Kyle Newmaster interview: The epic sound of ‘Blood and Treasure’

Kyle Newmaster

Blood and Treasure takes TV viewers around the globe on a heart-stopping adventure, and it’s Kyle Newmaster‘s job to create that broad scope and adrenaline rush through music. How does he craft a sound that represents several different countries, keeps up with fast-paced action, and makes the audience feel like they’re in the middle of a great treasure hunt?

Kyle dropped by to chat with me about his work on the CBS series, including the importance of his collaborating with a live orchestra – something that is unfortunately becoming more and more of a rarity in TV music. Get to know him better in this interview, and check out the first season of Blood and Treasure now on Apple TV, CBS All Access, or Amazon Prime Video. (The show has been renewed for a second season, but there’s no premiere date yet.)

Brittany Frederick: What was it about Blood and Treasure that interested you musically?

Kyle Newmaster: It’s absolutely the genre that has inspired me my whole life. I’m a big Indiana Jones and James Bond fan, and really [a fan of] all the classic ‘80s and ‘90s movies. Blood & Treasure has lots of adventure, action, a little bit of romance, and everything about it is similar to the movies that really got me inspired as a kid to go into composing.

BF: How did you ultimately become the composer for the show?

KN: I first heard about Blood & Treasure because I knew the creators, Stephen Scaia and Matthew Federman. I actually met Stephen back in 2014, from a Kickstarter campaign video that he posted for a short film project. It was a very similar vibe to Blood & Treasure, actually, and I was inspired to send him a demo and a message. Luckily he wrote back and said that he’d love to work together on it. From there we became friends and talked regularly about film and music.

I met Matthew through Stephen and got to know him well over the years too. They’re both really awesome and inspiring people.  When the series was announced, I instantly started planning how to demo for Stephen, Matt, and CBS, because I loved the concept and it’s one of my favorite genres of music to write. Thankfully it all worked out!

BF: The scope of Blood and Treasure is huge, as the show tracks across so many different countries. Does that then also make your job larger in scope, since you’re working to evoke that globe-trotting feel?

KN: Yeah. (laughs) Stephen and Matthew wanted the music to be big, be its own character. There are lots of themes overall, and as the characters go to different areas you don’t want to completely switch moods or style, but you need to add a little unique flavor. For example, in episode five [“The Brotherhood of Serapis”] when they go to the Andalusian mountains, there was an epic overhead shot of the area and then we saw Danny and Lexi riding up on horses. So I did a little Spanish guitar, solo trumpet, and Orchestra flamenco version of the main theme.

When they went to other areas of the world, I often had the music do some fun changes of instrumentation to match the establishing shots. There was a lot of adapting to the visuals, but the core sound of the show is really that classic big orchestra kind of sound. The John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, John Barry sound that has inspired me so much.

BF: How did the music evolve as the season progressed? Did you incorporate musical changes to reflect character growth and plot twists?

KN: A big part of it was creating themes for the different characters. Sometimes individually, sometimes relationship themes. We had a Danny and Lexi theme that gradually developed throughout the season. There were themes for various villains, the heroes, and  all kinds of secret organizations throughout. And of course, the main Blood and Treasure theme, which actually is comprised of two themes.

So there are many different themes that developed over time. At one point the themes actually swap for two of the characters, and in one case two themes are combined to form a new concept. The score was constantly adapting as the music followed along with the development of those characters and the introduction of new ones.

“Return of the Queen” — The trail of Cleopatra\’s sarcophagus leads Danny and Lexi to the Bermuda Triangle, where a contact of Shaw\’s offers assistance tracking down a smuggler\’s plane that vanished years earlier. Also, Gwen attracts unwanted attention when she investigates a suspicious money transfer, on BLOOD & TREASURE, Tuesday, July 23 (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured (L-R) Michael James Shaw as Aiden Shaw, Sofia Pernas as Lexi Vaziri and Matt Barr as Danny McNamara, Photo:Mohammed Kamal/CBS ©2018 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

BF: One aspect of Blood and Treasure that deserves special emphasis is that you work with live musicians. Many TV series have moved away from that recently, and it’s a special part of composing that shouldn’t be overlooked. What has that ability to collaborate with an orchestra meant to you on this series?

KN: For all of my composing projects, the goal was always to have that music performed by a live ensemble, and I made it a top priority to have live players on as many of my scoring projects as possible. For me, it was always about trying to get that feeling of being in the orchestra hall or hearing the big John Williams score in your favorite movie.  In my opinion, that can best be accomplished with a live orchestra.

