Composer Interview: Lyle Workman

Lyle you perform Creedence Clearwater’s Fortunate Son for The Sons of Anarchy soundtrack – is this a favorite track of theirs, for you?

I enjoyed that track very much, but there are many other Sons of Anarchy covers that I enjoyed very much too. The challenge is how to make a compelling cover, because there is no use trying to copy exactly what has already been done. There’s only a very small chance it will as good as the original, so the best approach is to put a new spin on it, and Fortunate Son is a perfect example. I should add that the show’s musical director Bob Thiele comes up with the concepts of creating something new and compelling for each track. Every time we assemble to record and play, it’s great fun.

Tell us about recording the music for The Sons of Anarchy – how did this project come about?

Thiele called and asked me to be involved. We have many mutual friends in the music business and I believe knew of my work prior to our involvement too.

Why do you choose to score certain films?

I don’t always choose them, they choose me. I am “work for hire” and the director will ask for who he or she likes. I have been very fortunate to have worked on some very enjoyable ones, and I am grateful for their successes.

Whom are some of your influences in music?

Oh boy, it runs the gamut: The Beatles, Hendrix, The Who, XTC, Peter Gabriel, Miles Davis, Django Reinhardt, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Ravel, Debussy, Stravinsky…

What was the experience like touring with Sting and playing with him at Montreaux Jazz Festival?

It was exhilarating playing with Sting as he is also a longtime musical hero. To play his music at such an iconic festival was a dream come true.

How did you like working with Todd Rundgren?

I loved working with him. He’s a true musical genius and also a big influence. It’s very rewarding playing with someone whose music you find inspirational and have loved for so long. That was the case with Todd.

Could you tell us about the recording of the soundtrack to the film “Superbad”. Had you seen rushes from the film before you recorded the score. Did you expect the film and soundtrack to be as popular as it was

Do you mean, did I see daily rushes while they were shooting? I did not. But during the entire process of writing and recording, I was working with a cut of the film.

I never expect a film or soundtrack to be popular, but of course I want them all to be! I thought Superbad was a solid film and great fun, so it wasn’t surprising that the film was received so well.

You recorded with both Frank Black and Laszlo Bane – what were those experiences like?

I loved both. I’d been big Fan of Pixies and Frank’s first solo album. I joined shortly afterwards, and enjoyed the freedom afforded me to interpret his music and add my element. A big advantage was that just about all the music we played, I had recorded with him, as the songs were being born and recorded. So I had a huge hand in contributing my guitar playing from the start. That is opposed to coming in to play songs previously recorded before my involvement, where it makes more sense to play parts that were already integral to the song initially.

What was it like working with Beck – how did you meet him?

I met Beck through his bassist, Justin Meldal-Johnsen. We were playing together on a record session, and shortly afterwards Beck was looking for a guitarist, and Justin recommended me. Playing with Beck is great because you discover, through his direction, what makes me him so unique and brilliant. He is very specific about things like guitar sounds and and how to play parts, whereas other artists leave that up to the players. Beck however would be very specific, and all those details add up to make his overall aesthetic, which is so creative and interesting. Stretching and going outside of my box was enlightening, and I learned a lot from working with him. I loved it and enjoyed him so much.

You worked with jazz musician Tony Williams – are you a fan of jazz music?

Yes, I’m a huge jazz fan. Tony was another hero, and another “pinch me” situation. As much as an jazz icon he will always be, he also loved all kinds of music, and was a perpetual student of not only other musical forms, but loved learning new things in general. He was amazing in that regard, and I think about him a lot and how his voracious appetite to learn has made a huge impact on me.

What was your first film scoring assignment?

A film called “Made” starring Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau. Jon also wrote and directed it.

On your new solo album what do you hope your fans will say about it?

I hope they will say “This is the best music I have heard in my life. I love it so much and neither in need of food nor water as this music sustains, enriches and nourishes me. It offers complete sustenance. The key to the universe is unlocked. Through this music, I see and know all, I fear nothing. I am able to fly.” … Alright so that’s a bit unrealistic, but a guy can dream, right? ;)

Written by: Emmett Cooke

Emmett Cooke is an Irish composer for film, tv and video games. His music has been used around the world by high profile companies including Sony Playstation, Ralph Lauren, ABC, CBS, NBC, Lockheed Martin and many more.

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