Nashville Cream: You’ve worked with Wes Anderson on all of his films other than Bottle Rocket? Is that right?
Randall Poster: Yeah, Bottle Rocket, I got involved with him. I produced the soundtrack along with him and then we started working together.
NC: Well, he’s sort of known as being an exceptionally meticulous, detail-oriented type of director. How is working with him different than the work you do with, say, Todd Haynes or Martin Scorsese or David Fincher or any of these other directors?
RP: Well, you know, I think all of those directors that you named are some of the greatest directors of all time. And I think all, you know, have a very clear signature point of view and, and sort of, filmmaking obsession. And I think that the different or the unique element of working with Wes is that our collaboration has sort of run on from the first day that we met really. So, I would say what’s most unique about is just that we do a lot of work between movies. So as we start a film, we’ve already laid down a lot of the musical trail or the establishment of a musical framework or foundation. So that’s really the most, sort of, unique aspect of our ongoing collaboration.
NC: So, when you say you two do a lot of work between films, will he just kind of have — maybe a plotline emerges in his work — will he kind of give you ideas or notes?
RP: Well, often times it’s born even before there is a plotline. For instance, Moonrise Kingdom — really the thing with Moonrise Kingdom was that Wes had wanted to use a Benjamin Britten’s Noye’s Fludde (Noah’s Flood). And basically he shared that piece of music with me. As a kid, he had been in a production of it. And he was like, “Well, I kind of think I want to do something with this piece of music.” And really, I think that was the seed of the whole enterprise.
NC: I read in a recent interview you guys both did together that you consider your job to be a little bit like that of a journalist or maybe even a detective?
RP: Yeah. Just for instance, the detective work really is that, you know, where he — I guess where that was most apparent was where we worked on Darjeeling Limited. And we were really trying to use, you know — we had made the decision that we were going to score the music with film music from Indian films. The films of Satyajit Ray or the films that Satyajit Ray had done the music for, and that was really — just in terms of finding all of it and gathering all of it, researching all of it — that was really where the detective work comes in. Or for instance, say, with Moonrise Kingdom, once he had sort of implied that Benjamin Britten was going to be the centerpiece of something, then I go out and sort of gather all of Benjamin Britten and all of Benjamin Britten-related music that we can use and channel and be inspired by and place in the film potentially.
NC: Do you ever find yourself playing more of, say, a lawyer’s role with Wes or any other director? Where you have to maybe go to bat for a song or an artist that the director doesn’t initially want?
RP: Yeah, actually, that’s an essential part of what I do. Because you know, there’s finding the right music, and then placing the right music, and then making sure we can get rights to the right piece of music. So, I’m both a detective and then a hitman, really.
NC: With Moonrise Kingdom, you have this soundtrack that sort of bounces around a bit. You’ve got French pop from Francoise Hardy, you’ve got Hank Williams. I really like the Bernstein piece, “The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra.” But it all kind of, generally, is mid-century. Is that a conscious decision?
RP: Well, I mean, it was a period movie. So, we sort of at least bound ourselves, to a certain degree, from the top down. And then, you know, Williams is not from the ’60s. But yes, your point is correct. That was sort of the era we were living in, so it wasn’t so much — it just became a bit of the framework.
NC: Even with Royal Tenenbaums and Rushmore and all these other films you’ve done. It’s a bit broader, you know, but still with Nico, Emitt Rhodes, The Creation, Dylan. It seems like in a lot of his work he has this aesthetic and personal taste that it seems like he attracts to that general era and style. Is that something about the way you work together or just personal taste?
RP: Well, you know, The Creation is from Rushmore, and I think that was clearly a pop era that we were looking to mine in that film. And then Tenenbaums is certainly a bit broader in its pop music scope. But again, so much of that music can be so surprising, and it’s even more surprising in combination. Particularly as far as Rushmore is concerned, the notion was that we had an affinity to these rock bands where the exterior — the look, the style — where these guys are in suits and ties, and yet the music was so rebellious and so …
NC: Kind of raw?
RP: Yeah. And had just a really bold spirit.
NC: Do you ever find yourself surprised with how well a song works? Or is it always you guys executing this vision you had before the fact?
RP: You know, I think it goes both ways. Sometimes things settle in just as we might have anticipated, and then it’s surprising. I guess I’ve talked about this before, say with The Life Aquatic and the Seu Jorge Bowie versions, really the idea emerged as the character Pelé goes on deck and plays a David Bowie song in Portuguese. That was the scripted indicator, and then really we worked with Jorge and, you know, discovered that we had a musical genius in our camp. And as the music emerged, it became clear that we wanted to plot it more firmly into the film. There’s something that was such an essential part of the film’s foundation, yet it was something that really — it was closer to a surprise than it was to a blueprint, really.
NC: So, did you have some idea that maybe he knew all of these Bowie songs?
RP: Oh, he didn’t know them. He didn’t know them.
NC: Wow, and he translated it all into Portuguese, right?
RP: Yeah, it’s all in Portuguese. God knows what he’s saying, you know. At a certain point, we had to say, “Hey, this movie’s coming out on Disney. We really can’t get any surprises.” Jorge is brilliant and a beautiful person, and he he made those samba. And it’s funny that last year I was invited to a film festival in Portugal and we showed Life Aquatic, and I was so excited and I told the audience that really it was the first time that I was going to be sitting among people who understand what George was saying.
NC: So did that sort of breathe new life into it for you, personally, seeing that?
RP: Yeah, it’s fun. It was really fun.
NC: Well, I want to ask you a little bit about your connections to Nashville. You’ve, of course, worked a lot with Harmony Korine, who lives here —
RP: I’m working with him right now.
