I have conducted an e-mail interview with music mixer/engineer Brian Reeves about his career in the (film) music business, where he has been working closely with composers like Giorgio Moroder and Harold Faltermeyer among others.
Thanks to Brian Reeves, and also to Kevin Anderson from Jungle Room Recording Studio, for putting me in touch with Mr. Reeves.
Interview by JON AANENSEN
Q: How did you meet Giorgio Moroder? You are credited as sound consultant on his early 80s scores Cat People and Scarface. How was this experience?
A: I met Giorgio in 1979 at Westlake Audio where I was an assistant engineer. He booked time there and was frequently without an engineer, so I became his default engineer. In the early 80's Giorgio had a studio in his Beverly Hills home. I spent a lot of time there working on various projects. Cat People and Scarface were both done at his home studio with Sylvester Levay arranging. I was credited as "sound consultant" because at that time the score mixing union was very strict about having their members involved. There were actually a couple of guys who hung out and collected a paycheck (and probably got credit for mixing) while I did all of the recording and mixing with Sylvester and Giorgio. Since I wasn't in the union they came up with the credit "sound consultant".
Q: You also worked with Harold Faltermeyer on his 1984 score Thief Of Hearts, as well as on the 1986 hit Top Gun. Tell us about this.
A: Thief of Hearts was a score that Harold got because Giorgio passed on it. Harold was working as Giorgio's arranger at that time and he ceased the opportunity. These scores were both done at Giorgio's "Oasis Studios" in North Hollywood. We had a lot of fun during this time and working on Top Gun actually inspired me to get my pilot license!
Q: How was it working with Jack Nitzsche and Michael Hoenig on Nine 1/2 Weeks?
A: I only recall working with Joe Cocker on "You Can Leave Your Hat On". Richie Zito produced that track and Arthur Barrow lent his keyboard and bass playing skills to the production. Richie "arranged" a new musical section to the song, which was really additional composition. I think he called Randy Newman, who he had played guitar for in the past, to make sure it was cool that he modified his song. I guess it was. Joe was awesome. It was like two vocal takes and we were done. We used the first take.
Q: You continued in 1987 with big productions Over The Top and The Running Man. Were Moroder and Faltermeyer similar in the way they worked in the studio, or did they have any clear differences?
A: Giorgio could be hands on, but often was more of an overseer. He would compose brilliant melodies and be very involved in mapping out the score, but a lot of the detailing was left to his arranger and me. Harold, on the other hand, was very involved with every note of the score. He was completely hands on, except for mixing, which he left to me and would of course weigh in and comment at the end.
Q: Let It Ride from 1989 was Moroder's final Hollywood film score. Was it a clear decision by him to leave the scoring scene, or did it just happen?
A: I think the film score business is a "flavor of the month" kind of thing. Styles shift, fads come and go. Also, having won numerous academy awards, Giorgio had really taken the journey. I don't think it was a conscious decision, but the indications that that era of his career was ending were there.
Q: You get a rare credit as score co-producer on Faltermeyer's Tango & Cash the same year. Does this mean you worked more closely with him here than you usually did? Are you aware of the 2006 score album from La La Land Records?
A: Over the years my role with Harold became a little more of a creative partnership. By this time I was very integrated into his working style, and it was a natural consideration that I was credited with co-producer. I was not aware of the score album on La La Land Records.
Q: On Fire, Ice & Dynamite from 1990 you are credited as producer and writer on several of the songs. Tell us about this. Why didn't the soundtrack album feature any of Faltermeyer's score material?
A: This score was done at Harold's home in Germany. I was pretty immersed in the work at Harold's. which led to an even greater role as producer and even writer. I think the decision to not have score material on the soundtrack album was based on trying to make an all song, more "commercial" album.
Q: Between 89-91, how did you divide your time between Faltermeyer based in Munich and the Moroder projects?
A: I was traveling pretty frequently to Munich throughout the 80's. Sometimes I would spend a couple of months there and then come home to LA for only a few weeks, and then turn around and go back to Munich. By 1989 that routine had slowed way down. My travels to Germany became less frequent. I still went over to work with Harold a handful of times, but I was in LA much more of the time and fairly active with Giorgio.
Q: 1991 saw you working with composers Gary Chang on The Perfect Weapon and Sylvester Levay on Hot Shots! Was this the first time you worked with these guys or were they old buddies from the early 80s Moroder years? How was Levay to work with?
A: They were both old buddies and they both came through the Giorgio camp. Sylvester I'd known almost as long as Giorgio, 1981 I'd guess, and Gary I met in the mid 80's. Sylvester was a very organized and driven individual. I loved working with him. He is a deeply compassionate human. I haven't spoken to him in years and I miss him.
Q: You continued with James Newton Howard's Grand Canyon and Tim Truman's South Central. How did you get these jobs?
