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Q&A: DEAN WAREHAM



SS: Looking over the book, do any scenes come to mind that you wished you’d included?

DW: I could easily have spent another year on this book, but they said here are the deadlines. Writing a first book is very painful and there is a lot of learning how to write, and it will just take a long, long time. There are hundreds of things I could change. But at a certain point, you just have to say, “That’s it.” I’m glad it’s at the point now where I'm not allowed to change anything. At the point where it’s being made into galleys and sent to people feels like the moment in the studio when I step to the microphone and I’m about to sing and think, “Oh, I can’t sing that.” It’s a moment of reality, and you can’t just go back and change things quickly. Of course, I have anxiety over whether things are going to upset people, but I’ve come to a point where that’s okay. I could remove everything that would upset anybody, but then I wouldn’t have a good book. Except for what I said about Bono, and I don’t think he’ll mind.

SS: You mention Bono and U2 several times in the book Why?

DW: I don’t know. People go on about them, that they’re the greatest rock ’n’ roll band in the world, and I’ve never much liked them. I don’t know, some tracks, like “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” I like that track. But it was always interesting, even in high school, U2 sort of bugged me. Bono was sort of irritating. Then they became more ironic, and Bono does great things like have his photo taken with George W. Bush.



In 2004, Wareham and Britta Phillips composed the score — as well as a couple tracks — for The Squid and the Whale, Noah Baumbach’s film about divorce in late Eighties brownstone Brooklyn. The soundtrack album included such outstanding artists as Loudon Wainwright III, Lou Reed and the Feelies. Here, Wareham talks about that collaboration, as well as working for film.


SS: How did working on The Squid and the Whale come about?

DW: I’d known Noah for a while. Luna did the score for Mr. Jealousy. Then I read the script for Squid and the Whale. It took him a long time to get that film made, but it was great to work on that. I worked quite closely with Noah. He’d come over and we’d try different things. Originally, we were working on transposing, something like A Clockwork Orange, where we’d take classical pieces and play on synthesizers, and other different directions were discussed until we settled into what we do naturally.

SS: “Hey You,” the Pink Floyd song, is pivotal in the film.

DW: That was Noah’s idea. He couldn’t get the rights for the Pink Floyd master. He had me record it to teach it to Jesse [Eisenberg], the actor, a stripped-down acoustic version. It sounded kind of nice, so we used it. I’m not a big Pink Floyd fan, but when the song plays in the movie, it’s quite powerful.

SS: For Margot at the Wedding, you and Britta also contributed to the soundtrack. Did you help score the film as well?

DW: There is no score on the film, but we have one song in Margot. I’m not sure I would have wanted a score, so Noah sort of hired us and paid us to do some work on it. From the moment he showed it to us, we felt the film worked already — it was really tightly constructed. Sometimes, if you don’t establish music early on in a film, when it comes in later it can be highly annoying, hitting you over the head, telling you how to feel. It was so tightly constructed, it told you what to feel without the score.

SS: When you write for an album versus a score, how does your approach differ?

DW
: What’s different is that it’s not about you, it’s about serving the scene, and you have to recognize quickly that you’re not in charge of everything. If someone says there’s an instrument in the way of someone talking, you have to live with that. It’s a good exercise. I like being given little assignments, even if given something to do for a TV commercial. It pushes you in a different direction. You come up with five ideas, maybe four don’t work, but maybe it gets you writing a song. But it’s much more pleasurable when it’s a good film.

SS: Any interest from other directors and artists in writing for their work?

DW: We’ve had some interest and just did the score to Morgan J. Freeman’s Just Like the Son. I take meetings. I’d like to do more and take calls, but it’s either people show us a film with something so obviously wrong with it, or some indie filmmakers come in and say, “We have no money.” Music is important in film. It bugs me when they say that. I think, “Well, you had money for the catering.” Anyway, that’s the way it is.

 

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