Composer Jake Monaco has been a busy man lately — if you’re a connoisseur of children’s animation, you’ve almost certainly heard his work. Some of Monaco’s credits include the Netflix award-winning series Dinotrux, the Amazon series The Stinky and Dirty Show, and Warner Bros Be Cool Scooby Doo. Additionally, the composer has worked on installments of Disney’s “As Told By Emoji” series that retells the tales of Moana, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and others.
Recently, Lauren had the chance to chat with Monaco about his work and putting his own musical stamp each project:
Lauren Showgren: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today! We are big fans of your work so we’re very excited to be able to learn a little bit more about you. My first question for you, how did you discover your love for music?
Jake Monaco: You know, my parents told me a story about when I was two or three years old and they brought me to a circus. I could have cared less about the animals or clowns. Instead, I walked over to where the pit band was playing and took it upon myself to start conducting them which the pit band got a huge kick out of and the conductor started laughing and brought me up on the little podium and they all let me wave my arms ridiculously. So I think that was kind of the first sign that this might be the direction that I would want to go. But it really wasn’t until high school when I started doing some singer/songwriter type stuff, started playing in bands and toured around a little bit.
I really kind of fell in love that that side of music. Then it was a little bit after college, I guess it was 2006 or so that I started getting interested in the film scoring aspect of things. I ended up going to a program at USC specifically for film scoring. It was a one-year intensive program and then from there I started working with another composer and figuring out what was going to work for me.
LS: I’ve done a little bit of research on you and read that you like to go to Ikea to find items to help you achieve the unique sounds. What are some of your favorite finds?
JM: Specifically from Ikea, there is a six dollar wok that I found there it must be 10 years ago now. I’m looking at it right now in my studio. It is one of my prized possessions. Oddly, there are so many different sounds to be able to get out of this wok whether it’s flipping it upside down and tapping it with fingers or mallets or by, at some points I’ve put my wedding ring in there and swished it around so it kind of had ambient texture. I’ve taken that and kind of combined it with other things just to give it something slightly unique that is slightly unpredictable in terms of, you know, as you’re swirling it around it’s not always going to be perfect. So it kind of evolves itself. That is probably one of my favorite finds there.
LS: The next question I’ve got for you, probably one you get a lot, but can you tell me which project has had the biggest impact on your career?
JM: Probably working with Chris Beck on Frozen specifically, because that led to some additional work through Disney, on their As Told By Emoji series, which, I think we’re at like 14 episodes or so now. I think being in that world of animation really kind of impacted the direction that I was heading. I never really thought too much about it at that point and then all of a sudden all of these different animated things coming in, more work with Disney and with Pixar and then with Dreamworks animated TV series like Dino Trucks, then Amazon’s Stinky and Dirty show. It seems like all of these things coming to me with animation kind of started to fall into my lap and I’ve just really embraced it.
LS: Disney, as you know, has had a very rich musical heritage. How do you find ways to put your own creative stamp on a Disney project?
JM: That’s a good question. A lot of the inspiration comes, at least I try to pull inspiration from the classic Disney sound. To me the classic Disney sound is as I was growing up with a lot of the Alan Menken sound. You know, the kind of lush orchestral nature but with everything that I’ve learned I’ve … To how to score comedies, specifically working with Chris Beck and we’ve done a lot of the adult rated comedies. And taking a lot of how to play jokes in a specific way and implementing that into the Disney sound, kind of molding the two worlds in a sense.
LS: In doing more research on you and your work, I found that you have an adorable little boy. How does being a father change the way that you approach a new project?
JM: Specifically with the Stinky and Dirty show, that show was made for his age. When I got the call about getting a show I was extremely excited to have something that would be applicable to him at this point in his life. Watching it and thinking about how to score certain moments to really emphasize story points and how to use musical triggers, musical comments to trigger a reaction in the two to three-year-old audience. That’s really kind of how all that works.
LS: Absolutely, that’s great! Well, Jake, I thank you so much for your time. From all of us at LaughingPlace.com, we wish you the best of luck with all your future endeavor and are excited to see the rest of the work that you do!
JM: Awesome, well thank you so much. I greatly appreciate it.
Disney’s continuing As Told by Emoji series can be found on their YouTube channel.