Feb 23, 2016 12:58PM

Meet The Music Wiz Who Soundtracked 'The Virgin Suicides', 'Lost In Translation' & NBC's 'Hannibal'

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr Brian Reitzell.

Did you know that the guy who made the dreamiest ever scores for The Virgin Suicides and Lost In Translation also created the nightmare-inducing soundscapes for Hannibal? His name is Brian Reitzell and he's a musician, composer, producer and music supervisor. He's also kind of a genius. He's the sort of guy who'll look at a toy siren or a desk accessory and figure out how to make the weirdest, most beautiful music with it. 

Brian started his music career playing drums in cult punk band Redd Kross and later for French dream pop outfit Air. He scored the Gus Van Sant-produced TV show Boss, made the menacing soundtrack for 30 Days of Night and, most recently, took TV to a whole new level with NBC's cannibal love story Hannibal. He's also been mates with Sofia Coppola since forever and it's thanks to her that he got into the soundtrack biz to begin with.

We caught up with Brian in Paris during the Red Bull Music Academy, to chat about working with Sofia, hating cute music and why working on Hannibal made him need therapy.

Nadia Bailey: You've been obsessed with sound from a young age. Was there a point that you realised your level of interest was slightly unusual?
Brian Reitzell: Well, I used to wear contact lenses. I wore contact lenses for as long as I can remember, I never wore glasses. And I'm really blind. As a kid, my eyes were so bad but I kinda hid it. I didn't wanna wear glasses. When I was twelve, I had to get braces and glasses at the same time — at twelve! Like, I'm just starting to like girls and now I have braces and glasses? So I kinda pretended my eyes were fine, and I got really into my ears. Your ears are almost like a muscle — you can develop them. 

How do you go about sourcing the gadgets you make music with? 
I'm just always looking. What's interesting about all of those instruments is I didn't get them for the purpose that I used them for. I had them laying around. Everything is a potential instrument — the Newton's Cradle is a great instrument. You know what a Newton's Cradle is? It's five metal balls, and it sits on a desk. So I used that and recorded it playing all these different rhythms, and it sounds like Autechre or Aphex Twin — but it's just a desk toy. I love all that shit.

So you were a drummer, and then you transitioned into film. Was it Sofia Coppola who spurred that transition?
Yes, it was her idea. Although when I quit Redd Kross, I started playing with one of the guys in the band Slint, and we were making music that sounded like really cool film music. It kinda sounded like Tortoise or something, all instrumental, and I started to think, "Wow, we should do film music." And then I ended up doing The Virgin Suicides, and I was music supervisor but I worked on the score with Air, so I was involved with both. I've carried that over throughout my whole career. I have done movies where I was just the music supervisor — I think only two — and in both instances I ended up doing some of the score because the composer couldn't. One of them was Danny Elfman, because Danny Elfman could not do this piano jazz thing. And then I had to do a Pantera-style song, in another one I had to do all this reggae, and another was 1940s country music. I love those challenges. I think directors and producers really like that I can do that.

So you first met Sofia socially, through your girlfriend.
Yeah, it actually all goes back to cooking. She's a really wonderful, very social person, and I was never social. I was always by myself playing music. But she'd have these lovely dinner parties, and I would cook for everyone. I love to cook for people, so I think really I have a career because I would show up, put on some music, and cook dinner. And, man, I've cooked for Wes Anderson, Mark Romanek, Brad Pitt, I cooked for a lot of Hollywood people, because they would be around. I'm not name-dropping, I'm just saying it was kind of ironic.

What was your first impression of her?
We were just friends — I mean, she wasn't sure what she was going to do, she was studying photography, she and my girlfriend had a clothing company together — they had a store in Japan. Which is why Lost In Translation kind of came to be. Lots of our friends that we know in Japan are in that movie: the guy that sings 'God Save The Queen' ... that's our friend Charlie Brown. I went there on tour several times with Redd Kross, and I had gone there a bunch of times [with Sofia and Stephanie] on their trips. What I love about Sofia so much is that she's very much her father's daughter. Some people say, "Oh, she's privileged, she got to make a movie…" Fuck all that. She's brave. She's gonna step in the shadow of her father, and do it completely her way. She's doesn't let a studio tell her what to do, she doesn't test her movie for audiences — she does what she likes. What's great about her is that she doesn't just make movies constantly, because she's only gonna do it if she can do it the way that she wants to do it. The indie film world is basically dead now. You can't do it the way you could when we did Lost In Translation. You can do a TV show…I've been telling her she should do TV, but I don't know if she's good for episodic television, but she'd be great at developing and doing the pilot.

