Dhani Harrison: "We Are Wild Stallions!"
EXCLUSIVE! We talk to thenewno2 man about his Beautiful Creatures soundtrack…
Music and collective Ben Harper, Liela Moss and Tony Hicks to produce a score that infuses electronica and modern rock with a Southern Gothic sultriness, creating a new genre along the way that they've dubbed ‘swamptronica.’
We talked to Dhani about the project, and about how working as part of thenewno2 has helped get him over 'the hump' of musical expectation that comes with his famous family name.
MTV - At what stage in the film’s development did you become involved, and did you get to see much of what was shot as you worked on the music?
"We came in about September of 2012. We were given a screening and from the moment we were hired we were scoring to picture the whole time, obviously. We scored about 7 or 8 versions of the film, before we finalised it and went to Abbey Road."
How much of a brief did you receive from Richard LaGravenese? Did you have specific areas you each worked on?
"He had ideas for a sound, but, I think he was finding it hard to express what that sound was, and the first day that we met our natural instincts seemed to hit the nail on the head. So, I think, he left us pretty much alone… there were a couple of changes here and there, but the reason we were so happy with the soundtrack is that we were afforded the opportunity to do what we wanted. And Richard is awesome because he shares the same musical tastes as us. Words like “swamptronica" turned up, names such as Bernard Herman were referenced and we instantly clicked."
How did you, Paul and Jonathan approach working on the score? Did you have specific areas you each worked on?
"Jon is an expert orchestrator, Paul is an expert mixer and I took in control the band arrangements. I wrote a lot of the melodies and together we are wild stallions."
How did you find working on score compared to the other music you have made both as thenewno2 and with other projects?
"I really enjoyed it. Something that I’d like to do a lot more of. I think you find when you relate to a film, such as we did with this film, I think it makes it a lot easier. Obviously, you have to be careful choosing what you want to do so that you can give your best work, but, in the case of this film and thenewno2 it seemed to fit really nicely, so it was a real pleasure."
The score features a real mix of styles. Do you think in terms of ‘genre’ when writing or does it all just come out as ‘music’?
"Certain things have to be appropriate for certain visuals. Certain scenes lend themselves to certain things. It’s more about trying to achieve an emotion and tell a story than it is to really consider what genre you’re playing."
You worked with a variety of guests on this project, including Ben Harper and The Duke Spirit’s Leila Moss. How did you choose who to approach?
"We have a good group of friends here at thenewno2, and we all get each other’s back. The way thenewno2 works is we all like to inspire each other and since Ben was around and we were looking for some slide for a few things, he came and threw down, and brought with him a load more inspiration for some stuff. And when we were in England, I hadn’t seen Leila for awhile, so I told her to come down to the Abbey Road session, just as a friend to visit, and by the end of that day she ended up singing the hook on the thing. We then went and recorded more of Leila because she has such fire it really made the soundtrack.
"When we had Thorun Antonia over for a tour, we used her as the siren vocals for Ridley, and Frank Zummo, our drummer, Jeremy Faccone, Nick Fyffe, we all hang out together, so whenever we are recording we’ve got lots of people to put on the record. And Tony! Jon and Paul were talking about some banjo and before anyone could even say “awesometown” we had Tony Hicks playing the banjo… which was really something."
How did it feel when you got to watch the finished film back? Did the music and images go together in the way you envisaged them?
"When you’re scoring, you’re writing the music to the picture all day long, so, with the finished project you should hope that it goes together. (laughs) Otherwise, you haven’t done your job."
Although Paul has worked a lot at Abbey Road, for you this was the first time there working on your own project. How was it – presumably the studio has a lot of special family associations for you both?
"It’s a great, fun place. I know everyone there so it’s familiar. The equipment is incredible. A studio is a studio, you know, but EMI have got some really great equipment, and it’s been used on everything. And the reason it sounds good is because you recognise it on everything. So, certain sounds like you’ll hear on “Never Too Late” you’ll hear in other songs. That equipment is legendary equipment."
Does working as a part of thenewno2 collective help you avoid a lot of the preconceptions that you may encounter when recording under your own name?
"That was the point of thenewno2, to do whatever I wanted… and fortunately, we’ve got to the point now where people listen to it for its own sound. I seem to have gotten over that ‘hump’. If you want to know the substance of what the music is, you have to get past any sort of preconception."
Gavin Cullen @mtvuknews