Interviews: "Transformers: The Movie" Composer Vince DiCola

in Generation One


"Transformers: The Movie" debuted in theaters in the summer of 1986. Many fans were struck by the visually dynamic film, but bolstering the action was an awesome instrumental soundtrack that kept the pace of the film exciting (and pleasing to the ear). The man responsible for this is Vince DiCola, a long time composer whose work has since included "Rocky IV" and "Crooked". Vince was kind enough to grant BWTF an interview this summer and I am deeply appreciative.

Vince Dicola

1. How did you become interested in music as a career?
My father was a great musician (played cello with a symphony orchestra in the town where I grew up - Lancaster, PA - and upright bass with several 'dance' bands in his younger years), and my parents started me on private piano lessons when I was about 5 years old. Also, I was heavily involved in music in high school, attended college for 2 years (majored in music - percussion specifically) and played in various rock, pop, and progressive rock bands up and down the eastern seaboard from1973 through1980. Within about a year or so after my wife and I made the move out to CA in 1981, I came to play in a band led by Sylvester Stallone's brother Frank, which led to my first major break in the movie end of the music business in late 1982... My collaboration with Frank on the movie "Staying Alive" (written and directed by Stallone... sequel to the hit movie "Saturday NIght Fever") as a songwriter/composer/musician.

2. Who are some of your favorite composers, musicians and bands from the past and present?
In the classical genre I would have to say the famous Russian composers/pianists Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, and Tchaikovsky. I also love some of the works by Chopin, Mozart and Beethoven. In the rock/pop genre, there are many bands I still love to listen to... the Beatles of course being my favorite and most influential of the genre. Some other standouts for me back in the day were Chicago, Three Dog Night, Foreigner, the Eagles, Steely Dan and Toto. Overall, though, the style of music I'm most passionate about has been and continues to be progressive rock. I probably listened most frequently to 'prog rock' bands who originated in England, such as ELP (Emerson, Lake and Palmer) and Yes. Keith Emerson in particular was and continues to be a major influence on my writing and playing style as a composer/keyboardist. I will always remember quite vividly the first time I saw ELP perform in 1972 because it had such a major impact on me! Hearing and watching all this great music and sound coming from a 3-piece keyboard-based band of virtuosos (at least that was my impression at the time!) blew me away, and I remember coming away from that concert with one thought uppermost in my mind - that's what I want to do!
In the film genre, my favorite composers are Jerry Goldsmith, Gabriel Yared ("1408" is probably my favorite thriller/horror score of all time), Thomas Newman ("Shawshank Redemption" and numerous other great dramatic scores), Christopher Young (his score to "Murder in the First" is one of the most moving and dramatic scores I've ever heard) and John Powell (composer on the first three films of the "Bourne" series starring Matt Damon).

My favorite among current songwriters/musicians is Steven Wilson (another Brit), along with the band he headed in recent years called Porcupine Tree. I'm also a major fan of Peter Gabriel - not only his music but his sound design and theatrical sensibility. In fact I would have to say Gabriel and Wilson are equally adept at working multi-medea presentations into their live performances very effectively.

3. Can you tell us about how you came to be involved with "Transformers: The Movie" back in 1985?
My first opportunity as sole composer on a film was "Rocky IV", and the producers of "Transformers: The Movie" approached me specifically because they loved my writing style on Rocky IV and wanted a similar energy for the music to "TF:TM".

4. Did it surprise you to learn "Transformers" still had such an audience years later at the Botcon conventions? How was it playinglive with Stan Bush for the concerts?
It still surprises me to this day when I think back on being approached for the first "BotCon" convention I attended in 1997. The organizer of that convention - Glen Hallit - took great pleasure and pride in showing me firsthand just how popular the franchise was in general, and the animated movie and my score in particular! Stan and I were both blown away when we saw the sheer number of fans who showed up at our panels! It was great fun performing at that convention with Stan and we played at one or two additional convention events. (My personal favorite of our performances was at the convention in 2009, held at Paramount Studios here in L.A.)

5. What’s your motto or the advice you live by?
I think it would have to be HAVE FAITH... THINGS CHANGE!!!! No matter how dark things can be at times, one never knows what lies just around the next corner. Take one day at a time and do whatever it takes to keep worry and anxiety at bay in your life.

6. What are you working on for 2013 and beyond?
I've been working on three original projects... A progressive rock band called 4 Vienna, a rock band called CannonballZ, and a 55-minute progressive rock suite (as yet unnamed) for which I currently have in mind a multi-media live presentation sort of along the lines of Cirque Du Soleil - but edgier, more intense and rock-oriented. This has been one of my biggest dreams for over a decade, and although it will be extremely difficult to get funded and a giant undertaking to mount and produce, I can already envision the final result in my head! Not only do I believe it will be spectacular, but I can see it becoming very popular with people of all ages. Fingers crossed! Also, my partner Kenny Meriedeth and I recently completed work on a brand new medley of some highlights from my original Transformers score that will be included in a collection called the "Turrican Soundtrack Anthology" by game composer Chris Huelsbeck. This collection is currently expected to be released late summer/early fall so keep checking online for updates.

In closing I'd like to thank Ben Yee for bringing this opportunity to me, and a special thanks to my loyal fans for continuing to have faith in me!