Oliver Stone‘s Natural Born Killers is the movie you
can hear but can‘t see — yet while the censors quibble about the film‘s British
release, the album inspired by the movie is already in the shops. GAVIN MARTIN
fights off Courtney Love to nail down TRENT REZNOR and ask how his computerised
mix of dialogue and music from the film could turn the soundtrack industry on
Protected by some of the strictest censorship
in the world, the great British public are currently being denied the
opportunity to see Natural Born Killers,
Oliver Stone‘s psychedelic concatenation of sex, drugs, violence, pagan rituals
and child abuse. With its stylistic overload and mediated images of its serial
killer anti-heroes, the film, based on a script by Quentin Tarantino and
heavily rewritten by Stone, was originally slated for a British release on
November 18 but has since been put on hold, denied a certificate by the ever
vigilant British Board Of Film Classification.
Speculation has it that while the board‘ s
director, James Ferman, wants to give NBK
a certificate he‘s being opposed by more censorious, disapproving fellow
members. The statement issued by Ferman‘s office on October 27 suggests that a
certificate and release should be forthcoming in the new year. It also casts
doubt on recent British newspaper allegations linking the film with killings in
other countries and notes that in America, where the film was a box-office
smash earlier this year, the film was given an rating, allowing children of any
age to see it provided they are accompanied by someone aged 17 or over.
In the meantime, something curious has happened
— even though they can‘t see the movie, the great British public can get to
feel and hear its impact via the soundtrack album, ‘Music From And Inspired By Natural Born Killers‘. Whatever the
movie‘s artistic merits — and they‘re hotly disputed in the NME office — the decision by Oliver
Stone to let Trent Reznor loose on the film‘s densely layered soundtrack to
design an aural counterpart to the film‘s frenetic visuals has upped the ante
in the ever potent movie soundtrack stakes.
This has, of course, been quite a year for
soundtracks. There‘s been the risible — Wet Wet Wet‘s Four Weddings And A Funeral chart topping cover theme ‘Love Is All
Around‘ — and the yuppie dream ticket in Forrest
Gump‘s potted history of ‘60s Pop culture. There were stoner metal/’70s slacker
anthems for Dazed And Confused, and a
dizzying mix of sound collages, period pieces and ethnic Irishness were
marshalled together by Bono and Gavin Friday for In The Name Of The Father. Not least there have been strong rap and
new jack tunes, like those for the baseball drama Above The Rim (still unreleased in Britain), worth the admission
price alone for the excellent ‘Afro Puffs‘ by Our Lady Of Rage, and the
Dre/Snoop movie Murder Was The Case.
But even put alongside sophisticated cineaste
Tarantino‘s Pulp Fiction soundtrack,
with its snatches of dialogue between die songs, Reznor‘s opus of rearranged
sound effects, re-dubbed dialogue extraordinary musical collisions and eclipses
is something new and daring. Industrial punk supergroup Lard smash into the
Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra, Patsy Cline‘s cutesy-pie ‘Back In Baby‘s Arms‘
skips into the hallucinogenic minefield of Nusrat Fateh Ah Khan‘s Sufi wall.
There‘s Dre playing alongside Bob Dylan, screen
killers Mickey (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory (Juliette Lewis) pledging their
love to each other and hatred for the world at large, gun shots, endless bowls
and lonesome trysts in a dark night of the soul — all conspiring to redraw the
limits of what a movie soundtrack can contain and achieve.
Reznor was well chosen for the task. Like the
lead characters in the film, and the US viewers who have responded so
readily to it, he too was once a smalltown nonentity, disaffected by the
suffocating surrounds where he grew up. With Nine Inch Nails he‘s turned
underground obsessions and fascinations into major concerns — the task
presented by Stone and NBK gave him a
further opportunity to vent his rage at the hypocrisy, falsity and recurrent
malice in contemporary American life.
Last week, hiding out from his number one
superfan Courtney Love, Trent took some time on the
trans-Atlantic telephone line to tell us how the record came together...
Compared to the porno
piercing censored videos and short films that you‘ve made for Nine Inch Nails, NBK is totally mainstream. What
persuaded you to get involved?
“I got a call from Oliver Stone‘s people saying
he‘d used some old Nine Inch Nails stuff in a movie he‘d made about serial
killers. I thought, ‘Oh f—, here we go‘.
“I went to see it in the middle of the
afternoon in LA; me and a friend sitting in a big room by ourselves, not
knowing what to expect. The film came on and it blew me away.“
But at that stage it lacked a soundtrack,
something that needs to be cleared up. My involvement in the film was to make
the soundtrack CD that‘s for sale. The movie I saw that day was 90 per cent of
what you see and hear in the theatre. I thought I was just there to give my
approval for the use of my music.
“When I got done seeing the film that day I
said, ‘You can use what you want of mine, I‘m surprised you‘ve made a movie
like this‘. At the time I didn‘t even realise this wasn‘t a traditional
soundtrack — there was so much stuff coming at me, I was unprepared for it.