A: Both of these jobs came because of a referral from Mick Guzauski, a colleague of mine. That was my first time meeting Tim, but I had actually met James way back in the early (1977) Westlake Audio days. He was producing a projevt with the DFK band. I was a runner at that time and I was picking up his lunch. It was really cool to be working with him as a recording engineer/mixer so many years later. Grand Canyon, I think, is the best sounding score I ever mixed.
Q: A surprising composer credit is Steve Stevens' score from Dogtown in 1997. You are credited as music editor. Any stories from this project?
A: I don't have much recollection of that. I've done a lot of work with Steve on Billy Idol records, so that's the connection there. But as far as music editor, I probably just helped him out a little.
Q: Speaking of unlikely film score composers, Ron & Russell Mael from Sparks scored Knock Off in 1998, where you did another music mix. Tell us about this.
A: Ron and Russell were signed to Giorgio back in the late 70's /early 80's. I did a few records with them back then and when they got the film-scoring job, they called me in to help. They did all of the work at their home studio in Beverly Hills and I joined them for the mixing. They are really fun guys to hang out with. Lot's of laughing!
Q: And surprise number 3 is Keith Forsey's score from David Anspaugh's film Wise Girls in 2002. Any ideas how Forsey ended up scoring this film, 17 years after The Breakfast Club, with no scores in between? Doesn't he actively seek out scoring jobs?
A: Keith is a rock and roll producer. He definitely doesn't seek scoring jobs. He is one of the most intuitive, gifted music producers I've ever worked with. It's no wonder he has been sought out by the film music world. Because of his perspective, he was a great fit for Breakfast Club, and Wise Girls.
Q: A welcome comeback was Harold Faltermeyer's Cop Out in 2010. Once more you were brought along as a mixing engineer. How had things changed since the last time you worked with Harold?
A: Certainly a lot has changed. I now work mostly out of my own place in Glendale, Jungle Room Studio, so Harold came to me there to mix part of that score. The rest we did around the corner in Burbank at a place that Harold had set up temporarily to compose and sequence. It was easier to just mix a lot of it there because he had great sounding monitors and the score was playing virtual from midi on his system. It would have been a lot of extra work to record everything to bring it to my place. The live recording we did was easier to mix at the Jungle Room.
Q: What do you think you brought to Moroder and Faltermeyer's production work?
A: I have always been a facilitator. Sometimes it's to achieve a specific vision. Other times it's to interoperate a less clear explanation of what the composer/artist wants to achieve, and offering up ideas and examples of possible solutions. It may be a mixing trick, or it may be an idea for an overdub. It might also be a suggestion to leave something out. In every case though, I try to understand what the artist/composer wants, and do my best to facilitate their vision.
Q: Were you due to work on any projects with Harold or Giorgio that didn't happen?
A: It's a fickle business. With Giorgio and Harold though, they were both very loyal. Everything that was planned pretty much took place. They both had a pretty amazing track record of following through successfully with all of their business dealings.
Q: You have mostly worked as a mixer on electronic film scores, not so much orchestral ones. Has there ever been any "snobbery" from the symphonic part of the scoring world towards the jobs you have done?
A: Contrary to that, several orchestral film mixers, including Armin Steiner and Dennis Sands, have acknowledged to me that the artistry of electronic music mixing is something that is quite special. My career as an engineer/producer has had a lot of interesting twists and turns. Electronic film score music is not something I ever imagined myself doing, and it's just a part of all the things I've had the privilege of working on. I enjoy being involved in the creation of many styles of music for films and other applications. If there ever was any snobbery, it went in one ear and out the other. I wouldn't give too much importance to comments from such narrow-minded individuals.
Q: I need to ask you about a few things away from the film world. Pet Shop Boys' Behaviour is a classic album from 1990, produced by Faltermeyer. Tell us about this experience.
A: Neil and Chris were delightful to work with. We did this album at Harold's place in Germany. It was interesting watching Chris and Harold interact. Chris was very simple, almost naïve in his approach, while Harold was much more analytical and studied. I remember there was an overdub that had a note that rubbed with the chord. Harold wanted to change the note to fit the chord but Chris insisted that it was beautiful the way it clashed. Chris won I think... Neil was an awesome lyricist and vocalist. Not a powerful singer, but a beautiful character to his voice that I really enjoyed listening to.
Q: Good News From The Next World is a vibrant and energetic album by Simple Minds from 1995, produced by Keith Forsey. Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill from Simple Minds have often talked about this mid 90s period as a difficult one, having "lost" several band members in the years before. Any stories from this project?
A: This was the longest running, most expensive production I've ever been a part of. We travelled to Ireland, and Scotland to record and came back to Los Angeles in between and after ward to work as well. I think we spent the better part of a year working on this record. Keith was relentless as he sought to be satisfied by the performances. We went through amazingly talented drummers looking for the perfect "pocket" until Keith was happy and it felt right. Charlie and Jim were very supportive of Keith's quest, and even though the commercial success of the project was disappointing, the creative outcome was one that everyone involved was very happy with.