Interview with Mark Snow
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Mark Snow regarding his work on the X Files television show, and the upcoming feature film. Mr. Snow will be signing copies of his score album to the film on June 6th at 1pm at Creature Features in Burbank, CA. The album arrives in stores on Tuesday, June 2, and the movie opens nationwide on June 19th.
Flashing back five years. How did you get involved in The X-Files? Did Chris Carter approach you?
It was a friend of mine, who was the Executive Producer of X-Files in Canada, R.W. Goodwin. He was a producer of TV stuff for quite a while and when it came time to choose a composer, Chris Carter didn’t have any relative or friend or anyone he knew -It was basically his first show – so Bob Goodwin recommended me. About 10-15 other guys were recommended all over the place. One of the reasons it worked out was that I was on the way from his house in Pacific Palisades to Fox Studios, on Pico. I was working on a low budget movie and he heard what I was doing and really liked it, but gave me no indication that he was going to hire me. He said, “Thanks for your time”. Came back a second time again, and I had no indication whether he liked it or not. Two weeks later I got a call from the agent saying “You have this pilot,” and I thought, “Okay, so what, big deal?” No one knew that this would be what it is now. I mean the pilot is good, but I don’t think anyone who saw it thought that this would be one of the great TV shows of all time, or the most popular. And I remember, at times, saying to my agent “I don’t know about this, these people are really weird – maybe I shouldn’t do it.” And he said, “You know, you just tell us and we’ll get you out of it”. Oh my God! Luckily it all worked out.
You came out with a CD two years back (“The Truth and The Light”). Why do you suppose dialogue was placed over your music?
Someone, I forget exactly who, had the idea that it might make it into a cool radio-play or something where the fans could recall the episodes more clearly if they had the dialogue marked with the music and I don’t think that proved to be too smart. I would have liked to have just pure music, and a lot of the fans commented on that. But with the X-Files movie score, it’s going to be all music.
How has the success of Materia Primoris (The X-Files Theme) worldwide affected your professional standing in the television music industry?
It’s certainly positive – it’s certainly good. But it’s not as if just doing that made me the guy that everyone wants to work with on every project. Luckily I’ve worked with a lot of people in my career, and if this X-Files thing never happened, I’d still be working. Not on this level of success or exposed, but I’d still be making a living. But the theme is real icing on the cake, and it’s really fantastic. I remember writing it was really effortless – no drudgery or anything. It came out so simply.
I did write four themes before that one. Chris Carter sent over some music and told me to make it “like this” or “like that”, and I kept doing itand he was nice about it, but after the fourth one, I said “let me try one – a completely different approach – and let’s see what happens”.
Have those unused themes appeared anywhere in the show?
Never. Some of them are distinct themes, but nothing like the present theme. But looking back on them, they are darker, heavier, louder. The coolest part was when I went on vacation in France, and the X-Files theme was the number one record in France and England at the time – that was pretty cool.
Is The X-Files movie your first mainstream theatrical feature?
Yes. I was a little nervous before I got hired to do it.
So there was a possibility you wouldn’t be working on the movie?
Not that I know of, but I’ve learned working in this business for a long time now that you don’t take anything for granted. I could see that hiring Jerry Goldsmith or James Horner wouldn’t be too out of whack.
If I’m not mistaken, in the television shows you have used primarily synthesizers to perform your music. How was it using a full orchestra for The X-Files movie? Which “sound” do you prefer?
It’s impossible to do the orchestra stuff with a weekly show – there’s no time. Just flat out no time.
How much time did you have on the movie?
I had a couple of months, but what made that difficult was that it would constantly change – re-cut and re-cut and re-cut.
And you were doing the TV show at the same time.
Right, so that was – I just got out of a two month big-time stressful deal.
Do you achieve the same textures with an orchestra?
When the show started five years ago, they wanted synthesizer sustained type atmosphere ambient sound design type stuff, to weave in and out. Over the years that became very tiresome and I began doing more musical things: more melodies, more musical. And so it has evolved to a more musical show, and the score of the movie reflects that. You know, themes, and musical themes, and sound effects as well. I’m happy to say that the orchestra music has almost a traditional quality at times. It will be much bigger.
