Ryan Winford: 12 Questions With Composer of ‘The Battery’



If you’re familiar with my love of cinema- if you’re one of the loyal Lords of the Labyrinth here at 1428- you’ll probably know how much I adore James Gardner’s The Battery. It’s a truly amazing film that should sit on the shelf proudly next to some of the most revered films in history.

So when I was given the opportunity to sit down (or in the realms of the Twittersphere) and shoot the breeze with Ryan Winford, The Battery’s much-competent composer, I was more excited than a school girl with her first makeup kit.

So let’s get down to it – to the nitty gritty as the grit grubbers say – as I, trusty 1428 reporter Joey Click, interviews Composer and Singer/Songwriter Ryan Winford.


JC: Hey Ryan, I’m ready for the interview when you are. Just let me know.

RW: Let’s do this!

JC: I know, having recently interviewed Christian Stella, that he and Writer/Director Jeremy Gardner are longstanding friends, as well as creative collaborators. Can you talk about your earliest memory of meeting the two-man independent filmmaking duo and how you came to be the composer of The Battery and Tex Montana Will Survive!?

RW: When I first met them, they were not yet creative collaborators. Jeremy and I met when we were both in the chorus of a community production of Bye Bye Birdie. We went to the same high school and had drama class together along with Christian’s sister Alicia. It turned out that Alicia had a video camera so since Jeremy and I were both hams, we invited ourselves over to try and come up with various improv shorts and movies. Since Christian was always technologically savvy, he ended up producing and recording my 2003 singer/songwriter album Too Delicate to be Thrown without any prior experience! After about a ten-year hiatus from filmmaking, Jeremy completed the script for The Battery and my wife and I met up with him in Manhattan where he mentioned that he would love to have me work on the score. How could I say no?

JC: There’s no way you could! I know I couldn’t, especially since the script was so good and it had show itself to be an opportunity to be creative again with close friends. But I’m glad you did, because The Battery is a modern masterpiece, especially astonishing given it’s minuscule budget.

JC: While I haven’t done the job before, I imagine scoring a film is quite a difficult task. In actuality, creating any piece of music sounds a bit tough. Can you discuss the first time you remember falling in love with music and your initial reaction to being asked by Gardner to score The Battery? Was scoring films something you always hoped to do or were you taken by surprise by the offer?

RW: I was always fascinated with film scores growing up. I would record theme music like the Raider’s March onto my boombox and play it back while I pretended to be Indiana Jones. I still remember humming the theme song to Jurassic Park as I exited the movie theater in 1993. When the group of us got into making movies, I immediately wanted to volunteer my services as composer. I had no idea what I was doing, but I felt confident that I could.
Honestly, I didn’t think that we would ever work on a project again because we all seemed to move on to other interests so I was definitely excited when I heard he had completed the script for The Battery and was intent on getting it made.

JC: I suppose you never know how life going to turn out. That’s one of the things I love about living, the unpredictable of it all.

JC: The score of any film is an essential part of the success of the film. Often – while it’s done digitally now – a composer must learn and know many different instruments. Can you talk about when you first memory playing music? Have you always been into making music and how did you first learn the craft and what were some of your main influences. How do you feel that informed your subsequent scores?

RW: About the age of 10, I had a little Casio keyboard that I used to mess around with. I remember figuring out by ear how to play the Axel F theme from Beverly Hills Cop. My neighbor started teaching me, but I really didn’t take it very seriously. We had an upright piano in the house that my father would always play, so I started teaching myself around the age of 14 and started really getting into it. Soon after, I picked up the guitar since it was much more portable. You’ll probably notice a lot of guitar in the scores for The Battery and Tex Montana Will Survive! because it’s the instrument that’s the most comfortable for me to play. I’ve always admired film scores utilizing specific themes for characters or ideas and seeing how they evolve as the film progresses and I always try to live by that philosophy in my own work. My biggest influences are John Williams, Danny Elfman, James Horner, Alan Silvestri. I love all of those strong, memorable themes!

JC: I’ve always felt John Williams is a huge part of what makes Star Wars what it is. Almost as if the score is the base – or rebel base if you will…bad joke – of Star Wars, or any film for that matter (such as the Bill Contin score for 1976’s Rocky or the John Carpenter score for 1978’s Halloween) upon which every cinematic experience is built off. And The Battery is no different.

