Interview: Jody Gray

Jody Gray, one of the creators of the musical scores for the successful Cartoon Cartoon, Courage the Cowardly Dog. With each episode delving into different flavors of darkness, Jody Gray tests the realm of “weird” with his own musical stylings. In addition, Mr. Gray has scored the musical theme for Cartoon Network’s “The Chuck Jones Show,” music for 26 online “Loney Tunes” shorts and worked on the music for Warner Brother’s online series, “Gotham Girls.”

CNF: The Fansite: To start off what’s it like to work on Courage the Cowardly Dog, compared to your other projects?

J. Gray: “Courage” is both fun and an enormous challenge. Director John R. Dilworth really wants the music to be special and pushes us to be as original as can be. Pretty much each episode is scored from scratch and is meant to be heard as an integral part of the show as opposed to many contemporary cartoons where music is kind of just background wallpaper. Much of “Courage” is scored against the action to powerful effect. We often ignore the fact that it’s a cartoon. There’s not a lot of “Mickey Mousing” i.e. hitting every piece of action with a corresponding music hit or cue. In fact, we treat each “Courage” episode as a mini-movie and score it so that it feels “long form.”

CNF: The Fansite: Is a Courage soundtrack in the works anytime soon?

J. Gray: It’s being discussed but nothing is in stone.

CNF: The Fansite: Which episode of Courage has the music you are most proud of?

J. Gray: At the moment two shows stand out: The Tower Of Dr, Zalost and The Ride Of Valkyries.

CNF: The Fansite: Can you explain the story behind Doc Gerbil’s World?

J. Gray: It was John’s idea, I believe. The classic switcharoo: a gerbil tests cosmetics on Humans.

CNF: The Fansite: What influenced the song in the episode King Ramses’ Curse?

J. Gray: It’s a musical joke. When trying to visualize what would be musically so horrible that Eustace and Muriel would scream and writhe in agony, we came up with really bad disco.
Here are the lyrics: “King Ramses, The Man In Gauze, He’s No Santa Clause, The Man In Gauze.” Vocals were done by myself and Andy Ezrin.

CNF: The Fansite: One reader thinks the boat chase in Courage was inspired by John Woo movies. Can you enlighten us on why you used such dramatic music in that scene?

J. Gray: Don’t recall any specific influence but I love Woo’s work. A lot of that kind of scoring originated with Stanley Kubrick. Anyway, I believe you’re talking about the choir used in “Human Habitrail.” We were simply scoring the opposite of what was happening on-screen to rather disconcerting, somber and completely surreal effect! It also played well against the utter silliness of the “It’s Doc Gerbil’s World” song basically poking fun at “It’s A Small World (After All).”

CNF: The Fansite: Do you compose songs differently if they will be used in more than one episode?

J. Gray: Sometimes themes are rescored for different instruments. Often we record long versions of thematic cues we know will be reused and then cut and paste to fit a scene.

CNF: The Fansite: How much do you think music adds to the mood of a show?

J. Gray: Music is the subjective, emotional heart, providing subtle insights while underscoring the characters behavior, set and setting and their story. It should be an anchor but never obvious. There are two reasons to be aware of music in a film: 1) when it’s brilliant or 2) when it doesn’t work at all. Most of the time music offers washes of color and is almost invisible but can really touch you.

CNF: The Fansite: Anything cool to watch out for in the coming new episodes of Courage?

J. Gray: Gosh there are lots of great ones but The Ride Of the Valkyries, Squatting Tiger Hidden Dog, The Mask Part 1 and 2 have really cool music!

We’d like to thank Jody Gray for taking his time to speak with us for all of his offerings to Courage the Cowardly Dog. Be sure to listen (close your eyes, and use your ears) to an episode of Courage to really appreciate the work behind the audio. Check our more of this work at JodyGray.com