Also known by their recording aliases Oneohtrix Point Never and Micachu, Daniel Lopatin (Good Time) and Mica Levi (Under The Skin, Jackie) are are two of the most exciting young musicians scoring films today.
They're also longtime fans of each others' music and have corresponded on the same email chain for nine years.
This fall, we brought them together in person for a conversation about the process of scoring a film, and how they each use music turn flat images into 3D objects. Other topics covered include: meeting through YouTube, growing up in a house filled with music, cinematic rhythm, cheesy scores, the sound of an urban nightmare, and why electronic music is the best game ever.
On March 8, 2019 Oneohtrix Point Never will bring an expanded presentation of his MYRIAD concertscape to the iconic Roundhouse in London with special guests and further dates to be announced. Get tickets!
Daniel: I'm Daniel Lopatin, I'm talking on the A24 Podcast.
Mica: I'm Mica, I'm talking the A24 Podcast.
Daniel: And we're, talking to each other, on the A24 Podcast.
Mica: Thanks for inviting me, to have a conversation with you.
Daniel: You're welcome. I always wanna talk to you, I don't talk to you enough, so this is my excuse, to talk to you more. I know what's funny? The first time we had a interaction, me and you. You hit me up on YouTube.
Daniel: And it was Micachu and the Shapes, and it said, "Hey, I really like your video, maybe you can make me a video someday, or something?"
Mica: Yeah, that's how I remember us meeting, not in person, but yeah in, I think it was around 2009, I saw your video, and it said ... it was at the time it was Point Never, and the video was Nobody's Here. And it had this triangle ... I'm not sure if this is where it's from, but it reminded me of Mario Kart, the rainbow level. I watched that probably, at least twice a day, for quite a while, and I think I used it to, kind of, make friends with other people, and stuff like that. I really loved it.
Daniel: Oh, that's sweet.
Mica: And that's why I wrote to you. And then we had a email thread, which started, yeah, around that time.
Daniel: Yeah, and then years-
Mica: Some years past.
Daniel: Go by.
Daniel: It's kind of in a way, comforting though, you know? When you just know, in music, it's tough, everybody's kind of in their kind of own orbit, mostly respectful and nice. And then when you encounter each other on the road, or at some event or something, it's so nice, it's like, you can tell some war stories and stuff like that. It's like a club, it's nice. I don't have many ... I don't think I have any kind of thing like that, other than music. My friends are ... it's different, you know? You tell your friends everything, but it's kinda nice to just have friends that know what you do, like on the sort of, boring level. And just, kind of, encounter them here and there, and talk about what horrible atrocities ...
Mica: Have happened on the road.
Daniel: Yeah, exactly. No, but yeah, so I guess we didn't see each other for a long time, but then got to play a show together.
Daniel: That was really sweet. I watched you-
Mica: Thanks again for that.
Daniel: Oh yeah, of course. And I watched you on the little monitor in the dressing room, that was cool.
Daniel: All right, let's get into it, enough chit-chat. No small talk. Mica, you picked up music from your folks who are teaching? Teaching music or?
Mica: Yeah, that's right. I played the violin when I was really young in school, and you know, the Suzuki method, I did that. And, I guess music has a bit of a story in my family, on my dad's side, his dad played the violin. And I really enjoyed it, yeah. So I did it a lot, I guess it was like something-
Mica: Yeah, and also no one ... there weren't that many other kids around me who did it, so it felt a bit ... it was kind of ...
Daniel: It was radical.
Mica: My own thing, yeah, I dunno. How 'bout you?
Daniel: Yeah, my mom was my piano teacher.
Mica: Oh, how did that ... was that-
Daniel: Not good.
Mica: Yeah, that's ...
Daniel: It's sketchy.
Mica: Yeah, yeah, but ...
Daniel: On top of which, you know, Russian method.
Mica: Oh yeah. That's very strong.
Daniel: It's strong, too strong for American-born, first-generation-American kid. It didn't deter me from loving music. 'Cause my dad was in all these bands, you know? He was like a rocker.
Daniel: And my mom was a classical ... classically trained piano player and musicologist.
Mica: Okay, yeah.
Daniel: And they had found this common ground. They're cool, they're both really cool, in this way of having, you know, it's like growing up with parents that fill the house with sound, of any kind, I think, is really positive.
