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A little 'Clone' music

Obi Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker and the evil Sith Lords are locked in an epic battle

Posted: August 14, 2008 7:10 p.m.
Updated: October 16, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Composer Kevin Kiner and a handful of assistants have worked a year and a half on the musical score to "The Clone Wars," George Lucas's latest release in the Star Wars saga. Kiner and his son Sean attended the premiere last Sunday.

This weekend, the Sand Canyon resident says, he'll be in theaters watching the audience's reaction.

But it wasn't just the animated feature film that kept Kiner busy lately. He is also the man responsible for the music that accompanies the images in "The Clone Wars" television series, which is set to air in October on the Cartoon Network and TNT. He has already scored 24 episodes for that series.

He also scores the "CSI Miami" television series.

Kiner, a Sand Canyon resident, has accomplished a lot of that work from his impressive home studio, where he and others put in many long hours. Escape caught up with Kiner there, amid the computers, flat screens, mixing boards, and an eclectic assortment of musical instruments - including a cigar-box slide guitar and a South American charanga made from a real armadillo.


For "The Clone Wars," Kiner said he tried to be true to the composing "style" of John Williams, whose music was so integral to 1977's original "Star Wars" and subsequent sequels.

At the same time, the challenge was not to imitate Williams.

"We've also added an ethnic element to this, which is George's direction. We were using a lot of ethnic percussion and different instruments, flutes, and even ethnic vocalists," Kiner said.

"This is really a very orchestral score. ... It's got a very classical kind of feel to it."
Kiner contrasted "The Clone Wars" score with his work on "CSI Miami," which he said was "all tweaked-out and very cutting edge, always trying to find the new, hip sound."
Doctor Music

Kiner said he grew up in Escondido, playing in rock and roll bands, and first started arranging music in high school. However, when he attended UCLA, it was as a pre-med student.

His parents had told him he could not be a musician, and he had bought into the belief that musicians have a hard time making a living. He had to choose between being a doctor or a lawyer; he just sort of drifted toward doctor.

However, during his time at UCLA, Kiner began selling musical arrangements. "People were hiring me and I wasn't getting fired," he said.

After the fall quarter of his senior year at UCLA, Kiner dropped out to pursue his music.

"I was pretty much my mother's nightmare," he said.

He went on the road and, by that New Year's Eve, was working as a music director for an act in Jakarta, Indonesia. Success followed success in the music business and Kiner "basically never looked back."

But he said he is constantly "overcompensating" for the fact he never studied music, and zealously studies classical music and well-known composers. John Williams is a major influence.

Kiner met and married his wife, Mercy, in the Philippines. He knew life on the road was no life for a married man and it was time to settle down and get a job "in town." Being in the music business, he knew that meant working in the Los Angeles area.

He also took note that (circa 1983) computers were starting to replace musicians. (He's a guitar player.)

And he realized he could arrange and compose music more cheaply using computers and, thereby, get more work and earn a good living.

Kiner said that, when it came to settling down, he and Mercy considered both Thousand Oaks and the Santa Clarita Valley. as they wanted to be near Hollywood but outside the city.

They chose Canyon Country. "We just loved the rural kind of feel. This is like not being in Los Angeles."

"A lot of composers live out here," he added.

SCV is the place to be

The Kiner family includes sons ages 20 and 16 and a daughter, age 18. Kiner said the family first moved into the American Beauty Classics in 1985, and moved to Sand Canyon in 1989.

He believed the SCV was a great place to raise children and was very complementary to the teachers at Sulphur Springs Elementary School.

And, since both his older children have received scholarships, "Canyon High School must have done something right," he joked.

"All the kids play musical instruments and have been in the junior high and high school bands," Kiner said.
Yet his children have their own dreams. His older son wants to be a writer and his daughter an artist. At 16, his youngest son's direction is "yet to be determined."

If you look up Kevin Kiner on you can see his progression through a varied and notable body of work. But he figures his first real success in television was similar to "The Clone Wars," in that a TV series followed close on the heels of a hit feature film.

"My first real dramatic series was ‘The Adventures of Superboy,'" Kiner said.

Yet, even with all his successes in the 20 years since then, he still had to "audition" to be the composer of "The Clone Wars" film and TV show.

"There were several composers who were chosen to audition, and we all took a 10-minute scene and came back and scored it as we saw fit," he said. Eventually George Lucas chose Kiner. "I was hired for both the TV series and the feature film at the same time."

The work began in "November or December of 2006," and it continues.

Kiner said he enjoyed the premiere of "The Clone Wars" at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood.

"George was there, the director, Dave Filoni was there." So were the red carpet and the paparazzi.

"Everyone's children between 5 and 17 are all looking forward to this," he said. "It's going to be cool."


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