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The Sound

Cantrell and Moreno ‘bridge the gap between music and film’


Rich Cantrell and Thor Moreno team up in music and in film. The movie “Iowa” debuts at the Varsity Theater on Saturday, Dec. 15 at 9:30 p.m.

The friendship between Rich Cantrell and Thor Moreno is one that stretches back to Des Moines’ hard rock halcyon days.

“We’ve known each other since we were kids,” Cantrell said during an interview. “I played in a band called Redwing, and Thor used to be in a band also, back in the day.”

“I was 19 when we were opening for (Redwing),” Moreno recalled.

The ’80s and early ’90s were a heady time to be in a rock band in central Iowa. Big things were afoot in the capital city and, as that high-water mark would crest a few years later, the national stage would be made aware of a band of masked musicians who called themselves Slipknot. 

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But for the time being, it was a very good time to be playing music in Des Moines, and Redwing was at the forefront of that sound. 

“The scene was really starting to happen,” Cantrell recalled. “We were playing gigs together with the Stone Sour guys, and everything was fresh and new. That’s where (Thor and I) met: (His band) would come out and see our shows.”              

“We begged and begged and begged for an opening spot,” Moreno laughed.           

“So they started playing with us, and that’s how we met,” Cantrell concluded. “Through music.”             

Fast forward 20 years, and Moreno’s talents have transitioned from band work to filmmaking.            

“I’ve always thought that it would be great to incorporate some of what (Rich) was doing into what we were doing,” Moreno explained. “It didn’t work for a while, but Rich reached out to me and said, ‘If you ever need something for one of the films, let me know.’ It took about a year.”              

Then came the feature film, “I Think I Just Saw The Devil,” which Moreno shot in 2011. When it came time to score the film, turning to his friend Cantrell seemed like an obvious choice. Moreno approached Cantrell with the idea, and the results turned out better than anyone could have hoped.            

“He was kind enough to donate a summer writing for “Devil” and wound up getting nominated for Best Soundtrack by the Iowa Motion Picture Association,” Moreno said.          

Since then — as indie filmmakers are wont to do — Moreno has worked quickly: His second feature, “Iowa,” debuts at the Varsity Theater on Dec. 15, and Moreno has already started working his biggest production to date: the $300,000-budgeted “Murder Incorporated.”            

Moving right along with him, Cantrell just finished the score for “Iowa” afair weeks ago and is waiting to step up and help with “Murder Inc.” when the time comes.              

“What’s cool about what we do is being able to bridge the gap between filmmakers and musicians,” Cantrell said. “A lot of the stuff that Thor does is local — local actors and the like.”             

The music is no different. Moreno used tracks from Cantrell’s band Cirrus Minor in “Devil” and pulled a couple from Des Moines act Issac James for “Iowa,” in addition to having Cantrell write the scores.             

“I love doing this type of music,” Cantrell said. “(I) just sit down and watch and think, ‘How does this scene make me feel, and how do I convey that?’ I love it, man.”              

And for Moreno, whether it’s Cantrell’s scores or tracks from Des Moines bands, keeping things local is not only supportive of the hometown scene, it’s one-stop shopping              

“We can find everything that we want here,” Moreno said. “If I want urban music; if I want country; if I want blues, we can find it all right here. If we can get local musicians working on a local film, why not?” CV

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