Mon. Jan 17th, 2022

Raul Vega is an L.A.-based digital instrument builder, podcast creator, and composer. For the past 10 years, he has collaborated with Hans Zimmer by crafting the musical instruments utilized to create the scores for Dune, No Time to Die, Interstellar, Wonder Woman 1984 and Dunkirk.

Vega’s most recent endeavor is the podcast “Swiss and Lali Hijack Hollywood,” which he was kind enough to speak to about.

Jeff Ames: What led you to create your first podcast?

Raul Vega: In truth, I wasn’t creatively challenged at the time, and like every artist who ever existed, I had no one to blame but myself! I had been working on film scores for the great Hans Zimmer for almost 5 years before I made my first podcast. Let me just state here on record, things never get boring at Remote Control Productions. There are constant opportunities to get creative and face challenges when you’re working on the biggest movies in town and especially when time isn’t on your side, (Spoilers: It never is). Needless to say, my plate was overflowing with work. But at the same time, I wasn’t making anything on my own, and I hadn’t written music in some years. After a friend of mine introduced podcasts to me in 2016 it all clicked. This is how I can get back into making music! My first fiction podcast, Rose Drive, which I wrote, directed, edited, and scored, was my way of pushing my own artistic voice. I had so much fun creating it and writing music for it, I just never stopped. It led me down this obsessive path of audio storytelling which isn’t slowing down anytime soon and I couldn’t be more inspired now to keep going!

How did you come up with the idea for Swiss and Lali Hijack Hollywood?

About two months into quarantine, (circa May 2020) I had to come to terms that I wasn’t going to be able to continue Rose Drive anytime soon. With a cast that big it’d be impossible to do it safely, especially since we all were so terrified of what was happening. Plus, I didn’t want to write anything dark and depressing. We all were living it already, I felt like we needed a little bit of escapism. Something comedic and hyper self-aware felt right. The idea of two goofy, inept girls hiking up a popular trail in Hollywood, meandering through the conversations of typical L.A. creatives popped in my head. How about we make a show about literally nothing other than two best friends having the most random and pointless conversations with one another? We all do it anyway, what if that’s our show? Two faces flashed in my mind, I instantly knew that my close friends Aparna Brielle and Kristin Couture were the right fit. We were already good friends, the chemistry was tight, and the three of us share a similar ridiculous sense of humor. I sent them a text one morning, we had a zoom session that night, and then we began the work!

What was the most challenging aspect of Swiss and Lali Hijack Hollywood and how did you overcome that?

The same as everyone else’s: Recording in the middle of a pandemic. We kept our cast extremely small for the first part of the series, and every additional non-household member we had recorded from their homes. Fortunately, all of my actors were well equipped with professional enough audio equipment, (Everyone stocked up on microphones and recording gear since auditions were now all through zoom). This helped my job in the editing phase. It made it a lot easier to stitch things together. If I had written a show that required several people to be in the same room at once it just wouldn’t have worked, so we built the show around the pandemic without making Swiss and Lali about the pandemic.

Do you have any fun, behind-the-scenes stories about the making of Swiss and Lali Hijack Hollywood?

I would literally be writing a novel if I had the time to type up all the fun behind-the-scenes antics the three of us got into. I don’t think we left one session with a dry eye, we all were laughing to tears after every recording. But if I had to narrow it down to just one, I’d say the Halloween special was the most fun. It’s when we really hear Swiss dip into her crazy, maniacal self and Chaz, (played by Aaron Cavette) screaming notes higher than Mariah Carey, all so he can find his captured little pig buddy Nelson. Some of the body formations my cast gets into to make the characters sound the way they do is some of the funniest stuff you’ll never see, it was difficult for me not to spoil the take by laughing too hard.

What were some of the things you learned from Swiss and Lali Hijack Hollywood that you’re excited to apply to future endeavors?

Patience, but I don’t mean at all because of my cast or crew! Making a show while we all were coping with this new, scary world was very hard. There were times when it was difficult to crack a smile or write jokes down, and we learned very quickly that once it stops being fun we need to step back and take a break. This show was about having fun with our friends and we didn’t want anything to taint that. That’s why our mid-season break and the season 01 finale had such a long gap. We couldn’t force things to just happen and we were all going through spells of personal challenges. When we decided to be patient and give a breather, everything came back in full force for the finale this summer. We all locked it, set our goals, reached out to our network, and made it the most fun it could’ve been. Directors tend to thrive in things they can control and become frustrated when uncontrollable interferences occur. I had to check my ego and my endless drive and say, “Look, it’s going to get done when it gets done. Best to do it when we’re all genuinely in the right mindset for it!”

Do you have any other projects coming up that you can share with us?

Several. I’ve been working on the next phase of Rose Drive every now and then, and I’m excited to get that engine up and running again, hopefully sometime next year. But my next big audio adventure is neither a mystery nor comedy. It’s my first horror series! I’m working on building out both a long-form and micro-fiction story for this one using as many actors as I can for each episode. We’re going for twisted stories and uncomfortable sound design so if you’re squeamish you might want to have a blanket with you while you listen. That’s all I can say about it for now, but you can expect it to come out in 2022 for sure.

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