In recent years the rock’n’roll world has started taking a keen interested in The Oscars – the 2012 ceremony takes place this Sunday (26 February), follow all the action at Empireonline.com – with the Trent Reznor and Atticus Rose winning a score award for The Social Network last year (though oddly overlooked this year for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) and Flight Of The Conchords‘s Brett McKenzie has picked up a 2012 nomination for Man Or Muppet in the Original Song category. With former Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Cliff Martinez acclaimed (but also not Oscar-nominated) for scoring Drive and Plan B making his own movie, the forthcoming Ill Manors, and its soundtrack, there seems to be a little renaissance of rock’n’roll film scores.
While yet to attract The Academy‘s attention, former Coral guitarist Bill Ryder-Jones has also made a series of forays into film soundtracking. His first solo release was an EP of music taken from his score for short film Leave Taking, while he helped out Alex Turner recording guitar for several tracks of the Arctic Monkey‘s Submarine soundtrack.
His first full solo album, last year’s If…, saw him create a soundtrack for Italo Calvino‘s 1979 novel If On A Winter Night A Traveller, each composition representing a chapte,r and off the back of that work he’s currently finishing off his first full length score for Kieron Hawkes‘ forthcoming movie Piggy.
“I’ve always loved soundtrack music and instrumental music. I’ve enjoyed the freedom you get,” explains Ryder-Jones of how he found his way from The Coral to film scoring. “Instrumental music speaks to me in a way lyrics don’t. Sometimes I feel songs generally are a bit preachy, I don’t like being sung at, I don’t know why. We always loved soundtracks in the band and I always had an interest in symphonic music. It just felt like something I could do. I didn’t want to come out and make a guitar record, I don’t think I could do that well and the band are still going so I didn’t want to come out and be in the same world, that’s no me any more.”
However while it was clear he didn’t want to do much with words, the guitarist-turned-composer isn’t exactly a film buff either.
“It’s a really odd thing, I’ve got a circle of mates who are way ahead of the game with me as far as film is concerned and it filters down to me, I don’t avidly seek films,” he admits. “I haven’t got a great attention span. My favourite film, Once Upon A Time In America, I’ve probably watched once in its entirety. The rest of the time I watch half an hour. I feel a bit embarrassed saying I want to write for films because really I don’t watch that many! There’s just something about writing for pictures that really excites me – I’ve probably undersold myself there. [laughs]”
Instead Ryder-Jones took the more unlikely route of soundtracking an already published novel – “it’s not a soundtrack to an imaginary film it’s the soundtrack to a novel, for me there’s differences in that,” he notes, adding he’d like to do a similar project in future but working with a novelist while they’re still writing so book and album could be released together – which brought him to the attention of Piggy‘s writer and director Hawkes.
“I’m writing for my first film at the minute and there is fun in the limitations,” he says. “But I’m only just coming to terms with how much music you have to write as someone who writes for films. If you’re a band you write an album a year if you’re as prolific as The Coral. They do 30 tracks per album and whittle it down. Last year I wrote If…, half the music for my second album, music for Piggy and another project I’m writing. A good year would be if I could get three little soundtracks done and slip an album out!
“With Piggy I was doing my own cue sheet the other day, and in the first 20 minutes there were 15 minutes of music they needed!” he adds. “If you times that through the film it’s a good hour and half of music. I haven’t got a clue when the film’s out, all I know the soundtrack has to be done by the end of the month. It’s all shot and they’ve done a load of editing!”
Though it’s not just films and books that Ryder-Jones is interested in soundtracking. He’s currently offering to create a “theme tune” for one person based on how they describe themselves in posts on his website, Doublesixrecords.com/billryderjones.
So what can you expect from a Bill Ryder-Jones soundtrack about you? “I don’t want to do that abstract nothing music that can last for four minutes, that’s a cop out. Music should be music, I’m always trying to make it go somewhere and that’s the hard part,” he explains. “Without realising it, I’ve really developed a writing style when I made If…. If anything when I listen my music now it does sound like me – does that sound really stupid? [laughs]”