by Dan Goldwasser
You were the Music Director of Saturday Night Live from 1975-1980. What were your duties on the show?
I helped create the show in 1975. It was a very small group of people, so we more or less did everything. It has expanded now, and has splintered off into different departments that do different things on the show. It was great fun being at the 25th Anniversary celebration. They brought back the original band from 1975. There was an original house band for the show, and there were other great New York musicians that would float in and out of the band. Overall, there were about ten musicians central to the show. I wrote the themes to the show, helped to book the music acts, did a lot of the arrangements, and conducted the live shows.
You wrote the score to the upcoming film, Dogma, which is Kevin Smith's latest film. What was your approach to scoring this controversial movie?
It's a religious epic. Think of all those older religious movies - The Ten Commandments, The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Robe, The Bible, etc. The history of all religious epics is in this movie. A half-century's worth of religious movies was inspiration for the score.
When people hear Dogma it will be something completely different than anything you have heard from me before. It's not a huge orchestra - only about 31 players. I wanted it to be a small orchestra sounding big - it's a "budgetary epic". It was all recorded live, and has a lot of energy to it. The performances on the CD are just wonderful. Madame Jeanne Loriod plays the Ondes Martenot - she plays the solo theme in one predominant scene in the movie. The soundtrack will be released on Maverick Records. Alanis Morissette wrote and recorded one new song for the film called "Still" and that song and the score comprise the CD. There's a song that Kevin and I wrote for the movie: "Mooby the Golden Calf" which is also on the CD. It's a children's song - you'll have to see the movie to understand. I certainly had a lot of fun working with Kevin!
Many people tend to associate you with dark, brooding scores. But you have scored many comedies as well. Do you think you've been typecast?
How could I be typecast? I feel like I've done so many different types of movies. It's probably because the movies that were dark, like the Silence of the Lambs and Seven were important in the culture of movies in the 90s. Because they were influential and I worked on those films, most people remember those when they think of me. I've also scored comedies like Ed Wood, Big, Analyze This, Nobody's Fool, Mr. Doubtfire, She-Devil, etc.
Where did you study music?
I studied composition with John Bavicci in Boston during the mid-sixties at Berklee. I also studied with Joe Viola, Charlie Mariano and Herb Pomery. I was on the road for four years from 1969-1972 playing with Lighthouse, opening for the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Led Zepplin and Hendrix. I recorded eight albums. I then wrote documentary scores in the early seventies and did music director gigs at CBC radio and television. In 1975 I moved to New York for Saturday Night Live and started feature scoring in 1979.
Do you feel you tend to gravitate towards darker projects?
I would accept the projects that were the most interesting at the time, depending on the way that I felt about doing that type of work. I would accept certain things depending on how I felt musically, and what I was working on privately at the time as well.
The reason I was interested in working on films was because I thought that it was a way to have a performance of more serious work. I would do projects and use the ideas that I was thinking about musically in the film. I would accept certain projects because it allowed me to express myself musically. I don't think it's that uncommon. For example, Looking for Richard was a composition that I wrote based on the Shakespearean characters in the play "Richard III". Film music was a way for me to express myself musically that I wasn't able to do on some other level. Additionally, some of the darker films allows one to express ideas that are more dense than other lighter comedies - as a composer you could go a little deeper.
Earlier this year, you scored eXistenZ for David Cronenberg...
I have now worked on nine films with Cronenberg. I enjoy working with him very much, and we've been working together for 20 years - since The Brood in 1979. It was one of the first films that I scored.
You had scored Seven and The Game for David Fincher. People seemed to expect that you would be scoring Fight Club - was that ever a possibility?
I talked to David a bit about it, but he wanted a techno score. I think he wanted to do something specific, so it just wasn't the right project for me. I really enjoyed working with him on Seven and The Game, and it would be very nice to work with him again.
What are you working on now?
I'm currently working on a solo project - a record that I'm recording now in Philadelphia. It's an album comprised of pieces that I've written - mostly chamber music that I've been working on for a while. When I have enough material, I will go and record them. There's a record coming out of chamber music by Film Composers on Arabesque Records, and there are two pieces of mine on that recording. I think that there's also a Michael Kamen piece, a Rachel Portman piece, and a Bruce Broughton piece. Basically, I'm writing music for an acoustic space using chamber-sized groups to record with. That's the solo album; the Arabesque album is similar. My album should be out sometime after the New Year.