Cris Cab and Pharrell

Meet Pharrell Williams' protege, Cris Cab, and watch their video for 'Liar, Liar'

Are you one of the 30 million who has already watched his video for 'Liar, Liar?'

Cris Cab is proof that persistence, hard work, and a little bit of luck pay off.

Six years ago, when he was 15, Cab met Pharrell Williams through mutual family friends. “This friend was nice enough to bring me into the studio.” Cab played Williams music he’d produced in his bedroom. “He gave me some great advice,” Cab recalls. He put what Williams taught him to good use and began recording again.

A few years later, “Pharrell heard I was making music again and he brought me back into the studio and taught me about recording and writing and producing,” Cab says. “It’s all been amazing.”

Indeed, while it may seem in the United States like Cab is an overnight sensation, his video for  “Liar, Liar,” a song co-written and produced,  by Williams,  has already hit 30 million views on YouTube and the song landed on the iTunes top 10 in more than 30 countries. “Liar Liar”  is featured on “Where I Belong,” Cab’s debut full-length album, out Sept. 2 on Island Records.  

The international acclaim happened serendipitously. Williams suggests that they make a music video together for “Liar, Liar,” and then see what happened. “We decided to put it out, and wherever we see smoke, let’s start there. That’s what we did,” Cab says. “After three months, it we started seeing it chart in the Netherlands, then Romania,” and it kept spreading. Now, Cab hopes the U.S. catches on.

The lilting sound in Cab’s music comes from the Cuban influence. He grew up in Miami, the son of Cuban immigrants. “The Cuban culture is very warm and sunny, full of love,” he says. “That’s what I try to bring into my music, positivity and love.”

That sunny feeling also comes from summers spent in the Bahamas, starting when he was 9 and he heard reggae music in bars. “They had a ring toss there, it was weird. It was a bar with games,” he laughs. “I didn’t really understand any of the lyrics, but I understood that it made me feel good.”

Add in his father’s love of acts like Bee Gees, Barry White, Lou Rawls and Marvin Gaye, and it’s easy to see how Cab developed his R&B-influenced sound.

Cab released an EP on his own in 2011. That helped lead to his record deal with Island, which he signed during his senior year of high school. Since signing with Island, he’s released a mix tape and another EP, “just to engage the fans,” he says. “You’ve got to keep it going.”

To that end, Cab will open for Williams in Europe this fall and learn more by osmosis. “Just from watching him and watching people like Wyclef and other producers, there’s no substitution for hard work,” Cab says. “You have to be recording, writing all the time. You have to really live for the music.”

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6 Things to watch for during the 2014 MTV VMAs: Beyonce, Taylor Swift and more

Will Nicki Minaj take another swipe at Iggy Azalea?

The producers of MTV’s annual Video Music Awards show often try a little too hard to be edgy and try to act like the video channel still represents the cutting edge in some way. Not this year. Sunday’s 2014 VMAs, which will air live on MTV from Los Angeles’ Forum, look like a straight-ahead, mainstream, pop fare with performances from Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Charli XCX, Eminem, Nicki Minaj and Maroon 5, who, incredibly, are making their VMA performance debut.

Here are six things to expect from the Aug. 24 awards:

*Look for Taylor Swift to debut her new song, “Shake It Off.” She premiered the video for her latest tune —the first single from forthcoming album “1989”— via a Yahoo chat on Monday (18) Now we can see her perform it for the first time at the VMAs. The big question is how much of the video’s plot will she incorporate into her performance? Will it be ballerina Taylor or ‘80s rapping Taylor or tweaking Taylor that shows up on Aug. 24 or a combo of all three? I predict she’ll play totally off her album’s title, “1989.”

*Beyonce will deliver the water cooler performance of the evening. She steals the spotlight now just by showing up, but given that Beyonce is the leading nominee with eight VMA nods and the recipient of this year’s Video Vanguard Award AND she seems to be into making cryptic statements from stage, expect her performance — which we hear is a solo one— to give us all something to discuss Monday morning. Will it be a nod to the ever-swirling divorce rumors or a hint at what’s next? Only Beyonce knows for now.

