I’ve been lucky enough to know Eric Walker for a few years now. For those that don’t know who Eric is, he was the lead actor in Caravan of Courage. It was the first of two Star Wars made-for-TV films set on the forest moon of Endor. Eric was a child star, and these days he’s an accomplished musician. His work is eclectic, best described as soundtrack-like, with ambient universe spanning sonics, accompanied by funk. Speaking as a musician myself I get quite a kick out of listening to his work, which you’ll find is inspired by science fiction and some songs from the Star Wars films.
He joins us to take a trip down memory lane, and to talk about his brand new music podcast, www.righteousriffs.net.
Fantha Tracks: Hi Eric, welcome to Fantha Tracks! How did you first get into acting?
Eric Walker: I was playing on an local American football team when our they were approached by Jack In The Box. They wanted to use us in a commercial. They used us in uniform getting out of a team van and eating at the fast food restaurant. I got paid like $300 and free food. Since I was only 6 or 7 years old I thought “Wow, that’s a lot of money and I also got to eat whatever I wanted”. Even today that’s a lot of money, and this is back in 1976 or 1977.
FT: How did Caravan of Courage come about?
EW: I got a call from my agent for a same day, general interview at the Egg Factory, which was across the street from Universal Studios. I later found out it was Lucasfilm’s Los Angeles office. I was told it was for the part of a tough kid in a 1 hour after-school special for CBS. They were just meeting with kids and I would not have to audition just meet the producer and director to see if I fit the part.
During the meeting, they liked me so much they asked if I could do an audition called a cold reading. They would give me about 10 to 15 minutes to study the lines. I agreed on one condition – if I could also do a monologue I had prepared for general meetings. The director John Korty seemed to get a kick out of it and said sure, so I went out with my father Gene Walker and worked on my lines.
They also asked to record it for the Executive Producer later to see it not telling me who it was. I did my lines and my monologue and they thanked me and said we will be in touch.
About a week later I got asked to do a screen test with Aubree Miller in Mill Valley just north of San Francisco. They paid me for the screen test. We filmed a few scenes from the movie at Korty Films in their backyard which was on a hill with large pine trees. Also during the day they brought out an Ewok on a stick to make sure Aubree would not be afraid of it. She loved it and hugged it like it was a teddy bear. I mean come on, who would be afraid of an Ewok other than Stormtroopers.
At the end of the day they asked us to wait outside for about 15 minutes while they looked at footage. Then they came out and told both Aubree and myself congratulations, we’ve got the part. That was about 1 month before shooting began on June 11th 1984.
FT: You had quite a fun time on the film working with your friend, Warwick Davis. Tell us about the behind the scenes documentary footage you filmed?
EW: Warwick Davis and I are the same age and our birthdays are only 3 days apart. I am 3 days older than Warwick, me being born On January 31st and him on February 3rd. So being the same age we became friends right away. We also had a lot in common. We both wanted to become filmmakers, so the set teacher came up with an idea for a school project – why don’t we do a behind the scenes documentary and making of the Ewok movie? At the time it was called “The Ewok Holiday special”.
So we ran around the set with Warwick’s camera and one that was rented for us by the producer Tom Smith interviewing people and also doing funny comedic commercials. Warwick was a ham and loved to make people laugh.
On my YouTube channel I put together a 12 minute version with some of the footage, but we actually have about 2 hours worth.
FT: Your main passion is music, what got you excited about music?
EW: Melodic tones and rhythms. Sometimes I get them from my dreams and they are given to me by the creator. Strong melody and good chord progressions are the most important thing in a song. If you are not humming the melody all day along then it is not a good one. I have written a lot of good melodies and some not so good, just like all composers.
Each album I have written starts out with 30 to 40 songs. I then narrow it down to 20 and after that down to what fits the concept of the album and we arrive at 10 to 12 songs.
FT: What was some of the music you grew up listening to?
EW: Growing up I listen to a little bit of every style of music from Pop to Rock and Funk. I listened to some of the pioneers of Electronic music like Tangerine Dream, Jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis, Kitaro, and Yanni.
FT: What musicians/composers did you find influenced you?
