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Exclusive Interview with Tyler Bates, Score Composer for The Devil's Rejects

Category: 300 News
Article Date: July 16, 2005 | Publication: UGO.com | Author: Daniel Robert Epstein
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Tyler Bates may not believe himself to be a sadistic S.O.B., but people may disagree after they see the new movie for which he composed the score, The Devil's Rejects. It is Rob Zombie's follow-up to his horror hit House of 1000 Corpses, and it's sure to be just as nuts. Having just worked on the score for the remake of Dawn of the Dead, Bates is on a roll in the horror genre.

UGO: How did you get involved with The Devil's Rejects?

Tyler Bates: I had met Rob Zombie a few times in the past and a mutual friend went with him to the Dawn of the Dead premiere and told me the following day that Rob really dug the music. So I sent a copy of the score of Dawn of the Dead over to Rob and with a note saying, "If you ever want some help, let me know." He phoned me up and that was that.

UGO: At what point did you get involved?

Tyler: They had been cutting the film for a few weeks at the point I came on board. Once Rob started hearing the score, he wanted to re-cut his film to the actual score. So as I would write cues, he'd go over to the editing room, he'd re-cut the film...(laughs)...oftentimes manipulate the music a little bit and I would actually make the adjustments necessary to make it seamless with the picture. It was the first time I've ever actually worked that way, where it was a back and forth.

UGO: Is working with an actual musician as a director different than working with a regular director like [Dawn of the Dead] director Zack Snyder?

Tyler: Certainly with Rob Zombie, something of his experience directing music videos probably did seep into it, because he became more comfortable working on his final cut.

UGO: Did the fact that The Devil's Rejects is such a sick work throw you off at all, or do you like that?

Tyler: It's a lot to handle, especially because I was steeped in those images for several months. If it was not done so well, I don't know if I could handle hanging with the program that long. I'm not a sadistic person by nature. But I did find the film to be very compelling and part of what's so screwed up about it is the events that take place are so heinous and so hard to handle, but at the same time the way Rob shot this film and the way he constructed it makes it very compelling all the way through. Even though it feels so wrong, it feels so right (laughs).

UGO: Once you saw the first cut of the film, did you look at Rob any differently?

Tyler: No, because he's made it so much more than just being sadistic. He's such an intelligent guy and has a really interesting sense of humor that, once you get to know him a little bit, you know that this is only a smart part of his creativity. You just know that he's going to turn out other films of different genres. I asked him about this and he basically said, "This stuff goes on in my head and this is how I get it out" (laughs).

UGO: Was there a theme for each character?

Tyler: No, it was more about scoring the psychological state of the film. The source cues happened to be a reprieve from the film and the score. The goal of the score was to transcend the mindset of all these sociopaths. There were certain elements to the score that might be sympathetic to the victims and might be turning screws a little bit on the protagonist, but at the end of the day it's based on motifs more than scenes underscoring each character.

UGO: Did you see the three people, Captain Spaulding, Sheri Moon and Otis as heroes of the film?

Tyler: Me personally, no. I'm not a real fan of violent people. I'm quite intrigued with sociopathic behavior. I did see them as an extremely dysfunctional family, but definitely functioning on a high level with emotions and with a bond between them.

UGO: Are we supposed to care and feel sorry about what happens to the three killers?

Tyler: (laughs) I think that's up to the individual. The thing that's harsh about it is that, aside from their heinous behavior and the criminal acts that they commit and have committed, you see a bond between them. I don't know that you're supposed to be overtly sympathetic to any character in the film. But I think what Rob wants you to experience is how, even though these are horrible people, you can see how they feel for each other and how they're bound together.

UGO: Are we supposed to care and feel sorry about what happens to the three killers?

Tyler: (laughs) I think that's up to the individual. The thing that's harsh about it is that, aside from their heinous behavior and the criminal acts that they commit and have committed, you see a bond between them. I don't know that you're supposed to be overtly sympathetic to any character in the film. But I think what Rob wants you to experience is how, even though these are horrible people, you can see how they feel for each other and how they're bound together.

UGO: Technically, what did you use to score the film?

Tyler: I went outside my studio to do a large type of drumming and percussion session. Then there was a session of, like, acid rock and manic noise for a day. And then, there was a brass session another day. But the rest was set in my studio and the first three weeks of working on the film was creating a palette of sound that, ultimately, I could look at the film and use the sound. As far as the ambient textures of the film are concerned, all the sounds were made for the film, so in that sense, all the sounds stem from some sort of organic source, and then my assistant Wolfgang and I would take the sounds and mutate them until they felt like they matched the fiber of the film. Then, I had an idea for a palette of industrial sounds that would contain their own rhythms or tempos and that was the beginning of the concept of the score and, obviously, as time went on, they evolved and, as I got later into the film, I would actually go back into some of the early cues of the film and take a split second of the entire cue and then make a new sample out of that that would become either a rhythmic element or an ambient texture.

UGO: The Devil's Rejects is being released with an R rating, so when Rob had cut down his uncut version, did that change your music at all?

Tyler: Oh, there were adjustments that were made, but I really think that Rob managed to meet the MPAA's requirements without compromising the movie at all. It never appeared to be less violent. I think he might have trimmed the length of the scene with Captain Spaulding and Ginger Lynn, or something. They just thought it was too long. The first time the MPAA watched the film, they stopped taking notes midway through the film and they said, "It's too creepy; it's too scary and freaky, so change it." So I don't know even what Rob did to adjust it. But I know that it was literally shaving a few frames here or there.

UGO: What else are you working on right now?

Tyler: I'm just finishing a film right now, currently titled Good Night, and Gregory Dark is the director, and they're going to change the title of the film. This week, I'm beginning a film called Slithers. James Gunn, who wrote Dawn of the Dead and the Scooby-Doo movies, this is his directorial debut.

UGO: Are you working on Zack Snyder's next movie?

Tyler: 300, yeah.

UGO: What kind of score are you putting together for that?

Tyler: That's...well, the movie is an ancient battle epic. There are beautiful themes on the top and large choir and whatnot, but it's tempered with some extreme heaviness. Zack did an elaborate test shot for Warner Bros to illustrate exactly the kind of film he wanted to make. I scored the test shot and I said to him, "You are aware that this is probably five times heavier than anything that's ever come out in this genre?" (laughs) This has a lot of weight and intensity in the low end of the percussion, so he's down with it. He wants to spawn a new generation of this kind of film.

UGO: What was the test shot exactly?

Tyler: It was one single unedited shot that was about a minute and a half of a battle scene. We see a line of the Spartans line up against the army of 10,000 Persians ready to invade. It was really fantastic. I was really blown away and, like I said, there were no edits in the whole shot, so it was really cool.

UGO: Did he make it look like Sin City at all, or did he put his own look to it?

Tyler: He definitely put his own look. Sin City is its own thing, and I think that the team of guys who worked on it did a fantastic job, but this is a completely different feeling and look from that. It almost looks animated, but it's all live action.

 


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