What can you tell me about your involvement with David Nutter in Disturbing Behavior.
He was the director of a lot of the X-Files episodes – a very talented guy. He went off and did Disturbing Behavior, which I’m actually going to see tonight at a test screening. I haven’t done anything yet – it’s a temp version of it. He was loyal to me, and liked what I did and, lives in the neighborhood. He’s very talented and I’m glad that I’m free to do it.
Having worked with Nutter on the X-Files, would you like to see your professional relationship with him grow to a point similar to that of Herrmann and Hitchcock or Williams and Spielberg?
Hopefully the loyalty factor will be there. But day to day, you hope and pray everything works out. There’s a director named John Gray whose done a few TV movies and I’ve done his stuff – he’s an old friend – and hopefully will do everything he does. And David Nutter, Chris Carter hopefully we’ll continue to work together too on different projects.
How was it working LA when the production was in Vancouver? Will the move to LA change anything for you?
Absolutely nothing. The show is dubbed here, so there is going to be absolutely no difference for me.
Will we ever see a release of a score-CD (with or without dialogue) from Millennium? And Nowhere Man?
Oh. Well, I don’t know how long that show is going to be around. But Fox talked about doing a music album of it, and if there’s an underscore part of it, those cues wouldn’t have dialogue. But I’m not sure anything is going to come out on that show.
Nowhere Man there’s been some interest from record companies to release the music, but it was a union thing with Disney, and Disney hasn’t been all that forthcoming in letting go of it.
Do you think that there is almost a guaranteed success for the X-Files movie?
It’s going to be absolutely fascinating to see how it goes. Nothing in this business surprises me anymore, and it could have some monster opening weekend and then sputter out, or have a mediocre opening and then just have legs like crazy and go go go. People will watch that instead of the reruns. For it to truly be a big smash, the non fans have to have an interest in it too. There’s a lot of huge action – I mean gigantic things. With the advent of computer graphics, the fans will have fun seeing things that we could never do in a million years on TV.
This past season we’ve seen a new direction for the music in The X-Files. One episode that comes to mind was the “Post-Modern Prometheus” episode. How did you approach that episode differently than the other episodes?
Well, in that show in particular, Chris Carter directed it, and he wrote it, and he temp tracked it with music from Elephant Man, and said that this was the direction he would like. It’s kind of a “boutique” show – it’s a stand-alone show that’s not connected with the big global conspiracy business. Those are the two classifications of shows – the stand-alone shows, or the big Cigarette Smoking Man conspiracy shows.
What about the Halloween episode for Millennium?
That was great – total fun.
Was there any particular episode of The X-Files that you enjoyed scoring the most?
Well, I don’t know about the most, but the ones that come to mind are the “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space'”, “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose”, “Humbug” – it’s funny because I think that all of those are Darin Morgan shows. Another one from this past season – “Redux”.
Do you think there will be enough material for another CD?
Everyone really commented on that, and really loved it. I’m hoping that’s what they’ll do.
You have a CD signing next Saturday at Creature Features in Burbank, and you did one a few years back when the other CD came out. How does it feel to meet your “fan base”?
Well, it’s always gratifying when people like what you do, and the people seem intelligent – not like people showing up in Fox Mulder trench-coats or something – and asking intelligent questions about pieces of music they thought was good. It’s really gratifying.
What have been your influences?
I don’t think I had time in the past five years to have influences, but I would have to say the standard 20th Century sort of classical guys. Stravinsky, Bartok, Ravel, Prokofiev, just to name a few, and then more esoteric guys. I remember Jerry Goldsmith’s score to Planet of the Apes was one of my earlier influences – I was like “Wow – I’d like to do this stuff.”
Congratulations on your continued success with The X-Files – I look forward to seeing the movie and hearing your work!
Source: Dan Goldwasser; Soundtrack.Net [www.soundtrack.net/features/article/?id=19] May 27, 1998.