*Girls Run The World: We’ll have our official predictions on Friday, but this feels like a very female-centric VMAs,  between Bey and Iggy Azalea  leading nominations with eight each, the heat behind Sia’s “Chandelier,” performances by Azalea, Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj… Move over, boys, the ladies have got something to say.

*5 Seconds of Summer will bring the all the girls to the yard. 5SOS is taking a break from opening for 1D to perform at the VMAs and it is the act’s chance to really prove that when it comes to numerically-named boy bands, they are more One Direction than 98 Degrees.

*Nicki Minaj will throw some shade at Iggy Azalea: She almost can’t help herself at this point. The question is how will she do it? We think she should have a tall, skinny white dancer who moves clunkily on  stage during her performance of “Anaconda.” That’s really the only chance she’ll get since Minaj is not up for any awards. As far as Azalea, she’ll probably be too busy collecting Moonmen to take any digs: she’s up for 8 awards. Looks like she’s already won the Minaj/Azalea VMA battle before the night even begins.

*This award show is for the girls: To expand on an earlier point, between all the female performers, 5SOS,  and “Pretty Little Liars’” Lucy Hale hosting the pre-show (no host has been named for the main telecast), this year’s VMAs seem squarely aimed at girls 12-to-18. Yes, there’s something there for the guys, with acts like Eminem appearing (and surprises not yet announced), but the demo for this show is your little sister. You’ll be able to hear the squeals all over the house.


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John Ottman

Interview: Composer John Ottman on 'X-Men,' Honey Boo Boo, and his favorite score ever

Just don't try to visit him during a scoring session

POZNAN, POLAND—John Ottman is a traditionalist. The composer for such films as “XMen— Days of Future Past,” “Superman Returns,” “The Usual Suspects,” “X2: XMen United,” and “Apt Pupil,” writes scores in the style of his musical heroes, John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith.

Here at the Transatlantyk Festival in Poznan, he talked to attendees about the emotional points film music should hit and lamented the lack of finesse in so many of today’s scores. Ottman is unique among composers in that he serves not only as the scorer for Bryan Singer’s films, he also edits them, which severely limits the amount of time he has to score. He recently emerged out of a three-year work jag that included working on “Jack the Giant Slayer,”  “X-Men—Days of Future Past.”

My colleague Kris Tapley interviewed Ottman about “Days of Future Past,”  in May so I decided to do a quick lightning round with him on different topics. We were both very jet lagged and kept laughing at our difficulty concentrating, but he came through like a trooper. And one thing he made perfectly clear: Just don’t visit him during a scoring session.

What’s the hardest scene to score?

A fight scene is one of the hardest scenes to score, for me, at least, because you have to search for what the scene is really about to be motivated musically and yet people are just hitting each other. If you can find out what the scene is about underneath the action that is going on, it’s easier to write music for it, but
some times you just have to go for what’s on the screen and that’s the toughest for me because I’m always motivated by things within the character.

What’s the easiest scene to score?

I would say a creepy scene, someone walking through halls and something’s going to happen. You’re really just suspending the moment.

What’s your favorite creepiest scene you’ve scored?

There are many moments in “Hide & Seek,” a movie I did which I’m very proud of. I’m very thematic, so there was a character called Charlie, who was [the main character’s] imaginary friend and I used string harmonics to create this “Charlie’s Theme,” so when he’s being talked about, it’s very creepy, even though in a strange way, it has a personality to it, which is probably what makes it creepy.

How hard is is to tie in your theme with a well-known existing theme by another composer, such as in “Superman Returns,” when you go from your theme into John Williams’ “Lois Lane" theme during the flight scene?

Frankly, it was a lot easier than I thought to weave in the Williams’ stuff into the score for “Superman Returns,” probably because the themes from his score are so iconic, that you just hear a fragment of them and you recognize them, so all I had to do is throw in a note or two of one of his themes within mine and you understood I was giving a nod, so I just basically find out whatever key I’m in and throw three notes or two notes from either the “Superman” or the “Lois Lane” theme.

Who’s your favorite “X-Men” character to write for?

Xavier. On “Days of Future Past,” it was the first time he’s had a theme in the franchise because the movies have never really centered around him like “Days of Future Past” did. It’s all about rediscovering the hope that he lost, so it was gratifying to be able to do a theme for him.