JC: While The Battery isn’t heavily thematic with its score, each scene (and beautifully shot montages) seems to have the perfect piece of music when the narrative calls for it. Could you talk about the inspiration for a particular piece or music, the montage immediately Mickey throws the fastball towards the beginning of the film (the scene with the hilarious “one pitch” bitch Mickey line)? I love how layered the score is at that point in the film, as it is beautifully bleak.

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RW: I used very few recurring themes in The Battery, but instead chose to use particular sounds or instruments to tie things together. There were a few scenes, specifically the zombie scenes, where the score was less musical and layers of sounds and noise were used. I created a specific guitar noise whenever they were a threat.

Before they even shot anything, I started coming up with some musical ideas based solely on the script. The inspiration for that track came from imagining myself living in a desolate world with death creeping around every corner. It’s a variation on the theme used in the final montage of the film, but with more momentum since the scene features Ben and Mickey wandering in the wilderness.

JC: I’ve seen the film eight times and I haven’t even noticed the carryover themes. To that sir I say I apologize. But it’s now given me a newer reason to watch the film, and honestly, I can’t wait.

JC: Could you also talk about your score after our two post-apocalyptic zombie-fighting (well one at least) survivors find the Volvo, as it’s very coming of age? It amazingly makes you forget that The Battery is a zombie film and not road trip movie about two friends from Connecticut attempting to help one guy get the other guys girlfriend back. I found the score to be amazingly ironic here given the world Ben and Mickey are living in.

RW: That sequence in The Battery was a breath of fresh air for Ben and Mickey. Having a car gave them a kind of freedom that they hadn’t felt in a long time and I wanted to express that feeling of pure joy. Although the world had been lost to the undead, it continued on, as depicted by the lush, green landscape photographed by Christian Stella. I used delays on my acoustic guitar to give it a bouncy road-trip feel and layered the delayed electric guitars to give it a sense of openness; a wild, reckless happiness. Probably my favorite part were the little accent bells, which rang out at the high points of the melody. The song ends on the sad realization that they truly have no destination. I had actually written this track prior to the completion of the editing and it was cut beautifully to the music by the editors Michael Katzman and Alicia Stella.

JC: That late part is especially amazing. Carpenter didn’t originally score to the film for a long while, opting to create themes and place them where needed. In a lot of way, I believe that approach strengthens a narrative.

JC: While your score is undeniably strong in the film, and helps boost the picture, a lot of amazing songs were used in The Battery as well. Which is often not the case with a film, but it actually works so beautifully here. What was your initial reaction to finding out you’d have to share sound time with other artists, in song form, and how did you work around that? Did you have a say in the songs picked? And were you given specific spots in the film where you were only allowed to score, with others already reserved for a “song” track?

I Was Always Fascinated With Film Scores Growing Up.-Ryan Winford

RW: I knew from the very beginning that Jeremy had envisioned the use of a lot of songs in the movie, since Mickey is always drowning out the world with his headphones. It was a bit of trial and error for some scenes, whether or not they called for a song or for score. They asked my opinion about some songs, but the final decision was always Jeremy’s. There are some scenes where the guys envisioned absolutely no music, like the drunk scene and the tense climax, but I fought for score in those scenes and came up with something that ended up winning them over. Other times, a song was the better choice, like the montage with the cows and the apple orchard scene, both of which I created score.

JC: That’s awesome you fought for score in those scenes. It’s always admirable when you see someone passionately fight for what they believe in. I’m glad you did, because I love the music in The Battery, both in score and songs.

JC: Now, more than ever, zombies are everywhere. From The Walking Dead to its spinoff series, zombies are now a staple of Americana. When I interviewed Christian, he had said Jeremy decided on zombies before AMC’s mega-popular show ever aired. What was your initial reaction to hearing that the project you would be lending your talents to would be horror, specifically zombies? Were you a fan of the genre before hand? And do you feel scoring a horror film is easier or harder than say an action film or a drama?