Mica: Totally, 100%. Yeah, yeah.
Daniel: It's like this other frequency of life, you know? A house without music, it's just this different thing.
Mica: Yeah, but I don't know ...
Daniel: I don't know what it would be like-
Mica: I don't know what that's like, yeah.
Daniel: And also, it's pretty happy, right? It's like, you know, you can be arguing about this and that, but you'll end up usually just arguing about music, which is fun.
Mica: So what's your mom ... what did your mom ... 'cause my dad is also a musicologist, but his thing was music from the Third Reich. He was writing for magazines, and things like that. And he did this paper about this degenerative music thing, and that whole time then. And I think from that, he developed this job, basically, where he talked a lot about that sort of thing. Well, many kind of political and musical crossover. Is that similar to what your mom specialized in, or?
Daniel: I'm curious if that was even possible, in the Soviet Union, is to kind of have this highly specialized thing, but no, my mom was basically just kind of, a student of the history of-
Mica: Was it just Russian music or?
Daniel: Classical. No, it was all-
Mica: Okay, okay.
Daniel: Western classical canon. Like when, kind of a critical moments where things would shift, and why did they shift? Early music, or before that, when it was just chanting, and it was this monophonic-
Daniel: Thing, and then suddenly there was the octaves, and there was these intervallic relationships, and then people started creating all of these incredible math, really.
Mica: Do you feel like that stuff is coming into play more now that technical ... do you feel like you got it under your belt, even if you're not thinking on it, kind of thing?
Daniel: The technical stuff, the sort of the, all of the amazing wisdom that she had was irrelevant to me, until I was well into my 20's.
Mica: Do you think that those things take a while to actually kick in? I feel like I didn't know what was going on, at all, during most of going to school. And then there's some moments I have now, and I left school 100 years ago now. I don't know, even if it's a math thing, or a science thing, or some image will pop into my head, and I think "Wow, that's crazy. I haven't even thought about that for ages." But somehow, it's gone into my brain somewhere, in the early days. I've tried ... I've almost like actively ignored it, but now it's kind of, showing itself, you know?
Daniel: I wish, to be honest, I wish. Because I was-
Mica: You think it's gross, that?
Daniel: Yeah, I didn't ... I wasn't a good student. But you know what? It's okay, I think you're probably right on some level, because there was some kind of basic harmony training thing going on there, when she was just really giving me the basics, like Circle of Fifths.
Daniel: That's pretty much what I ran with.
Mica: It's so cool, that stuff, yeah.
Daniel: Right? It's kind of all I needed, and then I figured out the rest through just messing around.
Mica: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Daniel: And listening to records. I think it's ... I think me and you probably have a lot in common here. And this is just a hunch, but scoring film-
Mica: How to score ...
Daniel: I love this topic, to be honest. I think people are generally very confused about how these things happen. And they always happen differently, but I'm a very intuitive composer. I'm just searching, I'm just in the dark, feeling, and I'm not thinking about points I have to hit. And I'm not generally thinking about anything other than, really, core feelings, like-
Mica: Like a film, like a ... sorry to cut you off like that.
Daniel: Go ahead.
Mica: One of the larger films that involve continuous, or nearly continuous score, that kind of, goes under dialog and then is like, people jumping off a cliff, and it's next, and next and next. Do you mean that kind of style?
Daniel: Yes. Jerry Goldsmith.
Mica: Okay, yeah.
Daniel: My favorite. I mean, he's incredible. And then, even sort of his accolades, or Richard Band, a lot of these guys doing action and horror. I love this stuff, and because they're essentially athletic.
Daniel: They're following some kind of incredible sense of pacing, rhythmic structure, cinematic rhythm.
Mica: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Daniel: And figuring out how to use a fairly large orchestra, or a medium sized orchestra, to reinforce what's already there.
Mica: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Daniel: Right? That's how I feel about it. So for me, that was never on the table. Until I did this ... I mean, to me Good Time, the Safdie brothers, is an action movie, and they force me to think this way.
Mica: Yeah, you have that ... I was gonna say-
Daniel: I had to do it.
Mica: Yeah. That's cool.
Daniel: It was amazing, but it's not ... it's essentially like, I want my most ... I'm like a composer, as a house cat. I wanna be in the dark, kind of, feeling intuitively, looking around for music.
