"The Score" airs on WSIA, 88.9 FM every Monday from 10am
to 1pm eastern. If your'e not in the New York City area, it can be heard
live via Real Audio from the WSIA official website. (http://www.webspawner.com/users/thescore/)
MARK SNOW INTERVIEW
On a personal note, I just want to say that it was a real
treat for me to chat with Mr. Snow. Not only was talking with Mark like
talking to one of the guys from the neighborhood (were both native
Brooklynites), it was one of those unexpected things that make all the work
and effort you throw into something, in my case putting together and
promoting "The Score", suddenly worth it and much, much more for a few brief
moments. Mark Snow is a wonderfully unique composer with a wonderfully
refreshing style all his own, and those reading this will most likely agree
its often a wonder to listen to his work. I urge everyone to go out and
purchase a copy to "The Snow Files". Youll be doing yourself a favor!
M.E. Mark, first off, I understand youre a Brooklyn native like me.
M.E. What neighborhood?
M.S. Oh gosh, downtown, right near the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
M.E. Okay, Im a Bay Ridge man myself. You know I can still pick up that
Brooklyn, New York accent very strongly in your voice!
M.S. Oh yeah, thats what I hear.
M.E. I just moved to Staten Island from Brooklyn myself, and I tell you, its
never the same, its a ten minute difference in a different borough, and I
can barely cope! So you living in California, your a better man than I!
M.S. [laughs] Its tough, but you gotta adjust. Nothing can ever get the
Brooklyn out of you, though.
M.E. Your probably best known to those listening for your work on "The
X-Files"; how did you get involved with the show, because youve been there
since the beginning.
M.S. I had a friend who was one of the producers in Canada, and he suggested
me to Chris Carter, who is the series creator, and luckily Chris didnt have
a friend or a relative who was a composer! And I live on the west side of
L.A. and so did Chris, and he thought it was convenient to come by and listen
to the music on his way to Fox studios, which is also on the west side of
L.A. He came to my place and he checked, you know, he checked my sounds, and
I was working on a movie at the time, and he listened and seemed to like it,
but I didnt have any indication to what he really felt. And he came twice,
and then I got a call saying that I got the show, and you know, nobody knew
at that time that it was going to be such a big hit, you know, and I was
happy! [laughs] And I had no idea what I was in for! I wasnt jumping up and
down! And then came the time to write the theme and he sent me a ton of cds
of all kinds of music, from rocknroll to classical, from alternative to . .
. everything. And he said, "This is the stuff I like, so make the theme!"
[laughs] So I did actually four themes not anything to do with the one that
exists now, and when I did one we both said "Ehh, well, thats okay, but
maybe it can be more special or interesting". And he went away, and, uh, I in
about half an hour came up with this thing just very quickly. And it seemed
so really different, and again at the time I thought "Ehh, well this is
cool." And we went to Fox and we played it for the executives, and they
looked around and said, "Well okay, I guess". And the next thing we know a
month later people are writing in, calling saying "This is so cool, this
music is so great!" And I said "Whoa"! And it was a hit record all over the
world, even in America! [laughs]
M.E. And years later its still in everyones head.
M.S. [laughs] Yeah!
M.E. You also do "Millenium"; between "The X-Files" and "Millenium", thats
gotta be some artistic balancing act. How do you cope doing both shows?
M.S. Well, luckily its for the same group of people. So theyre very
considerate of the situation! [laughs] And we established a sound in
"Millenium", I like that "royal weep" business we play in full. Its that
sound with the violin, somewhat Celtic, somewhat meloncholy and mournful. So
that kind of music, actually, comes very naturally to me. So it was sort of
fun being able to go from one thing to the other since I established sort of
a sound on "Millenium" and "The X-Files". I mean it does come from the same
person, so people will hear similarities once in awhile. I kept it pretty
separate for the most part, and its working out.
M.E. Now this question is more for me than the audience; Im a big Civil War
buff, I scream it on the show every week how Im a reenactor, so what was
your musical goal for "The Day Lincoln Was Shot" on TNT? Loved that movie and
I loved your score!
M.S. Oh, gee, thanks. Yeah, that was really fun. The director temp tracked
the movie with tons of real percussion, driving electronic percussion stuff,
no rthym section with drums or guitar, but just real, real active stuff. And
he wanted that sort of thing and then at the very end at the climax, when
Lincoln, well, gets shot! [laughs]
M.E. You gave it away!
M.S. [laughs] He wanted a very sort of religious, spiritual tune or theme to
work there. This is kind of interesting, I stole from Chyzowsky, who stole
from some poor Russian peasant. It was a folk piece, or maybe it was from the
Russian Orthodox Church, Im not sure, but it appears at the "1812 Overture"
at the end. Its the tune that goes "baa-ba-ba-ba-baaa-ba-ba-ba". I stole it.
