May The Power Protect You, Always: An Interview with Ron Wasserman

Ron Wasserman is a machine when it comes to composing music for television. Every score he writes is guaranteed to stay inside the viewers head for hours upon hours when hearing any of Ron’s themes for the very first time, especially within the 1990’s generation, the decade when most children watched Fox Kids religiously. Mr. Wasserman might be most famous for the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers theme, but his resume also includes, The Real Housewives of New York City, Sponge Bob, Bella and the Bulldogs and even the PC game Monty Python & the Quest for the Holy Grail. Recently TWITCH TV decided to run a 17-day live stream marathon of every Power Rangers season from 1993 until now. At one point the live stream chat room contained over sixty thousand people and the majority were typing out the lyrics to, “We Need a Hero”; arguably the most popular Power Rangers track, second place behind the GO GO Power Rangers theme song. What an amazing thing to witness! Salute to Ron Wasserman for providing the 90’s generation a kick ass soundtrack that defined our childhoods to the max!

By Chad Thomas Carsten & Torrey Anderson
From April 2017 Vandala Magazine 
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What are your personal favorite TV theme songs from your own childhood?

Ron: I always watch reruns so “Taxi” was one of my favorite shows, and I found out there was actually two written for the show, they had a different theme and they swapped it out. When I was a little kid-HR Puffinstuff, Gilligan’s Island. All the stuff that most people are not familiar with unless they are over 45 years old. Those are the standout themes. The Sid and Marty Krofft stuff and the stuff that Sherwood Schwartz produced for kids shows.

Which records did you play non-stop as a child just to simply relieve stress?

Ron: I had a bunch that my parents had acquired when they were young from their parents. I had a ton of 78 rpm records, so I would listen to a lot of that stuff. So, everything from really obscure stuff that I can’t remember who sang it to swing stuff to Sinatra and then when I started buying my own records I remember the very first album I bought was the Beach Boys, probably pet sounds or something and listened to that a lot. And then Jim Croce and a lot of classical stuff, and everything on the radio, so there wasn’t any one thing I listened to over and over again like I do today when I get addicted to something. I’ll be driving down to the city-I live north of Los Angeles, and so I’ve got about an hour, and I’ll have the song on repeat for an hour and then maybe on the way back listen to the same thing and then go, “Ok, that’s enough.” Everything I listened to ran the gamut from classical to rock growing up. Anything by Black Sabbath or anything that I could find that was hardcore or progressive rock. I listened to a lot of Genesis, you know, where every song was twelve or fifteen minutes long and they have a six-minute keyboard solo.

Are you able to dive into details on the very first show you’ve played live and which band it was and what exactly went down?

Ron: I had a band I started in the eighties, we called ourselves Observer, and it was five of us and our very first gig was at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood. It was super exciting. I can’t remember if I was terrified or not because I’ve gone on and off with stage fright that’s gone from throwing up to not so severe. I can’t remember if I was a nervous wreck, but I remember that was my first live show and there was like 50 or 75 people there, and I can still remember the smell of the place and the sound of the place. That was an amazing experience. I played a lot of solo piano recitals growing up, but that was my first official joining a band, being in a band and playing live. Having to make copies of tickets and putting them on car windows to get people to show up, years of that afterwards with other bands. It was a lot of fun. In fact, it was never thinking about getting signed, and I never thought about making money, it was just a matter of doing it to do it because it was a lot of fun. I never ever thought anything would ever happen with the business side of things.

Can you describe your guitar solos using only items found inside most restaurant menus?

Ron: I think the guitar leads would be steak fajitas, where they deliver it on the iron thing right to your table and it’s filling the entire restaurant with smoke and you can hear it (sizzling) as they’re walking up with it. It has a strong smell and it’s really powerful. Great question! Nobody has asked me that before.

Was there ever a certain moment after you Scored something when your exact thoughts were “How am I ever going to top this?”