Mica: I mean, from my perspective, yeah, I just try and generate music, and that might be to do ... I mean, it will be to do with the film that I'm working on, and led by those images. And have it a bit there, but just generate music, because that's how it all starts. I find that, when I go ... when I've got the film there, and I start making music, it's already ... it's not too much of a struggle to get a ... catch a kind of feeling from the film, and that come out pretty quickly on the keyboard. I don't know.
Daniel: And it-
Mica: All the hard work comes later.
Daniel: Getting it pinpoint.
Mica: It to work, yeah.
Daniel: Decision, all of that.
Mica: I think so, yeah.
Daniel: Yeah, I agree. And I almost don't need the film. It's so funny, you know, you probably encountered this scenario where, you're sent a script to read, and then it could excite you, titillate you, or not, and be like ... if it excites me, that might just be enough. Those people that will draw you a picture on the street of how you look, instantaneously, it's like that stuff.
Daniel: That's what I wanna do, for a director. I'm essentially like "Look, it's you, right?" And if they agree ...
Mica: Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, that's a good metaphor, yeah.
Daniel: I don't think it's really ... a lot of conversation is necessary. I do things that I wanna do, in a very honest way, I hope. And when I'm excited, that's me. And if it works, then there's work to be done.
Mica: I find that is pretty obvious when it works, and when it doesn't, with music against the picture, because ... which kinda makes it easy on one hand, and then doesn't on the other, because sometimes it's like, "It's not working, it's not working," and you just gotta keep on. It's so trippy how putting different things underneath a picture ... underneath the video, the image, just completely ... how it can just keep on changing. You've been looking at this same thing for ages, and you think, "I can't watch this anymore, I don't even know my ass from my elbow, and what's going on." And then, it'll be the weirdest timing of some random frequency or some percussive hit, or anything, that goes with the swing of some guy 50 yards away in the crowd, of the image you're looking at, and you're like, "Yeah. This looks so good."
Daniel: I know, that's so satisfying for us.
Mica: So random.
Daniel: It's so crazy how ... that's really like the catnip for us, right?
Mica: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Daniel: That's the shit.
Mica: Do you have a cat?
Daniel: No, I guess I keep talking about these cats.
Mica: You've mentioned-
Daniel: Cats like three times.
Mica: Three or four times.
Daniel: I think I need a cat.
Mica: I assumed you had one.
Daniel: I think I am a cat. I don't know anything about cats, I've never had a pet. My parents prohibited them. My grandfather got a rabbit, and he put it in a ... he hollowed out a television, an old tube-
Mica: Oh, yeah, yeah. I see what you mean.
Daniel: TV to make a cage.
Mica: 'Cause they used to be really fat.
Daniel: Yeah, they're big.
Daniel: So he got out this big wooden TV, he took out the guts of it, and he put a fence around the front.
Mica: And put a rabbit in there.
Daniel: And put a rabbit in there, and said, "Here's your pet."
Mica:That's pretty far out.
Daniel: Yeah, and then I came home and there was bloody rabbit paws-
Mica: Oh no.
Daniel: Paw prints on the driveway, because it ran away.
Mica: Oh God.
Daniel: Anyways, so long story short, there's this moment, that I really, really love in Good Time, where I was ... there was some scene, it was isometric chopper shot of a overpass, or something like that, and you could see the ... I don't remember exactly what it was, but-
Daniel: Yeah, it was a motorway.
Mica: A highway.
Mica: What'd you call it?
Daniel: A Highway.
Mica: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Daniel: The geometry of this particular moment, was such that it made me think heavily about panning. And cars, and the way cars move, but the camera's moving also, so you have this weird gyroscopic thing going, and you have a lot of different ... so was like, "This is sound." So very quietly, very subtly, I put in things that sort of refer to the geometry, that was happening in there, and thought it was just fun for me, but Josh noticed it. He's very inquisitive about this kind of stuff, and he was like, "No, this is what you need to do all the time. This is how you create this atmosphere that we don't need to know about, in terms of-"
Daniel: Right. We don't need to know about it. And it was such a interesting in between space, 'cause I'm such a hater of underscore. And anything really middle, it's like a cliché.
Daniel: But nobody wants to middle, that's what everyone says, and they're kinda right.
Mica: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Daniel: And a underscore is kinda middle, right?
Mica: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Daniel: But, there's this other thing you can do, that's under the underscore.
