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.”




Read Full Post
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.


Read Full Post

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.”


Read Full Post
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.”

Read Full Post
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 OnStageMagazine.com,  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?

Read Full Post
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.

Read Full Post
Lil Wayne and Drake

Lil Wayne and Drake are 'Grindin'' on Weezy's new single: Listen

There's a lot of information to take in here

As Lil Wayne and Drake head out on their co-headlining tour, Lil Wayne dropped a new single, “Grindin’,” featuring—Guess who?— Drake. Guess we know what they’ll be performing together on stage.

On the track from “Tha Carter V,” Lil Wayne is ranting about a lot of things here, but especially about guys who are stupid enough to think if they’re monogamous that means their lady is being similarly faithful. And he wants to let us know he’s never paid for sex. TMI

Toward the end, he talks about getting rid of all his cars and watches because he’s learned he doesn’t need them. And his final message to us is “I’m fucking every night up in my new house because bitch, I worked to hard for this new house.”

There’s a lot of boasting going on and precious little catchiness in the monotonous tune. Maybe all the catchiness is up in his new house.

Read Full Post
Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift is trying to tell us something, we're just not sure what it is...

TSwift gives two more clues, but the picture is still murky

Taylor Swift continues to lead us on her own personal scavenger hunt as she drops two more clues, ostensibly about new music, in the past 24 hours.

Earlier this week, she posted a short video on Instagram that featured a finger hitting the button for the 18th floor on an elevator and labeled it Clue No. 1.

Yesterday, she added  an adorable photo of her Scottish fold cat— named Olivia Benson, by the way — and a Polaroid camera on a shelf, as well as a hand drawn and colored card on the upper shelf that is mainly decipherable, but includes the New York skyline and the words friends and delightful home. The time of the photo is 5:00.

For Clue No. 3, dropped a few hours ago, it gets even more cryptic: It’s simply a screen shot of the Yahoo logo with “this is clue # 3.”

So my guess is she’s premiering her new single on Aug. 18 at 5 p.m. on Yahoo.  Or Colonel Mustard did it in the library with the candlestick.

The one thing we know for sure, more clues will be forthcoming.


Read Full Post
Wu-Tang Clan

Wu-Tang Clan reunites on 'The Daily Show' and takes roll call

Watch their performance of 'Ron O'Neal'

With the obvious exception of dear departed Ol Dirty Bastard, the entire Wu-Tang Clan reunited on “The Daily Show” last night to celebrate their 20th anniversary and because nothing brings old band members back together like a new album to promote.

All nine surviving members, including RZA, Ghostface Killah, Method Man, Inspectah Deck, GZA,  and longtime hold-out Raekwon, performed “Ron O’Neal” from the November release, “A Better Tomorrow,”  as well as Wu-Tang chestnut, “Triumph.” It’s worth watching the video just for the act’s intro and to meet a new surprise member.

Raekwon, who told Rolling Stone in April that he wouldn’t be part of the new project because of business differences (as opposed to the usual creative differences), explained his change of heart—kind of— to Jon Stewart by comparing himself to an athlete:

“I consider this a sport," Raekwon said. "I think it's important as an athlete of music to make sure that you've got your business together, make sure you feel happy in whatever you want to do. You just want to feel good about it and at the end of the day you've gotta have your i's dotted and your t's crossed in business, because we have families…so if I'm not gonna see my children and I'm out here doing a job, I think it's important for me to go out there and do what I say I'm going to do, get back home to them and then hit up Disneyland."

Ghostface Killah said any reservations he had about returning were alleviated by RZA . “As soon as [RZA] said we’re coming back to do a 'A Better Tomorrow,” I’m always with it,” he said. Despite having some concerns about making sure all the business affairs and logistics were in order {are you sensing  a theme?], he’s a team player once he’s on board. “I’ll take one for the team, I don’t have a problem with that.”

At the end of the day, RZA said the state of the Wu Tang union is solid. “Wu-Tang, we have something in common with each other — a brotherhood, a respect. And when we said 'a better tomorrow,' we're starting to make a better tomorrow for ourselves, but also to inspire a better tomorrow for the world."

While “A Better Tomorrow” will be available for the world to hear, as we previously reported, Wu-Tang has also been recording a double album, “The Wu —Once Upon a Time in Shaolin,” that they will only press one copy of and sell to the highest bidder  (and also tour the album in its engraved gift box) to galleries and museums because they're givers.





Read Full Post

Beyonce set to perform at MTV VMAs and receive Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award

Bey is most nominated artist with eight noms

Beyonce knows she’ll go home with at least one award at Aug. 24’s MTV Video Music Awards.

The superstar will receive the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, which honors artists for their innovative body of visual work. Past recipients include Madonna, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Peter Gabriel, R.E.M. and the award’s namesake.

Beyonce will have to wait until the actual awards show, which will be held at the Forum in Los Angeles, to find out if she wins any of the other eight MoonMen for which she is nominated. She leads all nominees with nods in such categories at video of the year, best female, and best choreography.

Beyonce, who finished the North American leg of On The Run tour with husband, Jay Z, last night, will also perform on the VMAs. Other artists signed on to appear include Taylor Swift, Usher, 5 Seconds of Summer, and Ariana Grande.

MTV posted a series of Bey-GIFs related to today’s news, which is worth the 60 seconds it will take to scroll through them for the Tina Turner-like hair flip in the next to last  GIF alone.

Read Full Post