Ron: No, I’ve had a few times when I said, “Wow I’m really happy with this,” and then it goes off for the initial first pass mix that the engineer does alone, and then the producers will give me notes. Sometimes they leave it alone, and sometimes they want changes in it, but it’s their show, and that’s their right. There’s been a couple times when I’ve just been really happy and went, “Wow! This is great,” but there’s never been anything where I’ve said, “How will I ever top this,” except for the Power Rangers theme, it’s like I’ll never top that. Because it’s just been so famous for so long it’s impossible. It would have to be on a new show that hit that big with that kind of a theme.

When composing music, what’s the biggest challenge you face every time you write a new piece?

Ron: There’s so many voices in my head every time I’m writing something, and I’m told so many things in advance that I don’t feel the same freedom to go, “Oh f*ck it, I’m gonna do what I want to do.” I should, but I don’t, as much. I start hearing their voices and I’ll do something and I’ll go like, “Nah, I know they don’t like that sound, Nope. On this commercial they said no drums; they want a heavy groove with no percussion at all. On this, they want that.” So, I find that those voices in my head now tend to slow me down until we’ve established a show like this show The Thundermans on Nickelodeon, that I’ve been doing for three years. That one I know what to do instantly. And sometimes I almost get bored with what I do, but the exact sound, style, and audience have been established for that show, so you don’t want to change things up too much. It would almost be like watching Seinfeld and all of the sudden there’s a quartet cue coming in from a commercial and you go “what the f*ck? Where’s the (makes slap bass sounds)?” (Laughs) You’ve got to kind of stay consistent, and manage to keep yourself interested, keep it interesting, and not accidentally copy what you’ve done every time. (Laughs) If you’ve done fifty action scenes that are short but need to end heroically, you’ve got to figure out, “Ok I know the sound, I know they want brass, I know they like the fanfare for the heroic stuff. How can I switch up the phrasing a little bit at times so it sounds the same but its different enough not to go, “Haven’t we heard that fifty times already?”

Do you think that the Dragon Ball Z music you composed between 1996-1998 is still your darkest work to date?

Ron: Yep, and I remember they didn’t give a damn about the show. It was after I left Saban, and they just go, “Hey do you want to score this thing? We’ll just pay you per episode, you can do it at home and just do whatever you want.” So, I’m sitting with my Mac, I think it was an LC-3 that’s got a disk drive, those hard-floppy drives. I remember I just scored midi, and I had two small speakers. I remember sitting in front of my 27 inch tube television and scoring that thing in the living room of the apartment I was living in at the time, and just getting these massive, dark, ethereal, building sounds. I would deliver it and they would go like, “Cool, we’ll have another one for you in a week.” I mean there was never a single note, I don’t think they ever watched anything I did, I think they just mixed it and delivered it. I never even knew the show was big until a couple years ago. I loved the show and when it got yanked from Saban, I asked Funimation if I could still score the show, but no response. Nothing. That was a shame, but I had a blast! That crazy ass fighting animation, I loved it!

Can we dive into detail on how proud you must be about the fact that The Thundermans is entering its 4th season and what’s it been like working with Nickelodeon overall?

Ron: You know, I have only dealt with two executives from Nickelodeon that are in every single mix, they have been amazing. They always compliment me. Sometimes they throw me a nice perk while we’ll be in the mix and they’ll say, “You know what would be really great going into this cue if we could just have a low string part that leads into it.” So, I grab my laptop and my teeny weeny ten-key keyboard and run into the other room, load up the session on my laptop, load up some sounds, write the part and put into a USB key and get it into the mix. They’ve been wonderful, but I’ve only dealt with those two people.

When composing music for the upcoming NBC series “First Dates” how did you prepare yourself in the studio? What makes this theme stand out on its own compared to your past work?

Ron: Well this theme isn’t going to stand out at all because it has narration under it. That was a very complicated journey, figuring out the sounds for that show, and then other people came in with their ideas. So, I pretty much owned the show, but then it got changed. So, I’ve got a huge chunk of it, but I’m not exclusive on the show now, which is fine. It’s a very politically charged, unusual situation. But I think the episodes are great. I love the UK version of the show, so I hope it does as well here.

