The first thing to say about the score of Two For The Money is that I’m not the only guitar player on the soundtrack. The basis for most of the score is actually an electric rock/funk band, with a full live rhythm section, keyboards, percussion, and at least one guitarist who is NOT me, who contributed some very fine and expressive “regular” playing. I don’t use “regular” in a derogatory way at all – merely to distinguish it from the stuff I do on the score, since it’d be deeply unfair for me to try and take credit for the excellent guitar work on the score which I didn’t perform.
For me, the most obvious thing I did bring to the score is the bleepy, squawky, glitchy Echoplex sound that’s been so prominent in my work over the last few years. This is definitely me in “album 2” mode, rather than “album 1” mode; listeners who know my Echoplex voice will hear a lot of familiar stuff, whereas folks who last checked in on me via Disruption Theory might be a bit confused.
A number of the cues have the main electric band playing in a funk/rock mode, with my parts functioning in the same manner as breakbeats or a DJ’s vinyl record underneath the main band groove. For a guy who calls his bag “turntablist guitar,” this is a serious treat (and more than a bit of a vindication, after hearing people tell me how out of my mind I was for trying to fill that kind of role with a guitar and Echoplex, and how hopelessly inappropriate the “turntablist guitar” handle supposedly was.) I also did quite a bit of more purely textural, ambient work for the score, which was a lot of fun, as I don’t allow myself to do that sort of thing in my own work. On the other hand, the more ambient stuff, perhaps partially by its very nature, is harder for me to identify as my own work. Christophe Beck is no stranger to working with electronic elements in his scores, and there’s a fair amount of sound design going on here.
That leads to the second thing to say about the score, which is that there are a few bits which could well be me – or they could be an electric piano fed through a tremolo and a reverb patch, or they could be a “regular live band” guitar part with lots of processing… there are even a handful of guitar parts that I can’t tell if I played or not. Keep in mind that most of the parts I played on the score are things I never heard again after playing them, until I heard some of the mixes of the final score many months later. A lot of material was recorded over the three sessions I did with Beck; quite a bit of it clearly has my fingerprints all over it, which I’m delighted by. But there’s other stuff where I can’t tell if it’s me or not… which could end up being fun, or perplexing, or agonizing. Damn nice problem to have, though.
Part of that ambiguity has to do with the fact that all of my parts were recorded, mixed and produced digitally on computer. In 2005, digital audio is basically silly putty in a composer’s hands – the pitch of a performance can be changed independently of the speed, and vica versa; microscopic edits in timing and groove can be executed in a totally transparent manner; and source material can be mutated, altered, edited, and cut-and-pasted to the artist’s heart’s content. I know that Christophe had some of his engineers use Ableton Live, a program reknowned for its in-depth flexibility in editing and warping audio, to chop up some of my Echoplex performances after the fact. That’s the sort of thing DJs and producers have been doing to drum beats and samples in the hip-hop and dance music worlds for ages, so once again, it’s a pretty deep symbolic thing to me to have my source tracks used in such a way. Beyond that, it also means that additional credit for the success of those cues must go to the cut-and-paste ninjas who pointed and clicked my performances to Christophe’s satisfaction.
That brings up the fact that that this is the very first time I’ve ever come up with performances, and then turned them over to someone else to do as they like with it. I’m used to hearing my stuff dozens, if not hundreds, of times after I record it, while I painstakingly try and figure out the final form for it. Walking into the studio for the second session, and hearing a fully-produced track with my stuff all over it, was a pretty serious trip – I knew it was me, but it was a bit hard to believe, ’cause I’d never heard the music before. One small step for mankind, to be sure, but a very giant leap for this particular guy.
At this point, I’ve heard about a half hour of the final score, which is enough to leave me very grateful for the space I was able to have carved out in the soundtrack. But there’s a lot of additional music that I haven’t heard yet, as well as the issue of seeing how the score functions in the context of the movie itself. This isn’t a two-hour music video, after all; it’s a feature-length movie with dialogue and sound effects, so it remains to be seen how much of any of the score is particularly front and center.
But DUDE… if I have to have an actor talking over my Echoplex parts, I could do a hell of a lot worse than Al Pacino.