We saw some old footage today from when Patrick Stewart and Bryan Singer came to the scoring stage for “X2" Do you like it when the actors stop by?

It’s always unnerving for me when anyone comes into the scoring session. My team knows me very well and they know that the day that supposedly someone might come, I’m very cranky and very irritable and everything ticks me off because all I’m doing is staring at the door the whole time because every time the door opens I think [someone] is walking in who is going to screw up my entire day [laughs].

What’s your favorite scene you’ve ever scored?

It’s naturally from a film that no one ever saw, which is usually the case. One was a movie called “Incognito,” which was aptly titled because it remained as such. That movie was a rare opportunity for a composer because it was long, long sequences, some five or six minutes in length, without any dialogue and very little effects. It was showing how a guy would forge art. It was a composer’s wet dream, There’s an almost six-minute sequence where Jason Patric basically forges a Rembrandt and the whole process of how he goes through that process, the real paints, the metals he melts down to make it authentic.…It was a lot of wasted passion because it went nowhere.

You brought up today how scores have changed and are much less subtle. How have expectations changed in terms of what is expected of a composer?

I think the bar has been set so low that I think the expectations aren’t very high, frankly. And it’s sort of depressing because when you’re on a movie, you get so much pressure from everyone because they’re all terrified and scared and so then the music’s suddenly important. [laughs] It’s not important until it comes down to it. Even though they’re all very on edge about it, I think if I just hashed out some string astinados [repeated patterns] and it worked because it’s something new, they’d all love it. I really could just do that and it would be signed off on, but I can’t bring myself to do it because I want to do more than that. I think that’s a lot of what’s going on today.

It starts with the temping, there are so many of those kinds of scores out there now— it’s sort of the sound that’s out there— so an editor throws that onto a movie, suddenly there’s an association with the visuals and everyone just instantly can’t imagine something different. Then the poor composer comes on and if he’s not really an opinionated composer, he’s just going to do that and so then that score goes out there  and that gets temped in the next movie and it basically becomes a circle that doesn’t stop.

You’re a descendant of John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith. Is that traditional style getting lost?

Well to be thematic doesn’t mean to sound dated. I think that’s the fear— if we’re thematic, we’re going to have a score that sounds cheesy, and that’s not true. You can be thematic and still be relevant in today’s scoring styles. It doesn’t mean you have to throw the baby out with the bathwater and just thrown in repeat bars after repeat bars. You can actually find a way to be lyrical in a more modern sense. It just takes more work.

Do you think scores are getting dumbed down?

Yes. There’s a whole “South Park” episode where James Cameron finds the bar and raises it, well the bar just keep going lower, lower. I don’t think modern film scores are quite as bad at Honey Boo Boo, but sometimes I  feel like we’re going there.

What can you say about “X Men: Apocalypse?”

The script is just an outline right now. There are some ideas, but obviously I can’t talk about them, except it’s about the apocalypse (laughs). And all my favorite characters are back, including Quicksilver.

You also edit Bryan Singer’s films. You recently came off three years with out a break. How do you decompress?

The 15 hours a day, 7 days a week just stops and suddenly the freedom you’ve been seeking you have, and then I’m lost. I’m like  a drunk person who’s not drunk. Typical me will see the glass half empty. I realize the sacrifices I made because when it all stops and I’m left with my free time, I realize I only have two friends and I don’t have anyone in my life because it’s all about my work. So it’s sort of sobering when I finish one of these projects to realize how much you don’t have in your personal life. That’s what I’m sort of dealing with right now.

What was the hardest score to write?

“Jack The Giant Slayer” was the hardest time I’ve ever had in terms of cracking what the theme was of the movie because I broke my own sacred rule: never start a film score unless you've established your  themes first. I always write this sort of overture before I start the writing of the score, otherwise I’m lost. I was [in]  a fog every time Jack cam on the screen. I had a temporary place holding theme for him, but I never really liked it and not until I stumbled across something in reel 5 where he’s walking over to his horse, did I realize "There’s the theme right there.” Unfortunately most of the score had been sent off to orchestration. I had no time, but it would be wrong to just have it as it was, so I went back and re-scored every moment that was with Jack and then, only then, could I write the big rousing version of the theme because it was Jack’s theme.

What’s the one score you would take with you to a desert island?

