I use my Mac for writing TV themes
We talk to musician Dan McGrath about using Macs to write music for the stars.
MacFormat: Tell us a little about what you do for a living.
Daniel McGrath: I co-write television themes and produce music with Josh Phillips.
MF: What soundtracks will people most likely know you guys from?
DM: Strictly Come Dancing, Alan Carr, Hairy Bikers, Shooting Stars, Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, and the BBC/Lloyd Webber star-search shows: How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?, Over The Rainbow, Any Dream Will Do, I’d Do Anything. Also, Secret Policeman’s Ball and TMi.
MF: What were your favourite shows to be involved with?
DM: As composers, Josh and I are obviously proud of writing the theme to Strictly Come Dancing. I seem to remember when we won the pitch chucking the headphones on the floor and going to the local for a celebratory drink.
MF: How does the Mac system you currently own compare with the system you started with?
DM: I loved OS 9.2. I remember when I made the jump to OS X. It was like saying goodbye to a reliable friend (I need to get out more). Josh and I wrote the theme to Strictly on my old G4 733MHz (still here under the desk) using Apple’s Logic 6, I think (it was mid-2004). These days I run a Mac Pro Quad- Core desktop. I’ve married that up with an Apogee Ensemble, which sonically blew me away when I turned it on and played Superior Drummer through it! I use a combination of a ‘Logic’ keyboard and my Euphonix MC Control & Mix to drive Logic Pro. I’ve also got the old G5, which has files on it – I still haven’t got round to dropping them across. I use it to record Skype output for a podcast I present. To be honest, I think the big changes between the old systems and the new have happened gradually and intuitively. For Josh and I, we still work very traditionally, and our track count is still fundamentally the same as it’s always been (drums, bass, guitars, synth and so on) so faster processors and cheap RAM mean my machine at the moment is settled, slick and more than suitable for my needs.
MF: What pieces of Mac software do you use?
DM: Apart from my life being held together digitally by iCal, iTunes and MobileMe: Bento (to remember all my login details), iWeb (to maintain a web presence, although I’d love to see some more ‘pro’ development of it), Pixelmator (to edit images – cool nerds use Photoshop), djay (I am available for parties) and Logic Pro (to pay the bills). Occasionally I use GarageBand if I need to cut a loop together or edit a podcast on the road, but I still tend to use Logic whenever I’m away from the studio.
MF: Do you find your Mac helps you to be creative?
DM: Josh and I were asked to pitch for a show recently and he was on tour, so he sent me an idea from his iPad on a train somewhere in the US! So, yes, it actively encourages it. Also, in those brief moments of spare time, I still look to my Mac for entertainment, stimulation and inspiration. My wife couldn’t understand how I could sit at my laptop for so long, until she got an iPad… Although, she tends to be more creative with the credit cards! ●
This interview originally appeared in issue 231 of MacFormat, the UK’s best selling Apple magazine.
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