[laughs] I knew it was okay because I checked it out, it was an annyomous
Russian piece, I think it wasnt a religious piece come to think of it.
Anyway, nobody . . . nobody picked up on it! I mean nobody! I certainly
disguised it, but still---
M.E. Are you sure you want to be saying this? Should I edit it out before
M.S. No, I dont. Because its way after the fact. And I just got calls at
home like "Hey that was a great score", "that was beautiful work", but no
composer or guy called and said "Gee, that sounds familiar,". I guess I
disguised it enough. But it was just a really fun [laughing] thing taking
Russian music for an American piece like that! But it was the emotion that
was important. And that was what worked.
M.E. You know I have my own private bootleg of that music taped from the
show, its really beautiful music.
M.S. Get the "1812 Overture"! [laughs-dog begins barking in background] Hold
on, let me close the door so the dog doesnt bug us.
M.E. Mine would be doing the same thing at home, they know when youre doing
something important. Mark, out of all the feature films, tv movies and tv
episodes youve worked on in your career, is there one that sticks out in
your head as being a really enjoyable or artisticly gratifying experience?
M.S. Well [pause] I think its really fair and really true that even though
its hard work on a tv series, "The X-Files", the quality of the show is so
excellent, that from week to week there is quite a change, its sort of a
music-driven show, you know, unlike a talky show like . . . like what? Like
"L.A. Law" or "Law and Order", which are excellent, but dont rely on music
to the extent "Millenium" and "The X-Files" does. So that continues to be
gratifying. And I remember a miniseries I did called "The Oldest Living
Confederate Widow Tells All", that was live instruments, live orchestra, and
a really great producer, Larry Sanitsky who really pushed me to do the best I
could, and it was a very gratifying experience. It had some really nice
themes and it was really different than the "The X-Files", tapping into a
side of me that I felt had gotten a little bit neglected with "The X-Files"
M.E. Now going back to Brooklyn, you went to school there with Michael Kamen.
On the "What Dreams May Come" album, you got a chance to collaborate with him
on a track.
M.S. That song ["Beside You"] was one of the songs we wrote in the group we
formed, the New York Rock N Roll Ensemble, and he resurrected it. Im not
sure if he would like anyone knowing that, but thats the truth! [laughs]
M.E. And he had a very short time to work on that film.
M.S. He played the song at his house in London and I dont know if he sat
down at the piano and played and sang it, or had some recording or whatever,
but it found its way into the movie.
M.E. With your job on "The X-Files" and "Millenium", youre very involved
with electronic and synthetic music. Do you ever find yourself drifting away
from composing for a live orchestra? You know, almost like using a calculator
in math class.
M.S. No, not really. I think when the electronics work for a show its great,
and I really defend it as a very legit way of scoring a show. But, you know,
theres certain shows like "Confederate Widow" and "Day Lincoln Was Shot"
that had to have a live orchestra. Although in "Lincoln" I think not quite
half, but some of it was electronic. But it was not electronic simulating
live instruments, but rather doing more percussion and sound design,
atmospheric-stuff. And the real meaty melodic stuff was with the orchestra.
So I think both things are really very viable nowadays, its just making a
choice for the project. Sometimes it can be a combination where theyre both
working together. I know Randy Edelman uses like a ten thousand piece
orchestra, [laughing] then with the electronic doubling of the intruments he
gets a really big, fat sound! So everyone has their way of doing of it. A lot
of composers do temp tracks, they dont want other peoples music in it, they
do it on synth so the producer and director gets a sense of whats coming
with the orchestra. There all kinds of combinations, and the technology is
just so amazing now. Its not like it used to be. I remember when I first
started out I had a piano and music paper, thank you very much, end of story!
[laughs] And maybe a black and white video in an old fashioned VHS player,
but very, very specific spotting, almost down to a tenth of a second.
M.E. Id like to talk about your new album "The Snow Files"; on the
soundtrack hotspots all over the web its gotten nothing but excellent word of
M.S. Oh, excellent.
M.E. What has the release been like for you and just making the album?
M.S. Well, incredibly difficult choosing the material. I almost had to rely
on the guys over at the record label, Sonic Images, to make the choice. I
felt that every time I heard one piece Id say "Oh, this is great!" and then
Id hear another piece and say "Oh, thats great too!" and I had like a
thousand minutes of music! Sometimes they chose things that I thought was
so-so but then throwing it out to a bunch of friends of family, theyd say
"Oh no, thats really good!" But I guess theres something about a piece of
music that if it says something or moves you, thats whats most important.
