CS Score interviews Lili Haydn & reviews Junkie XL’s Justice League score!
Hey there, film score lovers! We’ve got some cool stuff for you to check out this week, including a look at Tom Holkenborg’s fantastic score to Zack Snyder’s Justice League, an interview with composer/songwriter Lili Haydn, a breakdown of Mondo’s new Solo: A Star Wars Story 2LP vinyl album and an exclusive track from Kris Bowers’ score for The United States Vs. Billie Holliday.
Let’s do this thing!
The United States Vs. Billie Holliday
Check out the all-new track from Lakeshore Records’ The United States Vs. Billie Holliday—Original Motion Picture Score by Emmy Award-winning composer Kris Bowers, titled “Lynching.” The album features a gorgeously emotive, yet intense orchestrated score that underlies the dramatic tension of the film’s complex and unvarnished look at the irrepressible Billie Holiday and her struggle against the race-based harassment of the federal government. The Hulu Original Film directed by Lee Daniels and starring Andra Day is streaming now.
SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY VINYL
As previously written in this column, Solo: A Star Wars Story is the best score we’ve received from Disney’s Star Wars films. John Powell’s music (with additional music, including Han Solo’s theme written by John Williams) is thrilling, fun, and nostalgic, but also unique with its use of instruments, past themes, and newer melodies that fit perfectly within that exciting galaxy far, far away. Powell already released a complete score on digital streaming services, which you should really check out if you haven’t already, and now, Mango gives us a fantastic 2LP vinyl edition of the film, which really is simply too much for fans of Ron Howard’s film.
No, really. This is amazing.
For starters, the packaging is phenomenal, featuring amazing new artwork of Han Solo, Chewie, and the gang by César Moreno nestled inside a cover cut to resemble the Millennium Falcon cockpit. Opening the record package reveals another glorious bit of art — an eye-popping hero shot of the characters from the film, rendered in glorious orange and yellow hues.
Finally, the score itself is spread out over two sharp-looking 180-gram “Hyper Space” color vinyls.
For a comprehensive breakdown of the score, click here.
Otherwise, visit Mondo to get your hands on this truly unique item — a must for Star Wars aficionados and fans yearning for more Solo adventures.
ZACK SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE REVIEW
Here we go. The big one.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a truly remarkable achievement in blockbuster filmmaking, a perfect blend of Snyder’s darker aesthetics and the type of high octane adventure audiences crave from their superhero epics; and, as one reviewer put it, a fantasy epic in the vein of Lord of the Rings disguised as a superhero film. After three long years of waiting, fans finally got the film they were promised — a satisfying follow-up to both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Perhaps the only thing more exciting than the film itself is the all-new film score by Tom Holkenborg, aka Junkie XL, which WaterTower Music released to coincide with the film’s HBO Max debut. Like the movie, Holkenborg’s score stands as an enormous improvement over its much-maligned theatrical counterpart written by Danny Elfman.
Elfman’s work served 2017’s Justice League well but, outside of a robust main theme, lacked much energy and eschewed Hans Zimmer’s and Holkenborg’s music from Man of Steel and BvS in favor of reprising old fashioned themes from John Williams’ classic Superman and Elfman’s own Batman scores.
By contrast, Holkenborg continues the ideas presented in Snyder’s previous two superhero epics and ups the ante with a handful of powerful new themes fans are bound to go nuts over.
Make no mistake, this is Holkenborg’s most exciting work since Mad Max: Fury Road.
Notable themes include the return of Wonder Woman’s now-classic electric-cello riff to which Holkenborg adds exotic vocals and a blast of electric guitar to layer the sound an even harder edge than before. Superman’s theme from Man of Steel also figures in tracks such as “Superman Rising, Pt. 1 / A Book of Hours” and “Superman Rising, Pt. 2 / Immovable,” and the composer even offers a brief reprisal of Zimmer’s villain theme from MoS in the track “Monument Destroyer.” Holkenborg also supplies an emotional new theme for Cyborg, a dark choir for Darkseid (and the Mother Boxes); and even gives Batman his own kick-ass guitar riff.
Still, the best aspect of the score remains the incredible “Foundation” theme for the league itself — a cue Holkenborg likened to a national anthem — heard most prominently in the terrific track, “The Crew at Warpower,” which continues to play on a loop in the Ames household much to the chagrin of the wife.
If anything, Holkenborg’s work on Zack Snyder’s Justice League proves just how pivotal a film score is to a motion picture’s success. His music drives Snyder’s film and completely changes the tone of certain sequences, particularly the action beats. Scenes that fell flat in the theatrical cut, namely the tunnel battle sequence, now pack a wallop, while the film overall feels grandiose and incredibly epic.
