by Dan Goldwasser
Composer Steve Jablonsky has been busy the past few years contributing music to such blockbuster feature films as Chicken Run, Hannibal, Pearl Harbor, Spirit: The Stallion of the Cimarron, Pirates of the Caribbean and Bad Boys II.† His most recent project, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was number one at the box office.† SoundtrackNet had a chance to talk with Steve about his work on this film, in the first of a two-part interview.
How did you get involved with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre?
Well, it was pretty easy, to be honest.† I have worked on a lot of Jerry Bruckheimer films, so I knew Michael Bay pretty well, as well as other members of the Bruckheimer team, including music editor Bob Badami, and associate producer Pat Sandston. One day when I was working on Tears of the Sun, Bob walked up to me and told me that Michael was doing a remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - which is one of my favorite movies of all time - and he wanted to know if I was interested in scoring it!†
So you didn't have to submit a demo, or anything like that?
Not at all - in this case, it was about who I knew, and that I had worked with these guys before.† Iíve heard through the grapevine that there were a lot of composers trying to get this project.† I would have even tried to get it, had it not been offered to me!
How long did you have to work on the project?
It was a pretty quick turnaround - I'm not sure why, but it just happened that way.† I would guess 4-5 weeks.† That's a decent amount of time for a 60-70 minute score.† It's certainly a luxury compared to some of the schedules I've had in the past!
You had a rather full summer, with Bad Boys II and Pirates of the Caribbean in addition to TCM.† When did you have time to work on it all?
Texas Chainsaw wasn't supposed to be released until next year actually.† The budget was small, so they couldn't afford to keep the crew on payroll until then, so we had to get it done sooner rather than later.† It was originally scheduled for release on October 17 (which is when it ultimately came out), but then New Line pushed it to January.† Everyone flipped out, saying it was a really bad idea - release a horror film in January!?† I don't know what changed their mind - Michael Bay probably made a few phone calls, and fortunately it got put back to October 17, which as we all know, was a better decision.
So given the chronology of things, you finished Texas Chainsaw before Pirates of the Caribbean even though it came out afterwards?
Yeah, I'm trying to remember the chronology of events.† I worked on Texas Chainsaw, then Pirates, and then Bad Boys II.† I was about to start on Steamboy after finishing TCM, which is this Japanese Anime project I'm signed on.† So one day I was walking through a hallway at Media Ventures, just when a Pirates meeting was letting out.† Jerry Bruckheimer, Gore Verbinski, and Hans Zimmer were coming out of the room, and Jerry pointed to me and said, "You!† What are you doing?"† I told him I was getting going on this animation project, and he said "We need you!" so I couldn't turn that down.† I had originally said no to Klaus Badelt, but fortunately Steamboy got pushed a little, so it worked out, and I made the time.† And after that, I went right into Bad Boys II.† It's been a very busy summer!
Did you use any themes from the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre?
No, I didn't use anything from the original movie.† We used a couple bits of sound design from the first film, like the camera flash effect used in the trailer and the opening sequence of the film.† But musically, it's all mine.
This is your first horror film - how did you approach it?
I just went with my gut instincts. The temp score was filled with big orchestral traditional horror music, and Michael Bay didn't like that.† It's just not his thing.† He'd hear the temp and say, "Oh, it's that old-fashioned crap."† So that gave me a direction where to go with the score.† I even hooked up with Mel Wesson, a sound designer, and we tried to come up with sounds no one has heard before.
We had worked before on Hannibal, Black Hawk Down, and Tears of the Sun. He lives in London, so we collaborated over the internet.† We talked a little about the project when he was out here for Tears of the Sun, and we started developing some sounds together.† I would send him each cue, he would do his thing, and send it back.† Then I would do the final mix here at MediaVentures.† It worked out pretty well!
How do your final cues differ from the original ones you sent Mel?
They're basically the same, but Mel would add a few more layers of "weirdness" to what I had done.† Because there was a bit of a time crunch, and I had a lot of music to write, I had to schedule my time pretty carefully.† For example, I would work 2-3 days on a big cue, send Mel the piece, and continue working on other scenes.† And if I had time, I would go back to the cue.† He has such a great ear for layering things in, and was able to keep it completely in the context of what I was doing.
Were you able to use an orchestra at all for the score?
Nope.† There's nothing live on there - there just wasn't any money for it!† The film's total budget was super-cheap - about $9.5 million, and Bay was thrilled with the end result, considering how low budget it was.
This is the directorial debut for Marcus Nispel - how did you two get along?
Oh, we had a great time working together.† His background is in commercials and music videos.† He has such a good eye, and such an experienced team of people who are used to getting in, shooting, and getting out.† That helped them pull the film off for very little money, and have it look much more expensive.† It has such a great look to it - cinematographer Daniel Pearl even worked as the cinematographer on the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre!
Marcus said that he looks at the original film in comparison to this one much like comparing Ridley Scott's Alien to James Cameron's Aliens. The first one is really gritty and cerebral and slower paced, while the second one is more of a faster paced action film, and I see what he means by that.† This film keeps the energy up, and that's what Michael Bay really wanted the score to do.
You have a soundtrack release of the score - how does it compare to the film mix?
Well, a good friend of mine who does a lot of Hans Zimmer's albums compiled the CD for me.† I gave her all of the music stems, and told her to just do her thing.† She came back with a really good record, and I hope everyone enjoys it.† It's a different experience than what you hear in the film, since it has to work as a CD.† Some things might be mixed a little differently to take you from cue to cue.† But it's very close to what was heard in the film.† It's a comprehensive album, but it's not entirely complete - we might have left off some short cues that just didn't have a place on the album.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is still in theaters, and going strong.† The soundtrack album is available on La-La Land Records.† Special thanks to Wendy Rutherford, Michael Gerhard, and Mark Banning. Look for part two of our interview with Steve Jablonsky coming soon!