“I asked to see it again and this time Oliver
came along. He and Bud Carr, who was in charge of the music, wanted my opinion on
the way it sounded. I told them I thought it worked but I got a little tired of
hearing Leonard Cohen, comments like that.
“They asked me if I wanted to put a soundtrack
out on my own label. I said, yes, I really love the movie but what would the
soundtrack be? If you just want to put the best 20 songs out of 70 on a record,
I‘m not interested in that, I wouldn‘t buy it.
“What I thought was, why don‘t we make it flow like
the film does? Layer pieces of music on top of each other, edit things down, incorporate
dialogue and aspire to have a piece that you could listen to even if you
haven‘t seen the film. And if you have
seen the film, it would be something that would bring you back to what was going
What‘s your reaction
to the fact that, at present, the film can only be heard, not seen, in Britain?
“It doesn‘t surprise me but, of course, I don‘t
agree. I don‘t think anybody has the right to say what you can and cannot see.
I don‘t find anything in that movie that is so dangerous that people shouldn‘t
be allowed to see it. If anything, it‘s a complete parody of the American media
calling attention to it. It did a lot better here than people expected.
“The main criticism here was: you‘re making fun
of the media but at the same time using it, so it‘s irresponsible. What
nonsense. That‘s what makes the film interesting, because it‘s open for
criticism, it is what it makes fun of and it doesn‘t try to hide the fact, it
draws attention to it —I think that‘s what makes it good.“
How did you respond to
Mickey and Mallory — as real characters or media creations?
“I‘ve seen the movie about 70 times now. The thing
that always got me, and what I focused on in the soundtrack, is the relationship
between them rather than die violence. I thought the soundtrack took an a more
romantic edge and leaned a little more towards the softer stuff, which I thought
had more emotional impact.
“I sympathised with them, saw them as rejected
people that didn‘t fit in. They found each other and that was what was strong to
them. I related to it. The sitcom scene with Rodney Dangerfield (Mallory‘s dad) gives me goosebumps and
makes my stomach turn. I find it not funny but horrifying. I think the way
Oliver did that was great.“
Oliver Stone has got a
reputation for being a complete ball-buster - Robert Downey Jnr, who plays the
TV crime show host, said making the film was like working in a war zone. Was it
a challenging relationship?
“I found him to be nothing but pleasant. He
treated me with respect. I didn‘t work that closely with him. We met a few
times, talked on the phone, sent tapes back and forth to get his opinion. He
had some very good comments which helped for the places where I lacked
objectivity. And I‘m not just saying that to kiss ass.“
How did this project fit into the Nine Inch
“We were just about to go to Europe on tour. I was frustrated because I
wanted to do it but I didn‘t think I could, because we‘d be in the middle of a
tour. I figured out a way that we could set tip a computer system, and if the
equipment worked the way I hoped it would work, we could set up after shows in
hotel rooms and work for a few hours. The whole thing was done on the road. It‘s
a road movie and a road soundtrack, but if I had had the luxury I would have
chosen to sit in a room for a month to do it. Because of the deadline and my
commitments, there was no other way.“
Are you a fan of
“Not really, I don‘t pay much attention to them.
I never buy collections of songs — the big trend in America is to get a movie,
stick a bunch of Pop music on it that has nothing to do with the film but gives
a lot of free commercials on MTV, a band does a video with Clips from the movie
— I hate that shit. If I thought that was what NBK was going to be I would have said no. We get offers all the
time — can we put this song on some bullshit Hollywood Generation X movie?
We‘re not interested in that - though we did do a song for The Crow, so I guess I‘m a hypocrite. But I was a friend of the guy
who wrote the comic books The Crow was based on and I had his word that it
would be true to his vision.“
So what inspired your
approach to the NBK soundtrack?
“The thing that stuck in my head was that I
liked Reservoir Dogs a lot. Someone
gave me the soundtrack and, though I don‘t like the music that much, I remember
the snippets of dialogue. I found that infinitely more interesting than
whatever the hell music is on there. But when I went back to listen to it, it
wasn‘t really as good as I thought it was. So I thought, let‘ s make the motherlode
of dialogue soundtrack.
“There was even more in there, but some of the
artists insisted that their music was unaltered. The main f— up was L7. I
wanted to use their ‘Shitlist‘ with some great Juliette Lewis dialogue, but the
L7 girls wanted no part of that. There was no getting through to them. It
lessened the impact, I wanted it right upfront to set the tone of what was to
follow. I had to work round that. But, overall, I‘m pleased with it. If I
hadn‘t made the record, I would buy it.“
Last question — we‘ve heard that Courtney Love
is chasing you around LA, that she‘s broken into to your hotel room and you‘re
hiding from her.
“There is some truth in that. We made friends,
her band opened for us on a few dates on the tour. What happened? I didn‘t want
to be her boyfriend and now she harasses me at any point she can. I haven‘t
said or done anything else hut she keeps blowing her f—ing mouth off at shows —
she starts talking about me onstage, shit like that. I‘m trying to keep a low
profile and maintain my integrity but I have to admit sometimes it‘s hard not
to launch back at her. I guess I just have to wait for her to find something
new to obsess upon.“