«I wanted to be in Led Zeppelin, be like Jimmy Page«
-Hi Danny, thanks so much for givin us this interview.
-Let´s start with the usual question we always make: How did you become interested in music and what led you to composing for the audiovisual media?
-I’ve been a professional guitarist my whole life. I still am. I was always fascinated by hit songs and I would analyze the arrangement and the parts. I played a lot of bars in my 20’s. Always playing the hits of the day. Later I had a wonderful touring career with many artists such as Tower Of Power, Bette Midler, Chaka Khan, George Michael, and many others. When my son Aaron was born, I decided to stay home. My wife was the executive in charge of music at DreamWorks working for Jeffry Katzenberg and Hans Zimmer. Hans was very generous and hired me to produce songs «I Can See Clearly» from Antz, and «The Road To El Dorado» main title performed by Elton John. I got to watch and work for Harry Gregson-Williams, John Powell and Hans. I learned a lot and it led to my career at Disney.
-The story behind the choice to play guitar is…?
-It was great for a shy boy like me. And it is a very sexy and expressive instrument.
-When you was 15 you formed your own band. What was your dream at this age? Was it a hobby for you or was it clear to you that you wanted to be a full time musician?
-It was a ticket to another world for me at that time. I wanted to be in Led Zeppelin, be like Jimmy Page.
-What is your favorite memory from those years?
-Playing for my high school and getting noticed. Being in a band is like being in an exclusive club. It’s a family. And starting to play for money at parties was a great memory.
-From LA musician to Disney. How did you get your start with Disney, and later, with Phineas and Ferb?
-Well, after Hans, music executives from the Disney TV Animation department called and asked me to write a theme song for a new show. I didn’t get it but they liked my work and kept giving me songwriting opportunities. I wrote the theme song to «Lilo and Stitch» and «The Emperors New School» before «Phineas and Ferb».
-Dan Povenmire, Jeff Marsh, “Phineas & Ferb’s” creators… What they asked you about the music for the show?
-They asked me to produce and arrange the theme song and two other songs. After I did that I created themes for a few of the characters on my own to try and impress them. That was orchestral. All of that landed me the composer job. So they saw me as an all in one package of song producer and underscore writer. They are very talented musicians in their own right btw.
-How do you work for a Phineas and Ferb´s recording session? Tell us a little about the process.
-The songs are written by Dan, Swampy and their creative team. I arrange and produce the songs in my home studio. I play guitars and use all my samples. I am using more live musicians now which is way more fun and way cooler than programming drums and bass. Then either I sing the song, or I get a studio singer to sing it. When a cast member sings a song, we go to a studio in Burbank and record their lead vocal. Then I mix it. That is the song process. The songs are done before they animate the sequence. In post production, we spot an entire episode, they tell me what they would like orchestrally, and I score it.
-Two naughty and brilliant brothers, their psychotic and obsessed sister, a platypus as a secret agent, a sort of a mad and hilarious scientist…What´s your favorite character to score? You have a long list to choose.
-I love them all. The Candace theme is kind of a Wizard of Oz vibe. Dr. Doofenshmirtz is very Eastern European. Perry is total James bond. P&F are rock and roll or quirky.
-And your favorite song for the show? I have a soft spot for «Gitchee Gitchee Goo» and «Perry the Platypus» theme.
-We have done over 400 songs I think so that is a tough one. But you can’t go wrong with Gitchee and Perry!
-In my opinion «Phineas and Ferb» it´s not just a show for kids, adults enjoyed it equally. Listening to your music I think you have the same point of view. Am I right?
-Yes! We do not play down to the kids. We treat the characters seriously and then play (or not play) the humor. We are proud that it has such a wide inter generational audience.
-When you´re composing for a movie or a double episode, are there working aspects which you usually can´t work in a regular season?
-A double episode or the full length movie is much different. It allows me to take more time developing a cue. It is a treat to do those. But the normal episodes are great fun as well.
-Tell us something about working together with your son, Aaron. (I love «Mission Marvel» and «Surfin’ Asteroids» by the way).
-I’ll tell him you said that, Juanra! He was just 11 when Phineas started so he was old enough to see everything. It was a natural progression to have him sing on it. But the bottom line is that he keeps singing on it because they request him. I love working with my son. Sometimes I’m hard on him when I produce his vocals. But he keeps his cool and delivers.
-After so many years and many episodes, is a challenge for you to continue composing music for this show? What do you think the show has given you and vice versa?
-It is always a challenge to keep things fresh and to try new things. I think Dan and Swampy would agree. The show literally turned me into a composer that can deliver on a deadline. The deadline is a big deal. Working under pressure makes you better.
-To finish the interview; What are your forthcoming projects?
-I have been co-producing the songs on Sofia The First with John Kavanaugh (songwriter for the show). I am currently co-producing a song with Bobby Lopez (amazing songwriter from Book Of Mormon, Ave Q, and Frozen) for the DVD release of Frozen. And I am hoping to continue my long career path with Dan and Swampy. They are geniuses. I also can’t say enough about the Disney TV Animation music dept.
-Thank you again for your kindness Danny. BSOSpirit team wish you all the best and we look forward to speaking with you very soon.
It was truly my pleasure, Juanra. Thx!
Danny Jacob is the composer of the original score and the comedic original songs heard in Disney XD and Disney Channel’s animated comedy series, Phineas and Ferb. Each episode features at least one song, two parts (20 minutes) ones often have two. A world-class guitar player, Jacob evolved his career into composing songs for Disney Channel’s animated series Lilo and Stitch, Kim Possible and The Emperor’s New School, and the Disney DVD release Leroy & Stitch.
In between touring with top recording artists LeAnn Rimes, George Michael, Bette Midler and Cher, Jacob also had the honor of playing on recording session with legendary artist Ray Charles. This duet with Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin, entitled “Heaven Help Us”, went on to win a Grammy for Best Duet. Jacob first picked up the guitar whеn he was 13 and, soon after, was honing his acoustic, electric, classical, R&B and jazz playing skills.
When he was 15 he formed his own band, playing in Los Angeles bars and clubs. It was only a matter of time before he began collaborating with one of Hollywood’s most innovative artists, Oscar-winner Hans Zimmer. Together they worked on Elton John’s «El Dorado» and Neil Finn’s I Can See Clearly Now from Antz. This led to his work as a featured guitarist with score composers Harry Gregson-Williams and John Powell on the Academy Award winning Shrek. He also arranged and co-produced the successful musical sequences «Shrek in the Swamp Karaoke Dance Party» and Eddie Murphy’s «I’m a Believer», from the double Platinum soundtrack album.
As a featured guitarist, Jacob has performed on the triple crown of awarded projects; on Shrek which won the Oscar® for Best Picture, on the Emmy winning Bette Midler HBO Concert Diva Las Vegas and on the Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin’s “Heaven Help Us” which won the Grammy for Best Duet.