Jaye Barnes Luckett
Jaye Barnes Luckett composed the haunting score for Lucky Mckee's amazing ode to loneliness, "May." That music finally got a long overdue release this summer from LaLaLand records, and we decided to catch up with Jaye to celebrate the return of our site... since "May" was so inspirational to us when it came out. Read on to find out what she's been up to since writing the music for Mckee's powerful cult film.
I'm very excited, but in a lot of ways, it still doesn't feel real.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
It literally runs the gamut. Some big ones are musical friends, like Schpilkas, Lucky McKee, and Ben Boyer. They're three of the most creative musicians I know, in addition to many other brilliant things they can do - Wild ideas, constantly. But some of the other usual suspects are The Beatles, Pixies, Nirvana, Juliana Hatfield, The Police, The Smiths, The Stranglers, Crass, Queen, Bernard Hermann, Goblin, Ennio Morricone, Wendy Carlos, Bjork, Beethoven, Mozart, Modest Mussorgsky, Nine Inch Nails, Sonic Youth, Giorgio Moroder, John Cage, Led Zeppelin.
But there's artists in all different genres of music, that seem to always result in moments of motivating me in different ways, such as Classic Pop, British Invasion, Hardcore, Motown, New Wave, Classical, Hip Hop, old-school Punk, Soul, old Country, old Jazz, Indian ragas, African rhythms, Japanese pop, and some types of Electronic music.
When it comes to horror films, what classic scores do you think influenced your style the most?
Most directly, I think I tend to think often of Wendy Carlos' approach to A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, and pretty much everything Bernard Herrmann and Goblin have done in that vein... and Claudio Simonetti's score for Dario Argento's OPERA was really haunting and gorgeous. John Carpenter's score for HALLOWEEN. Jerry Goldsmith's THE OMEN.
I've been fortunate to be able to work on projects with some cool stories and odd characters, that seem to have some identifiable situations that reach beyond the genre, so I can also play around with all sorts of groovy stuff to find that strange place between horror, emotional drama, comedy, fantasy, and whatever else is there.
My scores don't sound remotely like any of those, but I take a pinch of spirit from this one and that one, to give it a little something of its own. Of late, Robert Rodriguez's score for PLANET TERROR and Michael Andrew's score for DONNIE DARKO, have kind of gotten my ears perked up, too.
It's been a while since May was released, how does it feel now that your great score is finally hitting the streets?
Thank you. I'm very excited, but in a lot of ways, it still doesn't feel real. I recorded that thing about 6 years ago, and since then, so much has happened in my life... I just didn't think it would ever happen outside of my own DIY attempts, which I really didn't have the resources, or help to keep going, or let a lot of people know about. MV Gerhard and Matt Verboys of La-La Land Records seemingly came out of the heavens and little did I know that they'd actually been working towards it on their own, for a few years, not knowing that I also started trying to get the ball rolling with Lions Gate myself a few years ago.
As excited as I am about the album itself being out there, I'm stoked to have been able to work with a label who are true fans of film music and who put so much heart and dedication into letting people know about artists like myself who tend to get buried. I'm not used to that kind of effort and attention, and so having their specific respect for this music really means something to me, because I know it's definitely not something that's going to make them rich... and they know it. They're just putting it out because they feel it was fairly unique and deserved a release.
And a good deal of this album finally being out, is due to a small number of fans who did write La-La Land and Lions Gate a bunch of letters and posted things on the Internet over the years. Without that, I'm not sure that all the right elements would have fallen into place. So to anyone out there who really did sit down and type or write something out... THANK YOU!
That Angela Bettis chick did a pretty okay job, too. Frickin' amazing.
You seem to be very close friends with Lucky Mckee, can you describe how you're friendship started and how you ended up landing the gig on "May"?
He's my brother. It's really a rare thing. There's just some people you run across in life, and you know right away, that you're of a long lost relation, and that's exactly what it was. I transferred from a school in Ohio to the University of Southern California. I came to USC with the desire to go into stop motion animation, and so I ended up on what's called The Cinema Floor. It's a co-ed floor in a dormitory where, well, everyone who applies to live there, has a Film and Television interest in common. It was about 30 kids... male and female, from the dirt poor to the filthy rich, mostly all wanting to tell stories through film and music... It was so fun and unpredictable, and had a reputation of some kind on the campus. I not only met Lucky McKee there, but we also lived among some great talents that folks are now getting familiar with.
