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The Airwolf Saga

by Mark J. Cairns

Mark Cairns is a huge Airwolf fan and has been working on recreating the show's music for an album release. This is his story:

The History of the Project

The project started about 12 years ago after the Airwolf TV series' cancellation on CBS. I was in love with THAT helicopter and THAT music. I searched worldwide (no World Wide Web back then) for the official soundrack from the show's two original composers - Sylvester Levay and Udi Harpaz - but no, nothing... just three horrible renditions on "television albums" - one by the Power Pack Orchestra, the second arranged by Daniel Caine in the UK (used on about four albums since!) and the third was probably the strongest in the Japanese Airwolf/Knight Rider CD. But NO original composition or arrangement. Nobody understood theme as well as I did, probably as well, if not better than Sylvester Levay himself. I remember finding Lukas Kendall's address in the early nineties when he was doing 'The Soundtrack Club' newsletter and asking him how I could contact my musical hero - Sly Levay. He gave me his agent's address, where I eventually got a letter off to him, asking things about the music - i.e. when will we hear the original stuff you did. I got a reply about four months later from Sylvester but he'd obviously moved on to other projects, and basically nobody had come up with the money to pay the huge licence fee to MCA, etc. I thought "some day!"

I was already messing around with the theme on a Yamaha organ in the mid-eighties, but I knew someday I'd need computer kit/proper professional synths if I was ever to recreate the show's main theme - all utter self-indulgence, of course!

During this time I started an international Appreciation Association for the Airwolf series, banging out a semi-professional magazine continually until 1997.

I won some money on a radio station competition in 1995, bought a pro synth and just built it up from there. At the start, it, again, was all self-indulgence. The first theme I mucked about with was the Airwolf theme... for the first time complete with the synth's built-in sequencer. But I quickly outgrew that, bought an Apple PowerMac (I'm a graphic designer by profession) for free-lance graphics work, which then doubled up as a professional music studio.

One day, a friend of mine heard my rendition of the Airwolf main theme, and said: "That's a class recording. What CD did you get that of?" I told him it was my own. He had thought it was the original, it was so close.

Then I let other people (within the Airwolf Association) hear the main theme, and they agreed. And the project just grew from that acorn.

I did a few more episodic tracks, sent them to an Airwolf Association member who was a soundtrack publisher in his spare time, we got talking, and voila... the AIRWOLF THEMES CD was born.

Bad Advice

The real problem since 1995 was bad advice. We were originally told when we approached MCA music in London that we'd have to find Sylvester Levay and Udi Harpaz to get their permission to do the project. Well, a frantic search for well over a year brought up nothing... until I got on "the Net" through my job.

I couldn't find either of them, until I used a bit of lateral thinking as to finding them through the search engines on the Net (Thank you 'Excite'!). Neither Sly nor Udi had done any TV/film work for over five years. This was not a good sign at the start! How would I find them now? Well, one day in March (1998), Excite brought up a little gem of information that Sylvester had done a musical in Austria called 'Elisabeth'... a huge hit there, on par with an Andrew Lloyd Webber, here in the UK.

Meanwhile, I was constantly developing new episodic tracks from Airwolf, as close to their original sound, feel and arrangement

On-Line Fan Network Lead

I found an on-line fan's discussion forum just about 'Elisabeth'. I wrote a desperate plea of an e-mail to the Webmaster of the Forum and she in turn passed on my details to the marketing firm behind the musical, who in turn, passed my details directly to Sylvester Levay. Isn't the Net wonderful!

I got my producer in contact with him in April and, as it turns out, MCA had the sole rights to the music of Airwolf all along... we didn't need either Sylvester nor Udi's permission at all!! Arggghhhh! Talk about bad advice.

Well I felt 'let's make a good job from bad and expand the project', so I asked my producer to approach Sylvester with an offer to do a bonus CD for the project and here we are.

Post Production Scheduled to Start November 9, 1998

I hit studio the second week of November for final post production and mastering of what will probably be 27 episodic tracks on my CD, and three extended tracks (still to be finalised!) from Sylvester Levay on his. I want to give ultimate value-for-money... 30 tracks is exceptional nowadays... the real problem I have now is when to stop... some of the tracks will have to be pulled because of lack of physical space on CDs... so you'll all be getting the full 74 minutes for your money + the bonus of Levay's NEW stuff.

The whole philosophy of the project from the start has been to develop a soundtrack score that "I" would want to buy... being (probably) the biggest Airwolf fan in the world today. If a track isn't up to standard, it WON'T go on, simple as that!

16-Page Souvenir Booklet

The other advantage with me doing the project (apart from being a huge fan of Levay' and Harpaz' work) is that being a graphic designer by profession I can do all the artwork myself. I've also met Airwolf's original designer this year (via the Net) too, which is great and I've not developed super high resolution artwork (from the show) and the original typeface again, to keep the production standards up.


I intend to make it available to as many people as possible, but obviously there isn't unlimited resources behind the project like many Hollywood scores, but there is a very good budget behind the project. Thus, the CD will have full retail distribution in the UK, and we're in negotiations about an export of about 40% to the USA to the bigger mail order channels over there. There will also be a good Mail Order service available from the UK for everyone else around the globe, so everyone has a chance to get a copy.

The Final Word...

I'm a great believer that everyone has "at least one novel in them". Well, my heart and soul (and a good whack of my personal bank balance!) has gone into this project .. this is my contribution to that train of thought.

Airwolf Themes CD

Production Run: 5,000 copies

Release Date: March 1999

We will have updates here at the FSM site as this project comes closer to completion.

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