I have no musical skill or knowledge, so I usually leave everything to the composer - style, instrumentation, everything. As a result, the soundtracks always seem to work out pretty well.
One of the ways to tell a real independent film from a studio "independent" feature is by the musical soundtrack. If it has a great score, filled with classic songs and cool hits you've heard before, it's a studio film. Licensing cool old hits is hugely expensive, and only big-budgeted features can afford to do it.
If, on the other hand, the film has a soundtrack of original music and songs by local indy bands, this is a sign that there was no money in the budget for music, and that it is a genuinely independent picture.
To wit, REPO MAN, where we drove to work singing along with Talking Heads' "Burning Down The House" and shot a scene where Emilio Estevez went to sleep listening to it, but couldn't afford to use it in the film. The licensing was too expensive. Hence REPO MAN's original soundtrack by Iggy Pop and the Plugz - and local bands like Black Flag and the Circle Jerks recording new versions of their own material for us.
The composer with whom I've worked most often
is Dan Wool and his group Pray
for Rain: which started out as
a regular band, objected to carrying heavy boxes up and downstairs,
and so - like the Beatles - got out of live performances and
touring. Now they're a full-time film and TV soundtrack delivery
for Rain wrote some of the
score of STRAIGHT TO HELL and SID & NANCY (including
the bit that plays over where garbage falls from the sky),
almost all of the score of THE WINNER, and all of DEATH & THE
COMPASS, THREE BUSINESSMEN, KUROSAWA: THE LAST EMPEROR, EMMANUELLE:
A HARD LOOK and MIKE HAMA MUST DIE!.
Pogues, were co-composers on STRAIGHT TO HELL and
SID & NANCY.
-- LINK BUY BUY BUY --
I worked with Joe Strummer on three films: SID & NANCY (where he contributed two official songs, and a whole slew of background music, anonymously); STRAIGHT TO HELL, where he acted and wrote some music; and WALKER, whose score he penned entirely on his own.
WALKER is Joe's masterpiece, as a film composer, and as a solo artist. While completely different, it is right up there with the best work of The Clash. Luckily, after many years of unavailability (LPs were selling for hundreds of dollars on the internet!) the CD is being reissued by Astralwerks
Records, who reissued an excellent series of Brian Eno's early solo work.
Zander Schloss played on WALKER and wrote some
of the score STRAIGHT TO HELL (including, with Miguel Sandoval
and Joe Strummer, the Weiner Song); and all of the music for
EL PATRULLERO, which has quite a beautiful short score, and a
song by Tito Larriva.
Unfortunately, Z was not as scrupulous as Joe's People, or Pray for Rain's archivists, and the masters of that beautiful soundtrack have been lost.
Some of Zander's surviving soundtrack work can
be heard on the splendid STRAIGHT TO HELL CD (Ace
on the Japanese WINNER CD.
-- SCHLOSS BUY BUY --
In Britain I've worked with various composers, all excellent, all rock'n'roll based to some extent. Chumbawamba wrote a great, orchestral score for REVENGERS TRAGEDY and released it on the Chumba label. Pete
Wylie, a.k.a. The Mighty Wah! wrote the music for
I'M A JUVENILE DELINQUENT - JAIL ME! The producer of that score
was Yorkie, bassist with Liverpool's premiere band, Space .
Since then he and I have collaborated on a performance video
shot in an abandoned cinema, The Futurist, and a remix of the
score of EDGE CITY: the result is three new songs by Yorkie,
and a new DVD of the film.
-- BUY DVDS OF JAIL ME AND EDGE CITY HERE --
Recently I directed the British election broadcast for the Green Party, which had a score by Franz Ferdinand. But I can't claim much involvement in that either: it was a new mix of one of their songs, "This Fire," organised by the ever-on-the-ball Scottish Greens.
Composers are like actors, in the sense that it's best to pick 'em carefully, then turn 'em loose to do their work!