The “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” of course, because I’m the ultimate Trekkie of the original series. When I say original, I mean the ‘60s, not “The Next Generation.” Even though that theme was used on “The Next Generation,” I associate it with “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” which was like the coming of Jesus Christ to me. The score is super thematic, it’s deep, it employs many modern sounds. Despite the fact that Goldsmith was traditional, he was always trying to find ways to be with the times that were, so he’d bring in the blaster beam, that thing that was the new thing and some of his efforts had dated themselves, like in the ‘80s we used some of those electronics, but Star Trek remains timeless. That Blaster Beam thing, a lot of the water phone sounds they use and so forth. you combine that beautiful sweeping version of that theme over the most beautiful thing ever created by man— the Enterprise— and it’s just complete, absolute orgasm.

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Interview: Emmy-nominated composer Michael Price on scoring 'Sherlock'

What he learned from greats like Michael Kamen and Craig Armstrong

POZNAN, POLAND— Michael Price gets around. The British composer leaves Poznan today after being one of the featured speakers at the Transatlantyk Festival, a week-long event dedicated to film, music, and cuisine,  to head straight to Los Angeles for the Creative Arts Emmy Awards on Saturday (16).

Price is nominated for the first time for Outstanding music composition for a miniseries, movie or a special (original dramatic score) for “Sherlock,” the BBC  series he composes music for with David Arnold.  Price apprenticed with a number of composers, but he also worked as a music editor for years, on such films as “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “Love Actually,” and “Nanny McPhee.”

I hopped in a car with Price to interview him on our way to Transatlantyk’s closing gala.

You started as an assistant for the late composer Michael Kamen ("Brazil,""Band Of Brothers," "Lethal Weapon," "Mr. Holland's Opus"), who was a very passionate and emotional composer. What was the biggest thing you learned from him?

Michael was the ultimate tunes guy. He was about melody and it was quite in a way that sometimes the films weren’t big enough to contain what he wanted to say with them and the music that he wanted to write. Sometimes I would take sort of small detailed view of a scene and he would step back from it and try to write a theme that would play out right over the top of it and I don’t think I got that when I was his assistant. I was just like ‘C’mon, that’s where it stops.”  And he said, “No, it will be great.” And the older I get and the  further away I get from[my days with him], the more I’m in awe really of that melodic sense, and that sense of the glorious theme. And now I think in my own work, I do less, I just try to simply play the best tune I could make.

So what he taught you was to play up to your strengths?

Absolutely. And just to believe in the power of the melody. He worked with that sense of not a mechanical way to writing for films, but a glorious, open hearted way of doing it.

After Michael, you went to work with Craig Armstrong (“Love Actually,” "Romeo + Juliet," "The Incredible Hulk"), another very melodic composer. What did you learn from him?

I think Craig has the amazing ability to make the same instruments that everyone else is using sound like Craig Armstrong. I was trying to to work out why him doing orchestra or strings and piano sounded totally, immediately like Craig and why somebody else didn’t have that same character to them. I was fascinated to the extent where I did some transcriptions of his work to try to work out and came to the conclusion that every composer just has a DNA themselves and the way that they move from one note to another and all the tiny little choices that the make add up to them and you can’t reverse engineer it…

What’s your DNA?

I think I thought I was quite serious and then I did “The InBetweeners” and comedy after comedy after comedy, so I’m not really sure. In a way I try not to become self conscious about something like that. With “Sherlock,” it’s become so popular that the tunes that David and I originally wrote for it have sort of gone out from us and just become public  property now. They’re there for people to play on YouTube themselves and for people to do their own thing. When you carry on and do another [season] of it, if in any way become self conscious and are trying to work out what is the DNA of the music of “Sherlock” to try and replicate it, it makes for hard going.

“Sherlock” has so many quick cuts and is edited so interestingly visually. How does that affect how you and David score it?

There was an original pilot episode [that got scrapped]. A lot of the tunes that we wrote for the pilot stayed and it was clear that the speed of thought of Sherlock was driving the whole momentum of the show, really. It was trying to get inside his brain and kind of give the audience an experience of what it’s like to be with Sherlock when he’s doing it. But then when [new director] Paul McGuigan came on to direct the first series proper, rather than the pilot, he brought with him this incredible visual panache and flair and it’s stunning. So I think we developed the material from the pilot episode it was about trying to keep up and not artificially force the pace, but I guess it’s like surfing, you’ve got to catch the wave and just go with it, and on a good day, I think we did that.

