Here is an e-mail interview I recently conducted with film director Bobby Roth about the music from his film and TV projects for more than 30 years. He worked six times with Tangerine Dream between 1984 and 1992, and also many times with Christopher Franke after that.
He has also collaborated with composers like Stanley Myers, Leonard Rosenman and Basil Poledouris.
Many thanks to Mr. Roth for his kind and quick reply.
Feel free to link to the interview.
Q: Richard Markowitz scored two of your earliest films, The Boss's Son and Circle Of Power. What kind of music did he write for your films?
A: Richard was jazz oriented, and very much of the sixties. The scores he wrote for THE BOSS' SON and CIRCLE OF POWER aka MYSTIQUE tended to be too flowery for my taste now, but they served the movies and I loved him as a compassionate man.
Q: Did you have any contact with Jan Hammer when you directed a Miami Vice episode in 1984?
A: As a rule you never have any contact with the composer when you work as an episodic director. I never met Jan, though he had a big impact on my show. I did pick the source music, including an Etta James tune she wrote for HEARTBREAKERS.
Q:Then, the same year, you hired Tangerine Dream to score Heartbreakers. How and when did you notice their music for the first time? How did you get in touch with them? Did you immediately think that this would be a band you would work with again? How did they work on this score? Do you still play the soundtrack album?
A: I actually did HEARTBREAKERS before VICE. I met Edgar through my friend, Michael Mann. I had loved the score for 'Thief.'
Q: Doug Timm and David Nielsen scored The Man Who Fell To Earth in 1987. You were actually one of the few directors who got to work with Timm before he tragically got murdered in 1989. How would you describe this score? Did you originally want Tangerine Dream to score this?
A: I did not work on the score for that show. I had a falling out with David Gerber and you will notice, didn't even put my true name on the movie.
Q: TD scored Tonight's The Night, also in 1987. How did this turn out? Did you know that Chris Franke was about to leave the band at this time? Most TD-fans haven't heard this music, as there is no soundtrack released. Would there be enough material for a CD release?
A: When I originally worked with TD on HEARTBREAKERS I didn't differentiate. They never told me who wrote which cues. I went to Berlin to do TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT and the only one there was Chris. It was storming and Edgar remained in Austria working on another project, I think. I became closer with Chris at that time.
Q: You worked with the legendary british compsoer Stanley Myers on Baja Oklahoma in 1988, a somewhat surprising collaboration. What kind of music did he write? Would you say this score is very different from the electronic Tangerine Dream sound?
A: I loved Stanley's score for Neil Jordan's 'Mona Lisa' and thought it would be an interesting collaboration. It was completely different from the world of TD... much more traditional and strangely not as well-organized. I remember great quantities of alcohol being consumed throughout the sessions... astonishing really how the Brits can drink so much and still do their job; but I admired Stanley and he gave me an excellent score.
Q: In the CD liner notes from Dead Solid Perfect you wrote that hiring Tangerine Dream made a "perverse kind of sense", and that this score was the most successful collaboration you had with the band. Can you elaborate on this?
A: I had tried temping with Blues and it brought the movie down. I never thought electronica or synthetic music would be right, but it counterpointed the character's cinematic work ethic and added a lightness and surprise which I thought was great. I loved that score.
Q: Did you consider hiring other electronic music composers during the 80s and early 90s, like Faltermeyer, Moroder, Levay and so on?
A: Nope. Honestly, I don't really go for that type of sound. I prefer melody. The one show I did with Gary Chang was monotonal and a disappointment to me, though it serviced the story and I thought he was talented. TD, particularly Chris, can be very classical and symphonic, too. I simply love working with Chris. And I also loved my association with Edgar when we worked together.
Q: Rainbow Drive is another TD-score, from 1990. Tell us how Edgar and Paul worked on this one, and how the score works in the film.
A: Honestly, I remember very little of that project. I was not my best film and I remember being much more focused on THE MAN INSIDE which I was still dealing with when RAINBOW DRIVE came along. I do remember their score helped the picture, but it couldn't overcome the story's inadequacies.
Q: The Man Inside was released the same year, just before Paul Haslinger left the band. Are you pleased with this score? Are you familiar with the CD release on the EMI France label?
A: I have a copy of the CD but in retrospect I was disappointed with that score as I was in the movie. I had high hopes for the film... I had tried to get it made for nine years, but the project overwhelmed me and the French producers were unscrupulous fellows who got in trouble with the bond company and lost control. I had to do post-production under the watchful eye of the completion bond people which is always distracting. I would not say it was one of my better collaborations with the band.
