MJ Mack: The Musician Behind Function Zero by Greg Tiderington

MJ Mack is the frontman of the group Function Zero, a band that composes music for horror films involved with Cinema Image Productions which is run by scream king Joe Zaso. They have composed wonderful music for the gorefest slasher/splatter flick 'Nikos the Impaler' (Also starring today's scream queen Felissa Rose), 'And Then they Were Dead', 'Machines of Love & Hate' (Which got great reviews) and the most recent horror anthology 'Red Midnight' which came to DVD just now.

He also designed the DVD covers for '5 Dead on the Crimson Canvas', 'Machines of Love & Hate' and 'And Then they Were Dead' What a busy and creative guy indeed.

He started playing music since he was a child and hasn't stopped since and formed many local bands since he was in his teens. I was honoured to have had an interview with MJ as he does great as a composer ever since I saw 'Nikos the Impaler'.


  At what age did you see yourself as a musician?

I began playing music when I was about 10 years old. I was in the concert band and played clarinet. When I was 13, I began playing the bass guitar. I played in my first band , “Missing Link” when I was 16. That band slowly fell apart and my brother, S. Gerard Mack, and I formed our own band “Dead Everything” I was with this band for 3 years until we all went our separate ways because of college and other paths that life took us down.

My brother and I then started writing more keyboard driven tracks and renamed the band Function Zero. With Function Zero we worked with several different singers including Chris Carini and Jilllian K. You can read more about the band at www.functionzero.com

Who were your influences?

My influences were Depeche Mode, Marilyn Manson, Korn, and Garbage

Did you ever imagine yourself composing songtracks for horror films or any other types of films?

When I first started writing music I wasn’t even aware of how big the Independent / underground movie scene was. However, ever since I started doing it I can’t imagine myself ever playing gigs again. I really enjoy seeing my music come to life on film.

How did you find out about Joe Zaso’s film company Cinema Image Productions?

We sent our first demo with Function Zero titled “Deception Bleeds” Into a magazine called “Under the Volcano”. The review stated that our music would be a great fit in the Metal Move Realm. Joe Zaso contacted us because of this and asked to use some of our music for their short film “Szamota’s Mistress” (which is an extra on the Machines of Love and Hate dvd). Without even seeing the film we agreed to let them use our music for free because we figured it would be a great way for our music to be heard. When they shot their next film (Machines of Love and Hate) they contacted us again and asked us to score it.

I enjoy the heavy metal music you composed for the cult gory slasher flick Nikos the Impaler. Did Andreas Schnaas tell you what he needed for the scenes?

Andreas had heard our previous music and totally trusted us to write what we felt.

What kinds of feedback did you get for your composing?

So far all over the reviews of our film scores have been quite positive. We recently got some great reviews on a bunch of indy film websites.

I also loved the songs you used for the film. When you perform at gigs do you ever announce that they were used for the film to the audience?

We no longer perform at gigs and put all of our time into writing and recording music. I also do some post production work and will be editing a new film by Joseph Parda in the next few months.

Was the band asked to have a cameo in the film?

Yes we were, but we really wanted to concentrate on the music. I also worked on the sound efx for the film.

Did you go to Germany to see it playing at the film festivals?

We did not go to Germany.

You really did well with the music for Machines of Love & Hate and some of it was similar to Nikos. Did you just use your old music from the movie and revamped it for this one?

Actually the music for Machines of Love and Hate was written before the music for Nikos. I really feel that we have a very distinct style and many times some of our tracks do sound similar. All of the music for both films were written while watching each film and fit specifically for each film.

Was Joe Zaso giving you some ideas on how to make the film effective with the music beforehand?

Joseph Parda and Joseph Zaso trusted us totally with the music for Machines of Love and Hate. Once a week they would both stop in and check up on our progress, but they were both very happy with everything from the beginning.

Where did you record the music at?

The music was recorded on Pro-Tools HD in a studio I have in my basement,

Did you ever release a soundtrack for the music you composed for of the films Nikos the Impaler, Machines of Love & Hate and And Then They Were Dead? If not, will you ever have one out?