Mica: It's more psychological-
Mica: You almost could ... so you're kinda messing there with it sound image.
Daniel: I think so.
Mica: Where it's getting ... which is kinda the area of sound design, more normally, right?
Daniel: Right, it's not usually the composer's world.
Mica: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. That's cool.
Daniel: Jerry Goldsmith's not rocking the-
Mica: No, he's got his stereo.
Daniel: Yeah, exactly.
Mica: He's just ... all probably mono.
Daniel: So, anyway, there is fun stuff like that, that is not really, I don't know ... it's important, it's becoming more important to the way I think about the job. And you know what I was gonna say also, is like, I was gonna ask you a question, because you say it's so interesting how many ... how, by putting different things underneath a scene, it's just gonna vastly alter it, and it just could be hilarious, or totally wrong, or just completely poignant, depending on these ...
Daniel: Modifications. But you know what I think is actually really inspiring about your music, especially your scores, is that, it feels to me like there's a ... decisions are made, as to what kinds of sounds you're gonna use, and what sounds you're not gonna use. And what the flavor is, of the thing. And you play within that area so well, and all of the variety that you generate, is still going on within this really, really unique monolithic voice. What I got from Under the Skin, like that one track "Love," right? It's kind of the banger, right? 'Cause there's a lot of stuff on that score that's atmosphere. And to me, "Love" becomes somehow-
Daniel: Like atmosphere and to me, love becomes somehow the template that you built... You create this whole world of love-like music on Jackie to me, in a sense, that sort of beautiful taffy. It's like this beautiful kind of mellow trance that are just dripping and falling apart everywhere and just stretching. And it's such a specific world and I think by tethering to that really specific thing that you've created, don't you feel like, once you've determined that you're good. You can find all of these variations underneath things maybe melodically or maybe in terms of sort of added texture. The dynamism but your voice is really in place in your music, I think.
Mica: Well, no, I'm just gonna kind of say, the same thing. I think the same thing of your music and what you've done in films. I mean, I guess what I'm trying to say is, my experience so far with doing films, is like I guess there's some areas I'm more familiar with, in which I can... Like more... Textures and instruments and things like that. Things are changing every time a little bit so nothing's that sorted. I don't feel like really that I have sorted anything out quite yet, but I guess it's all led by the film and stuff like that. But to try and have that kind of sorted or to try and think of the sound for the film helps me to them be able to, yeah express myself within that otherwise, having you know. I mean I feel like electronic music is kind of the best game ever that's like a million levels.
Mica: Way beyond Warcraft or anything like that. You literally could... You will play it for the rest of your life and its very kind of cosmic and stratospheric and just keeps on kind of relentlessly going. So I... It's important at the front for me to kind of just reduce all that to the point where actually now I might've just been stuck on one level for a bit and maybe I need to spend some coins. Buy a new shield. Buy a new weapon or what not.
Daniel: I don't know, but when your level... Probably. Yeah you have some Resident Evil 4 attache available cubes to fill with a Bazooka. You definitely do and you can do that. It is absolutely a gift as just a fan of music when you hear something that's so clear. Clear and it's so decisive. It's like you've crafted something that just sounds like you in that world and of course it will change and of course you won't wanna do what you already have done or whatever, but there is something really special about this watching you go from Under the Skin to Jackie. Those two films being a body of work so far that just to me is impeccable. I'm telling you, no -
Mica: You're making me sweat man. I would -
Daniel: It's good. It's really good and it's very interesting. Very interesting to listen to.
Mica: Have you found that bow you're making more... First of all, have you written any music for... Have you ever written... Just speaking of games, have you ever written for a computer game? Would you make your own computer game and then write for it? I feel like you would have to be on the game side of it as well.
Daniel: It's funny because all of my sort of... That all that... My gaming came in handy with "Good Time" because action on screen requires you to think about the scale of intensity from one moment to the next more than a quieter film.
Mica: Yeah right.
Mica: It's like an amazing...
Daniel: It's an amazing challenge and games are so relevant, right, because they literally have an engine that triggers these dynamic -
Mica: Musical bits.
Daniel: Bits. So somebody composed things with three levels of intensity.
Mica: I know! Its crazy, yeah.
Daniel: Somebody mellow version like a almost an emergency and then a full on emergency. When I was thinking about that I was like, okay, so let's break up every scene into video game intensity levels.
