Friday, January 6, 2023


I have the immense pleasure today of welcoming a very special guest, composer Mason Daring, to CINEMATIC REVELATIONS for an interview. Mason has composed the score for numerous motion pictures over the years, working on many movies for director John Sayles such as LIANNA, RETURN OF THE SECAUCUS SEVEN [my review of the film can be found here] MATEWAN, CITY OF HOPE, LONE STAR, and EIGHT MEN OUT. He has also worked on COLD AROUND THE HEART, MOYNIHAN, WHERE THE HEART IS, and FATHERS AND SONS, to name a few examples. Mason has also composed themes and music for many television shows and documentaries. In this interview Mason will be discussing when his passion for music began, RETURN OF THE SECAUCUS SEVEN, musical scoring for film and television, and involvement in rock/pop bands.


Athan: When did you first realize that you wanted to be a musician?

Mason: I first realized I wanted to be a musician in fourth grade. I started off playing trumpet and I realized how much I enjoyed it in within a year or two. I then actually got paid money to play music. My first gig was playing taps for a VFW funeral 25 whole American dollars. I thought, this is easy money! Of course, I was wrong about that.


Athan: Where did you study music?

Mason: I studied music formally at Amherst College in Amherst Massachusetts. I was lucky enough to become an independent scholar there and for some reason they let me take my senior year and just write and record music. There was a college next-door called Hampshire College that had a recording studio in it, so I was able to actually spend formative time learning how to record and produce – nowadays everyone has a home studio, but in those days recording studios were hard to come by. 


Athan: Your score for RETURN OF THE SECAUCUS SEVEN was beautiful, and complemented the visuals in a thoughtful, spare manner. Two of the most striking examples of this in the movie are the opening credits, and the moody sequence close to the film’s conclusion where Jeff chops wood. Being your first score for a motion picture, how did it feel to see your work in the completed movie?

Mason: The opening credits for RETURN OF THE SECAUCUS SEVEN were played by a great guitar player named Guy Van Duser, who is a great friend of mine as well. I wrote it with him to make it sound like a spaghetti western…. John loved it - that's John SAYLES the Director. The wood chopping scene is actually me playing a six string guitar. I experimented with a lot of compression on the audio which gives it a bit of an unusual sound - but I always enjoyed that scene. When it was finally released, it was truly amazing seeing the movie on the big screen for the first time. It played for six months in Boston as it became a bit of a cult film. A curiosity in that film is that my credit is K Mason Daring - my full name is Kevin Mason Daring and I don't really use my first name, but that was my first movie credit and I didn't quite know what I should be called. I looked at it on the big screen and I thought, Boy, that looks silly! From then on I just dropped the K.


Athan: Aside from cinema, you have composed scores for a multitude of television documentaries, themes for television shows, episodic television, and cable/television movies. Looking back at your vast body of work, which score or music piece was the most demanding, but, in the end, most satisfying in terms of the final result?

Mason: Hard to say, which was the most difficult: MUSIC OF THE HEART, which was directed by Wes Craven took a year to complete for number of reasons. After the movie was done, a few months went by and Harvey Weinstein, that notorious man, decided that he wanted to drop about 20 minutes from the film, so I had to redo about half of the music in that project - it just went on and on and on. But I loved working with Wes and I loved working with Meryl Streep, so I think there was a lot of satisfaction when that movie ultimately came out. The film shoot for MATEWAN, John Sayles’ fourth movie, was very difficult because we were outdoors at night in the middle of a park in West Virginia and we had to do a lot of music in front of the camera. It was very challenging, but Haskell Wexler, the cinematographer, and I agreed later that somehow it all worked - but I must tell you we knocked heads on the set. All is well that ends well.


Athan: You formed your first rock band in the eighth grade, and were also a member of rock band Daring Jones Southworth and McNeer during college. What it is that you loved most about being involved in bands?

Mason: With my first band, the Squires, in eighth grade, the most rewarding thing was the guys I was playing with. We are still great friends to this day. Daring Jones, Southworth, and McNeer was the best band I was ever in.  We opened for the Byrds, Delaney and Bonnie, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and a number of other famous bands. It's a shame we broke up because we would've made a fantastic album. The other two songwriters were terrific, and we had a lot of great harmonies, but it's difficult to keep a band together sometimes - especially when you're broke.


Athan: You also have a legal background, graduating from the Suffolk Law School in 1976, and were admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1977, after which you were employed as a legal analyst. How did you find that your law studies assisted you with your later work in the film industry?

Mason: And being a lawyer is never much fun if you're actually practicing law. No one gets up in the morning and says: I love my family. I have all the money I need and I have a lot of friends so I think I'll call my lawyer. That's a way of saying that lawyers spend all their time with worried people. I practiced law for a few years, but really didn't care for it. But it did come in awfully handy when I started handling bigger budgets and orchestra scores. It’s a tricky world out there so it's easy to get sued, and it's very bothersome when it happens. But people tend to do that to you when you get successful. Fortunately, I never really had a problem in that regard - my assumption is this because I'm a lawyer, myself.


Athan: Do you have any upcoming projects of which you would like to tell readers?

Mason: My current project is a reworking of the theme for FRONTLINE. I wrote the theme for FRONTLINE in 1982 with a good friend of mine named Martin Brody - we had a ball doing it and we're very proud that it's still on the air 40 years later, but they need us to redo it for timing purposes and we're tempted to see if we can't make it a little more modern at the same time. Stay tuned on that one.


Thank you so much today for your time Mason, and for the insight you have provided into the art of music, RETURN OF THE SECAUCUS SEVEN, scoring for film and television, law studies, and being a member of rock bands. It has been wonderful having you on CINEMATIC REVELATIONS. You are welcome to return whenever you wish.


Mason Daring links

+Mason Daring IMDb page


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