What would a normal "Simpsons" work schedule be like for you?
quote-leftWhen we're on a week-to-week schedule, what I will normally do is spot an episode on Friday afternoon. The music editor will prepare my timing notes on Saturday and Sunday and then I'll start writing, usually Monday morning if it's a "normal" episode of "30 cues or less." If it's more than that, I'll sometimes start on Sunday to get a jump on things and then I'll put in probably four long days—Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday—of maybe nine in the morning until 11:30 or midnight every day. And then we spot the next week's episode Friday afternoon again and I'll record the cues that I've composed during the past week on Friday night starting at seven. We usually have anywhere from a three to a three-and-a-half hour recording session to do those 30 cues. Every week is different on "The Simpsons" as you know. It really is dependent on whether it's straight underscore type of recording that I have to do or if I have to record vocals—if I have to do orchestral sweeteners of songs that I've written in the past. So, it's never a dull moment.
You recently worked on the score to "The Matrix Reloaded", and used similar material from "The Matrix". Tell me a bit about the elements you used to create this score.
Well, the Wachowski Brothers None of us were interested in abandoning what had been established in the first picture; we wanted to expand on it, just like the Wachowskis expanded on their palette. So I was definitely looking to see how I could take those motifs and post-modern concepts and pursue something bigger and more ambitious.
Coming from two successful rock groups (Faith No More and Imperial Teen), how did you make the jump into film music?
I grew up in Los Angeles, and was always into film music as a kid. I moved to San Francisco to attend the film program at San Francisco State to learn film production. San Francisco in the 1980s was a thriving art community - so it made sense to work in a lot of different fields - so I joined a band. The band took me on the road - away from the camera, and the area where I could make films. It ended up being a fulltime job for many years. So I just stopped doing film for a long time while I was touring, since Faith No More turned into a round-the-clock, throughout-the-year, fulltime job. Now, after about 15-years, it makes sense. Since I want to stay home and not do as much touring, I can get back into film.
By working on "Get Carter" you had an opportunity to take a recognizable and respected theme and re-approach it. How was it to take someone else's work and mold it to be your own?
I enjoyed it because I liked Budd's original score which I think is an interesting work of music in and of itself. He wrote the score nearly 30 years ago and recorded the entire bit for a meager 400 pounds. This includes songs, vocalists and an eclectic cast of musicians. I have a great deal of respect for any artist who doesn’t allow money to govern the extent of how far they will go to achieve the ultimate end results. I thought the opportunity to arrange Roy Budd’s theme for the year 2000 was great fun. Additionally, the visual style of the film lent itself to many interesting sonic possibilites, so I was able to incorporate a lot of unique elements into the piece as well as changing the melody instrument. Budd originally played it on a harpsichord. I used a marxophone to give it a different sound. The director and I talked about acquiring the rights to rearrange and re-orchestrate the original Budd theme early on in the project. I had yet to have the opportunity to do a project like that, so I seized it!
Why was this film [Moviola, a documentary on Barry, which was screened moments before] made, and why does it not deal with the diversity and versatility of your music?
There's a very simple answer. This was made by Sony. I'm with Epic Records, and I made an album called Moviola. That album was a compilation of all the romantic themes, or many of the romantic themes, that I've written. And when you listen to an album, I think it's nice to have a transcendent mood rather than a romantic one. So it had a similar tone throughout. It was made by Sony, then it was picked up by Channel 13 in America, and put on a series they had called Great Performances. So that is why it is of this nature. I've also done another album for Sony called Moviola II, which takes care of all the James Bond music, Zulu, all the action films that I've done.
The last time we talked was just before "The Matrix" came out - and it turned out to be quite a hit. With the success of "The Matrix", do you think that has impacted your career thus far, two years later?
quote-leftOh yeah! Anything that has impact like that is going to change somebody's perception by others. "The Matrix" was such a surprise hit, but it's still hard to get projects because now I find myself competing with much higher properties. But I don't think I would have been considered for "Jurassic Park III" if I hadn't done "The Matrix".
You recently went to the Sundance Institute - what can you tell me about that program?
quote-leftRobert Redford started the Sundance Institute about 20 years ago to help foster the careers of up and coming directors and screenwriters. Recently they added a Composer's Lab to their curriculum. Like the filmmaker program, it was a fellowship - they only chose six people out of many applicants, so it was quite an honor to participate. We traveled to the Sundance resort in Utah, and studied for two weeks with a lot of great film composers. Carter Burwell came out, as did Shirley Walker, Mychael Danna, and George S. Clinton. We also got to meet that year's directing fellows - we were paired up with them, and scored the experimental short films that they shot for their program. It was all very much in a demo format - we were provided with a simple synth setup and had to crank it out in a week! It was a very inspiring program.
