anime in general, I never dreamed I would be able to contribute something to the musical zeitgeist of the genre. My theme song has gone on to be translated into dozens of languages and has spawned a whole slew of fan covers. It will never not be surreal to see a stranger on YouTube playing your music.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
When I was quite young, my uncle gave my siblings and I the VHS box set of the Star Wars trilogy. I had never seen or heard of Star Wars but the excitement of both my uncle and father meant that we watched one right away. Though it certainly would have been best to start with episode IV, I insisted we “watched the one with the teddy bears on the box” so my first exposure to Star Wars was Episode VI: Return of the Jedi! I didn’t know it at the time, but this was also my first exposure to the music of John Williams. This was before I was aware of movie music but I still remember the chills that were sent down my spine when I heard the massive opening Bb chord that opens the Star Wars main title music. These music-induced spine tingles, it turned out, were something I would never get enough of, the pursuit of which would shape the rest of my life.

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Image Credit:
Craig Peters, Adriana Delgado, Zak Millman

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