9-9! If you’re a fan of comedy then these numbers shouldn’t need any explanation. Yes, that’s right, we’re talking about Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I had the opportunity to speak with the composer, Dan Marocco, behind the infamous theme song and all the sounds and music that go along with the shenanigans of the show. He’s been there from the start and naturally, has a special connection to it.
Marocco has been surrounded by music his entire life as the son of a music teacher but didn’t decide to make music his career until well into college. Check out our conversation with Dan as we talk about Brooklyn Nine-Nine and how he came up with the iconic theme song plus more!
How did you get into composing? Was this a passion from the start? My dad was a music teacher so I’ve always been around music and playing instruments since I was little. I didn’t really think I wanted to do music as a career until sometime in college when I thought I would like to work at a record label or something like that. I went into the NYU music program and while I was there I did an internship at a studio that mainly did music for commercials. At some point, I started writing music for a lot of short films and commercials and really started enjoying it. I wouldn’t say I stumbled into it, but it wasn’t something that I expected to do.
I am a huge fan of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and you’ve been working on it from the start. How did you land this job? A friend of mine was the editor on the pilot and I’ve helped her out with a few things before. She called me pretty early on during the process to get her some music for the pilot. I did that and then basically ended up getting hired on to do all the music for the show including the theme song.
What went into creating the theme song that we all know and love? It took several tries to find something that really felt right. I had a basic idea of what the sound should be but I needed something that had energy all the way through and I had all these points returning to it with different versions. The cold open is such a fun part of the show so it’s fun to have something that really blasts at the front. The show is so fast-paced and energetic, I wanted to make sure the theme song matched the fun of it. It’s great how people have responded to it. And I’ve really loved seeing all the YouTube videos of the theme song being played on harps and such, it’s really cool.
What has been the collaboration process whilst working on Brooklyn Nine-Nine? Who else do you work with to create the score? I have musicians that I worked with on the theme song, along with my friend who is a guitar/bass/mixer guy, so hr helped me out with it a little bit. The horn samples are a key part of it so that comes from a music library so it was cool to get that sound and felt more proper versus a live recording.
Every week I basically have to write a certain amount of music to write for the episode, so I watch it early and then we meet once a week and just watch the episode down and stop it occasionally to see what works and what doesn’t. At this point, we have a shorthand for everything and can understand all the tiny elements really well.
For my personal process, I really focus on the picture and dialogue that I’m hearing which is not unique by any means. It is unique as a composer of music, however, and I really like having that picture and dialogue.
How have things changed for you in the transition between Fox to NBC? I got the news on Twitter just like everyone else for both the cancellation and the NBC pick-up. I have a great job and then I lost it, and then I got it back. It was a rough day but it didn’t drag on forever and we stayed on schedule for the most part. We had to push the start date a little but other than that things were sort of humming along especially because NBC is who originally produced it.
What has been your favorite episode to score? If you can think of one? The ones that I love the most are the Halloween episodes, they’re always a favorite of mine. There’s so much action and there’s a wrap-up theme involved, so I just love it.
How would you describe your music? As far as me in general, I have a little bit of an imprint of my sound just because it’s all my influences together color how I appreciate music. For this show particularly, I have boiled it down to a 70s funk sound and 80s hip-hop along with 90s rock vibes. It’s all retro and spans a few decades with particular influences and I think now that I’m a few seasons in I can gauge what works best where especially with a character like Jake. For the most part, I try to make the sound an ensemble sound so it works across the generation. I try hard to make sure everything could work for everyone.
What else have you been working on? Or what do you have coming up? I’ve done some stuff in the summer when the show is on hiatus, but this definitely gets most of my focus. A lot of composers do a lot of things because they have an assistant, etc. but I really like to get detailed so I usually focus on one thing at a time. As long as this show is going, I’m really happy to be working on it – it’s a lot of fun.