Mica: Sick. That's pretty cool.
Daniel: Are we... And that helped them too because they were thinking about "Good Time" as kind of a live action "Grand Theft Auto" like thing, which it is.
Mica: I suppose, yeah.
Daniel: It helps but I don't think I... I don't know, I've had very little interaction with video game companies. I don't know exactly what's required -
Mica: Well, it sounds like you know exactly what's required.
Daniel: Well, I know actually what's required as a fan that watches some kind of YouTubes or whatever, but when you're in there, I wonder... It just sounds like seriously I would have to just hang it up. Everything would have to stop. No more-
Mica: Yeah, be a lot of work, right?
Daniel: T.V. shows and video games are just too much in a sense. Maybe one day, I don't know. Maybe, if I have a year or nine months to spare where I can just lock in and just generate 40 hours of insane music and maybe have some kind of musical assistant. I think I would want a musical assistant at that point which is something that's bizarre. I never even -
Mica: To split up the work.
Daniel: Seriously, just some awesome musician that just kind of is... Can generate interesting work off of my motifs or something? That would be fun.
Mica: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Daniel: That sounds enticing somehow, but on my own, just sitting there trying to figure out, like, oh my God. How do we convey best -
Mica: How do you that smooth bit over?
Daniel: An emergency. Yeah. Oh God.
Mica: And all the possibilities of the game. I mean, you'd learn so much about the game. You'd have to play the game but then also you'd know all... So for every situation there'd be so many outcomes. It's really impressive thing, isn't it?
Daniel: It's pretty much the... It's peak technology to me anyway.
Mica: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Mica: So I've got... The other thing I was gonna say, which people say to me now quite a lot is they go, "So when you watch a film can you still enjoy the film without thinking about the music in there?"
Daniel: I guess I can at times. It's -
Mica: Some people don't even realize there's any music in films.
Daniel: Oh yeah.
Mica: I mean, fair enough, because it's kind of so well integrated.
Daniel: That means they're... That must be beautiful actually, right?
Daniel: Because at that point, the film is not broken into some kind of components. It's not like you're eating a casserole or whatever and you can identify all the layers in everything, you're just eating, and it just tastes good.
Mica: And it's happening to you. That's exactly it. That is part of the skill.
Daniel: That's the problem.
Mica: It's like... It's something that people... Well that is just, yeah, I don't know, to me that's different to what certainly I can say for what I do. I don't think I'm achieving that. Maybe it's something that later I will try to achieve, but people... You watch a film, you don't feel like you're very... You're a bit more hyper aware of that than you were or...
Daniel: I am. I am. I am. No, it's... I've ruined it for my... I've ruined it. It was my favorite thing.
Daniel: It was the thing that I loved the most. More than music, I loved film. Music always felt like either I was trying to learn and not doing that well or suddenly in bands and doing it. With film, was like this thing that I just... It was like this... I obsessed with it as a stan.
Mica: Right, okay.
Daniel: I loved it and I didn't know how it worked, and I didn't know anything. It was a great thing and now it's a heavily bisected experience, right? I'm sitting there, I'm just like, wow this is impressive. Or I'm like, I can't further... I can no longer engage with this thing because of component A, B, or C that's throwing me off or distracting me or whatever.
Daniel: Some of that magic is -
Mica: Is gone a bit. What about films with no music in them?
Daniel: That's... Those are the best, right?
Mica: Yeah. Sometimes, yeah.
Daniel: For me anyway, it's a huge relief. So quiet. Haneke films are just so quiet and so scary.
Mica: So scary man.
Daniel: It's always much scarier with no music. It's so scary.
Mica: I can't watch that stuff. Not anymore man.
Daniel: Here's the thing... Oh his films, they're too scary. Yeah, I know. That's real horror.
Mica: It just makes... Yeah, cause it just makes me... I can't trust my friends and...
Daniel: Yeah really bugs me out too.
Mica: He's so clever, yeah.
Daniel: He's a master of horror actually. But your... Well, I was gonna say this, do you ever find when you're watching films that, where the music is there to actually add to some sort of... It's like thrillers and horrors and stuff with music, I'm always so totally skeptical. Nothing's scarier than no music at all.
Mica: Yeah, for suspense, in that sense, yeah.