RW: I was excited to work on The Battery. I was excited to work on anything, really. The fact that it was a horror movie didn’t bother me since the first feature I scored (The Bags) was a horror satire and the second (The Robert Cake) was a sci-if/horror/comedy. I wouldn’t say I’m a huge horror movie person in general, but I did like some of the more modern zombie movies like the remake of Dawn of the Dead and 28 Days Later. When Jeremy told me it was a zombie movie, I immediately thought I would be doing a lot of jump scares and fast-paced sequences. When I found out that it was more of a character study, set in the woods with traditional Romero-esque slow movers, my whole thought process shifted towards drawn-out, creepy noises and effects. With horror movies, it’s all about setting the mood and building the suspense. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily easier to score a horror movie; just different. While the score from the horror portions of The Battery are not quite as musical, I had to build layer upon layer of the underlying noise landscape to intensify certain moments. Thankfully, there was also an opportunity to incorporate elements of drama, comedy and action aside from the horror sequences.

JC: I would say The Battery is about as non-horror as you can get really. Much like Romero – even though his zombie films are horror – Gardner used the genre to tell a story about how different people approach the world and how that informs our social interactions with one another. Man, I freaking love The Battery. Every time I see, I enjoy more and more of it. It’s mind-blowingly underrated.

JC: After talking with Stella – though I haven’t seen the film yet – he said you have much more score for the team’s second collaboration: Tex Montana Will Survive!. Can you talk about your undertaking of more of the screen time and how your experience on the upcoming picture differed from The Battery?

RW: Tex Montana Will Survive! was a whirlwind experience! This time around, instead of recording myself, I dragged all of my instruments and equipment over to Christian’s house and he recorded me so I could focus more on the composition and performance. Also, we did it all in a week.

Most people would not imagine a “found footage” movie needing a score, but we ended up creating a lot more than even we could have anticipated. The style was also very different on Tex. There weren’t any electronic instruments or sounds used. I played all acoustic instruments like guitar, banjo and violin to give it a backwoods feel.

I would say I spent about a year writing, recording and tweaking the score for The Battery, but Tex was completely finished in a week and I haven’t touched it since.

JC: I love how you played a lot of acoustic string instruments to give Tex that rustic-country feel. While I haven’t seen it, it looks very backwoods and, just like any good score, you had the forethought to do the film’s score in that way to amplify the narrative. It’s also awesome Christian helped you, more hands never hurts and probably help immensely to keep your focus on the content and not any of the logistics.

JC: While it’s very evident you seem to extremely enjoy scoring the moving image and seem to be at home as composer, are there any desires to do anything else in terms of film and its creation? I’ve noticed that you’ve done a little acting (Davie in 2000’s The Bag and Robert in 2002’s The Robert Cake), is that something you’d like to pursue more or are you happy providing the smooth sounds to a film?

RW: I’ve actually been hounding Christian and Jeremy to hook me up with another role in a future project. I’ve always loved acting, but the opportunity hasn’t really presented itself in the last decade. The Battery and Tex were both shot in New England and I really didn’t have the means to go up there and participate, even behind the scenes. If there’s a part in an upcoming production that’s right for me (and the shoot isn’t TOO far away), I would be all over it, but I’ve been extremely happy being involved on the post-production side. Post-production is comfortable for me. You don’t feel quite as much pressure on the post-production side, unless of course you have a deadline for a release. On a shoot, especially for microbudget films, you only have certain locations for a very short amount of time so you have to get it done as quickly and efficiently as possible.

JC: No doubt. Gotta bust hump, or you’ll loose permits and commitments. With post, you’re more in control and not in the chaos of a set. Also, that’s awesome you’ve always loved to act, I enjoy it myself and have always wanted to get back into it too.

JC: While you’ve no doubt been inspired by many scores in your life, and have been truly moved to do the profession, have you ever seen a movie and felt you could have done a better job scoring the film? Or maybe you just wished that it had been you doing the score because the images truly had an impact on you?

RW: I’m a big fan of Paul Thomas Anderson, so I wish I could have scored just about everything he’s ever directed. His films are always beautifully shot. The same goes for Spielberg, but no one could presume to do a better job than John Williams. I do wish I could time-travel back to 1999 and give myself a few pointers, but at that time I was working with what I had. Things are so much easier now, technology-wise, for the DIY filmmaker or musician!

JC: Oh it’s an insane time for creators. While the revenue is being zapped (by means of pirating, which is unfortunate streaming), technology has made creation and distribution even easier. It’s an ongoing, double-sided argument.

