Growing up in Detroit in the mid-’60s, Joe LoDuca had the opportunity to soak up the rich Motown tradition. Built on the back of the working man, Detroit is infused with the look, smell and sound of ordinary people. “So much regionalization has been lost in music,” says LoDuca. “Back then, there was a rock-solid beat that every player in town had. I remember going to California and sitting in with groups. I’d be trying to figure out where the downbeat was!”
In fact, LoDuca — who has remained in the Detroit suburbs while growing a highly successful career as a film and television composer with L.A. clients — had the opportunity to play with many legendary Motown session vets. He even recorded a session in the original Berry Gordy Jr. studio. “Pistol Allen was one of the drummers who played lots of the old dates,” LoDuca recalls. “His sound and approach to the beat was everything you remember from Motown. I also had the opportunity to play with Beans Bowles. Beans played all of the baritone parts that you remember from the Motown hits.”
Local boys do move on, however, and LoDuca was fortunate enough to hook up with one of them in 1982 when he scored director Sam Raimi’s first film, Evil Dead. “Sam’s been critical to my film success,” LoDuca says. “I scored his first three features, and through him met Richard Kraft, a composer’s rep who’s now a principal at Blue Focus Management, one of the largest firms of its kind in L.A. Richard was also the producer of the Evil Dead soundtrack, which was my first.
“But, man, that first score taught me that I needed to do things differently. I was leafing through a click track book trying to make hits. We also rented the first Prophet V in Detroit for that date. After that, I bought a Roland SBX-80. That sync box remains, for me, the single most revolutionary piece of hardware ever built. It was rock-solid!”
LoDuca’s work on Xena: Warrior Princess and Young Hercules (among others), which has earned him over a dozen Emmy nominations and one statue, features expressive and highly realistic orchestral simulations. Consequently, he is picky about the samples he uses.
“Ilio Entertainment is head and shoulders above the rest, in terms of creativity and quality,” he says. “Eric Persing, Bob Daspit and Skippy Lemkuhl are brilliant in what they do. Being musicians themselves, they understand what musicians need. I also appreciate that they make provisions for those of us who use multiple platforms and systems. I have heard composers assemble entire scores with little more than the Distorted Reality CD-ROM!”
Little by little, LoDuca’s studio grew along with his career. At the center of his project studio sits an SSL SL 4000 G Series board. One might think that, given his choice to remain a hometown boy while making a career in Hollywood, LoDuca would work on Pro Tools to establish simple and complete interaction with L.A. post houses. But that’s not the case. His large sound is built with Nuendo, Cool Edit Pro and three GigaStudio computers, with lots of physical routing to his board. “Delivering .AIFF or .WAV files instead of a Pro Tools session has not posed a problem for any of the mix houses we deal with,” he says. “We are now delivering OMF sessions from Nuendo. Cool Edit Pro is a great tool for editing. It’s where we assemble our tracks for final mixdown.
“I’ve successfully supplied dub stages in L.A., New Zealand, Paris and Vancouver for close to 10 years now,” he adds. “At first, we used ISDN lines. Then we supplied our music editors with dedicated PCs for transmitting over the Internet via LapLink. Now, just about everyone has access to high-speed transmission and FTP software. I really haven’t felt the need to move over to Pro Tools.”
It’s not always easy being a Hollywood composer based in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., but Joe LoDuca has built a pretty nice life for himself and his family. Staying close to home, LoDuca says that he’s had to build trust with his clients. “Sure, being far away makes that trust factor more difficult to achieve than if I were living down the street from a producer in L.A.,” he admits. “But at the end of the day, this business is about being able to deliver the goods. Fortunately, I’ve been able to do that without ever having to leave the area where I grew up.”
Gary Eskow is a Mix contributing editor.