Chris Bacon Q&A: ‘Bates Motel’ composer
“It’s not a horror show,” declares composer Chris Bacon during our recent webcam chat (watch above) about “Bates Motel,” a contemporary prequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” (1960) that depicts the bizarre relationship between Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) and his mother, Norma (Vera Farmiga). Bacon, who just earned an Emmy nomination for his work, believes, “there’s more of a sense of psychological emotion,” to the A&E series. Indeed, in his score he’s tried to express, “the love that Norma and Norman Bates have for each other, as kind of twisted and misdirected as it is.”
From the beginning, Bacon wanted to avoid comparisons with Bernard Herrmann’s lionized score for the film. “This was not intended to be an homage,” he reveals. “I don’t know that it was going to serve us in creating our own kind of world and story to use something that already has such an iconic identity.” He does, however, acknowledge the esteemed composer’s influence over his work. “It’s inherently part of my musical identity; we as composers are the sum total of everything we’ve ever heard.”
Bacon, who was previously nominated by the TV academy for his work on “Smash” (2012), has submitted the ninth episode of season four, which features a shocking conclusion that should not be spoiled for anyone who has yet to watch the show (those who have seen the film will have a pretty good idea what we’re talking about; everyone else, stop watching at the seven-minute mark). “They treated it very emotionally, and very earnestly,” says Bacon of the gruesome ending.
The composer had to do very little to underscore the drama of the episode, explaining, “The great thing about this show is the emotion is there on the screen, because the acting is top shelf.” He credits the performances of Farmiga and Highmore saying, “for as extreme as they are, it still feels real.”