Dungeons & Dragons is a very thematic score. Where did you find your inspiration for those varied themes?
quote-leftMy inspiration largely came from the story. There are all these different dynamic characters in the story, each with their own ideas and personalities that provided plenty of musical opportunities. My background includes working with Hans Zimmer, and he's a big thematic person, so I think that rubbed off on me a bit. Also, Courtney Solomon (the director) wanted everyone to have their own theme and musical personality.
For K-19: The Widowmaker, you wrote a very orchestral, traditional score. What was your motivation for doing so?
Well, Harrison Ford as a Russian. That's not very convincing by itself, and so you will need music to help sell it. At the beginning, when I first started working on the movie, it ran about four or five hours long. There was a large introduction to the characters before they launched the boat, with Harrison Ford's character, his wife, his whole history. It was all there. So you had a much bigger emotional buildup for what would eventually happen in the film. And therefore, as a Russian, he was much more believable - at least, compared to what you have now. So the music had an important job at the beginning to make you feel the roots and history of the characters. To tell you where they're from, what they feel, why Captain Vostrikov has issues with his father. Is he really the cold strict military government type? Why is Liam Neeson's character so close to his crew? We just jump right in, so you don't get it. You don't have the 300 years of history and how connected Russian society is to the military, and their special pride, and the feel of it. If you go to Russia, and spend some time there, it's quite different. They're a very proud people......
" I'll give you a definite maybe.
" From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it.
" My mother never saw the irony in calling me a son-of-a-bitch.
" Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis.
" I must say that I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a book.
" I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.
" No matter how slow the film, Spirit always stands still long enough for the photographer it has chosen.
" The faster I write the better my output. If I'm going slow I'm in trouble. It means I'm pushing the words instead of being pulled by them.
" It's kind of fun to do the impossible.
" I'll moider da bum!
" Television has done much for psychiatry by spreading information about it, as well as contributing to the need for it.
" You don't write because you want to say something; you write because you've got something to say.
" No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft.
" I saw a woman wearing a sweatshirt with 'Guess' on it.
I said, Thyroid problem?
" The average American family hasn't time for television.
Sage Advise to a Young Oregonian, Barbara Niven
" If you want to make it in show business, get the hell out of Oregon!
" The movies are the only business where you can go out front and applaud yourself.
To a young Eugene Roach on the subject of acting
" Don't ever let 'em catch you at it.
" The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can't find them, make them!
" The problem is not that television presents us with entertaining subject matter,
but, that all subject matter is presented as entertaining.…
" Do, or do not. - There is no 'try'..
" I don't know anything about music. In my line you don't have to.
" Life ain't no dress rehearsal.
" Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?
" Television enables you to be entertained in your home by people you wouldn't have in your home.
" I never forget a face, but in your case I'll be glad to make an exception.
" Seeing a murder on television, can help work off one's antagonisms.
And if you haven't any antagonisms, the commercials will give you some!
" The camera makes everyone a tourist in other people's reality, and eventually in one's own.
" Kiss and make up...
but too much makeup has ruined many a kiss.
From: "Tuesday's with Morrie"
" We must learn to love one another or die.... We must!
" Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by favoring to attempt.
" Women might be able to fake orgasms. But men can fake whole relationships.
Advise to a young Richard Roundtree
" Whatever you do in this business, It's much easier than lifting heavy things.
" I can't wait to one day shoot in Detroit and say 'Let's have this double for Toronto'.
" All I need to make a comedy is a park, a policeman and a pretty girl.
While attending a Production Meeting
" This is no place to ask questions!!
" What's this business of being a writer?
It's just putting one word after another.
" Why should people go out and pay to see bad films when they can stay at home and see bad television for nothing?
" The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense
" The difference between sex and love is that sex relieves tension and love causes it.
" Imitation is the sincerest form of television.
" Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money.
" Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic
" I don't want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying.
" The embarrassing thing is that the salad dressing is outgrossing my films.
" The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it.
" Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.
" The remarkable thing about television is that it permits several million people to laugh at the same joke and still feel lonely.
" The one function TV news performs very well is that when there is no news we give it to you with the same emphasis as if there were.
" It is difficult to produce a television documentary that is both incisive and probing when every twelve minutes one is interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper.
" When you're down and out, something always turns up -- and it's usually the noses of your friends.