Does the Power Rangers theme song have anything to do with Paul Gilbert of Racer X? How exactly did you create the Go Go Power Rangers theme?

Ron: It has nothing to do with Paul Gilbert. Prior to Power Rangers, there was another show with I think the same vein of Japanese footage and they brought it to me and said, “We want to call this show “Metal Man” and I went, “Well, obviously this bit of music I’m going to write has to rock!” and it was an instrumental thing. So I went into one of my (very limited back then) synth units and I created a dry guitar sound. I had them get me a rack mount guitar Korg amp simulator and ran the stuff through that. I already had the sound, so when Power Rangers came in I went, “I’m going to do the rock then for this!” and I just sat until they went, “We need something tonight.” Finishing up on my vocals was two and a half hours. It just bled out of me! The groove just came to me. The melody was there! I just blew through that thing! It just popped out. I don’t know where the guitar riff came from. It’s somewhere in my DNA. Probably from listening to so much Black Sabbath and punk bands. It fooled Eddie Van Halen, so it’s a good fake sound. *Laughs*

Oddest moment with a fan during a Power Ranger Morhpicon?

Ron: Just the amount of hanging on every word I said, which I had never experienced before. There were a couple of guys I was talking to, I said, “I’m starving, do you want to go across the street and drink and grab something to eat?” Just being at dinner with them, they were nice, but they didn’t even blink because they were hanging on every word. I’m like, you know, it’s just what I do. It’s my job.”

Do you have a personal favorite Power Ranger episode?

Ron: The first season, the one with the pig. That giant, latex pig. That one’s my favorite because the voice-over is so over the top. The movements were so bad. It looked so terribly cheesy. I just thought that was the stupidest, most outrageously perfect costume for that show. Nothing exemplifies campy and ridiculous like the pig.

Most of the Original cast of Power Rangers are uniting for a non-Power Ranger indie action film titled “The Order” It’s currently in production, but if there were a sequel to The Order and if you were asked, would you Score the film?

Ron: Yeah, depending on what they wanted. I didn’t know they were even doing that, that’s really interesting!

How soon will your band Fisher release new material?

Ron: I always have recorders around, and I came up with a really cool idea. I’ll come up with a verse and a chorus, and if I can listen back to it, and I instantly remember it and its familiar, then I know I’ve got something really catchy. So, that is one track that I’ll probably develop and I’ll see if she wants to do it. I think we’re going to get down to if we release anything else, it won’t be albums anymore. It’ll be singles. It’s a tremendous amount of work. It’s a labor of love, but I can’t see doing a group of nine or ten or twelve songs.

A question you wish fans would stop asking?

Ron: “Why don’t you re-record all the other themes ever done for Power Rangers?” Whether I wrote them or not. That’s something that I’m like, “Really? You really want me to go do all the shit I wasn’t even involved with and some of it I really don’t like ’cause it sounds so made up and plastic to me?” When it’s odd questions like that it gets a little bothersome, with everything else I understand why I get the same questions five thousand times, I would ask the same thing, so it’s ok.”

What goals do you want to accomplish within the next 10 years?

Ron: I’m hoping to do another hard rock kid’s show, that isn’t rock-pop, but a true rock by today’s standards. I would definitely love to have a show like Grimm, a one-hour drama that’s a bit innovative. Something that’s a little bit more provocative and interesting, instead of the standard score, the safe score.

If you were told that you only had one hour to live, what record would you listen to?

Ron: Pink Floyd, “The Wall,” recorded live by Pink Floyd when they were still together. I think it was done in Germany, I had to order it from Europe. It’s not at iTunes. That would be the album, especially because it’s 90 minutes, so I’d get an extra half hour to live. (Laughs) That album is spectacular, and it’s because, on this live album, I know every single note and every squeak. The sound is so much thicker than the studio album, and David Gilmour’s guitar playing is so much more powerful, ’cause they’ve really dialed in the album, it’s probably years after the original release. That’s why I know every nook and cranny of that thing and every sound, and it’s just a spectacular production.

www.ronw.com

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