You and Oscar winner Steven Price [for “Gravity”] were both music editors. How does that help you as a composer?

It’s sort of like an apprenticeship in the deepest. oldest sense. Being a music editor often means that you’re there right at the start and you’re there right at the end. You’re the last person to turn the lights off and close the door on the way out. I’m very happy that I’ve done both. I’m happy I was a music editor because it gives you an incredible technical background and a lot of  sense of structure and I’m really happy I’ve had people like Michael Kamen in my life,  which gave me a sense of melody. I think if you glue the two together, on a good day, it works well.


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Jan Kaczmarek

Oscar-winning composer Jan Kaczmarek on his Transatlantyk Festival and returing to scoring

After dedicating himself to his event, he's ready to get back to the music

POZNAN, POLAND—Jan Kaczmarek is ready to get back to his first love.

The composer, who took home the Oscar in 2004/ for scoring “Finding Neverland,” shifted his focus for the last several years to creating Transatlantyk here in Poznan, in his native Poland. In its fourth year, the week-long  “festival of ideas” continues to draw top composers and filmmakers and other creative talents who join together for screenings, thoughtful discussions, concerts and much more.  

Kaczmarek has managed to squeeze in the occasional film score, such as this year’s German film, “Inbetween Worlds,” but it’s been a while since he has scored a Hollywood film, such as 2002’s “”Unfaithful.” or “2007’s “The Visitor,” or 2009’s “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale.” Most recently, he wrote an opera commissioned by Poland's Jagiellonian University that premiered in front of 14,000.

His first step is to get back to Los Angeles —he splits his time between Krakow and Hollywood — and get a new agent. “I had not reason to have one these four years,” he says, “but I can comeback to composing now. Composing gives me eternal life.”

Ideally, Kaczmarek says, he’d like to continue to score “Intelligent, ambitious movies, where music has an important part.”

While very grateful for his Oscar,  he admits that after “Finding Neverland’s” success, “many people think I only write scores for gentle films, that I keep writing this world of noble illusion. That’s just not true, my roots are in avant grade. I did electronic music. I have all these things in me.”

In the meantime, he credits Transatlantyk with refueling his imagination and providing inspiration to return to composing. The festival prides itself on creative presentations, such as Culinary Cinema: a film about a specific cuisine or food issue is presented and then select guests enjoy a meal prepared by top chefs that ties in to the film. For example, after a Taiwanese film, a gourmet Taiwanese meal will be served. Last year, after a documentary on GMO-modified foods, a non-GMO dinner was served. This year, among the top composers taking part were John Ottman (“X-Man, Days of Future Past,” “Superman Returns,” “The Usual Suspects”) and  Michael Price (“Sherlock”) both of whom gave presentations dissecting their works.

With this year’s Transatlantyk winding down, Kaczmarek is already looking ahead to the festival’s milestone fifth anniversary next August. New elements will including commissioning new works from composers (beyond the event’s two existing scoring competitions), expanding to include video games, and concerts featuring global names, such as last year’s Yoko Ono performance.

As he heads back into the composing world, he also takes lessons he’s learned from working with new composers here. Lamenting that few directors have “the power to pursue their own vision,” he encourages composers to not give in to that and to develop their own strong voice. “We tell them, ‘don’t be part of an undistinguished  group. Don’t be a person with no face. Sooner or later, this will destroy you.”




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Celine Dion and Rene Angelil

Celine Dion goes on hiatus to care for husband/manager Rene Angelil

He is still recovering from December cancer surgery

Celine Dion is taking a career hiatus to devote her time to helping her husband/manager, Rene Angelil, as he deals with cancer.

In a statement, the singer announced she will take an indefinite break from her  Caesars Palace residency in Las Vegas and has also canceled this fall’s Asian tour.

"I want to devote every ounce of my strength and energy to my husband's healing, and to do so, it's important for me to dedicate this time to him and to our children. I also want to apologize to all my fans everywhere, for inconveniencing them, and I thank them so much for their love and support,” she said.

