As many Hollywood stories go, the shop had a serious facelift six years ago, when executive producer Korbin Krause and composers Steve "Bone" Hampton and John Adair bought Admusic from its original owners, who have since left the business. The new partners moved the headquarters from dreary Burbank to beachside Santa Monica digs, featuring the latest equipment and cavernous recording spaces. They also opened a TV division (they're behind all the music on Just Shoot Me), and even got a funky redo of the company logo from Imaginary Forces.
But it's curious that they stopped short of changing perhaps the biggest albatross hanging off their shingle - the totally generic company name. "We know that it's a bad name, but we live with it," laughs Krause. "We asked a lot of our clients what they thought, and across the board they said, 'Keep it.' There's a huge amount of equity in our name with the people who have known us a long time, but I think for people just coming into the business, the name Admusic scares the hell out of them. In fact, for a while we were sending out our own direct mail ads saying, 'Admusic. Bad name, great music.' "
Those who get past the plain vanilla moniker will find a repertoire that comes in a wild spectrum of flavors, from orchestral and cinematic to gritty rock, accessible via Admusic's staff of freelancers and resident composers, including partners Hampton and Adair - both military brats whose itinerant upbringings and classical schooling exposed them to motley musical influences. Hampton played for local Washington, D.C. bands as a teen and earned his degree in classical guitar at Ohio's Wright State University. Adair graduated from Northwestern where he studied clarinet and worked as a guitar and brass player in Chicago jazz and rock bands.
The hybrid of classical training and industry experience is reflected in the seriousness and diverse approaches the composers bring to their work. Take Hampton's old-school compositions for both "Footballitis," with harsh brass compositions reminiscent of old Batman episodes, as well as Altoids Sours, replete with cheesy rhythms and guitar licks that seem lifted straight out of a '50s educational film. As authentic as it sounds, the music's completely original. "It's a matter of really studying what makes up the music, from tempos and instrumentation, to the way it's performed, to where we do the recording," he explains. Hampton was meticulous about finding old-school gear and tracking down musical chameleons who could replicate performance styles from those eras. He then recorded them in Admusic's huge high-ceiling live room, miked to emulate studio sound from back in the day. "In this era, where there's a fair amount of licensing that goes on, it's critical to be able to do music like this effectively," Adair insists. "These days, people's ears are more sophisticated than they used to be. It's not just a matter of hitting a switch in the studio that says 'retro' and dialing it back to another era."
Admusic has also produced stunning rearrangements of familiar tunes, among them the quirky revamps of '80s hits from Depeche Mode and Madonna sung by robot-like models for the Gap, on which Adair collaborated with the Dust Brothers (better known as the Chemical Brothers). Of recent note, Adair crafted a sultry rearrangement of the Nat King Cole classic "L-O-V-E" for a spot called "Boy Meets Girl," from BBDO/Detroit's "Drive = Love" campaign for Chrysler. Adair modernized the song via the sultry vocals of Kathy Fisher, whose band, called Fisher, he's written and produced for over the years. "She has one of those voices you only run across once in a while. I thought, Why don't we get as far away as we can from the Nat King Cole thing and approach this as a song that would go on Fisher's record? " Turns out both the band and Chrysler were flooded with inquiries about the rendition, so much so that in a weird reverse of the advertising-and-licensed music pendulum, Fisher went on to record a full-length version for its forthcoming album.
As if that weren't enough, Admusic also has a knack for catchy audio tags, including a three-part harmony Adair hummed for EDS' "Neighbors" out of Goodby, Silverstein, which closes with the homespun guitar theme he composed for the campaign. More recently, Hampton shredded his vocal chords heaving out versions of the super-macho "Hit it!" that punctuates Dodge's spots. Oddly enough, rumor has it that new Dodge toy trucks will soon feature the catchy mnemonic. "After all these years, I know I've finally arrived when I can go down to Toys R Us, buy a truck, press the horn and hear 'Hit it!' " he laughs.