Black Iris' Asa Taccone Talks SNL Skit Soundtracks

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Asa Taccone
Asa Taccone
On December 16, 2006, Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg introduced the world to a whole new kind of gift idea. The SNL Digital Short "Dick in Box" went on to notch somewhere in the neighborhood of 89 billion views online and a legion of amateur imitators. But behind the chinstrap beards, Color Me Badd harmonizing and wardrobe and phallic festivities, was a tune composed by Black Iris' Asa Taccone.

The brother of SNL writer and Lonely Island member Jorma Taccone, Asa grew up under the hilarious harassment of Samberg & Co. Last week, Samberg and Timberlake reunited for the almost-as-funny "Mother Lover," once again composed by Taccone and fellow Black Iris composer Drew Campbell. Taccone also did the music behind "Natalie Raps" and the feature film Hot Rod.

We spoke to Taccone about the composing process for the digital shorts, his upcoming work on the Samberg-hosted MTV Movie Awards and more.

What's the process for composing the music for the digital shorts? Is it as hectic as it seems?
Completely. It really is just as hectic as anything you've heard. I've gone and done some of the work in New York and when I see how SNL is put together, it amazes me that anything is funny on that show. It's so last minute. For "Mother Lover" Justin was re-recording vocals about an hour and a half before the show started. It's because we always have to send stuff to NBC's standards and practices department, and often it's like, "Uh, no that can't go on air." So we have to change things all throughout the process.

It's so hectic that the network didn't even know who did the music for "Dick in a Box." My brother gave me $60 for that track. My name didn't really come up until the Emmys and someone asked. It's just so chaotic, but it works.

Usually the process is, my brother will call and give us the general joke idea, and that changes about four or five times in a four hour period until they land on an idea that they think is funny. Then we send them a bunch of tracks and they'll either pick something they like and just start writing to that or, when it's more organized like in the case of "Dick in a Box" and "Mother Lover," they give us a more specific outline. For "Dick in a Box" they wanted a cheesy, 90s, Color Me Badd type track. Then we just go from there, and there's usually so little time to get everything done.

Drew Campbell and I did "Mother Lover" and I got the call on the Monday at about 3:20 a.m., L.A. time, and all those guys were in the studio with Justin Timberlake, just writing and trying to figure things out. It seems like that's a lot of time, but so much changes right up to when the show goes on the air.

How does composing this type of thing differ from your commercial and other work?
With comedy, there's an element of trying not to make the music too invasive. You can't use anything too complex. For "Mother Lover," I had some complex string sections and other stuff that got cut because at the end of the day, you just want to joke to be audible.

This type of work takes some precedence because of the deadline and you know a lot of people are going to see it. It differs a little bit because the pace is pretty crazy, but you know, commercial work can be insane too.

How are things coming for the MTV Movie Awards (airs May 31)?
That's been really fun. Those guys are coming out (this week). It's such an undertaking that's become really a camp of friends. It's our friends and Andy's, pitching in as writers and whatever. So he's bringing all his people to make this thing as funny as possible. We've got some pretty cool music stuff planned. We actually set up a full studio in a hotel in LA, and just left it there for two weeks to just pound stuff out, with people just coming by the hotel to contribute.

What's your musical background?
I started out doing hip hop, mostly underground stuff in the Bay area, a lot of it was very sample-based and then I slowly started playing a lot of different instruments. So now, I'm kind of terrible at everything but I can play a lot of different things. Right now, I'm doing the new Blackalicious album, and a few other things.
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