NC: Right, Spring Breakers, right?
RP: Yeah, Spring Breakers. Spring break forever.
NC: But also, I know you worked on Country Strong, which was filmed here. Do you have any personal connections to Nashville or is that just something that’s just kind of —
RP: Well, I’ll tell you, I love country music. And, people would ask me, people in the industry, “What would you like to do?” and I would always say, “I want to do a country music movie.” And I would tell you that I’d probably give you the same answer if somebody asked me again, because I just love it. And I love all of it. I’m in LA working with Harmony this week. So, I’m a New Yorker and I don’t drive very much, and so I have a car out here and I’m just glued to the country music station. And so the highlight of my day yesterday was cruising around and listening to George Strait’s Here for a Good Time, which I’m going to play right now and keep in the background of this interview.
NC: Well, obviously you like Hank Williams ... Is there any contemporary country that you pay much attention to?
RP: Yeah. I mean, I would say probably my favorite record last year was Eric Church’s record.
NC:You said you’re working on Spring Breakers right now. You guys have Skrillex doing the original music for that, right?
RP: Right, Skrillex along with Cliff Martinez.
NC: How did that come about, and is there anything you can tell me about that collaboration?
RP: Well, you know, Harmony … Harmony … Harmony kind of clocked it, and pushed me in Skrillex’s direction, and Sonny — once you work him, you can call him Sonny — Sonny was a big fan of Harmony’s, and he saw a rough cut of the movie and just really responded to it. The movie is just going to be a total knockout.
NC: I also read at one point that you kind of literally had to carry around suitcases full of CDs with you. Obviously the Internet has changed that as far as accessibility and everything, but are there any downsides to that? Are there pitfalls in what you do with everybody’s overexposure to music on the Internet?
RP: I used to be able to hang out in record stores, and now when I come out here, I, like, hang out in the fruit section of super markets.
NC: Obviously, it’s a good tool to have.
RP: What, the Internet? Yeah. It’s a long conversation about the realities and failures of the music industry. But as far as for my — on a strictly vocational music supervision level — it’s increased my capacity for work and access to music. You know, I used to think about getting a song for a movie and I would think like, “I’ll get up at 7, and Tower Records opens at 9, and hopefully they’ll have it.” But again, too, I’m devoted to physical product. Whether it’s ordering something on Amazon or going to Amoeba Records, one of the few record stores that are out there. I mean, really, I made my bones reading liner notes, so I still am in the habit.
NC: Have you spent much time, actually, in Nashville? Have you been to Grimey’s?
RP: Yeah. I’ve been Grimey’s. I bought an ungodly amount of music at Grimey’s. I need to find a movie that I could, like, use all the rare ’70s soul records that I got.
NC: That sounds like something that could be good for a Tarantino joint or something like that.
RP: Listen, I love Nashville. I’ve never been in a place where you feel more respect for music and musicians and songwriters. That was really one of the great gifts of working in Nashville, was getting to know a lot of the songwriters. I did all the music for Country Strong with Frank Liddell and Byron Gallimore and Nathan Chapman. And those guys, I’m honored to say that those guys have become friends of mine. And then, you know, if you look at all the producers on that record — Tony Brown and James Stroud. So, it was an honor to work and to be somewhat accepted in the Nashville music community.
NC: You’ve worked with a really broad stable of directors, but who is your ideal collaboration? Who would you love to work with that you just haven’t worked with yet?
RP: Oh, that I haven’t worked with yet? You know what, it’s really — it’s probably an emerging filmmaker, really. You know, I would say probably I’m excited to hopefully work with these guys Sean Durkin and Antonio Campos who made Martha Marcy May Marlene. I thought that was really my favorite movie last year. So those would be the guys that I would be excited to work with. You know, there are obviously certain film legends I would be thrilled to work with. But, you know, my guys are — if you look at the people that I’ve collaborated with regularly — Wes; Todd Haynes and I went to college together; Harmony I’ve known since he was a teenager. Todd Phillips and I met when he was like 20 years old and we’re going to do our seventh movie together. Sam Mendes and I really struck up a great working relationship, and Richard Linklater has become one of my — we’re the same age and really have a great time collaborating. And then the honor of honors has been that I’ve gotten the chance to work with Scorsese.
NC: Right. Of course, you did The Aviator. Are you working with him a lot with Boardwalk Empire?
RP: Yeah. We’re in the third season of Boardwalk Empire. And that’s been a real treat. In local news, we just recorded a track with Karen Elson, and you know this guy, Pokey LaFarge? Have you heard of him?
NC: Yeah, totally, kind of old-time string band stuff.
RP: Yeah, we had Pokey LaFarge come in and sing with us, and that’s been really fun. And the other thing, just to say, to give it a plug, I’ve got this Fleetwood Mac tribute record that’s coming out in August. You can check that out online, and so that’s all. It’s really just been great to be able to be screening a lot of music and still learning about music and working with just really some incredibly committed and visionary filmmakers.
NC: So you’re Skype-ing in at the Belcourt screening on Thursday night? Is that right, will you just be doing a Q&A?
RP: I guess so. I guess so. I guess the movie — the people are loving it down in Nashville. ... That’s great to hear. And I love The Belcourt. When I was down there I would go, and hopefully they’re going to invite me sometime in the fall. I’d love to curate a film program at The Belcourt so anything you could to do to push that along would be great. We can go to Grimey’s together.
I really have the greatest respect for the Nashville music community and I really love it and hope I get to do — I hope there’s a project that allows me to spend more time working in Nashville. And that city has the best around.