Daniel: Right? It's just always like-
Mica: You go with this
Daniel: Oh it's all just this horrible shit.
Daniel: Tension. It's just programmatic stress.
Mica: I think music can do this thing where it does this South Park thing, where you can... It can let you access another realm of non-reality which therefore can make things a bit more kind of extreme. That's what it can do. It can give you a carpet... What I'm trying to say, cut a long story short, is that if South Park was with real people, then they wouldn't have got away with... Well anything of what they'd done.
Mica: But because they're like roughly cut out... It's animation and stuff that there's a layer of... The fake layer-
Daniel: Opens up the entire universe of possibility of what's out there.
Mica: Yeah. I think so, yeah.
Mica: And the same kind of with music cause obviously music doesn't exist in life so then when you add it in, sometimes you're suddenly in this... You're in a surreal situation which then means.... It just heightens... I guess it heightens dramatic possibility and sometimes when I see a film with no music in it, it makes it feel more like real... Like its really happening. But it kind of depends. I'm trying to think of one without music I can think of.
Daniel: You're right.
Mica: They're all actually the ones that are coming to me, either the music works as page turner or it's a documentary.
Mica: But often I... I don't know, yeah.
Daniel: No, you're right. I think it's like... It's probably just my... I'm just so brunt out. I'm just so burnt out that I'm like, yeah, fuck music and -
Mica: No, it's true. It's hard though cause you do notice it, yeah.
Daniel: But then some people will be just so impressed with this sort of... The thrust of a really, really intense... A really heavy score and I'm just always like, maybe I'm just projecting. I'm just so embarrassed for... I'm like, I hope the composer's okay with it being so loud. Maybe just tuck it away a little bit. I -
Mica: You gotta think of the actors.
Daniel: I know, yeah.
Mica: That's what I always think of. The actors they just... They really give themselves over, don't they?
Daniel: Yeah, definitely. They sacrifice at all.
Mica: Yeah. Such a crazy job. That's a ... I know we're not here to talk about actors.
Daniel: Well, it's a lot of gumption though to be an actor. Makes our job seem, you know, pretty chill.
Mica: Yeah, cause when you're an actor you basically... You kind of just... Yeah you gotta put it all in, also you're spending all your time, I guess this is maybe a perk, you're spending your time being someone else. Have you ever written music for a film... Have you ever method scored?
Mica: If I was to have done the music for Rocky or something, I'd go and I'd train every day and I wear a mouth shield when I'm writing.
Daniel: Oh! I think... I didn't even think this was possible until I saw a documentary about Toru Takemitsu but it was in Japanese so I didn't understand what I was watching, but I was watching him and he would go on set and walk around in the fog and just quietly soak it in.
Mica: Heavy. That's cool.
Daniel: And that's really good idea.
Mica: That's cool, yeah.
Daniel:: I think there's little things that get taken for granted and that is method scoring and by the way, I think that should be part of their job.
Mica: But you live in New York and Good Time set in New York, right? Do you feel that it's in your bones, it's in your experience, you kind of, maybe you did actually method scoring.
Daniel: It was weird. You know what was interesting? I had to go back to a different... I had to go back to my grandparents who lived in senior citizen housing in Boston when I was young and my parents also we lived in East Boston at the time. We were very poor and there was every day seemed like a logistical nightmare of getting through some kind of infrastructural problem. Where are we gonna get the paperwork for this? And when does the government cheese arrive? And, oh, this came on Thursday. That means we can't get it again. There was just always problems and going to the doctor... Everything was a problem.
Daniel: I think that's what Good Time highlights very effectively about New York is not the New York... I think it's a misunderstood film on some level because a lot of people are talking about how it harkens back to some by-gone era of filmmaking.
Mica: Oh, okay.
Daniel: But it's showing this modern thing. I think it's just effectively showing you what its like to just have to go from one sort of institutional infrastructural nightmare to the next -
Mica: To another. Gate keeping situation man.
Daniel: Yeah and that is the action of the film actually. That's where the stress and the... And it's a very, I think, unique film for that reason. But I had to go back a little bit to my childhood instead of New York cause it's... New York to me is for as long as I've been here its always just been Brooklyn is like the suburbs. The roughness of an American city for people that have to live that way that is gonna have certain kinds of patterns that emerge.
