Rock Musician James Murphy Knows the Score
BY DENNIS KING
NEW YORK – James Murphy knows what it’s like being a struggling musician finally breaking out of underground obscurity to find mainstream success.
Long a fixture on the downtown Manhattan music scene, Murphy and his band, LCD Soundsystem, have grown to international acclaim and Grammy recognition with such underground hits as “Losing My Edge” and “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House” from their 2005 debut album.
These days, Murphy finds himself breaking into a new musical fraternity – an elite one that’s welcomed other pop music stars such as Elton John, Phil Collins, Danny Elfman, Randy Newman and Mark Knopfler. Murphy’s first foray into film scoring is now on display in “Greenberg,” a new comedy-drama from filmmaker Noah Baumbach.
Murphy, an unassuming guy with a blue-collar attitude, said during a recent round of press interviews for the film that he knew nothing about movie scoring when he and Baumbach first met.
“I had no preconceptions,” he said. “But early on Noah asked, ‘do you know anything about scoring,’ and I said, ‘no.’ And he said, ‘great.’ And as it turned out, the way we did it was the only way I think I could have done it”.
And the way they did it was decidedly unconventional.
“Noah and I talked and he said was interested in not making a score but in just having me write songs,” Murphy said. “I tend not to like scores. I do like old scores that are very specific, but usually contemporary scores drive me crazy. They tend to be like the musical equivalent of a poetry slam, just mood tones and spacey surround-sound stuff.
“So I wrote a bunch of songs that are not directly about the movie but are like songs that we would pick out of our record collections to illustrate the movie,” he said. “We would just go back and forth and I would get scenes that Noah needed cues for – these are new words I’ve learned, ‘cues’ – and what I started doing was quickly making things that felt, like, not for scenes. I would just start making stuff and bringing it over. And he was incredibly gracious and would go, ‘oh, we’ll just try that there. Oh, I like that.’ Only a few songs were written specifically for scenes. Almost everything else was made as, like, a song. Like I would write a song. I would write it very roughly and bring it over, and then those roughs became what we became attached to.
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