we talk to the man behind the twin peaks soundtracks
Imagine your actual job is making music for Twin Peaks, that you get paid money to find and play David Lynch music. Imagine that! That's for real the job of Twin Peaks Sound and Music Supervisor and long time Lynch collaborator Dean Hurley. Hurley runs Lynch's Asymmetrical Studios in LA (it's based in the infamous house from Lynch's movie Lost Highway) and has co-written / produced four of Lynch's own albums -- The Air Is on Fire (2007, The Train (2011), Crazy Clown Time (2011) and The Big Dream (2013) -- as well as producing records for the likes of Lykke Li and Dirty Beaches. He not only helped Lynch select the bands that played Twin Peaks Roadhouse for it's return, he even crops up playing drums in Episode Five as part of a fictitious band alongside Lynch's son Riley.
Following the release of Anthology Resource Vol. 1: △△, an album of Hurley's sound design contribution to the show, two new Peaks albums have just landed. Twin Peaks (Music from the Limited Event Series) is a compilation of all the bands that rocked the Roadhouse for it's return, while Twin Peaks (Limited Event Series Soundtrack) predominantly features music by Angelo Badalamenti, the man responsible for the Grammy award-winning original Twin Peaks soundtrack.
The story of the original Peaks soundtrack's conception is notorious -- Lynch directing Badalamenti to, "Make it like the wind, Angelo," as they wrote Laura Palmer's Theme, Lynch telling Badalamenti not to change a thing, "I see Twin Peaks," as Badalmenti's shimmering mournful score literally brought Lynch to tears. The music was written before they'd even called action on filming the show. The influence of the evocative original soundtrack -- with it's haunting themes and jazzy moodscapes walking tightropes between romance and violence, a cocktail of jarring nostalgia and inexplicable sadness -- is writ large across pop music. It's been quoted, sampled, covered or referenced by everyone from Sky Ferreira, to Bastille, to Moby and Xiu Xiu with the 2016 covers album. No matter what year it is (wink) Badalamenti's Twin Peaks soundtrack will always be a bench mark in music.
We talked to Dean Hurley about the secret to Badalamenti's iconic score, picking bands to play the Roadhouse and playing David Lynch music.
Let's get to the good stuff, what do you know about the origins of David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti's working relationship?
Over the years, and with their early partnerships, it was a lot of them working in rooms together. Angelo had a writing room in Downtown New York and they used to go there and work on a lot of these things that ended up becoming Floating Into The Night and the original Twin Peaks soundtrack. They would go to Excalibur studio [as featured in this little known doc] owned by engineer Art Polhemus. It was located at 46th and 8th Avenue in New York. I believe that was in Time Square area. David loved that studio, he described it as this kind of Eastern European vibe, kind of a makeshift space. There wasn't a posh record plant style studio and I think that's why David and Angelo felt comfortable there.
That would have been back in the 80s, how's that changed over time?
Ever since I started my job I've always heard David say, 'I'd work with Angelo every day if he didn't live in New Jersey', because David was out in Los Angeles, Angelo had moved to New Jersey. I was talking with Angelo's assistant Jim Bruening and we were brainstorming, there was this Source-Connect plug-in that you could insert in a Protools session on a track and it was like a full hi-resolution mp3 broadcast of whatever another studio was playing anywhere around the world, with minimal latency. Essentially it was like a portal where David could hear Angelo in full resolution as if he was playing in David's studio and yet talk to him on a Facetime kind of app and see him and talk him through in the same ways that they used to work. It was like this newer futuristic version of what they had done. David loves new technology so he was super embracing of it. That was cool just to facilitate that and see how they could work like they were used to working. We had done a trial test even before Twin Peaks had formulated just to have them work together and then when Twin Peaks came along David absorbs these things and turned to me and said, 'I wanna work with Angelo through the internet'.
What do you think it is about Angelo's Twin Peaks soundtrack that makes it so iconic?
Angelo's musicality -- how he works suspensions -- it's like no one else. The musical language and the way it operates, it's there but it seems like he's one of the people that really exploits a suspension to the point where it makes you really feel something intense. It's that point where two chords are rubbing up against each other until it resolves into another chord so you think of harmony and the dissonance, that's sort of the romance and the violence that people respond to. You think of dissonance as a violent rubbing of tonalities and then you think of the harmony as the romantic coexisting of various notes.
What's the magic that happens when David and Angelo combine forces?
The David and Angelo combination is that Angelo has a way of exploiting that stuff and then David exploits Angelo to do it even more. David is a very high contrast kind of guy, the emotions are technicolour, he doesn't want it to be just sad or violent, he wants to be heart-wrenching or absolutely unhinged. He deals in extremes to get his points across.
It feels like Twin Peaks season three uses silence in a way that previous seasons didn't and that's seems to have contributed to the shift in mood.
That's primarily David. He always talks about how the film or the show is right when it feels correct, which is such an amorphous abstract description of that process. I think there's a time it feels correct if it's saturated with music or other times when he's focused more on playing with the peaks and valleys and the contrasts between music and silence.
The choice of featured bands to play the Roadhouse have been controversial, but were there people that turned down the opportunity?
No, but there were people we wanted that couldn't do it. There were some people that David really wanted, tried multiple times and it was a tough call because essentially everyone had to bend over backwards to rearrange their schedules because of the way it was shot. One band in particular we were talking to that I was a big fan of and wanted, they were like 'well we're gonna be free in a month or two are you guys still shooting then?' It just doesn't work that way.
It's a pretty sweet job to have, introducing David Lynch to music!
Most of it is putting stuff in front of him but he does the same thing to me, he'll tell me about bands and he'll get super enthused about somebody. Sometimes his taste is unpredictable. It's a two way street it's not just me introducing him to things, he actively searches the web and loves to fall in love with YouTube performances.
I really fell in love with the Cactus Blossoms through seeing them on Twin Peaks: The Return.
I was very impressed with them. I wanted to find someone that people would have that reaction with, where it was like, 'I've never heard of them, who are these people?'. I was super excited to even tell David about them. I buttered it up a bit, he was like, 'What have we got to listen to?', and I said, 'What if I told you that you could have the Everly Brothers play in the roadhouse, would you be into that?'. And he could tell I had something to play him and he had that kind of enthused excitement like, 'How is this possible?'. That was fun.