Justin Hill has written every piece of music you’ve heard in Echo Chamber, whether it’s the episode’s musical score or the music coming from a TV as Tom and Dana watch an infomercial. He also wrote the first draft of the script for Conflicting Loyalty. Echo Chamber is the most recent of many collaborations between him and Tom.
ECHO CHAMBER: How did you get involved in music?
JUSTIN HILL: Well, Tom always had a knack for surreptitiously including me in his creative endeavors. Normally it involved him telling me: “Hey, I got a gig! Hurry up and make a muzak if you want a slice of this pie!” Then I’d make a sample track, he’d show it to his employer or whoever, and next thing I knew, I was involved as the composer. That’s what happened here. He wanted a theme for Echo Chamber, and I delivered with a . . . swing . . . rock . . . vibes and orchestra ear worm. Yes.
ECH: How’d you end up with the theme we have today?
JH: Tom came to me, suggesting I make it sound upbeat, clever, and cool. He told me to draw inspiration from shows like 30 Rock. He gave me a whole list of theme songs to listen to. So I took this list and… I just did my own gorram thing. Turns out it was precisely what he was looking for! He and I work on the same wavelength sometimes. On some level I kind of always know what will work for him.
JH: The theme of the show was more than just the music, though. I also wanted to make a sound that was distinctly Echo Chamber. After some contemplation, and some insight from Tom, I produced that warbly Shephard’s Scale noise, which occurs every time the title card animation tunnels through its O’s. I dare you to tell me you don’t think of Echo Chamber when you hear that noise. You liar.
ECH: Who are your influences?
JH: My influences range from Kamelot to Hans Zimmer to John Williams to Kogi Kondo and so on forever. I enjoy me a good soundtrack. Most people would probably fall asleep listening to soundtrack music. Me? I not only sit still and listen to the entire Star Wars or Lord of the Rings soundtracks, I listen to all of them in immediate succession, and I listen to the extend special platinum collector’s ethereal infinity-plus-one editions. For Echo Chamber, I mostly drew influences from simpler scores like what you might hear playing in the background of Avatar: The Last Airbender; just something scant with occassional swells during big scenes. There’s a lot of Mickey Mousing in my scores where I’ll simply put instrumental punctuations on beat with footsteps and other movements.
ECH: In Season 2, you helped write an episode. What drew you to that storyline?
JH: When Tom issued a call to the fans for prospective scripts, I thought I might try my hand. I wrote a script for Conflicting Loyalty. I had a vague understanding of what the overall arc for Season 2 would be, with Dana joining a second show and all, so it made sense to write an episode about how Dana begins growing apart from Echo Chamber and subsequently Tom. I wanted to explore how this might affect Tom on a personal level. Of course, what I wrote and what ended up being filmed were almost entirely different stories since Tom and Dana (in reality) needed to make sure the episode remained consistent with the rest of the arc. Hence just one or two of my scenes were used–the ones where Tom resents being called a stepping stone, and the one where he’s in the editing cave alone at the very end. It was an honor to influence the show in more ways than just musically.
ECH: By the way, if there is a Season 3, we’ll probably use another scene from it.
JH: Which one?
ECH: [REDACTED BY MR. ADMINISTRATOR]
JH: AWESOME! That was a blast to write.
ECH: Do you have a favorite episode?
JH: In season 1, my favorite episode to watch is Walk and Talk. It’s by far the shortest episode, but the banter is golden. My favorite one to work on, however, was Mysterious Employer. There was just such a variety of tracks to compose. It went from brooding to silly, to sillier, to silliest, to serene, to ominous–all of that in just one episode.
JH: In season 2, my favorite episode to watch is Day in the Limelight. Gaelyn’s character is just so freakin’ happy that it makes me smile. It’s a refreshing change of pace since mostly everyone else in the show is bitter, dispicable, snarky, or just all around unlikable. Her character is genuinely chipper, and it’s such a breath of fresh air. My favorite episode to work on, however, was… well, it’s a toss up between Tyrant Takes the Helm and My Beloved Smother. Tyrant Takes the Helm gave me the opportunity to mix the show’s usual laid-back vibes feel with the stuffy formality of “Umbridge’s” theme, which included violins, bells, and even a harpsichord. In My Beloved Smother, I got to blend a sense of unease with humor and even add a dash of tragedy, which for me was a fun combination.
And that’s that. Folks, the next time you’re like, “I need music tomorrow! And it has to be good! But I didn’t tell anyone to write it!” Do what I do. Call Justin Hill at 2:00 AM and cry until he can discern a song title through your unintelligible sobs. You will wake up the next day to find your pillow soaked with tears and drool, and a finished score waiting in your inbox.