I actually haven’t seen this week’s episode, Rapture, yet (with all the complete visual and sound effects), so I’ll be watching it on Sunday at the same time as you guys. I’ll offer some insightful tidbits about it in a few days.
However, let me take this opportunity to post something I should’ve done months ago. My soundtrack album for Warner Bros.’ film Rest Stop is finally shipping (from Amazon.com and its now on iTunes too) and Battlestar Galactica fans will really dig it. The album includes my complete score, and three original songs as well.
I scored this fun little horror movie during the break between Battlestar seasons two and three. Its has some great scares and the director, John Shiban, basically let me do whatever I want! The story is about a girl named Nicole who gets stranded at a rest stop in the middle of nowhere, stalked by a sadistic truck driver who we increasingly suspect is not entirely human.
Since the story took place out in the countryside, I thought it would be cool to create the score entirely with country / western instruments. You’ll hear electric fiddle, accordions, guitars, mandolins, and above all, a wailing distorted banjo that has been mangled almost beyond recognition.
It’s the same stylistic approach I take on Battlestar, using a small ensemble of ethnic instruments to create the textures we’re used to hearing in big orchestral settings.
I was skeptical at first of even doing a horror film, since their scores can often resemble tangled, atonal noise. But John let me create a very melodic soundtrack, actually quite traditional in its structure. Every character ended up with a unique theme, performed by a distinct instrument.
My inspiration for “The Driver’s Theme” came from the classic Ennio Morricone / Sergio Leone collaborations of the 1960s. In the Man with No Name trilogy, Morricone would assign a solo instrument to solely represent a particular character. This technique was developed to its zenith in Once Upon a Time in the West, where Charles Bronson’s character was not only represented by a harmonica in the score, but he also played one on screen… and his NAME was “Harmonica!”
John Shiban’s villain, The Driver, doesn’t have a name, but if he did it would probably be “Banjo.” This instrument, distorted and overdriven to the breaking point, performs “The Driver’s Theme” literally every moment that he or his menacing yellow pickup are on screen.
“Nicole’s Theme” is a haunting melody heard at the bottom register of an alto flute. And each of the unsavory characters she encounters at the rest stop has a unique musical signature as well.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the album:
(Click on linked song titles to hear an excerpt)
- performed by Raya Yarbrough
- Back in the 60s and 70s, it was quite common to have a pop song based on a theme from the film. In recent decades, that custom has become less commonplace, with a few notable exceptions. This song, featured prominently in the film, is a pop/rock arrangement of “Nicole’s Theme.” Galactica fans will recognize Raya Yarbrough’s lyrical voice from Season Two’s Lords of Kobol.
2. Lonely Woman
- performed by Bt4
- The film needed a simple love song for what would be Nicole’s last happy moment with her boyfriend before events turn sour. I wrote the lyrics from the perspective of two lovers who are about to be separated. Played against the picture, it creates a subtle, ominous prediction of things to come. Frequent Galactica vocalist Bt4 (Season Two’s The Cylon Prisoner) lends his vocal talents.
- “Nicole’s Theme” is stated by a lone electric violin and alto flute as she discovers that she is stranded at the rest stop. Halfway through, we get the first statement of “The Driver’s Theme,” an unmistakable de-tuned electric banjo wailing away in the distance.
4. Nicole’s Private Demon
- The first statement of “Nicole’s Theme” that is truly score and not a pop song. I love this track. I took my inspiration from “Is There Anybody Out There?” by Pink Floyd. I’m sure you can hear it.
5. Road Rage
- The first of several action cues. The driving action ostinato is achieved with banjos and mandolins playing an accelerated version of “The Driver’s Theme.” A darker version of “Nicole’s Theme” closes the track. At this point in the story, she realizes she’s in big trouble and the album will get much darker from here.
6. Tracey Kress
- Nicole encounters three ghosts during her incarceration (kind of Dickens-ian now that I think about it). The first is Tracey. A moaning female vocal accompanies her misery. Listen for wisps of “The Driver’s Theme” back there too.
7. The Driver Closes In
- As the driver tries to force his way into the claustrophobic bathroom where Nicole is hiding, the banjos and mandolins return with his theme.
8. An Officer’s Story
- A police officer shows up to help Nicole, but ends up fatally wounded. As Nicole cleans his wounds, we learn a little of his back story. His theme is represented by a lone flugel horn. I thought this leant his character a sense of tragedy, honor and nobility. When I pitched this idea to John Shiban, his response was: “Any man who can use ‘flugel horn’ and ‘nobility’ in the same sentence is the right man to score my movie.” I love this cue. It always struck me as the most Battlestar-ry, with its haunting ambient tones and lyrical melody.
- This one’s pretty funky, despite all the banjos. It steadily builds energy towards a disturbing finale, built entirely of variations of “The Driver’s Theme” with a single quotation of “Nicole’s Theme” at the end.
- The first half is the officer’s theme, but the cue crescendos steadily into a development of track 9.
11. A Plea for Death
- This is the last you’ll hear of the officer’s theme. A darker and more lush arrangement of track 8, this one’s a beauty. If you’ve seen the movie, this scene ends with a real shocker!
12. Searing Heat
- The Driver sets the bathroom ablaze and Nicole barely escapes with her life. Banjos and fiddles propel her mad dash to safety.
13. Memories of Jesse
- A companion piece of sorts to track 4, and the last full statement of “Nicole’s Theme” by the alto flute. A brief moment of real beauty before we get back to business
- Of course Nicole’s not safe yet. The Driver and his theme return. This one really kicks ass. My favorite of the action cues.
15. Nicole Fights Back
- Nicole takes matters into her own hands and gets ready for battle. I wanted to give this scene more energy, perhaps a subtle nod to the preparation montages in my own favorite horror films, the Evil Dead series. This cue has all the banjos and fiddles, alto flutes on Nicole’s theme, and adds a hip rhythm section to drive it to its big finish.
16. Vicious Cycle
- The grand finale. “The Driver’s Theme” builds relentlessly to an explosive finale. Listen for the “faux-happy-ending” music in the middle, which goes a little sour before we transition to the moody epilogue.
- performed by The Rev. Buford “Buck” Davis and his Minstrel Singers
- The last of the original songs, this was a demented hymn created for the creepy winnebago family Nicole encounters in the second act. A simple gospel tune gradually decays into a sadistic tirade, all set against a pleasant bluegrass beat. It functions as source music, playing off their car stereo as the father and mother preach hellfire and damnation. I knew that I had to get Rev. “Buck” and his band to do this one. If you haven’t seen this group, these guys are a real treat live. I have to confess that Buck basically wrote this one, but couldn’t take credit for legal reasons.
Well, there it is. I’m really proud of this record. Listening back to it, even after just a few months, I can hear that its a stylistic bridge between Battlestar Galactica season two and three. Besides, it was a welcome vacation from taiko drums!
The Rest Stop soundtrack album has been released by Plan R Records, and is available at all music retailers, including Amazon.com and iTunes.
So Say We All,