With Lucky, I instantly loved the guy, really took to his personality and way of doing things, his honor, openness, and loyalty. He's really a rare creature. One weekend, he called me up, saying he had a project due on Monday morning, and said he had an idea for what to do, and so asked me to come over and be his actress. We shot this bizarre, creepy and sad story over two days, and then he and I pulled an all-nighter, while he edited and put on a soundtrack and I did a rather sleepy and hallucinogenic voiceover. The Hi-8 video short that resulted was an abridged version of what was to become MAY, and instantly got a lot of students and professors talking and encouraging Lucky to write a screenplay from it.
I got to play the character of May three times, while he was working it out, which is pretty cool. There was nothing remarkable about the performance, as I was too nervous, but when I look back, it's remarkable to have played some kind of hand in allowing a great filmmaker to shape and mold the birth of an iconic character. That Angela Bettis chick did a pretty okay job, too. Frickin' amazing. I'm always grateful to have been one of the few involved with it from start to finish.
What kind of direction did Lucky give you while scoring the film. Did he let you run wild?
In a nutshell he just said, "Do what you do." He didn't interfere with anything, just encouraged me to go for it. Because it was my first feature score and we'd had some problems with the producers leading up to me actually working on the feature, and it resulted in us being pressed for time and money, so we had to throw out pretty much all of the ideas we had ever talked out in the months and years before and start from scratch. We picked out some initial songs for the soundtrack together when we first hit that crunch time, but after that there just was no time and not a cent available to be spent on anything. As a result of all of that I think I was more hesitant and nervous, and was going to approach it a bit more conservatively, something more safe at first. But I saw the amazing work that Lucky and all those other amazing people in the cast and crew were able to do under similar restrictions and it inspired me to reach for something else.
He let me know he was there, and quietly let me get to work, only poking his head in from time to time and erupting into bursts of excitement like a cheerleader to spur the engineer and myself on... bringing us food, beer, smokes and encouragement. It was a stressful time, but made much more fun by Lucky, Angela Bettis, Kevin Ford, and Mike McKee all coming in to liven things up. He didn't really ask me to change much. Most of his notes had to do with deciding where we were not going to place music, and I think he may have have suggested a more dramatic build here and there, and the substitution of one instrument for another. But otherwise, I was a free-range chicken!
May is a beautifully strange film... do you have a favorite part? A line of dialog or moment maybe?
I knew that moment as soon as I placed the music on it. The coffee shop scene is my favorite, by far. Where May approaches Adam sleeping at the table. There's no dialog until the end of it, and to me, at least, I think it's the creepiest scene in the movie. It's my favorite piece of music from it, too. Especially the first time watching it, you can't really be sure about what she's going to do or even if what's happening is real and it's unsettling in a far more subtle way.
Michael and Matt from La-La Land Records were revved up to go all out, from the beginning.
You've talked about how your operation is pretty much a one woman band... can you describe your setup what you use to create your music?
It's changed a lot over the past 6 years, which has helped in keeping the sound a little different from film to film, encouraging me to keep experimenting. With May, I only started out with an electric guitar, a bass, some pedals, a small drum machine, a low-level Casio keyboard, a Sega Dreamcast gaming system, and a 4-track in my possession. Eventually, I got a ProTools set up, but it's still pretty modest compared to what most people are accustomed to. But now, I've got several different electric guitars, an acoustic-electric guitar, bass, a couple of Boss analog pedals, an electronic drum kit, and for strings, synths, horns and all that sort of stuff.
On many of the projects, I've also been fortunate to work with another great friend, David "Dizmix" Lopez who is an amazing mixer and engineer. He's the real deal, and that gave me access to additional experience, tools and gadgets here and there, than I would have had on some of those other soundtracks.