Daniel: Is gonna have certain kind of patterns that emerge. It's always just, it's public transportation, it's hospitals, it's where's your next meal ticket and it's like everyone's kind of in the soup together and having to wait in queues and do things together and put up with each other. It's just this endless log and grind, an infrastructural grind that I think is probably just, maybe it's not even an American thing, it's probably just a city thing.
Mica: Yeah. It's definitely got a city, yeah. Maybe your method writing was more the city, as opposed to New York City.
Daniel: Yeah and maybe that was meant, because I really didn't, I was like oh man because they really wanted me to almost revisit things that I was doing musically earlier on in my career, like arpeggios, sequencers, all that stuff. I was a little recalcitrant to do it. But then I think I rationalized it by being like, "No, but this is actually very appropriate for the city."
Mica: Right. Yeah.
Daniel: Because it's just blocks.
Mica: Yeah. Building blocks.
Daniel: and repetition of-
Mica: Yeah. Of course.
Daniel: Surviving some urban nightmare just sounds like a sequencer to me.
Mica: I suppose with under the skin, I was relating it to being a teenager. That was my experience of it. Because she's having these new experiences, meeting all these new people, catching this experience of having feelings and emotions for the first time. Obviously, you have emotions before you're a teenager, but big rushes of emotions that could convince you to leave the life which you've been provided, which is kind of what she did.
Mica: The character in the film, she's working for an organization of some kind. Because she starts to discover her feeling and herself, she takes a risk and cuts out of that whole life. She's a rebel, basically.
Mica: But I think there's something to it, you know?
Daniel: I do.
Mica: I think it could be quite fun
Daniel: I think so.
Mica: Obviously, method-method can be psychologically damaging. But I feel like, "Why not?" Just wear the stuff, even.
Daniel: I love those-
Mica: Like wear it all day like.
Daniel: I love thinking about films in this material way. There's so much possibility. It's almost like it's too much. It's like I feel like a kid in a candy store. And I love this kind of thing. I love it even more than fantasizing about the inner thoughts of characters, which is fun as well.
Daniel: But the real excitement to me of scoring a lot of the time is capturing the atmosphere of the place, the atmosphere of the objects, in addition to the human desires that you have to tangle with.
Daniel: But I don't really like Mickey Mouse-ing on the typological shit that much. That, to me, is in directing and writing and it's in performance. To me, the score is like this sculptural object in a film that quietly influences your senses. It makes the flat image 3D.
Mica: Three dimensional.
Mica: Yeah. 100 percent.
Daniel: I really enjoy that a lot. I love that. 'Cause it's an opportunity to further fantasize about what music could actually feel like as a a thing
Mica: For the film. Yeah. That's cool.
Daniel: Did you ever, in your classical studies back in the day, encounter all the stuff about Stravinsky rebelling against his teacher, Prokofiev, who was saying every sound has to be a distinct sound, distinct melodies, have to represent things, like a river or a dog or whatever?
Mica: No. I don't know that particular story, no.
Daniel: I guess there was this time when it was Tchaikovsky and and Prokofiev and these really, really overt relationship of music to dance and opera. And these Russian composers were basically saying music has to be a perfect metaphor for real-life things. And Stravinsky came along and he was like, "That's so lame. It really, really shouldn't be like that."
Daniel: But then, I feel like maybe what electric 20th century music and electronic music and all, is like we're almost this strange hybrid. We're performing this multi-faceted job, now, where it's kind of like you can think in this really Mickey Mouse-y way, that's very interesting, I think, any sound at your disposal to choose from. I think those questions about what things represent become really interesting. You can confuse it. You don't have to try to perfectly represent something. That is totally uninteresting to me.
Daniel: But it is kind of curious that with electronic music, you can build these very interesting little jewels.
Mica: A hundred percent. Yeah. You can have different physical environments that electronic music can exist in, which can help that as well.
Daniel: Yeah. It's very trippy to me.
Daniel: But you also said something that's very important before, which is anchoring the possibility of the promise of being able to do anything, and how it's helpful to make some very discreet decisions.
Mica: That's helpful for me. That's how I've done it so far, yeah.
Daniel: Electronic music gets a really bad rap because it seems frivolous to people. For me, it's an embarrassment of riches, to be able to just go and pull out any sound, any texture, any keyboard sound, from any period, copy any instrument, simulate a chamber orchestra. You can basically do it all. So what do you do?