EW: Jean Michel Jarre and Tangerine Dream were my biggest influences. But growing up listening to George Clinton and Parliament. Funkadelic is where my funk side comes from. Vangelis also was a big influence.
FT: Your first album Tangier Dream is truly breathtaking. Tell us about the name, an influence?
EW: This came to me in one of my dreams. It was the future and I was in Tangier meditating in a valley filled with thousands of people from all over the world. It was a very spiritual dream and calming. I felt a strong connection and a harmonic convergence. I kept hearing the word “The Silence” at the end of it so I put it in the song before it kicks into gear around the 2 minute mark.
The most played track is Dimension Walker which got a lot of radio airplay on Sirius XM satellite Chill channel. Not sure why, but people seem like that track and fans have even made YouTube videos using it.
I also took part of the album to introduce The Time Keepers which is a Sci-Fi story I have been working on and plan to release a novel at the end of this year or beginning of 2019. The novel will also be released with new music inspired by the story, so the reader can listen to the music as they read it, something I don’t think has been done before. The tracks based on the Time Keepers story are Alien Space and Sunrise on Wasp 17b.
FT: What grabbed me right away is just atmospheric your sound is. It’s layered with such brilliant ambience. How do you achieve such a sound?
EW: I used a lot of pad sounds that are layered with sometimes 4 or 5 times deep to create the overall ambient texture, but I also sample real instruments and orchestra sounds from Violins, Cellos and Basses, more so in my newer stuff. I have a big arsenal of over 30,000+ instrument sounds to call upon, so the sky’s the limit.
Tangier Dream was followed by Universal Delight, and then recently Brand New Day.
FT: Let’s talk about some of the great tracks you’ve written over the years. Firstly my favourite: Alien Space.
EW: Sure. Brand New Day was the most recent. It was up for a Grammy under Best New Age Album, which was a mistake as it is more electronic and dance. Since you mentioned it, Alien Space was an experimental track that was conceived out of the Time Keepers series. I wanted to musically describe what traveling through space being guided by living organisms as a means of propulsion. It is fluid type of space that is flowing like water. It is a very volatile part of space as well and if you using any form of propulsion you will explode.
From that came Sunrise on Wasp 17b which is an unusual planet since it rotates in the opposite direction of its sun. It is an actual planet in our universe that does what I just said and I got the idea to write a song about it after it was discovered. So look it up – Wasp17b since it’s real.
FT: Return to Endor is another track I love, tell us about its significance, and the sound.
There is a well-used publicity still with Mace, Cindel, and Wicket watching this ceremony. So to honor the Ewoks and Mace the song was written to take me back to a galaxy far far away.
FT: The Funkness, says it all. What is it about funk that grabs you musically?
EW: The Rhythm. Getting Funky is my favorite thing to do. It’s music that makes you want to move your whole body. I’ve got to have at least one funky track per album. It started with Dimension Walker on Tangier Dream, then went to Funkdified on Universal Delight and The Funkness on Brand New Day. It’s kind of become my signature 2nd track on all my albums, and I plan to keep it that way. Just like the 3rd track has to be a song for and named after my wife Nhu. One day I will release an entire album and maybe call it ‘Nothin’ but the funk‘.
FT: Tell us about Pandora.
EW: Pandora was a track inspired by the movie Avatar. When you listen to it, watch the scenes where they are flying with their Toruk and also in prayer with the drums.
FT: You’re currently working on a new music podcast, tell us how you came to do it.
EW: Yes I started a new podcast network called Righteous Riffs. The first podcast is a music show called “The Headliners Show”. We started off interviewing Brooke Simpson from The Voice. She was on team Miley Cyrus and finished in 3rd place. We also just interviewed Jonathan Cain the lead keyboardist and member of the group Journey. He wrote their songs “Faithfully” and “Don’t Stop Believing”. He is about to go out on tour with Def Leppard.
On the same network I am about to start a Sci-Fi show called “All For Sci-Fi”. We will be looking at everything from Movies, Television shows, books, music, and everything that is Sci-Fi.
FT: Where can people find your music, and the podcast?
EW: The podcasts can be found on www.righteousriffs.net.