If she developed a TV show, I would definitely watch it.
Well, she did a Christmas special with Bill Murray, which I was not involved in. I had nothing to do with. And to be honest, god knows if we'll ever work together again. I don't know. You know, she's married to Thomas Mars, and he has very good music taste. Spike, her first husband? Terrible music taste. I know people liked his last film, but I thought the music was…god, I can't stand it. But I didn't like Juno either. I was working on Juno, and quit. I quit because the director, Jason Reitman, wanted Kimya from the Moldy Peaches, he wanted me to work with her, and I didn't want to work with her. I don't like her music! I don't like cute music. I've never liked cute music. I have a very hard time with quirky music, I don't believe it. Jason wanted me to work with her and I said no. And he said, "Okay, you can work with whoever you want," and so I thought, okay, let's work with Yo La Tengo, let's get you this aesthetic. Because there's nothing worse than an indie film that sounds like an indie film — Sundance acoustic guitar, I fucking hate that. But he said to me, "No, I can't do this without you," so I said, "Look. Bring your producers into the studio, and I will tell you what to do. " So his producers came in, I told 'em what to do, and they did it. And they won a fucking Grammy. And they had a number one record. And I'm okay with it. I'm glad I didn't do that movie. Sofia hates that movie, Mike Mills hates that movie, that's not what we do, yet it is a very music-driven film. It's just a different trip, and that's fine.

Let's talk about Hannibal. Genre TV has a pretty bad reputation in general… Did you have reservations?
Completely. I didn't want to do it, until I saw Mads Mikkelsen. Mads Mikkelsen is the bomb. The guy is so good! I'd do [Hannibal] the rest of my life. It was such a rewarding job. I never had to change a note of music, I could do whatever I wanted. Hannibal was made for no money, but you would never know it. It's incredible — some of the visuals on that show… I'd never seen it before! Like that kaleidoscopic lesbian thing, did you see that thing? How the fuck did they do that? There was a lot of stuff that you would never know was made, by television standards, for very little money. 

So talk to me about 'Love Crime', the Siouxsie Sioux track. How did that come about?
When I did Marie Antoinette I showed every artist the scene that I was going to use their music in — everybody except Adam Ant because Adam Ant had said yes before I even had an opportunity. So I like to be personable with artists, I really respect their music as if it's their kid. So Siouxsie was living in France and we met in the Café de Flore here in Paris, and I showed her the scene that I had put a song of hers in — it was 'Hong Kong Garden' which is probably their first hit. And I did an orchestral intro for it, which Sofia blasted it at the Opera Garnier here in Paris. It's probably the only time that rock music has ever played in that building. So I met her then, and we just kept in touch.

But I didn't think of Siouxsie for Hannibal, because Hannibal wasn't about pop music. But I decided, when we were going to go into season three, that I should do a song with Siouxsie that I could get NBC and Gaumont [Film Company] to pay for, that they could use to market the upcoming season. And then at some point I could use the music in the show, I could find some way for it to work. So when I asked Sou about this last year, it just so happens that she loves the show. She's a Fannibal. So she said, "That would be great, let's do something." So I wrote something, and I sent it to her and then her manager was like, "Well, she's moving back to London and it's going to take a while." It took a long time. But man, when I got her voice on my track, I was like a teenage girl who had her first boyfriend. I was so excited. Siouxsie Sioux sang on my track! Fuck! That is so cool! I mean, I'm just this little drummer kid from California, and she's like the coolest of queen of music. I mean, she's a hero to me. And what's crazy about that song is that she hadn't even stepped foot in a recording studio for like eight years. She hadn't been inspired. But since she was such a fan of the show, she was able to get inside of it in a way that you could only hope that someone would.

Season three is very much a love story between Hannibal and Will. Is that something you were conscious of in your score?
Yes. Completely. In fact, Siouxsie asked, and this was before we'd even started working on it, "What is this season about?" And Bryan Fuller said that it was a love story. And so that's why she wrote it as a love story. God, the show is so crazy. I cannot believe we got away with what we got away with. Like, I've never experienced the level of fandom and the cultness, and I've been in cult bands but I've never experienced something like Hannibal. I think it's going to outlive me. I think we probably will do a film. Right now, we're all exhausted. There's no way we could do another season in time, this one was already pushed back four months because they couldn't shoot the European stuff in time. So the whole thing got pushed back, we were all going crazy, and fatigued, and that's why it looked so good because people worked so hard on that show. We were all trying to one-up each other and top the last one, and man it was killing me. I still need therapy.

The Hannibal: Season 3 soundtrack is out today on CD and vinyl. Download it from iTunes here

Photo: Courtesy of RBMA

Nadia Bailey