I first met Dax Shepard a few years ago when I did the score for Katie Aselton's film The Freebie. At the time, he let me know that he really enjoyed my score, and just a year later, I had the pleasure of composing music for Dax's directorial debut, Brother's Justice. The producer of Brothers, Nate Tuck, also produced Hit and Run, so at this point, Dax, Nate and I have developed a really nice working relationship. They are both very particular about music, which I absolutely love. Some musicians would prefer fewer notes, but I cherish the collaborative aspect of scoring a film. In my opinion, it is what makes film music so special.
The biggest challenge I faced scoring Hit and Run was achieving the proper tone with the score. On one hand, this is a car chase film, with screeching tires and gun fights and other very real dangers. At the same time, the film is a romantic comedy, with lots of big laughs and lots of romance. It was important for the score to toe the line and not make the danger too scary, but still propel the scenes that needed action film energy. Because it's in the percussion family, the marimba has some very helpful characteristics for a film like this; it can read as quirky and whimsical, but can also be very propulsive and even somewhat menacing (but not too menacing!). The score to Beverly Hills Cop was also very helpful. In fact, watching movies that maybe share tonal elements with the movie I'm working on is always really enlightening.
The other curveball I faced on Hit and Run was that when I first came on, it was an indie film, but by the time I finished the score, it had been purchased by a distributor and had essentially become a studio movie. The challenge was how to take an indie film score that I performed myself and turn it into something that would sound appropriate in a big summer movie, and do that without losing the indie elements that the filmmakers liked. Luckily, I was given enough resources to hire an engineer, a contractor/conductor and a mixer, all of whom are incredibly talented and were integral in taking the score to the next level
I'll be totally honest, I am a synthesizer freak. I wouldn't classify any of my scores as traditional "synthesizer scores," and it would certainly be a dream to be hired to create a synthesizer score like Witness or Drive, but until then I will continue to sneak them in any chance I get. There is one cue in particular, where Dax's character unveils his custom Lincoln Continental. It's a pretty explosive piece, led by a chugging, Rocky-esque electric guitar, thunderous drums and a complex marimba pattern. On the dub stage, when we pulled up the stems for that piece, the mixer soloed a track called "Pads," and all of a sudden, the arpeggiations and growling basses I had hidden were left naked and exposed. By itself like that, it sounded like Miami Vice or Midnight Express, but mixed with the other elements, I think it suggests nostalgia without being overtly retro.
Later that same day, I found out that they licensed Pete Townshend's "Let My Love Open the Door" for the ending credits. Because I am such a hopeless analog synthesizer fetishist, Pete has always been an inspiration for me in terms of how to incorporate synthesizers into music that isn't overtly electronic. The first piece I did for the film was built on a little synth groove that I have no problem admitting was heavily indebted to Pete's music, specifically "Let My Love Open the Door." That piece ended up becoming the central "love theme" of the film, and I'm incredibly proud to know that my blue Roland SH-101 is arpeggiating on 2700 screens right now.
Julian Wass is a Los Angeles-based composer, producer and member of Fol Chen. Listen to evidence of his synth fetishism at www.julianwass.com.
Follow Julian Wass on Twitter: @julianwass
Hit and Run is now in theaters. Find out more at www.facebook.com/hitandrunmovie.