Q: Then, in 1991, another rather surprising composer entered one of your projects, Leonard Rosenman on Keeper Of The City. Did you specifically want him to score this film? Why did you think this film needed an orchestral score?
A: Leonard and I had been friends for years and I loved and admired him. By that time in my career I wanted to try something completely different and Leonard was a hero of mine, though he was not easy to sway. I much preferred working with TD who wanted to give me what I wanted. Haha, Leonard simply "knew what was best."
Q: In 1992, TD scored their very last Hollywood project, The Switch. This is really a solo score by Edgar Froese. Are you pleased with this rather laid-back score? What did you think when Edgar stated he would no longer work on film music? What was the reason for this decision? Would you have continued working with them if they had kept on working in the film business?
A: Honestly, this was no fun. Edgar's "first score" did not work for me at all and the piano score was a compromise he did with me there in Austria. He never told me that Paul had left. He's actually a very circumspect fellow, though I love and admire him. I didn't know he stopped doing film music... I simply stopped working with him after THE SWITCH because people were in no hurry to pay the extra dough to send me to Europe to score and I was working with television producers who had their own ideas.
Q: Composers like Craig Safan, Gary Chang and J.A.C Redford worked with you in 1993/1994. How would you describe this period?
A: I liked all of these guys and learned a lot, but these were not films that were personal to me. They were jobs and they all came out well. I learned a lot about professionalism and would I am a better director for having done them and worked with these composers.
Q: Then, on 1995's In The Line Of Duty: Kidnapped, you hooked up with Chris Franke again, after 8 years. How did this happen?
A: I had stayed friends with Chris and was excited to work with him again. He was now living in Laurel Canyon and had an exciting relationship with an orchestra in Berlin which allowed us to feel like a "big movie," haha. I loved that.
Q: A rare foray into feature movies saw you working with Basil Poledouris on Amanda. Tell us about this score.
A: Honestly, this was the best score of my career. I loved Basil and had to fight for him as Andy Vanya wanted me to use a friend of his. In the end Andy saw the light and the score is tremendous.
Q: What kind of music did Franke write for the feature movies Jack The Dog (2001) and Manhood (2003)?
A: I can't begin to tell you how grateful I am for Chris' work on those movies. We did a lot of exploration and he rewrote many cues over and over, but he is a large part of why those are the favorite movies of my career. He just blended with all of my other elements, including the songs from my brother-in-law and sister-in-law.
Q: When you occasionally worked with other composers than Franke during this time (Lee Holdridge, Essinger/Kotinec and others), was this because of Franke's scheduling conflicts?
A: Lee was the producer's choice and a good one. Asher and Tony were Canadian and those shows were Canadian content. Nonetheless, I didn't feel compromised. They were all great.
Q: Tell us about the music from Berkeley (2005).
A: In many ways this was the hardest thing Chris had to do for me; blend a contemporary score with music from the late sixties and early seventies. He was amazing. We even got Tom Morello to collaborate with Chris in his studio playing some extemporaneous guitar parts, which I love.
Q: Since 2005 or so, you have almost exclusively worked as director on certain episodes from TV series. Do you have any say on which composer will work on these shows, or do you have to follow the studio's orders? I have noticed that you didn't work with Franke at all between 2005 and 2010.
A: Episodic TV directors have no say, though I have now worked with Ramin on eighteen episodes and love his work, as I do the work of Michael Giacchino from 'Lost.'
Q: Last year, you finally did a TV movie again, and Franke and Edgar Rothermich came on board Reviving Ophelia. Tell us about the score.
A: I always wanted to keep working with Chris and this was simply another chance, though it was not an easy job because I was traveling all over and having to hear cues on my computer at all hours. They did splendidly, pleasing the producers, the network, et. al.
Q: Edgar Froese stated in a recent interview that Tangerine Dream will once more enter the film music scene in the near future. Did you know this? Would you consider working with him again?
A: I would never say "No," but we haven't even seen each other in years.
Q: What is it about electronic music in general, and Tangerine Dream in particular, that made you use this kind of music in six of your films?
A: It was the people. I loved Edgar and Chris... and then Paul and Edgar.
Q: Why did this kind of music in many ways go out of fashion in the early 90s?
A: It was never for "everybody," but the best of it endures.
Q: Have you followed Tangerine Dream's music the last 20 years or so? Do you have many of their albums?
A: I confess to having lost touch. For me it was always tied to the films.
Q: What are your future plans? Do you have any plans of doing another feature film?
A: Hope springs eternal. I am always writing and always trying to find the right project that can satisfy my needs as a storyteller. Right now I am working on a rock and roll documentary, with my friend Tom Morello. I love music.