From being "Made" to being "Superbad" and now to another player in Fisher Stevens', Stand Up Guys.
This is of course, the work of Lyle Workman, who has had a streaking hot record of fun films to date that now include American Reunion, 40 Year Old Virgin and Yes Man. With the Incredible Burt Wonderstone starring Steve Carell, Jim Carrey and Olivia Wilde set to open in March, we can take a look back at his most recent film, Stand Up Guys starring Academy Award Winners Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin in which Lyle provided an engaging and entertaining score admist the return of singer Jon Bon Jovi with two songs he had written for the film.
Workman isn't just a film composer, he's an accomplished guitarist with several albums released that include Harmonic Crusader, Purple Passages and Tabla Rusa as well as working with the likes of the music industry's greatest collection of artists that include Sting, Michael Buble, Bryan Adams, Alanis Morissette, Shakira, Jellyfish, and Todd Rundgren to name a few.
Let us now read and get to know this wonderful musician and composer and what he thinks of his latest project as well as look back on other projects of his solid career to date. And not to mention, a true gentleman!
Hello Lyle, how are you and thank you very much for granting me the time to conduct this interview with you today.
LW: Thank you for your interest Danny.
Please tell the readers about what made you become interested in music and composing.
LW: At the beginning it was The Beatles, for scoring it was my love of films.
Your most recent film was the film, Stand Up Guys starring the great acting legends Al Pacino and Christopher Walken. What attracted you to this film?
LW: The gentlemen you just mentioned. Secondly, the look and feel of the film. I found it gritty and fun, with fine dramatic elements.
Tell me about the approach you took in writing the score for the film?
LW: Songs with 60’s, 70’s Soul, R&B, and blues flavors were being set in place, and the director Fisher Stevens wanted the score to borrow from those textures. From then I set out to write stylized music to sound and feel authentic to the era in which they were inspired by. In a sense I “cast” the band, being very deliberate to select specific musicians for their feel and sonic approach.
Did (Director) Fisher (Stevens) have a specific musical plan for you in mind considering that you had to contend with new songs by Bon Jovi and others?
LW: The only directive was that that the score gel with the songs stylistically, although not required with Jon’s song because of its special moment and specific function in the last act of the movie.
Will there be an album released of your score?
LW: Yes. The score CD was released on January 29. And there is another CD that features the songs, including one Jon wrote after reading the script.
How did you put the album together? Please tell the readers about this specific process.
LW: The score CD was a simply matter of selecting all the significant musical moments, and I also included a few pieces I felt were compelling but didn’t make the final cut.
You‘ve been largely involved with a lot of comedies and most of them hit films such as Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Superbad, Yes Man, The 40 Year-Old Virgin and Get Him To The Greek. Tell me about how you got involved and feel about these projects years later.
LW: Through an acquaintance in the music department of Universal Pictures, I was asked to submit some additional music for a film of which Judd Apatow was producer. When it was time for him to make his first feature as a director, my name was brought up and Judd had me write for a few scenes. He liked what he heard, and I was hired for “The 40 Year Old Virgin”. That started my run with his films.
How do I feel about these movies now? I’m very proud and still pinch myself that not only were the films well made, highly original and fun to work on, but they were also very successful and paved the way for a career in film composing. I feel very blessed and fortunate, and I continue to have a very warm feeling about those films. I’m sure I always will.
Was it hard for you to find a musical tone for these films unlike all your other films you’ve scored in the past?
LW: The hardest part of my job is to unlock the key to the sound and feel of a film. Conceptually I feel like the sound is embedded in the film from the outset, it is there already, and the job is to discover the music it is telling me to make. It is the quest to find what is natural and organic to the film. Sometimes it is very clear from the outset, and other times it can be a difficult nut to crack.
I loved the “Funk McLovin” track featured on the Superbad soundtrack which a wonderful throw back 70’s piece. What was the inspiration for it because it is really a lot of fun.
LW: Thank you! That track was written as an end credit roll piece, and it had to be fun piece to end the film. Having the masters of funk as my band with Bootsy Collins playing bass and singing hilarious commentary on the microphone made it impossible to be anything but fun.
It is hard for you do a comedy film as opposed to a more dramatic one for example?
