Here at 25YLSite, we handle a lot of heavy lifting. Analysis, interpretation, deep discussion, introspective interviews… you name it, we’ve got it. “Favorites” takes a lighter approach to the material we normally cover. Each week, we will take you through a list of favorites — whether it’s moments, scenes, episodes, characters, lines of dialogue, whatever! — in bite-sized articles perfect for your lunch break, a dull commute, or anywhere you need to take a Moment of Zen. So, sit back and enjoy this week’s offering: Josh Lami’s top movie scores made by rock stars.
First off, don’t go all Gene Simmons on me and try to posit someone is not a rock star because they “don’t make rock music.” The term ‘rock star’ doesn’t necessarily mean the person makes rock and roll; it simply means they’re a prominent musician with a fan base and they know how to own their respective crowds. It’s a concept, at least for the duration of this article.
With Thom Yorke of Radiohead recently scoring the upcoming remake of Suspiria, it’s becoming apparent that as rock stars age, movie scoring is a rewarding and worthwhile journey to embark upon when seeking out new creative ventures. Personally I love it. It mixes my two favorite things: movies and music. With that said, let’s take a look at my personal favorite examples of rock star movie scores that landed phenomenally well.
5. Kill Bill by The RZA (The Wu-Tang Clan)
Quentin Tarantino is a filmmaker whose movies often come off like a gigantic mega-mix of music and cinematic history, spun by the most knowledgeable DJ in the world.
His decision to allow Bobby Digital, aka The RZA, to score Kill Bill was a brilliant move. One wouldn’t likely think of a hip-hop artist being the go-to pick for scoring a martial arts epic, but if you listen to 36 Chambers (and you really should) it’s apparent that Wu-Tang’s members (RIP Dirt McGirt) are huge fans of all martial arts movies. The RZA creates a pulse-pounding score for Kill Bill that gives the movie a wonderful sense of urgency and suspense.
RZA also scored a number of other films like The Man With The Iron Fists and Blade: Trinity, solidifying himself as a composer who is definitely “nothin’ to fuck with.” But we already knew that.
4. It Follows by Disasterpiece
Disasterpiece was making some seriously interesting music long before he scored the single best original soundtrack to a horror movie for this decade. It Follows’ soundtrack gives Halloween a run for its money in the original score department, and no, I’ll not apologize for saying that.
Disasterpiece brings his curious and playful score into uncomfortable territory denoting an impending doom that has to be witnessed to be fully appreciated. As a group of teens approach a high school in the inner city of Detroit we’re treated to some of the most dread-inducing, synth-heavy scoring known to the horror genre. Fans of 80s synth and industrial rock with both find this one to be a treat.
One part John Carpenter, one part Nine Inch Nails, and one part something altogether different, It Follows is a fantastic film, but wouldn’t be nearly as notable without Disasterpiece’s masterfully crafted score.
3. The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
If you don’t know Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, I’m incredibly sorry for you and simultaneously excited that you’re about to discover an amazing band. Go get Murder Ballads. Now. Start there and then you’ll have a barrage of incredible albums to check out for years to keep you busy.
As far as the film The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford goes, it’s not for everyone. If you’re a film nerd and a cinematography buff, it’s a must-see. Personally, I love it. Nick Cave’s score and original music for the movie is absolutely what a Nick Cave fan would want in movie-work from the prolific Australian musician.
Harrowing, melancholic, and properly folk-inspired, this is a soundtrack for the books.
2. Gone Girl by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (Nine Inch Nails)
So technically, Nine Inch Nails is now officially both Trent and Atticus—no longer a one man band—so you could really just say Nine Inch Nails did the score for the last few movies by David Fischer.
Reznor and Ross’ score for The Social Network gets all the attention, probably because they won an Oscar for it, but the Oscars are more and more proving themselves irrelevant with every passing addition to the ceremony (and for the record, I used to hold them in high esteem for refraining from only going with what’s popular). And again, I digress, but digressing is what I do. What can I say?
In any case, Reznor and Ross’s score for Gone Girl is my personal favorite, especially the scene in which (spoiler alert) the main antagonist proceeds to cut Doogie Howser’s throat while continuing to have sex with him until he fully bleeds out. It’s one of those scenes that stays with one forever, with Reznor and Ross’ droning score making it nothing less than haunting.
Check out all of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ scores; they’re essentially instrumental Nine Inch Nails albums, and the fact that Nine Inch Nails is the greatest band of all time is a fact I refuse to debate. So with that said, you’ll definitely enjoy them.
1. There Will Be Blood by Johnny Greenwood (Radiohead)
And the second best band is Radiohead. Even still, I think Johnny Greenwood is a better film score composer than Reznor. Just by a smidge.
Greenwood is generally referred to as Radiohead’s guitarist, but he’s much more than that. Along with Thom Yorke, he’s a driving creative force behind the entire band and plays many more instruments than guitar. There Will Be Blood is my favorite film of all time (tied with Mulholland Drive), full disclosure, so maybe I’m biased. That said, the score for There Will Be Blood also remains my all time favorite movie score; yes, even over Jaws or Psycho.
The opening scene of There Will Be Blood is virtually dialogue free. Greenwood’s score brings strings and other classical instruments to uncomfortable highs here, providing the viewer a deep understanding of the desolation Daniel Plainview is calling home. And not a thing needs to be said.
From the harrowing score interlacing the drillers arriving to town, to the pulse-pounding percussive nature of the oil well explosion scenes, this truly is a movie score that helped solidify There Will Be Blood as a nearly perfect film.
His work on Paul Thomas Anderson’s other movies is also fantastic. Most recently he did the score for Phantom Thread, and it’s probably his best after his score for There Will Be Blood.
So that’s one man’s opinion. What did I miss? Who did I overlook? What’s your favorite movie score made by a rock star? We want to know!