In college I created my own orchestra for recordings, and when I came out to Los Angeles, I created a 90-piece orchestra, which was a really great learning experience. I also discovered it’s very complicated to run an orchestra. (laughs) But it’s always been a top priority for me to work with live orchestral musicians.

Sometimes that’s a 50, 60-piece orchestra. Sometimes it’s a string quartet and a couple of soloists. And in this case, it was a mix of all of those. For episodes one and two [“The Curse of Cleopatra”], we were able to record a 35-piece string section and woodwinds first, and then we recorded a brass section separately with 16 brass players, which is pretty big for TV. Throughout the season, depending on the needs of each particular episode, we would do small sessions, like a small brass group or just the woodwinds or string soloists. For the final episodes, we recorded a full string section, winds and some solo brass.

Recording the score live was always a really big priority for Stephen and Matthew. It’s always a top priority for me as well, so I was thrilled that CBS approved it and I am excited that we plan on doing it again in the future.

BF: Many of your previous credits were on major video game titles, such as the Battlefront franchise. Is there anything in the game scoring world that you found also applicable to TV, or does the composing process change with the medium?

KN: It’s a similar process. With any composition you have to begin with an idea that excites you and develop that concept. With games, it’s more about writing small pieces of music, usually between one and three minutes, that can be looped or crossfaded into a new piece as a transition. So you’re thinking about writing pieces that hit certain moods. If a character is doing something exciting, it’ll be a little peppier piece of music. If it’s something sad, it’ll morph into that. It’s more about writing all of these cues with different moods and figuring out how to best cover various things that might happen within the game. The complicated part is figuring out how to make sure that the compositions will smoothly transition from one idea to another as the gameplay unfolds.

For TV and film, it’s linear. You’re scoring each scene shot by shot, and it’s more about hitting the right emotions of that exact moment. So in that way, it’s very different writing for film and TV. The timings and transitions are set and it’s about complementing and enhancing what is happening on screen at that exact spot.

They’re similar in that you are always writing the best music you can for each cue, but for games it’s more about what could possibly happen, and with film and TV it’s about hitting the exact emotion and things that are happening on the screen every moment.

BF: While fans are waiting for Blood and Treasure season 2 to arrive, what other Kyle Newmaster scores would you recommend they listen to?

KN: I think one of the larger-scale games I worked on was one that I co-scored called Kinect Star Wars, which was in 2012 with my buddy Gordy Haab, who actually does almost all of the Star Wars games. I’ve worked on a lot of the other Star Wars games too as an additional composer, but that score I was really proud of. A fun fact from that project is that we recorded the score at Abbey Road with the London Symphony Orchestra. We were recording a Star Wars score in the same studio and with many of the same musicians who played on the original films, which was a real thrill.

Recently, a film that I scored just came out through Hulu’s horror anthology TV series Into the Dark. The film was called “Pooka Lives!” It was directed by my good friend Alejandro Brugues, who I’ve worked with a few other times. He’s a great horror film director and an all-around awesome filmmaker. It’s a really fun comedy/horror flick and you can check it out on Hulu.

BF: You also scored the West Wing cast reunion video “Walk and Talk the Vote” a few years ago.

KN: I got into that through an editor friend who connected me to the director, Michael Mayers. They were doing that as a political campaign video for Bridget Mary McCormack and they just needed a 10-minute score, and it had almost the entire original cast. It received millions of hits online. That was a fun little project.

BF: What are the genres or musicians that you love? What would be on your playlist?

KN: I go through phases. I’ve always loved film music and TV music. Since I’m working in that realm, I’m always listening to things and buying scores and studying them. I’ll go through a phase where I’m into John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith, and then I might want to get more into the modern sound and check out some of the newer composers.

A lot of times I go back to the classic orchestral works to get motivated too. I’m a big fan of Bartok, Stravinsky, Samuel Adler, and Bach. I definitely get excited about re-studying orchestral literature and continually learning.

I’m also a huge fan of jazz and listen to it often to get inspired. I used to be a jazz trumpet player and arranger; I still am, but I don’t really gig much anymore. So I go through phases where I listen to mostly jazz. I’m a huge Freddie Hubbard and John Coltrane fan. I’ve had years of my life where I was dedicated to jazz.

I try to stay excited about all kinds of music and, and I’m willing to listen to anything that my friends are checking out that I haven’t heard.

For more about Kyle Newmaster, visit his website.

Article content is (c)2020 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr, on Instagram at @BFTVGram.

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