LW: I do think comedy is harder because the music needs to get out of the way of the jokes, yet provide the right degree of tone, pacing and energy. It can be an art of neutrality; other times more pointed humor in the music is called for to strengthen and propel the comedy. Hitting the proper balance can be a tight rope walk.
Are you pleased that these films have been as successful as they’ve become with moviegoers over the years?
LW: I am very pleased and grateful. It is wonderful that people continue to enjoy them. The collective successes of those earlier films are responsible for the work I’m hired on today. I get to expand and grow in my field because they were, and are, appreciated.
Your debut composing job was for the 2001 comedy, "Made" which starred both Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau, which they also directed. How did you get the project and did you feel any nervousness considering that it was the first film that you composed for?
LW:I had played guitar on a record for a band where one of the members was a good friend with Jon and Vince. They asked their buddy to score it, and that musician asked me to help him.
What was the approach that you took to score the film and did both Vaughn and Favreau have anything specific for you that they wanted for the film in particular?
LW: They allowed us to explore on our own and find it. They were great fun to work with.
A soundtrack album was released for that film. How did you feel seeing your first (soundtrack) music credit with the song, “Keep It Movin' And Don't Do It To Me” amongst the great collection of songs and artists that were part of the CD?
LW: I loved it, especially being that it was my first feature film.
Do you find it difficult for your work to compete with pre-recorded music, like Bon Jovi or The Black Eyed Peas for example?
LW: Not at all. Scoring is such a separate entity from the songs. The pre-recorded songs come in sideways so to speak, generally not written for the films they are in, whereas my work is completely married to the film by nature. Also, songs that are popular have a very different function than score because of their familiarity to the public. If a big comedy is designed for and can afford a hugely popular song in a montage, then that’s what it will be, and as such, the score isn’t competing. Score and song have their own place and function.
You've also worked with director Nicholas Stoller who also co-wrote Yes Man on Get Him To The Greek and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Did he have any influence on the way you scored those films?
LW: You bet. All directors have influence, because it’s their vision I’m to fulfill.
Do you prefer to work mostly comedy or do you prefer to work in other genres?
LW: I don’t prefer one to another. I enjoy having variety in my work the most, so that means working in different genres.
What was the hardest film you’ve had to score to date and why?
LW: Win Win may have been the hardest because of the very tight schedule and too many consecutive sixteen-hour and longer workdays to make the deadline. I’ve been on a few films with directors who were unsure of what they liked and wanted until several options were demoed and presented. When that is the method for an entire film, it’s a challenge to keep the work inspired and cohesive.
Do you think movies have changed for better or worse since you’ve become a composer?
LW: Neither better, nor worse in my opinion. However, it was a blow to lose two visionaries, Stanley Kubrick and Robert Altman. It seems there is no shortage of fine films being released every year, major studio features and independent alike.
What do you think about films today in general?
LW: I’m enthusiastic over many outstanding films being made today. And I’m eager to see what guys like Alexander Payne, Wes Anderson, Judd (Apatow), Paul Thomas Anderson, David O. Russell, Steven Spielberg, and Quentin Tarantino have in store for us.
Would you prefer to work with big orchestra or do you prefer a smaller intimate ensemble of musicians that include yourself?
LW: I like them both very much, but a big orchestra provides the biggest rush.
What is your favorite film score that you haven’t written?
LW: There are too many great ones to single out just one. My cheeky answer is “A Hard Day’s Night” ;)
What is your favorite film that you have scored to date?
LW: That would probably be “Superbad”.
What is your dream project?
LW: Collaborating with Peter Gabriel on a score or a record would be incredible.
Please tell the readers about your future upcoming projects you may have.
LW: “The incredible Burt Wonderstone” comes out in theaters on March 15. I’m very happy with the score, an a CD is being released as well. Also coming out on March 1 is “21 And Over”.
I, like to thank you once again Lyle for granting me this interview and I’m looking forward to your future projects.
LW: Thanks to you Danny and your interested readers!
Very special thanks to Beth Krakowker for again setting up another great interview. You're wonderful and definitely to Lyle for being very gracious for his time and answering these stand up questions. Thanks, God bless!
The Stand Up Guys soundtracks (both the song album featuring Bon Jovi's latest recordings and Lyle's score) are available from Lakeshore Records and can be ordered at Amazon.com
Please check out Lyle's website for his bio, latest projects and music samples @ http://www.lyleworkman.com/