In the entire history of musical expression, from the first repeated notes uttered by a caveman to whatever Brock Lesnar puts on to start his day, I truly believe that there is nothing more thrilling, more elating, more capable of generating pure excitement than the opening theme to Nickelodeon’s Double Dare. Just hearing it in my head makes me feel like I took a garbage bag full of Halloween candy, soaked it in espresso, ground that up with a bucket of Adderall, infused that powdered insanity with the most sativa-heavy dab in existence, and then huffed as big a glob as I could manage through the tailpipe of a monster truck. The Double Dare theme is that exciting, because Double Dare was that exciting. And for my money, that show is the most Nickelodeon of Nickelodeon shows: built on fun, snark, slime, slips, falls, and the disembodied voice of a guy named Harvey, all of it bursting with Nickelodeon’s Memphis Design-inspired ’80s visual pop. Double Dare was like getting hit in the face with a water balloon full of Jolt cola, and Nickelodeon was the cool older cousin who threw it. And like that cool older cousin is in real life, the network is currently in its early 40s. It is finally getting the documentary treatment in the form of a retrospective called The Orange Years, debuting in select theaters in the mid-November.
The doc’s director, Scott Barber, had done some voice work at FUNimation, the Flower Mound-based anime studio famous for hits like Yu Yu Hakasho and Cowboy Bebop, and he mentioned his upcoming Nickelodeon retrospective to ADR director Tyler Walker,because he needed someone to write the film’s score. Walker suggested the director reach out to a local musician who may seem like an unlikely composer for such a project, Pinkish Black frontman Daron Beck.
“It was kind of a weird situation,” Beck said. “I had been in a movie [Run from the Shadows] about 15 years ago with [Barber], and I was in Pointy Shoe Factory with [Walker]. They got to talking about Pinkish Black and Pointy Shoe, and [Walker] suggested he contact me.”
Though making original music to match Nickelodeon’s characteristic wackiness is not the sort of sound Beck normally dabbles in, he was stoked for the gig and the compositional challenges it presented.
“There are so many different subjects [in the film], and it covers a 30-year time period,” he said. “It was different every two seconds, kind of schizophrenic in a way. I wrote 50 original songs for it.”
Beck mostly composed the soundtrack on keyboards, though he had to write some stuff on guitar. “The Adventures of Pete and Pete used a lot of indie rock stuff, so I had to pull out the guitar and play some R.E.M.-sounding crap.”
Beck said his favorite Nickelodeon era was the network’s early ’80s programming block –– shows like Pinwheel, Today’s Special, and You Can’t Do that on Television.
“I liked Today’s Special because it was like this weird, vaguely Canadian Sesame Street,” Beck said. “And You Can’t Do that On Television was basically SNL for kids, but I didn’t really watch TV between the ages of 15 and 18, so I missed out on a lot of those ’90s Nickelodeon shows, though I would take acid and watch Ren and Stimpy until I was 15 and moved out of the house. I did the research, though, and watched a little bit of each series. I redid the themes to shows like Hey, Dude and You Can’t Do that on Television, watching them and coming up with my own take on it.”
Other than some soundtrack work at FUNimation for Dragon Ball Z, The Orange Years is Beck’s first legit soundtrack job. He said that Barber is in the midst of pitching another project to producers.
“I can’t say what it is yet, but if he gets the green light, I think I’m going to work on that one,” Beck said. “It’s more up my musical alley.”
What that could be is left to one’s imagination – his main musical endeavor, Pinkish Black, is a dark, moody contrast to Nickelodeon’s orange-hued exuberance, but he also said that his dream soundtrack work would be to rescore Pee Wee’s Playhouse.
“Though honestly, that soundtrack is already incredible,” he said. “Re-scoring Land of the Lost would be cool, because it’s basically like Pinkish Black but with a banjo.”
His score for The Orange Years will be a testament to his versatility as a composer, matching Double Dare and Nickelodeon’s other classics note for hyperactive note.