We never released a soundtrack and it’s not likely that we will. To me the music is part of the film and should stay that way.

What kinds of feedback were you getting from fans?

We have gotten a lot of positive reviews on the Nikos the Impaler guestbook which is on the Nikos website. People from all around the world seem to feel that our music is perfect for the films.

Tell me about what kinds of music you did for the horror anthology Red Midnight?

The music for the Red Midnight anthology is a lot more laid back then normal, but still with a lot of feeling and intensity. A lot of the scenes have a very ATONAL feel to them or “mood music”

Did you make a rock video for the film with clips of the flick?

We have not done this but it will most likely be an extra on the next Cinema Image DVD release

What’s up for you after this?

As I said I will be doing some film editing this year. As for the music we are hoping to be working with CIP sometime in mid to Late 06. I also hope to start writing my own film script that hopefully will become one of the next Cinema Image films

Did you ever compose any more songs for other horror films?

The films we have done so far are Szamota’s Mistress, Machines of Love and Hate, Nikos the Impaler, And Then They Were Dead, and Red Midmight

Now here’s some fun stuff:

What are your favourite horror films?

I really loved “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and ALL of the Child’s Play Movies. I really love all types of films. My absolute favorite film of all time is Ghostbusters.

Out of all the songs you composed for the films Nikos, Machines of Love & Hate, And Then They Were Dead and Red Midnight as well as doing the music for them which film as well as a song do you cherish the most?

Its hard to say. My favorite songs definitely come from Machines of Love and Hate. The “Finale” piece (which is the last 12 minutes of the film) is definitely my favorite and was actually written while I had the flu. That is probably why is has so many twists and turns.

I must say that I had the most fun working on “And Then They Were Dead” Ray Schwetz, who wrote, edited, and starred in the film, was a pleasure to work with. Working with someone as talented as Ray made composing the music easy. Fans of the indy films should definitely check this one out. Its funny and very entertaining. You can purchase this and other films I worked on at www.cinemaimages.net I also assisted on the sound efx for this film.

If you were a top musician for one day whether he was alive or dead who would he be?

Wow. That is a tough question. I have so many favorite musicians, but if I had to pick one I would it would be Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I was always been very influenced by his style of play on the bass and would love to play on stage with the Red Hot Chili Peppers one day

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

I recently got married on October 1st, 2005 to my beautiful bride Jennifer. It doesn’t get any more perfect that that.

Also I have been blessed with the most amazing family. It’s because of my Mom, Dad, and Pop-Pop that I was able to achieve what I have to this point. My dad actually gave up his workshop in the basement so I could build my studio where all the magic happens. I don’t think it’s ever easy for a guy to give up his tools. Also my brother Stephen has always been my best friend and also someone that I Have always looked up to.

What are your ambitions in life?

I currently work as a HS special education teacher. If I could have a positive impact on one kid’s life then I would know that I had a successful career.

As for my music I hope to keep working on films and one day win a Grammy for best musical score.

My biggest dream however is to raise beautiful children with my amazing wife.

Other stuff:

Working with Andreas Schnaas during Nikos was such a nightmare that I almost walked off the project several times. Andreas changed his mind so many times that the film probably could have been done in half the time. The only positive of the film was working with Ray Schwetz and Joe Zaso. If you can believe Andreas and crew spent more money on cigarettes than on the Post Production of the film. The crew of the post production were more like puppets than humans. If he has let us use our talents instead of directing our every move I feel the film would have come out so much better.

Looking back I am glad that I finished the project, but if I was ever to work with Andreas again it would be on my terms.

I also have to say that I hope to work with Ray Schwetz, Joe Zaso, and Joseph Parda again in the near future. They are all very talented people that have a lot to offer to the film world. I really feel that given the chance we can all do something GREAT!

I also designed the DVD covers for “And Then They Were Dead”, “Machines of Love and Hate (back cover)”, and “5 Dead on the Crimson Canvas