Here’s the best part: Holkenborg’s score is presented on a massive 54-track album that encompasses practically every bit of music written for the film, albeit mixed differently. As of now, the score is only available digitally, but Holkenborg has stated that a physical release, along with a vinyl album, are expected soon. We film score nuts truly are spoiled rotten.
Overall, Zack Snyder’s Justice League — Original Motion Picture Soundtrack will delight fans of the film and stands as an astounding entry in Tom Holkenborg’s electrifying career.
1. “Song to the Siren” Performed by Rose Betts
LILI HAYDN INTERVIEW
Los Angeles singer, songwriter, and film composer Lili Haydn, who is known as the violinist and songwriter in Opium Moon (who won a GRAMMY in 2019 for Best New Age Album) as well as for her composed music for Amazon’s hit series Transparent, the Anita Hill documentary Anita: Speaking Truth to Power, and Sundance Selects’ DriverX, Oscar winner Freida Mock’s documentary RUTH: Justice Ginsburg in Her Own Words, the Netflix documentary Strip Down, Rise Up and the Netflix series Ginny & Georgia, was kind enough to sit down with CS Score to discuss her new solo album, “More Love,” as well as her other film projects.
ComingSoon.net: Let’s talk about your album “More Love”. It’s your first solo album in seven years. So the question is, what made now the appropriate time to release this?
Lili Haydn: Well, it’s something of a collaboration. It’s something, a compilation of the songs from a couple of the films, and I’m singing and playing all over the show Ginny and Georgia that I scored. And the three songs that are coming to two films and the series that are coming out all kind of have my sound. And I wanted to represent that in a solo offering. And I was ready to step out with that. And I wanted to sort of put a face to the name that is on some of these projects.
CS: How complicated is it to make a solo album, to get all the resources together?
Haydn: You know, every album is different. I mean, I think of albums that took teams of people with – and you know, I’ve been a part of albums, of giant albums where, yeah, there’s 12 different producers and there’s 30 different writers and all that kind of thing. Some of these – now this sort of came together really organically. I’d been thinking about wanting to make an album that sounded like the films that I wanted to score. And then, as the projects that I was scoring started sounding more like my identity as an artist, I thought it was really a good sort of meeting of the visions. And it came together pretty organically.
Some of these were pieces that were inspired by the films that I was working on. And two of the tracks “Is This Love Is This Life” and “The Devil You Know” are both in “Strip Down, Rise Up”. And you know, by now, I’ve been doing this for about 27 years now, and it comes together, the things that you want to say become more crystal clear. And then the arrangement and the production sort of – you learn to trust that when there’s magic and something’s working, not to second guess it. And it used to be that I would do something and then try to beat it for over a couple of years. And then I return back to the original offering. And now, this came together really organically.
CS: There’s a lot of passion in your music that stems from the issues in our society. How difficult is it to write music for this type of atmosphere? Is it easier, knowing that there’s so much out there to draw upon? Or is it more difficult to try to capture that spirit?
Haydn: You know, it’s both. It’s a good question. On some level, it depends on how deep you’re willing to go. I mean, on the surface, there’s a million and one things to rage about, and so many people are hurting. And you’d have to be blind not to see people’s hearts crying out. So it’s natural for anyone, and especially an artist, to want to speak to that. And then, there’s also, there are deeper levels where you realize that it’s not just that people are hurting in one way, people are hurting and then they’re raging and then they’re hurting other people. And even the people who don’t have compassion need compassion. And so, I call this “More Love” because a great teacher of mine once said there’s no problem in the world for which more love and understanding is not the answer. And I also have done a little bit of research about the brain, because my mom sadly died of a brain tumor.
And so, I learned the different parts of the brain, obviously, are responsible for different functioning. And when the amygdala, the fear-based center of our brain, the lizard brain is activated by fear, it literally hijacks the energy from the rest of the brain. So all of our powers of empathy and nuance and subtle thinking and kind of non-linear thinking, all of that, but especially empathy, gets hijacked when fear is activated.
So when we come up against, when we confront people who are acting from fear with rage, with confrontation, with punishment, with criticism, all it does is reinforce the same thing that caused that un-compassionate behavior in the first place. So it’s not a cliché. I mean, it may be a cliché, but it’s really true that only love can conquer hate, which is why I really do – you know, and in fact, this brings me to a great quote that my mom used to quote Oliver Wendell Holmes, who said, “For the simplicity that comes before complexity, I wouldn’t give a nickel. But the simplicity that comes after complexity, I’d give my life.” And so, when I say more love, I mean the simplest thing in the world to say, but it comes from having explored the nature, the art’s war, and knowing that the only way out of that matrix, the feedback loop of violence and pain is love.
CS: What do you ultimately want people to take away from your music? Because a lot of your music is very hopeful and it has a message that asks for us to be better. Is that ultimately the message you’re trying to convey?
