Interviewed by Michael Laskow

Where did you grow up?

Woodland Hills, California.

How did you get into the music business?

I started as a musician playing in bands in the Valley. Then to earn money, of course, I began working in the cutout record distribution business as a warehouse guy fulfilling orders. Then I ended up at Music Plus, which was a retail chain out here, in their warehouse. And then that led me to Licorice Pizza, where I was for five or six years. I worked my way up and eventually became the head of marketing for the chain.

Through that job I had developed a real close relationship with Arista Records. In 1986, Licorice Pizza was bought by Musicland. They closed it down, so I lost my job there. It was at that point that I decided I wanted to be an A&R guy. I went to my friends at Arista and tried to convince them to let me have an A&R gig here on the West Coast. They offered me a marketing gig in New York, which I turned down. I waited around for another eight or nine months. Finally I got a call, and I was given a director-level job in the L.A. office.

So I did A&R at Arista for about six years until I met Jim Cameron. He was getting a label started that was going to be distributed through Sony. He needed somebody to come in and run it. He and I got along really well, so he hired me. I went to work for his company, Lightstorm Entertainment, in 1992. I stayed there until 1996. That's where I learned how to music supervise movies. I then started doing that a lot, including third party movies. He didn't care if I did movies for other people. I did that while we were doing our thing with Sony, but our thing with Sony didn't work out at all.. So we ended that deal, and I kept music supervising. Then I was offered a job to run the music department of a studio, Rysher Entertainment, in 1996. I built the music department there until Rysher was sold to Paramount in 1998.

At that time, I came over here to start a soundtrack label for Norm Waitt Jr., who co-founded Gateway 2000 Computers. That's where you are now. You're at Gold Circle Entertainment. It encompasses a film company, called Gold Circle Films, which makes independent films. I'm working on two of them right now. And it's a record company, Gold Circle Records, which is a pop label. I run the soundtrack division. I'm the president of Gold Circle Soundtracks. I brought my music supervision company, See Hear, under this umbrella. So we music supervise and we look for soundtrack albums. That's most of what I do.

What movie had James Cameron just done in 1992 when you hooked up with him?

He was flush in the profits of Terminator 2. T2 had been a finished project when I met him 1992. T2 had come out much earlier than that. Jim is not a prolific director. When I met him, he was preparing the script to True Lies, which was the first movie I supervised for him.

What other movies have you done with him, and at Rysher, and here?

I supervised True Lies, Strange Days, Renaissance Man, The Thirteenth Floor, The Opposite of Sex, The Mod Squad and Titanic. I have a film coming out pretty soon called The Weight of Water, directed by Catherine Bigelow, the lady that directed Strange Days. It's a really cool movie starring Sean Penn. I'm currently doing Dark Angel for Jim Cameron and Fox. That's the music supervision side. The label here put out The Blair Witch Project soundtrack, Spy Kids, The Legend of Bagger Vance, 8mm, and A Simple Plan. Then I executive produced some soundtrack albums that came out on other labels. Some of those are Two Days In The Valley, Big Night, Private Parts, and The Mod Squad.

When during filmmaking does the music supervisor start getting involved?

Not early enough. We'd like to be there from the beginning. We'd like to start before they start shooting the movie. But it rarely happens, unless it's a movie that has a lot of on-camera stuff. Then obviously the music supervisor has to start to be able to supervise the on-camera music. But if there isn't on-camera music, the supervisor can start, and often does, around the time that they start editing the picture in the post-production time. That's usually the time that I've been hired.

Do you work with the score composer as well?

I do. I don't know if all supervisors do, but almost on every movie I'm asked to be the person to provide the ideas for the composer. I get very involved with that. I like that, and I know a lot of the composers.

Can you define the different types of usages in a movie? For example, what is source music? What is underscore?

'Source' is when a song, usually a pop song, is heard emanating from a source, like a radio or a band on a stage. So 'source' is exactly what it means. It's emanating from a source. Often there will be songs used that aren't emanating from a source, like two people driving through the desert, and there is a song playing. It might not be coming out of their radio, but it's just a way to underscore the movie with a song. I call that 'scource' music, because it falls somewhere between source and score.

