Philip K. Dick never wrote a symphony but he might have considered it; before his short stories started selling, he clerked at a Berkeley record store and cultivated a classical-music education that colored much of his writing. And Graham Reynolds hasn't written any sci-fi novels yet but he still could—between composing his own symphonies and leading his Golden Arm Trio, he slips an article here and there into his local Austin Chronicle. The two of them have their names almost side by side in the credits of Richard Linklater's Scanner Darkly, the off-dial Dick adaptation with a bedroom-recorded orchestral score by Reynolds, now leading an econo-style touring version of his score cross-country weeks before the Scanner DVD even comes out. It's another experimental aspect of a very experimental film: as Reynolds is a bit too polite to point out, you wouldn't expect John Williams to get in the van.
Reynolds is quite the polymath, a locally lauded and nationally noted composer attached to jazz mostly for genre convenience—taken in moments, his Scanner score shares as much with Sonic Youth or Radiohead (who also lent a song to the film) as with Shostakovich or Sun Ra. He's collaborating with the Austin Children's Choir on an adaptation of The Odyssey and meeting with Ballet Austin's choreographer; he's just supplied a play with a score and is finishing a new Golden Arm Trio album and is also resting up from the successful September debut of his fifth symphony. Reynolds' fifth? He laughs. "I have my hands full," he says.
OC Weekly: Did you learn to play music before you learned to talk?
Graham Reynolds: I was five, so I'm pretty sure I knew how to tie my shoes and speak. I didn't know how to read and write. I was pretty much learning to read the alphabet as I learned to play piano. It's just as internalized. The first public performances I had were piano recitals, and one year, instead of playing Bach or Beethoven, I played a piece of my own. And from there on in, I was pretty much performing my own music.
You wrote your own score forBattleship Potemkin—how did that compare to scoringScanner?
The biggest factor is the director of Scanner is alive and the director of Potemkin is dead.
So it's easier to work with the dead?
One's collaborative and one is a solo project.
Were you a Philip K. Dick fan before scoringScanner?
Oh yes. I've been a fan for a long time. I don't know if it had an effect but I went and watched all the Philip K. Dick movies.
That's part of the early process. You're watching Total Recall and you're not gonna reference a melody, but you are in a Philip K. Dick mental state. Even if Schwarzenegger and Dick are pretty far apart. You're thinking Scanner even if that's not what Scanner is. Then when you sit at the piano or pick up the guitar, you've got a depth of experience with the world of Scanner very present in your mind. It makes whatever you're creating a little more organic and rich.
Dick was very knowledgeable about classical music—he even named one novel after a Bach cantata. Does your score acknowledge the musical influences in his writing?
There's a tone—Scanner may not have specific references, but it has a tone and a mood in the world created, and that's very translatable across mediums. There are some things that are very specific to a medium, but mood does translate. You could paint a sad painting, write a sad song or write a sad book. In that I think I succeeded—capturing the feel of the book.
Was the score really recorded completely in your bedroom?
Yes. There was a string quartet in my room, layering on top of themselves. I had the vibes set up, some orchestral percussion and a line out to the piano in the next room. It all goes into the computer. A world when you can go to a store and buy a studio and come home with it is a brand new world.
How did you fit theScanner soundtrack into a live performance?
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It was tricky. In Austin I did a couple concerts that were a full-on set of just Scanner material. But on tour you can't bring all the instruments on the album, so I selected a cross-section of people to represent different elements. I got cello to represent the strings and to a degree the horns. Then a guitar to do a lot of the layers and I play piano and drums and upright bass.
I am told you rock the fuck out on drums.
The best thing about playing drums is you get to hit things a whole bunch of times and you can hit them as hard as you want. I don't think John Williams would sit down on the drum set and start bashing.
GOLDEN ARM TRIO PERFORMS WITH SPECIAL GUESTS AT OPEN, 144 LINDEN AVE., LONG BEACH, (562) 499-OPEN; WWW.ACCESSOPEN.COM. FRI., 9 P.M. $5 DONATION. ALL AGES.