It wasnt just finding the biggest-sounding thing or the fastest or loudest
if you know what I mean.
M.E. Is there any truth to the rumor Ive heard from some reliable sources
that there may be a "Snow Files Two"? Perhaps with some material from
"Millenium" or "The Day Lincoln Was Shot"?
M.S. Well like anything else in business, if the first thing goes over well
therell be another. So maybe there will be or maybe not, but I would love to
have some snippets from "Millenium" or "Lincoln" released.
M.E. What words of advice would you give to anyone listening whos an
M.S. I think you have to have a little bit of the thing actors and actresses
must have. Its really hard to break into, film scoring, but its as if you
have to do it. People say "Well, its hard," and "you might not make it", and
this that and the other thing; you almost have to have a feeling that you
just didnt hear that, youre going to do it, no matter what. Its this
amazing confidence and perseverance, matched with a little bit of talent!
[laughing] Thatll help! And maybe, I dont know, most important: the breaks,
the luck, you know, knowing a friend who knows a friend. Every successful
film composer, ask them how they got started, theyll have many separate
ways. Nobodys done it the same way, unlike a doctor, or a lawyer where you
go to school, get a diploma, intern at a firm, blah, blah, blah. Perfect
story: Alan Silvestri was doing a tv show, "Chips"; "Chips" gets canceled. We
had the same agent at the time. The agent calls me, says "Can you help Alan
out? His thing got canceled," and so I was doing a couple of shows at the
time, so I said "Sure,". Alan calls me up, he takes me out to lunch, hes
saying "Oh, thanks a lot," blah, blah, blah. And I got him onto the show, and
they didnt like it! They threw the music out, and this is of an episode! Two
weeks later, he has a friend whos the music editor on "Romancing The Stone".
He takes some of Alans music and they use it as temp track. Michael Douglas
hears it, says "Thats the guy, I want him!" And from then on there, forget
it. He was gone. So if that isnt total quirk . . . but I mean he was a great
writer, he had the talent to deliver. Its just to show you how quirky and
bizarre these things are. John Williams was a great pianist over at
Universal, and he did a lot of tv stuff in his early days like "Lost in
Space" and "Gilligans Island"! So you really have to want to do it and
believe you want it. I know its a little abstract to say! [laughs] I wish I
could say, "Heres what you do: You get this book, read Chapters One through
Ten, you call this guy, have a meeting".
M.E. What was the last Mark Snow-cd you were listening to? Not implying that
you listen solely to your own stuff!
M.S. Oh, you mean of another score?
M.S. Actually . . .
M.E. Dont say "Titanic".
M.S. [laughs] No, no! Actually, this is the truth: it was Bernard Herrmans
"Journey to the Center of the Earth".
M.E. Great score.
M.S. Yeah. And you hear some incredible orchestration there. And "Taxi
Driver" too, I remember. There were no violins, it was like a baritone
orchestra. Everything like the viola and celli and bass and tons of low
woodwinds, he loved them, bass clarinets, contrabasons, tons of French horns
and trombones and tubas and percussion.
M.E. I love "Vertigo" myself.
M.S. Yeah, sure. It was amazing because he, I feel, he took film composing
from sort of the 19th century orchestral writing to something almost minimal.
He really does in my opinion have or has had a minimal approach, Im talking
about harmonically. "The Devil and Daniel Lestore" was a really thorough
score written very complex, almost like a legit composer like Richard Strauss
or even Bramns. Then when he started establishing this sound of his I think
he really simplified his music a lot. And Ill never forget, I was at the
scoring session for "Taxi Driver", and he [Herrman] was too sick to conduct
and Jack Hayes the great orchestrator conducted for him. And I remember
Scorcese saying something like "Oh God, this part it needs more something!"
and Herrmann got sort of pissed and frustrated and he said "All right, all
right, all right, dont play this and play this and do that!" And it was a
simple, simple thing and it was just great. And I met the guy too, and he
said "Who are you?!" and I said "Mark," and he said "What do you do?" and I
said "Oh, well I work on tv." "TV, thats bullshit, no body goes for that
crap!" He was just a wildman. And it was like two days later, he died. I mean
I shook his hand, and two days later, its in all the papers that he died.
M.E. Wow, a side of Bernard Herrman I wasnt familiar with!
M.S. Oh, anyone in the business will tell you he was a notable wildman.
M.E. Well Mark I want to thank you for taking the time to do this with us, it
was a real treat for me.
M.S. My pleasure. Ill do anything for a New York guy.
M.E. Brooklyn guy!