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JC: One of the greatest parts of being alive is the diversity of people. I could love a song while you find it annoying. While my passion has always been film, and feel I have a much deeper wheelhouse for criticism than most, I enjoy hearing everyone opinion. So I have to ask, what’s your favorite film and why? Or maybe top three?

RW: There are so many great films out that I love across all different genres, but my favorite film of all time is Back to the Future. It has everything you could want in a movie: a great story with elements of sci-if, love, and action, strong themes of friendship and empowerment, and an absolutely fantastic score by the amazing Alan Silvestri. It’s the kind of score that sweeps you right into the story and something that I attempt to emulate in my own work. The film was clearly made in the 80s’, but even today it still has such a timeless quality. I watched it over and over again as a kid; all three of the BTTF films actually, but the first film stands perfectly on its own.

JC: Man I absolutely adore Back to the Future. It’s one of a select few perfectly made films that,when you watch it, it’s not a film at all but a journey to a far away land where anything is possible and your future hasn’t been written yet, so make it a good one (I couldn’t resist)! All films are supposed to do that, but BTTF is so astonishingly made I never think the filmmaking watching it and that’s saying something. Silvestri’s score is so mind blowingly brilliant as well, and for years I thought it was John Williams (when I was eight or so. I just assumed it was the same guy as Star Wars and Raiders).

JC: As we round out your 12 Question session, I have a new question with the recent discovery the love you have for all things Back To The Future. Which do you like more? The time-jumping antics of BTTF 2 or the western-wrangling shenanigans of BTTF 3? Why do you prefer one film over the other?

RW: Definitely BTTF 3 for me. While the idea of looking at our future is intriguing (especially now that we can compare what we thought 2015 would look like versus the reality), BTTF 2 doesn’t stand as well on its own as BTTF 3 or even as well as other sequels. I remember seeing T2: Judgment Day and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom before seeing the original films and they are both individually great!

Its awesome that BTTF 2 takes you back through the sets and sequences featured in the original and explores the consequences of mixing time travel with greed. Personally, I like BTTF 3 better because I love how it takes you back to the feeling that you get when watching the first film. It reiterated the basic themes of love, friendship and the fact that we are all in control of our own destinies. It also happens to be an effective western flick with beautiful scenery, a period-realistic variation of the antagonist (Tom Wilson really shines in this movie) and yet another original, amazing score! I love how Silvestri perfectly blended elements of the original BTTF score with uplifting western flavors. My favorite section of score is the train sequence near the end of the film. It does an excellent job building the tension and takes Marty home to 1985 with a glorious reprise of the original theme. Absolutely beautiful!

JC: I absolutely agreed. BTTF 2 is barely a film and feels like a piece of tap linking the original to Part III, which is no surprise seeing as II and III were supposed to be one cohesive film. Also, the dramatic tension is back in Part III with “how do we get home, because we are stuck.” love the composition (the mirror shot) when Doc tells Marty there’s no gas for the Delorian. There’s something off about the ability to use the time-machine at will in Part II. Gale and Zemeckis really cornered themselves with the end of the original and the jokes they made. I know Gale said if they knew a sequel would have happened, they wouldn’t have had Jennifer in the car. The same argument could be made of Mr. Fusion as well.

Now that we are at the end of your 12 Question session, I’d like to extend a thanks and appreciation for your time. It’s be a pleasure to ask the composer of one of films greatest features a few questions and I learned a lot. Do you have anything down the pipeline that you’re working on now and would like our readers to be on the lookout for, save for Tex Montana Will Survive!?

RW: Thank you for the interview! I’m sure that I’ll eventually work with Jeremy and Christian again on a future film project, but at the moment I’m deep into work on a singer/songwriter album that should be completed in the next six months or so! It’s a much darker album for me, but retains a lot of the folky pop sound with some electronic elements.

JC: Anytime, it was a honor.


There you have it Soldiers of Springwood. It was one hell of a time interviewing the master of music behind The Battery and the upcoming Tex Montana Will Surivive!. I truly treasured the time of someone who was part of one of my favorite films of all time. If you have seen The Battery, I hope you enjoyed my time with Ryan, and if not, change that as you are in for one amazingly great film that will leave you truly altered .  As ol’ George says, “Stay scared Creeps.” See you next time.

The Battery is available on Blu Ray from Scream Factory, a division of Shout, and can be ordered from their site here, or from Amazon.