Daniel: Part of the fun for me is actually being super frivolous, too, and just being-
Mica: Putting it all out there, yeah?
Daniel: Kind of just making these very wrong decisions and strange things happening at the same time, that probably shouldn't be intertwined. That's exciting to me.
Mica: Yeah. That sounds exciting. I guess by doing that, maybe you're encountering your own world of sound.
Daniel: Inevitably, your personality will-
Mica: Get in the way.
Daniel: Emerge. Yeah. Will get in the way of your cosmic travels. Alright, next thing. What are some of your favorite film scores, Mica?
Mica: Shit. This is a hard one.
Daniel: It's a tough one, but ...
Daniel: I like cheesy things, memorable motifs, like highly melodic things, like Cannibal Holocaust.
Daniel: I like stupid little things you can whistle.
Mica: That get in your head.
Daniel: Yeah. I like frivolous, crazy, Giallo, stuff I want. It's almost like so much, it's so ubiquitous, that you don't even need to know. It just hits you and you're in that moment. It's a candy. You love it while it's happening, and then afterwards, it's just like gone.
Mica: Yeah. It's a short ride.
Daniel: I like that kind of thing.
Mica: Yeah. I kinda like, I do enjoy, when I watch a film, I do enjoy, the last film that I really enjoyed, I really liked watching Scarface recently. I enjoyed all the music in that.
Mica: I mean, that's a classic one. But-
Daniel: No, it has like an incredible swagger.
Mica: Yeah. And it's just 100. I don't know. I really like it.
Daniel: Yeah. I like that too. I like 100. I like stuff that seems like it was just made independently with the film.
Mica: Yeah. It does that. It has that thing, but it's all the same.
Mica: I feel like that does a good job of those two things, what you've been saying, the physical environment, the clothes, the cars, the guns, all of that stuff. The music's got that. But it's also got Tony Soprano, not Tony Soprano. What's this chap?
Mica: Tony Montana. You know.
Daniel: The other Tony.
Mica: Yeah. I feel like he would rate that record. He wouldn't recommend the record, the music that's in the film, I feel like-
Daniel: They have to like it.
Mica: He wouldn't mind it.
Daniel: That's a really good criteria.
Mica: He wouldn't mind it if he heard it, he'd be like, "Yeah." You know?
Daniel: That's actually-
Mica: I noticed that it covers both those two elements. The physical environment and all of that, and it does the job in that story-telling way. And also, yeah, he'd rate it, it's like part of his outfit. He'd be into it.
Daniel: I love that. I actually really love that. I think the next time I'm working, I'm gonna ask myself if the character would be-
Mica: Into it.
Daniel: Just fundamentally into it or embarrassed by what I was doing.
Mica: To be honest with you, that's actually how I had to do Jackie.
Mica: Yeah. Because I just-
Daniel: Yeah, because of the gravity of the character, too.
Mica: Yeah. So famous.
Daniel: Yeah, exactly.
Mica: Well, what would she listen to?
Daniel: Yeah. You're right. The score was actually quite interesting on that level, too. It's her life and her death, wrapped. That's what music can do. It doesn't have to be her pearl necklace, it can be-
Mica: Which is what I wore when I was writing it.
Mica: A pink suit too-
Daniel: But it can be the whole thing, right? I think a good score is-
Mica: Scarface, I think, does that. And it's a soundtrack. It's probably not the best example, but that is a good, everything came together for that. And I bet so much music would have been made out of that soundtrack as well. They sampled, sampled, sampled.
Daniel: Oh, completely. I was watching this interview with RZA, who, was talking about how-
Mica: So much film sampling, right?
Daniel: He was, exactly. He was talking like Prokofiev actually. He was suggesting that sound can trigger this very specific relationship to environment. He was like, "This sound makes me think of when you've missed the train and you can still hear it in the distance."
Daniel: I was like, "Whoa." That's extremely provocative. Because what you're saying isn't just the sound of the train, you're saying it's the sound of you feeling that you've missed something that's gone away from you. That's insane.
Daniel: I love that kind of stuff, I really do. I don't know.
Mica: That was the last question, right? Yeah, that's it.
Daniel: Yeah. We're done.
Mica: Thank you very much.
Mica: Thanks. Okay. Whoa. That was really hard.