Angelil had a tumor in his throat removed last December, but his healing has been very slow. Additionally, Dion has had her own health issues, including a throat inflammation that had made it impossible for her to perform since her last Las Vegas performance on  July 29. Dion suffered from a similar inflammation in 2012, which caused the singer to cancel two months of shows in Las Vegas.

Angelil previously had treatment for throat cancer in 1998, four years after he married Dion. The pair have three children— a 13-year old son and a pair of 3-year old twins. Dion's last studio album, 2013's "Love Me Back To Life," debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 last fall.


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Interview: Composer Brian Tyler on 'TMNT,' 'Expendables 3' and 'Avengers: The Age of Ultron'

Is it harder to write for a mutant turtle or Sylvester Stallone?

Be careful what you say about the music when you come out of a movie theater, composer Brian Tyler may be listening.

Tyler has a ritual: The day one of his movies opens, he and the director theater hop, checking out how several audiences are reacting to the film and to the music. “I just pop my head in to see how the crowd is doing, kind of see how everyone is reacting,” Tyler says. “I really like to stand outside the theater and see if anyone is humming the music.”

Tyler is spending a lot of time at local cineplexes this month: two movies he scored opened last Friday,  Aug. 8: box office champ, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” and “Into the Storm.” A third film, “The Expendables 3,” opens this Friday,  Aug. 15.

For “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” Tyler composed an old-school, often lush,  symphonic score. He and director Jonathan Liebesman both felt very strongly that “the turtles take care of the wackiness, we didn’t need to add to that.”  They also felt the tone should stay relatively light. “I didn’t want it to feel like a “Batman.” On the dark-to-fun-ometer, we wanted it to be a perfect ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’,” he says. “There are some moments of ‘Raiders’ that are hardcore, but the overall feel is that it’s encased in an adventure film.”

“TMNT” won the box-office, despite receiving fairly negative reviews.“It’s not a movie made for critics,” he says. “It’s a movie made for people who want to completely let loose, so by design, the score that fits that the best is the kind of throwback adventure.”

So on the difficulty meter, I asked Tyler who is harder to write for: “TMNT’s” Michelangelo or “The Expendables’” Sylvester Stallone? Hands down, it’s the turtle. “I’ve known Sly for so long, I feel like I speak his language,” Tyler says. The fun in scoring his third “Expendables” film came in writing for the new characters, including Mel Gibson’s villain, “Stonebanks,” Just as Tyler played against the insanity of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles be keeping the score light, but not frivolous, he makes Stonebank’s theme a beautiful solo piano piece that plays in opposition to the character. “I thought more of an etude would work really great so it’s not just arch,” Tyler says. “It shows he has an interesting villainy; there are wheels turning in that brain.”

Tyler deployed a similar device with Loki’s theme in “Thor: The Dark World” by writing the piece on the harp. Tom Hiddleson, who plays Loki, loved the theme so much, he made a point of telling Tyler that he’d downloaded not just that selection, but the whole score.

In addition to “Thor,” Tyler has scored a number of Marvel movies, including “Iron Man 3” and is now working on Josh Whedon’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” He, of course, is sworn to secrecy about “Ultron," but says of the music, "It’s coming into shape. It’s going to be a great and long process.”

The key to scoring any Marvel film, “is that you want to completely buy the idea,” Tyler says. “Especially with the Avengers, you buy the idea that there’s a genius billionaire playboy and a big green monster. Josh directs it in a way that you have fun with it, but you completely buy it.”

Tyler is scoring —every pun intended— on the little screen as well.  He scores “Hawaii 5-0” and  received an Emmy nomination this year for his theme music for “Sleepy Hollow.”   Co-creator Alex Kurtzman and Tyler are friends and he approached Tyler about the supernatural thriller. “It was a blast,” Tyler says. “We wanted to make something that sounds quirky baroque, with violin, cello, a dulcimer and some percussion. It’s kind of a weird thing for a modern day TV show.”

