Gary Calamar uncovered his passion for music during the 60’s British invasion and it has evolved into a full-blown immersion. The man whose voice you’d recognize on Los Angeles’KCRW has paid his dues over the years, fiercely working his way onto the airwaves and into the film and television music supervision industry.
He has a few Grammy nominations under his belt and published a book of his experiences around the critical influence of record stores, Record Store Days: From Vinyl to Digital and Back Again. Gary continues to create at a feverish pace; he is currently music supervising The Man in the High Castle and Good Girls Revolt (both for Amazon), the upcoming Mr. Mercedes (AT&T/Audience), hosting the Mimosa Music Series, releasing his own original music, and gracing the airwaves of KCRW.
He recently invited us into his home studio in Laurel Canyon, a music-lover and collector’s dream–surrounded by rows and rows of albums, from the timely to the timeless.
When did you first discover your profound love for music? Was there a particular event or experience that guided you?
I think the big bang for me (and many others) was seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show on February 9, 1964! I was at my grandmothers house in the Bronx, New York. Me and my older brother, Ronny, were glued to the black and white TV set. It blew my little mind. Later when I heard the fuzz guitar opening of The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” I knew there was no turning back. The British had invaded my life. The transistor radio was hidden under my pillow every night listening to the top 40 of WABC and WMCA. The Who, The Kinks and The Dave Clark 5 were my best friends growing up. I wasn’t sure how it was going to happen but I knew that this was the path I wanted to follow.
How did you expand and evolve your involvement in radio, films and television over the years? Did you ever have a mentor or muse?
As far as music supervision goes I had a great mentor in G. Marq Roswell. We met in the late 90’s and hit it off as friends and music lovers. He had music supervised some great films like Wild At Heart and The Commitments. I was hoping to get into music supervision and when an opportunity came up to supervise Slums Of Beverly Hills we decided to team up. He was very generous in showing me the ropes and introducing me to the players. After Slums we did Varsity Blues together. We had a great time and I learned a lot about the business.
Have you encountered any risks or great challenges to get to where you are today in your career?
I’ve always just put one foot in front of the other in hopes of working with the music that I loved. I’ve had many jobs in the industry, from working in record stores, managing bands, concert promotion and lately, writing and recording my own music. I’ve enjoyed every step of the way. I used to joke to myself that I wanted to work my way to the top of the music business and then work my way down again because I’ve enjoyed each step. I guess the biggest challenge for me right now is competing with the talented music supervisors out there who are competing for the same gigs.
When thinking about the future of your work what projects or paths are you most excited about?
I’m very excited about my two current projects: The Man In The High Castle and Good Girls Revolt, both for Amazon. They are both period pieces and have some fun and interesting challenges. High Castle takes place in 1962 in an alternate universe where the U.S. lost WWII to Germany and Japan. It’s wild. So it’s been challenging to find music that would exist in this world as well as appropriate music from Germany and Japan. Good Girls takes place as the 1960’s turn into the 1970’s and we use a lot of music from that time period, from Black Sabbath to Joni Mitchell. I love it!
What are some underrated sub-genres of music that you personally have a penchant for? Any artists in particular that you feel have been overlooked?
I’m a big fan of French Pop from artists like Serge Gainsbourg and Francoise Hardy. These days I’m a big fan of the french artist Christine and The Queens. The songs are great and the choreography in the videos and at the live shows is brilliant!
We live in a time where a majority of people don’t physically own the music they listen to. What tangible medium of albums do you miss the most?
I like vinyl and have a great collection although I don’t find myself using my turntable all that much. I love how the album artwork is presented in the 12X12 format. I made mix tapes on cassette when they were popular. I like CDs and MP3s and am happy to change with the changing times as far as formats go. I don’t get too hung up on it. It’s the music that matters.
In the soundtrack of your life, what song would be playing in the opening and closing credits?
Opening: “Thirteen” by Big Star
Closing: “If Only” by Maria Taylor
Honorable Mention: “The Prince of Pico Blvd.” by Gary Calamar (coming in January 2017)
If you could be a roadie on tour with any band in any time in history, who would it be?
Let’s go with The Beatles in Hamburg before Beatlemania took over the world. It would be fascinating to see the fab four as they were just coming in to their own and beginning to see the magic they could create and the power in their music. I would have loved to be there when John Lennon asked the band “Where are we going boys?” to which they would respond, “To the toppermost of the poppermost, Johnny!”(sigh).
Gary Calamar wears the Clover in Matte Black
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