Walt Disney Imagineering’s Matt Walker & Yaron Spiwak take Billboard.com inside the otherworldly new music project from Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and the new 18-track album due out September 6th.
The full-length Playlist #1 album was teased by a preview EP of the same name that bowed on Friday (Aug. 23) through streamers and digital retail. It boasts six tracks from the forthcoming album. Further, Playlist #1 is likely the first of a series of albums featuring music from Galaxy’s Edge, as the 18 tracks on Playlist #1represent a heavy-rotation highlights collection of tunes currently heard in the Cantina. Even more songs that aren’t on the album can be heard in the Cantina, while additional as-yet-unheard tracks could find their way into R3X’s collection as time goes by.
In advance of the album launch Billboard spoke to two experts on all things Disney music and Galaxy’s Edge: Matt Walker, executive in charge of music, Walt Disney Imagineering; and Yaron Spiwak, senior music producer, Walt Disney Imagineering Global Music Studio. Read our chat, condensed and edited for clarity, below.
When your team was composing and recording the music that the DJ would spin in the Cantina, what was the goal or mission statement?
Matt Walker: We wanted this Cantina to fit within [the] story [of the land], and I gave [Spiwak] that challenge [to] figure out “What are the intergalactic hits that our droid DJ would … collect and play for this motley group of questionable clientele in this far end of the galaxy?” Create this playlist. Go.
Yaron Spiwak: I’ll answer in two parts. I think one of the cool things about Imagineering is that we don’t only imagine architecture or stonework. We also reimagine music. How to stay true to the movies and still be inspired by them, but also represent the place that is coming to be. And a trick that we used is mixing a lot of different styles of music and kind of create a new one. Like, we would take a little bit of Middle Eastern and mix it with Chinese and put African vocals on it, and then put it in a Pro Tools session and filter it and reverse it, and then basically if you can’t recognize the instrument, or the style, that’s how we kind of made it out-of-worldly.
The second part is: how to make it a hit. We approached a lot of artists that we’ve always wanted to work with. A lot of the time, how we hire people is we use reference music, and we just found a lot of cool reference music, that we all liked, and approached a lot of these artists that we used as an inspiration.
On making the music familiar to the earthly ear, but also out of this world:
Spiwak: A lot of my work as the producer for the album… was how to make this music that we’re so used to — how to make it sound otherworldly. Sometimes it was changing the drums, sometimes it was doing something to the vocals to make it sound different enough. Every song has a little bit of a story…
Walker: Yaron would give us something that our audience could maybe hang on to for a moment, like, “Oh, yeah, this has a great beat,” but then the next thing you know, you have an Ewok doing a chant on top of that. So, you’re never Earth-bound for too long.
The languages that we hear in the songs — is it gibberish? Or did you make up languages specific for these songs? Are these based on existing languages in the Star Wars universe?
Walker: We started with the known alien languages established by Lucasfilm, and that was the springboard. And then we wanted to encourage the writers to have fun and to create their own alien languages. But then of course we would have to make sure that those alien languages that were created by our writers didn’t inadvertently mean something questionable in Brazilian Portuguese [or other languages]…
Spiwak: We had great partners in Lucasfilm, and we partnered with Margaret Kerrison [managing story editor at Walt Disney Imagineering], Matt Martin [creative executive, Lucasfilm Story Group], and we had two great guys from LucasFilm, Matt Wood [supervising sound editor, sound designer, Lucasfilm] and David Collins, that helped us write the lyrics for some of these songs. Especially the songs in Huttese. And also we had a Jawa song called “Utinni,” so that’s in the Jawa language.
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