Then you've got your underscore music, which scores the different emotions occurring in the movie at that time, on a scene by scene basis. Most of the music in your typical movie is score music, originally composed by a composer who is hired to do that. In terms of songs, most movies have somewhere between five and twenty songs to supplement the score.

What is a temp track?

A temp track is this evil thing that picture editors and directors usually begin doing when they start editing the picture (laughter). They want to play music to the picture and get a feel for how the picture is developing from an editorial perspective, so they go to their CD collections and they start throwing music in. Often it's music that they fall in love with after listening to it for months. It's usually music that is not licensable, or not affordable, or not advisable. One of the things supervisors and score composers have to deal with when they come on a film is that the director and picture editor have already put a ton of music into the movie and they've grown to love it. Then basically what they want in the case of the score composer is for them to copy it, in the worst-case scenario. As far as the supervisor, they just want them to go get the songs that are already in there, which isn't all that creative for the supervisor, nor easy. I think the more enlightened directors understand that it's a temp track and that it's just a guide for themselves. Then when the composer and supervisor come on board, they are going to want to do their own thing and make suggestions, and not simply copy or license what somebody else has done or chosen.

How often does the director change the requirements for a scene?

Not often, not in my experience. In other words, they don't change what they're looking for in terms of what emotional backbone they are trying to create for a scene. Finding the right piece to provide that particular need, however, is very hard sometimes, and that does change a lot.

How many songs might you play for the director for a certain scene in order to get one in?

Sometimes it's one. It's just that one that I felt so strong about and seemed to me to be absolutely perfect. Sometimes they agree. Other times I might play 75 songs for one spot, or something like that. That means that if it's a movie has ten songs in it, then you could easily be playing 300 to 1,000 songs in order to pick those ten. You might not play all of those for the director, but you're certainly listening to that much. First it has to pass your own test. In terms of getting enough material to pass your own test, that's definitely hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of songs.

Where do you get that material? Where to do you look for it?

From everywhere. First of all, all the record companies send us their music. If it's not that kind of pop contemporary stuff, then we do our research on the Internet. We pride ourselves on being music people—not necessarily music historians—but people with a strong historical sense of music. We have a huge library of music. Everything that is sent to us is cataloged and put on the computer and put up in racks. We have 8,000 to 10,000 albums that we own, which is at our disposal at any time that we own. But then after that, if there is something that we can't find in our own collection, we do the research and we go find it.

Most of the films you've done have been pretty big budget pictures, right?

About half and half. I've done some indie pictures. I'm doing two indie pictures right now.

Do you ever use unsigned artists in the pictures that you supervise?

Yes. In Dark Angel the TV show, I've used eight songs during the season by an unsigned artist—the same unsigned artist. We like his sound. With other movies, I don't think I've used a lot of unsigned, but I've used a lot of independent bands that nobody has ever heard of on labels that nobody has ever heard of. That's just about the same as saying "unsigned" these days.

What about recording quality? Does 'master quality' mean the same thing for a major label album release as it does for a source cue usage?

If you can't afford a major label source cue of high production value, and you can only go to indie labels, then you want something where the fidelity is good enough. You're substituting. In other words, if you had the money, you'd be going to a major label, major artist kind of thing. But I don't think I've ever not used a piece of music because of recording quality.

Meaning if there is a recording quality issue, you have it re-recorded?

No, I don't think I've even asked for that. One of the reasons why that might be is because most of the time that I approach an indie label, or a small artist who is doing their recordings in their bedroom, it's because I'm approaching them for a part of the movie that doesn't require that it have high production values. In fact, it might be that it's better that it doesn't have the high production values. It might be one of those places in a movie where some kid is listening to a boom box and it just doesn't matter.

How often do you find yourself in an emergency situation where you need music at the last minute?

Just about every movie. Mainly it's because either somebody has changed their mind, or something in the budget has changed and it's causing a shift in priorities within the source music. Or maybe we were counting on a clearance coming through and at the end of the day, it didn't come through.

Have you ever had trouble licensing music from an unsigned artist or a small label, and/or do the major labels and publishers make it hard for you?