Rarely, have I been either paid up front or anywhere close to the time from when I've completed my work, and so with most projects to date, I've had to scramble to either borrow money or just go with the flow of whatever we had to make a soundtrack out of thin air. I've done okay with that method, and I'm proud of what has been pulled off, but in the future, I can't help but think of what cool things could be done, if there were ample resources for the soundtrack set aside up front. There's a lot of wild stuff I'd love to do, if I had access to, say, live string players and percussionists.
Included on the disc are other works of yours including Angela Bettis' short film "Roman", Lucky Mckees "Sick Girl", "The Woods" and Tobe Hoopers "Toolbox Murders"... how did the decision get made to include
all of this material on the same disc?
Michael and Matt from La-La Land Records were revved up to go all out, from the beginning. When you put every bit of score and my songs from MAY together, you still only end up with less than 30 minutes of music altogether. Though we had other artists on the soundtrack, it was still a pretty sparse movie. Music wasn't really used a whole lot, there's mostly dialogue, silence and sound design. No matter what, we were going to have a huge chunk of space left on the CD. They'd already seen and loved THE WOODS and SICK GIRL also, and they'd been following ROMAN, which hadn't come out yet, but they also knew I was excited about that score. They suggested on one of the first phone calls, that if I wanted to I could pack the disc with music from the other films, and I jumped on it.
THE TOOLBOX MURDERS: AS IT WAS, is actually the documentary that Kevin Ford and Chris Sivertson made for Tobe Hooper. They weren't able to get a proper release for that documentary, and so I really wanted to get at least something I did from it on the CD, just so that more people would know that their movie existed.
Can you explain your project "Poperratic" for us?
It started out with the name Alien Tempo Experiment 13, but I shortened it to a less tongue-twisterrific name a few years ago. It's my main musical outlet. I used to think of it as a band, and I tried to treat it that way, but I've recently started thinking of it as more of a production name. It's just me, playing all the instruments. Mostly rock and heavy pop, and usually with some kind of odd, unexpected twist to it, but the soundtracks had started to influence me to do a variety of other things.
With MAY, I used my own name for the score, and then used a band name for all of the songs because we thought that it might be possible to get enough exposure for the band that I might find some reliable people to play with, but it was all still just me the whole time. Starting with SICK GIRL, though, I've been using Poperratic as the name for everything I do, to stay consistent. My hope is that eventually when people see that name pop up in a credit, they'll know they're in for something a little different from the norm.
What are you currently working on? Do you have any film projects lined up for the future?
More than anything, I'd love to write music for other artists. The main thing I'm working on right now is getting a production music service fully underway. It's called The Poperratic Metropolitan Popera House, which is a name I started using for my project studio, around he time I changed ATE 13's name. It will be a unique sort of production music one-stop, where folks can come to license music or get custom original music and arrangements done for their projects, by Poperratic, in all genres. Original songs, scores, samples, music supervision. I'm opening it up to anyone in Film, TV, Theatre, Video Games, Interactive Media, people who need samples to include in their own music, anyone who needs extra vocal or instrument parts... all kinds of stuff. I'll have a ready-made music library of tracks that people can preview and license if they're pressed for time or budget, but I'll also do the custom work.
On the film front, I've recently finished scoring a Spaghetti Western short, which is supposed to be expanded into a feature later in the year and I believe I'll be working on that as well. Right now, there's nothing else booked for scores, but through The Popera House and also the release of this CD, I'm now opening myself up to a bigger variety of things and figure that might help me to keep working more steadily.
I recently released a Poperratic album shortly before the soundtrack CD was released, called 'Vagus (the wandering nerve.)', which is a really wild rock album, and has all of my songs from SICK GIRL, and a bunch of other stuff on it. It takes you on a ride, like a movie, with a lot of twists and turns. I haven't really been able to spread word about it, but it's one of the things I'm most proud of so far.
I also have a electronic pop/Trip Hop band with a composer/musician friend of mine named Schpilkas, and it's called DEUXO. I co-write, perform all the vocals and occasionally play some synths in it. We recently got a song featured on an FX Networks show called DIRT, and we're also writing new material, with the goal of completing an album and getting involved with more soundtracks.
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions!
Any ol' time! Thank you so much for letting me be a part of the return of Bloody Good Horror! Welcome back!