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HiFi Scenen: Randall Dunn

“When you have 50 string players playing a beautiful melody it is pretty easy to make someone feel something”

Interview med producer Randall Dunn om hans arbejde med at skabe lyd til levende billeder

Med navne som Sunn O))), Sort Sol og Black Mountain på CV’et har Randall Dunn gjort sig til the go-to producer for bands, der ønsker atmosfærisk og hårdtslående kant. Randall Dunns evner til at male store soniske billeder har gjort ham til en eftertragtet producer til både album- og filmproduktioner. For hvordan skaber man lydsiden til en horrorfilm med Nicolas Cage, der jages af en satanisk kult igennem skoven? I samarbejde med komponisten Jóhann Jóhannson, producerede Randall Dunn soundtracket til den anmelderroste horrorfilm ”Mandy”. Vi har taget en snak med ham om hans arbejde som lyddesigner og om skabelsen af lydsiden til ”Mandy”.

In your opinion, what is the role of a film score?

Different films require different things from the score. The main role of the score is to underpin the drama and emotionality of the intent of the director and the story. In that sense I relate to it because the production is there to enhance the story like on a record production.

Where in the process of the movie would you like to be involved?

The sooner the better I think so you can internalize the story and relate with it. I think film scoring is a little like being an actor. You are going to make music that’s appropriate for the film. And that doesn’t mean that it is your music in a conceptual way. It is not like you are expressing yourself through every note in a film like you would on a record. Music can be effective in the film but it won’t be the most compelling music on its own. Sometimes the sound is very simple taking on its own, but with the image it is powerful because the image suggests so much more context than the sounds. So those two approaches of making music are very different for me.

What factors influence your decision to work on a particular film?

My role as a producer is often to help ‘bridging’ between the director and the composer. A friend of mine has a really good term that he made up. “Modern score designs are starting to be done in a way that seems to merge sound design and score design. Often, the way you are making sounds, you are really designing the sounds of the score”. So I get pulled in to do that kind of work: not necessarily composing, but making big decisions about the people who are playing, details on the recording, what keyboards, drums and what kind of drummers are used.

There is a lot of work in helping the composer how to design the score, which is what I did on “Mandy”.

So a lot of the work is to choose the right tools to achieve the appropriate atmosphere or feeling?

Absolutely – it’s designing the sounds that make the music. Even the personality of the musicians in the room can be defining. One orchestra plays really aggressively and another more mellow. There are so many ways to go. Anybody who does film composing is usually a huge fan of Ennio Morricone. I love him because he seems to choose the one solo instrument that always conveys the emotion of the scene, which a lot of people like Sir John Williams would do with a theme instead. But Morricone can do that with a solo instrument. He lets different characters have different instruments that play their theme, and the instruments have specific sounds. This has always influenced me. An example is the harmonica in the beginning of “Once upon a time in the west”. You hear it for a long time before you finally see the guy who plays it. These kinds of things are really compelling to me.

Ennio Morricone - Man with a harmonica

Do you favor using traditional orchestration for film score?

Wide open. The one really great thing about using traditional orchestrating is it’s very easy to manipulate emotions because we all have a connection with that sound. When you have 50 string players playing a beautiful melody it is pretty easy to make someone feel something. It is much harder when it is a solo vocalist or a synthesizer.

Mandy Official Trailer

Were you aiming for a certain voice or tone when working on the film score for “Mandy”?

The thing about Panos Cosmatos (director) is that he is very specific. He knew what he wanted. The lead up conversation for months up to the soundtrack were - how do we do this without ending up like a pastiche of Stranger Things - In other words: something completely retro. So that was kind of our whole thing. Let’s start there and then move away by subverting it. That was sort of a process and method acting.

Randal Dunn – Something About That Night

You are releasing your debut album as a solo artist titled “Beloved” the 9 of November. How did you come up with your sound for the debut album?

My personal philosophy is that music is a deep meditation when you work with sound. I’m very interested in poetry and I’m also interested in how sound and languages are similar, how music and language are similar and how music and sound is similar. How can you convey things without imagery, like sound poems or reveries? That has always been my kind of approach – to make my solo music a bit more like poetry than anything.

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