I'd say that generally it's a little bit more work doing it with the indie or unsigned artists. Usually they don't have the lawyers and the paperwork or the experience, so they want to look at everything in a particular way. They think they're getting screwed maybe or something like that. There is a lot of caution. They can't issue us their own licenses because they don't have licenses because they're not real publishing companies. So it's a little harder, but I don't remember a time that we've had to blow something off because of it.

On the other hand, the major publishers and labels want a lot more money, but you can execute it usually pretty quickly and effortlessly, except for one or two of the major publishers that I won't mention. They can take awfully long to clear something that should take a matter of days, but it takes a matter of weeks.

Tell me about that Irish band in Titanic. How did they come to your attention?

Jim and I had decided that, first of all, there were immigrants that were going to be on the Titanic down in this party. We decided that because there were a lot of Irish immigrants around that time, we would make them Irish. There was nothing in particular as it relates to the real story of the Titanic that dictated that they be Irish musicians. We do know from historical data that immigrants brought instruments with them to America. We kind of figured that if all of these different immigrants from different places brought instruments, and they were down there in the steerage area, that there were probably these incredible jam sessions that occurred. We took the liberty of deciding that we would make the core band a group of Irish musicians.

Once we decided that we wanted it to be Irish music, then I went out looking for an Irish band. I remember one Sunday morning opening the L.A. Times and reading a small ad that said "Irish Fair at Santa Anita racetrack today." So my wife and I went to this Irish fair. We spent two hours there and heard the worst Irish music I had ever heard in my life. Irish bands playing Fender Rhodes and Stratocasters. Irish bands doing disco music. It wasn't traditional Irish music. They were just Irish people!

So we were on our way out. We were already under the tunnel, almost to the car, and from afar now, almost a mile away, we hear these drums start up. They were echoing across the parking lot. It wasn't a sound we had heard all morning. It was real raucous. That's what we needed. These were supposed to be tough steerage passengers who were playing that kind of beer-drinking, crazed Irish music. We didn't want anything polite at all. Everything we had seen all morning was nothing but polite. We went back into the festival, followed the sound to one of the stages, and looked up and there they were. To me it was like I'd found it. These young guys playing all traditional Irish instruments, drunk on stage, going crazy playing really loud traditional Irish bar music. They were great looking. We watched their set and after that they were selling CDs off the stage and throwing CDs to people. They are called Gaelic Storm. I went up to them right then and there. I said, "Have you ever heard of a movie being made called Titanic? I'm doing the music on it." They had sort of heard of Jim Cameron, but weren't really aware of the movie. I thought they were perfect for it and I asked if I could submit them to Jim. Of course they said yes, and they sent me some packages the next day. I brought it to Jim and he loved the music. They had an album out on their own, and then I showed him a picture of them and I said, "What about IN the movie?" Not just the music, but (the band) actually in the movie. He said, "You got it."

We ended up casting them in the movie as the Irish band. I went into the studio with them and we recorded eight songs that we thought would be good for the movie. We did it right across the street here at Sony all in one day. I'll never forget, I got there at noon and they were just getting there. They were walking into the Sony studios with a hand truck of beer cases. That was it. The whole day they did nothing but drink and play. I set them up live in the big room and that was it.

So in the case of Titanic, you actually started working on the music before it started shooting.

Yes, much before. Almost a year before. I had made the decision also that I wanted to provide to him with all the master recordings before we shot the movie so there would be nothing to have to do later. We wouldn't have to try to match anything to anything, or deal with anything weird happening. I wanted him to go away and make the movie with two CDs in his pocket—one of all the Irish music, and one of all the Titanic orchestra music which I also put together. So there are 35 songs in the movie that I did. Four of them are the Irish, and 31 are the Titanic orchestra. All of those we also prerecorded before he shot the movie.

When did the Celine Dion song ('My Heart Will Go On') come in?

Way, way after. After the movie was done.

That song is based on a theme in the score—the melodies are the same, right?

The song was written by James Horner who also wrote the score. Yes, he used one of the themes to build the song with and then hired Will Jennings to do the lyric. That was really an after, afterthought. That came from Sony, who of course we made the deal with to do the soundtrack album pretty early on, but not nearly as early as when I started working on it. Toward the end, Celine Dion being one of their artists, was how that whole thing kind of came together.


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