Haydn: You know, I hadn’t really thought about it like that. But I am really happy that you say that. I guess I of course, I would like people – here’s the thing. I think there’s so much stimulation in the world now, whether it’s our phones every three seconds or the news cycle or the 500,000 people dying. There’s so much going on. It’s like, how do you even stay sort of in touch with yourself? And you know, how do you even survive? So I think that what I would love, and I’ll quote my mom again. My mom was an amazing comedian and songwriter. And she used to say, you know, the Bible says love your neighbor as you love yourself, but if you don’t like yourself, your neighbor’s in trouble.
And so, I think that what I would like for people to come away with from this album, from my music is feeling, just feeling something. Feeling their own hearts. And I think if you feel your own heart, if you have a moment of real feeling, that it makes you sort of like, the safe word in a dream, in a way. You have a moment of real feeling in your heart. It makes you wake up to the feeling and the feelings of the people around you. And the more sensitive we are to ourselves, the more sensitive we are to each other, and that’s the beginning of peace. And that’s the beginning of a world that I want to live in, is that moment, you know, when you’re walking down the street and even if somebody’s behind a mask and you see a sparkly eye, doesn’t it just give you like a charge, like a B12 shot in the heart, in a way?
So, that’s what I’m talking about, is I’ll do, whether it’s a wave or it’s a bark or it’s a note or it’s an offering, whether it’s your article, whether it’s my record, whether it’s a cool movie. I’ve been really lucky that pretty much everything that I’ve gotten to score has had some kind of message of empowerment or redemption or realization, something that’s very human and hopefully inspiring. So I hope that, my goal is for my music to open people’s hearts on whatever level it can.
CS: And so, speaking of the projects that you were talking about, you’ve got a full slate of projects on your plate. You’ve got your solo album. You’ve got the music for Strip Down, Rise Up, RUTH: Justice Ginsburg In Her Own Words, and as you alluded to, Ginny and Georgia. What drew you to each of these projects, was it the human message?
Haydn: Yeah, I think so. I think that’s exactly right. And I’m just going to add one more project to the list. I have a wonderful band called Opium Moon. And we won a Grammy last year. And we’re coming out with a new album as well. We just came out with a new EP. So and that is also, that’s sort of the embodiment of the love that I’ve been talking about, because this is a collaboration of a guy from Iran, a guy from Israel, me from Canada, and the percussionist from the US. And we all come from countries that are supposedly enemies. But we find a way to harmonize. So it’s really the embodiment of that love. But yes, absolutely. Those are projects – every single one of these projects has a message of the human experience, of really understanding each other and feeling each other’s humanity.
CS: With all these projects, how do you maintain a healthy balance between all the elements of your work and your life?
Haydn: You know, that’s a good question, especially because when I don’t, it really is sort of like — I think humor and thankfully my husband is my collaborator on a lot of stuff. So it’s a hard thing. I think there are some people, like yes, there is a balance to be achieved. And I’m not always good at it because I get obsessed, and the nature of music is really to be all-consuming. And of course, when I’m on a project, the deadline is always looming. So it’s hard to know. But I guess humor and love are the answers. But if I want to go a little bit deeper, I’d say that not everybody, or at least not me, I don’t know if everybody’s supposed to achieve a balance. I think the balance comes when your work is actually inextricably linked with your spiritual evolution. And that is to say that my music is my religion, really. You know, people like, music is my boyfriend.
Well, music is my religion. And the way that I sort of achieve my physical discipline with it in terms of practicing and actually just doing the work, but also, it’s not just a technical thing. You’ve got to kind of open up your heart and mind and let the inspiration come in. And that’s a metaphor for life, you know? You let magic and inspiration and creativity and ideas guide you while you also have to eat and sleep and make sure that you’ve exercised enough. And you know, I am the instrument, and it’s sort of like this never-ending kind of fractal of an experience, where the fact that I’m making music is my balance. I know I’m talking in circles. But I guess that’s in a way perfect for the fact that I don’t have a balance. But the fact that literally that it’s the left and the right frame coming together. Everything that I do in a way is an attempt to achieve balance – slow and mastery, inspiration, and discipline. You know, the mundane and the magical.
CS: What advice would you give to an aspiring artist in your field seeking the type of success you’ve found?
Haydn: Well, that’s nice. Of course, I’m aspiring to all the levels of success of the people who inspire me. I would say that – so much. In fact, I just started a little thread on Instagram yesterday – things I’d tell my younger self. And I guess I’d say give everything. And make your work your religion. And I guess the preface to that would be if there’s anything else that will give you pleasure in life and make you happy, do that, because show business is very, very hard. But if you can’t think of anything else that would make you happy, give it everything you’ve got and just live and breathe it and make it, and keep digging. And have a revelation every day so that you’re always going.