Scoring a number of sequels allows him to sometimes get to know the actors, as he has Stone and Hiddleson. Through his work on the “Fast & Furious” franchise (he’s now scoring “Fast & Furious 7”), he became close to Paul Walker and the actor’s death still stings. In addition to the “Fast” series, Tyler also scored Walker’s 2008 film, “The Lazarus Project.” That was a labor of love for him,” Tyler says. “I wrote his theme for that and that’s what his family asked to have played as his memorial service. It’s called ‘Jaybird.’ He was really a great guy, just a sweet guy and outside the Hollywood system. He wasn’t interested in being a superstar, he’s rather be on a surfboard.”


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Sinead O'Connor
Credit: Nettwerk

Album Review: Sinead O'Connor's unflinching 'I'm Not Bossy, I'm The Boss'

The Irish singer knows what it feels like for a girl

Sinead O’Connor has always courted controversy, but in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, the scandal was often accompanied by music so meaningful and resonant that it remained in the forefront (until the 1992 Pope/ “SNL” incident)

Not so in recent years. For the last five years or so, she was best known for getting into an online feud with Miley Cyrus, asking for help with her love life on line and, generally, going from eccentric to seeming distressingly mentally ill.

What a relief to listen to “I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss,” out today, and hear occasional glimpses of the unflinching brilliance from her earlier work that made her so compelling.

On first single, the upbeat, propulsive “Take Me To Church,” she begs to be taken to church, “but not the ones that hurt,” as she confesses “I’ve done so many bad things.” Ultimately, she concludes “I am the only one I should adore.” It’s a mantra and message repeated through the album.

Throughout “Bossy,” she takes on personas of different women and their relationships with their lovers, their gods, their demons and, most indelibly, themselves. They are either the one doing the snake charming, such as on wily, swaying “Kisses Like Mine,” where she declares she’s the femme fatale men call in after the divorce to get their mojo back, or the one being tricked by love, as on “The Voice of My Doctor.”

O’Connor has always infused her music with a carnality—mixed the sacred with the profane—and that duality is alive and well on “Bossy.”  On “Kisses Like Mine,” she declares her kisses make grown men weak, even though she’s not the keeping kind. On “The Vishnu Room,” the spiritual and sensuality are interchangeable.

Her voice is still piercing and haunting and instantly recognizable. It may not have the scalpel-like  fragility that it once had on songs like 1989’s “Mandinka,” but now there’s a harsh edge that only time and experience can bring, such as on aforementioned, guitar-driven “The Voice Of My Doctor,” a vitriolic tale of twisted love, or on “Where Have You Been,” one of the album’s most inviting tracks, when she asks why her lover’s eyes have gone black and what does he want from her.

Musically, O’Connor still enjoys a good loop and she has unerring good taste to never go overboard on the electronics so that a tune loses its humanity. As she has for much of her career, she manages to artfully incorporate organic and electronic instrumentation artfully, especially on “James Brown,” a fetching, toe-tapping track featuring legendary Nigerian artist Fela Kuti’s son, Seun Kuti, on saxophone.

The emotional pivot of the album is “Harbour,” a spindly ballad about a woman who has been let down by every man she’s ever met as she goes from one father figure to the next. About half-way in, the song turns to a drum-filled, electronic guitar miasma that builds like a cyclone picking up speed. It’s messy and ugly, but certainly hits its target and provides a catharsis of sorts.

She closes the album with “Streetcars.” Accompanied only by an occasional piano, O’Connor declares she will be the love she wants to see in the world as she realizes it will never be found above her or under her. She asks if she were dying, who would she want to see, and remembers a time when all she wanted was for  her husband to lie over her and keep her safe.  Her voice is strong, even when she reduces it to a whisper. If the rest of the album hasn’t captured you yet, this bravura, honest, vulnerable track will grab hold and won’t let go long after you’ve finished listening to “Body.”

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Warped Tour Crowd
Credit: Jason Janik

A Concertgoer's Guide to Show Etiquette

We clearly need one since people don't know how to behave at shows

One of the top trending stories on Facebook for the last several days was about guitarist Peter Frampton grabbing a fan’s video phone during a concert and throwing in to the back reaches of the venue.

Frampton came alive after a concertgoer in the front row kept filming Frampton, despite signs that explicitly stated no taping and no flash photography. And according to the story, from,  this dude didn’t just stop with one song, he was continuously holding up the camera and filming.  And we all know how much fun it is to stand behind that guy at shows.

