Soundtrack: Hulu's <I>Hit-Monkey</I>
Marc Loftus
Issue: November/December 2021

Soundtrack: Hulu's Hit-Monkey

Marvel’s Hit-Monkey is an animated series about a Japanese snow monkey that becomes the ‘killer of killers’. Aided by the ghost of an American assassin, Hit-Monkey exists in Tokyo’s dark underworld. Fred Tatasciore is the voice of Hit-Monkey, with Jason Sudeikis (Bryce), Olivia Munn (Akiko), George Takei (Shinji Yokohama) and Ally Maki (Haruka) also providing character voices. The ten-episode program is available exclusively on Hulu. 

Daniel Rojas ( created the show’s original music. Born and raised in the Costa Rican town of Heredia, Rojas has been immersed in music since his childhood. His mother is a classical pianist, originally from China, while his father is a Costa Rican trumpet player and band director. 

After studying film scores and playing in numerous bands, Rojas decided to pursue music professionally at the age of 15. He later went on to study Jazz Guitar and Arranging at the University of North Texas, and moved to Los Angeles upon graduation, where he began working as an assistant and occasional guitarist at multiple studios, including that of composer Klaus Badelt, and Remote Control Productions. He eventually began composing additional music under Klaus, and later decided to open his own studio.
Years later, Rojas has written music for a variety of features, TV shows, trailers and videogames. In addition to the Hulu original series, Marvel’s Hit-Monkey, Rojas has worked on Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K., a stop-motion animated show starring Patton Oswalt. He also wrote the score and original songs for the DreamWorks Animation series for Netflix, Kipo and the Age of the Wonderbeasts.

Here, he shares with Post, insight into his work on Hit-Monkey.

How did you get involved in this project?

“I worked with the music supervisors - Kier Lehman and James Cartwright - previously on the series Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts. We did three seasons of that show together, so we knew each other well. As Kipo was wrapping up, they started working on Hit Monkey and introduced me to show-runners Josh Gordon and Will Speck. I did a few demos to show how I would approach the show and they eventually decided to bring me on board to do the score.”

What were Hit-Monkey’s musical needs?

“The show needed a pretty varied score that could balance the comedy and action with some darker undertones. We wanted to capture a rock-n-roll attitude overall, but the team at Marvel wanted it to feel very cinematic and large in scope too, so the music is quite aggressive and big at times. There was a good amount of licensed songs, so the score had to work around those and help the transitions. We also wanted to bring a hint of Japanese sounds when it was appropriate, but not be too on-the-nose that it could be distracting. I love Asian music, so that was a nice thing to explore and bring in as well.”

How many music cues did you create?

“Quite a few. Some are shorter than others, but in general we had between 25 and 30 cues per episode. So probably around 10 times that much in total.” 

What is your writing and recording process?

“For the most part, I write and record at the same time, because the music production itself is quite essential to my sound. Having a background as a song producer, I’m used to making my demos as final as possible, and most of my sessions are audio-based, instead of using so much MIDI. I record most of the instruments and synthesizers as I write, except for when we need to bring more orchestral elements. Those are generally written using samples that then get replaced by real players. On Hit Monkey, there are usually two or three orchestral cues in each episode, so it’s not a particularly heavy orchestral score. The recording we did was mostly strings in Budapest and some soloists here in the US.”

What gear do you use to record and mix with?

“I use Logic and Ableton for software, an Apogee interface, a pair of UA 6176 pre-amps and compressors, a Kemper Amp profiler to record guitars and basses, and a few hardware synthesizers and effect pedals. I mixed most of the show myself, but had a mix engineer (Eric Bard) do a mix polish for the soundtrack, as well as a mastering engineer (Pat Sullivan).”