Interview: Jay Gruska.

I’ve always said that the music of Superman is as iconic as its story, the suit, and Lois Lane.

That couldn’t be more true with the show that made me discover Superman, with 1993’s ‘Lois and Clark’.
It’s 24 years today since the pilot episode aired, where a lot of music cues would continue until the series ended in 1997.
I’ve been able to reach out to the series’ composer, Jay Gruska, and asked him a few questions about composing Lois and Clark, alongside his career, and working with The Jacksons.

  • How did you get the chance to score Lois and Clark?

I sent Music from previous things I had worked on to the producer who I did not know, just like several other composers did, then based on that I was asked to come in and meet with the producer. After a meeting and discussion about approach I was told I was hired later that day.

  • I grew up with Lois and Clark on BBC One on Saturday Nights, and the music is what resonated with me. Were you given any kind of guidelines when you were scoring the Pilot? It’s almost a mini-movie, and a lot of the themes carried over or were extended throughout its four seasons.

Two things were stressed in the meeting about musical approach, the heroic/muscular side of Superman music, alongside both the romantic and tongue in cheek relationship between Lois and Clark. I really enjoyed the challenge, and I was lucky to have my approach be supported by the producers.

  • I’ve been watching through the seasons, and it seems as though Season 1 and 2 had a wealth of music, whereas only parts of Seasons 3 and 4 re-used it, except for the ‘New Krypton’ and ‘Clones’ storyline. Did you keep track of the series as it was being made, to give you ideas on where the music could go, or how something you were working on, could be changed for the better for a particular scene?

Other than a handful of themes that were always present, like when superman flew or was in action, or the L&C love theme, or bluesy wry piano comments, I approached each episode with whatever it needed. There were always new villains so it allowed for different  musical ideas often.

  • I did a post a year ago about Superman, talking about how its not just the suit and the story, but the music in other media of it which makes it more iconic. Have you seen other Superman shows and noticed its music? Batman vs. Superman and its lack of one?

Honestly, other than the Superman TV series from the 50s and the very wonderful first Superman movie, with it’s iconic and amazing JW score, and Danny Elfman’s really great Batman theme, I haven’t watched too many other things in the genre. But I have always been very happy and lucky to be part of the Superman pantheon. Earth never seems to tire of Krypton.

  • Your site has a wealth of music from your career. We live in age of nostalgia, especially now Dean Cain and now Teri Hatcher are at conventions talking about the series. Even fans have ripped your music from episodes with the other sounds blocked out. Would you consider releasing more of the soundtrack, similar to a release on SoundCloud or a deluxe album?

It is not really up to me to release more music from L&C. Warner Brothers TV Controls all of the rights to the music I composed, and frankly there hasn’t been enough interest to release a second soundtrack.

  • Have you seen the show since it aired twenty years ago? Does it bring back any memories?

It hasn’t played on any local television that I know of in the U.S.  for several years, but I did catch a few episodes several years ago on some cable channel. Though I found it amusing, I couldn’t help, as an evolving artist, to both appreciate some of what I had written and also wishing I had a second chance to improve some things. All in all though, it was a pleasing experience.

  • I have to ask, you got to work with Michael and Jermaine Jackson for a track, ‘Tell Me I’m Not Dreaming’, and it did really well even though it wasn’t released as a single. It still sounds great as I listen on Spotify. But it seems to be forgotten due to the passage of time.

That was a pretty wonderful time because it was really at the peak of Michael’s and the Jackson family fame. Right around Thriller time. Though I was at the recording session for the rhythm track, indeed I actually sang the work vocal for Michael and Jermaine to learn it from, Michael wanted to do his lead vocal privately. So although I met and worked with Jermaine, unfortunately I never got to actually meet Michael. But it was exciting the first time I heard it on the radio, and the thousands of times it played for the next couple of years.

  • Supernatural is a show that’s still going after 12 years, with its 13th season premiering later this year. Is it still a challenge scoring the show, alongside working with another composer?

I very much like working on Supernatural. Not only because it has such a varied musical landscape with tons of fun styles to play with, but also because all the people working on it are a really wonderful team. I don’t work with the other composer on any of the music, we just alternate shows. We each compose our own episodes.

  • Your kids are of a band called The Belle Brigade, with their two albums being given great reviews. It looks as though they’re on hiatus, but I see that Ethan recently released a song on his own. Is it something you noticed early on that they were going to follow on in what you’ve been involved in, along with their grandfather?

Their individual musical and creative gifts were always encouraged and supported in our household. It’s the same way I was raised. Ethan has just released a solo record on Warner Brothers/Sire records called Slowmotionary. It’s quite brilliant! Barbara has been playing drums for several artists and writing material for a new project. She’s also quite brilliant. And I am completely objective 🙂

I have a 3rd son who is a virtuoso ballet dancer studying at The Royal Ballet school in London, so I am very fortunate and proud to see these 3 artists adding beauty to the world.

  • With how technology has changed in thirty years, such as some composers working by iPad now, has it made you easier to go all out on projects or simply sped up the process?

I basically work the same way I always have, I sit at a piano or keyboard and noodle away. Although technology of the last 20 years has made many things easier, The writing and inventing process is still the same, you start with a blank page. The computer and hundreds of programs and apps have made many things easier and exciting, But writing is still writing.

  • You’re about to start work on a project, are you able to talk on what that is? Do you still approach new projects like these, the same way as you did 25 years ago?
I am just finishing my second season of a new show called Better Things. A wonderful show–and no one flies in it. 🙂
I start Supernatural season 13 this week.

All my thanks to Jay for taking the time to answer my questions as he starts work on the new season of Supernatural.
Jay’s Email.
Jay’s Twitter.