Even though Frampton had supposedly gestured for them to stop, the wanna-be filmmaker kept going and even turned his back to the stage to take a selfie. At that point, Frampton got the phone, under the guise of taking a photo with the fan, and, instead, threw it where it could do no more harm.

Add that in with a few other incidents in recent weeks, like  an overzealous fan at  a Tim McGraw concert grabbing McGraw’s thigh and almost pulling him off stage (he swatted her to make her let go and, of course, she then lawyered up. They settled last week),  and it seems like too many fans have forgotten that a concert is a communal experience with rules that are there to make the evening enjoyable for the greater good of all.

I go to concerts for a living and it’s getting weirder and weirder and ruder and ruder. There used to be some semblance of “hey, we all like this artist, we’re all in this together,” now it’s “every man for himself.” Remember when it felt like everyone in movie theaters seemed to forget that they weren’t watching in the privacy of their own home and would talk back to the screen, put their feet up, etc…  (I know it still goes on), behavior at concerts is far worse because of the alcohol factor, if nothing else.

A few rules from my pretend Concertgoers Handbook:

1. The arena/club/stadium is not your private playground. People can tolerate a photo or two, but I have spent way too much time watching a show between the triangle formed by the person’s arms in front of me because that person doesn’t seem to realize that a concert is actually much more enjoyable when looking at the stage, as opposed to looking at the stage through a four-inch screen. No one gives a crap what you’re shooting anyway and you’re never going to watch it again.

2. Do not talk through the show. This is another one that confounds me. I can stand people singing at the top of their lungs —as irritating as it may be, I kind of dig that they’re that much into the music. What I can’t stand are the Chatty Cathys who talk throughout the whole show and often it has nothing to do with what’s happening on stage. They talk to their friend like they’re on the phone, chatting about their day, their love life, their dog. Even when they’re whispering, it’s still distracting when they do it throughout the whole show. If you’re that bored by what’s going on on stage, take it to the lobby. Concert conversation should be limited to "This is my favorite song,"  "Do you want a beer?" and "I'm going to the bathroom. Will be right back."

3. Do not get so drunk that I am terrified you’re going to stagger into me or, even worse, throw up on me at any point. It’s not just the frat boys anymore. It seems we’ve gone from going to a concert to hear music and having a drink or two to using the concert as an excuse to get completely hammered and the music is secondary.  It’s like amateur hour out there every night.

4. Don’t sit there with your arms crossed the whole time or texting. No, you don’t have to be on your feet cheering, but there’s nothing like sitting beside a complete sour puss who seems like he would rather be having root canal than hear one more note.

5. Don’t bring your little kids. Did you hear about the woman who breastfed her baby in the pit at a Brad Paisley concert this summer? If you can’t find a babysitter, leave kids under 6 at home, unless it’s a show meant for toddlers, like The Wiggles or something like that.  It’s too loud for their little ears and they shouldn’t be expected to have to wait through a long show.

What's your favorite concert pet peeve?

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Minnie Driver

Exclusive Premiere: Minnie Driver takes on The Cure's 'Close To Me'

She gives the classic a new twist

Minnie Driver releases her third album, “Ask Me To Dance,” on Oct. 7.

The Rounder/Zoe release, Driver’s first since 2007’s “Seastories,” is a carefully curated selection of covers, including The Cure’s “Close To Me,” Neil Young’s “Tell Me Why,” Stevie Wonder’s “Master Blaster,” the Killers' “Human,” Neil Finn’s “Better Be Home Soon,” and even going back to the Sinatra standard, “Fly Me To The Moon.”  

A few weeks ago, HitFix premiered a snippet of Driver singing the late Elliott Smith’s “Waltz No. 2.” Today, we have the world premiere of Driver singing The Cure’s “Close To Me,” a song very close to her heart.

“So when I was a girl, the only songs I would get asked to dance to were the faster ones and that was always The Cure songs,” Driver says. We wonder if she’s recalling her teen years or those of her lovely character in “Circle of Friends?” “‘Close To Me’ was one of the happiest songs I remember from my early teens.”

Driver knew she had to do something different with the song than her best Robert Smith imitation. Instead, she does a sweet, slightly lounge-y version. In fact it’s slow enough for someone to dance to.. if they get asked. Below the video is the full audio of the song.

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