INTERVIEW: Composer Tyler Bates on "The Devil's Rejects"

When rock star filmmaker Rob Zombie wanted to do a sequel to his cult classic 1000 Corpses, he called Composer Tyler Bates to make the horrifying music. Bates is no stranger to horror, or to comic book movies. His band Pet left their stamp on the comics/horror Crow franchise with a single on the platinum selling soundtrack of The Crow: City of Angels, and he’s currently working with Dawn Of The Dead director Zack Snyder, in the development stages of 300, a new Frank Miller movie project. We recently got to chat with him about Devil’s Rejects the "somewhat" sequel to 1000 Corpses...
ComicBookMovie: How did you become involved with Rob Zombie and Devil’s Rejects?

Tyler Bates: I had seen Rob’s first film (1000 Corpses), and later heard he was at the Dawn of the Dead premiere, and that he really liked the music. So, I sent him a CD with a note suggesting that if he wanted any help with the score to Devil's Rejects that I’d love to work with him. I knew he was very serious about filmmaking, and a very intelligent artist. So, it started off like that and he called me.

ComicBookMovie: Are you a fan of comics, and comic book movies?

Tyler Bates: I haven’t been a huge comic book fan, although I’m involved right now in the preliminary stages of Frank Miller’s 300.

ComicBookMovie: And you also did a track for The Crow: City of Angels, right?

Tyler Bates: Yeah, well that was a boon for my band at the time. We were yet to be signed, and the music supervisor had seen our band play live and asked us to be part of the soundtrack. It was great.

ComicBookMovie: Have you got any interaction with Frank Miller right now?

Tyler Bates: Personally, no. He’s an Executive Producer on 300. I’ve been working with Zack Snyder. Zack did a very elaborate test shot for Warner Bros. to illustrate exactly how he would approach the film. We’re still waiting for a green light. We just completed this a couple weeks ago.

ComicBookMovie: From how he was with Sin City, it sounds as though Frank does get involved on every aspect of his films.

Tyler Bates: Yes. From what I understand, he will be less "hands on" with this film, but I’ve heard nothing but great things about him.

ComicBookMovie: How did Rob Zombie involve himself in the score of Devil's Rejects?

Tyler Bates: Rob didn’t involve himself in the score more than other directors I’ve worked with. But knowing a bit of his background, and where he comes from, I knew I could definitely open up the parameters and go outside the box without any concern that he wouldn’t get it. With Rob, what was great is that he’s comfortable working with images, emotions and verbiage as opposed to citing specific musical references—which can be constricting. So, that was a pleasant surprise—that he didn’t speak in specific musical terms. He gave me the space to interpret what he was saying as a filmmaker without pointing me in a given direction. He trusted me to do what I thought was right for it. And if he didn’t like it, he would then kill me and eat my children! All kidding aside, it’s a dream to work with a director who trusts you enough to say hey, I think you know what to do. Give me a buzz when you want to show me something. That was an amazing opportunity, to put my own stamp on the music of what will most-likely be a cult classic film, before it leaves the theater.

ComicBookMovie: Do many of the producers or directors you work with give directives on what they want in the music prior you sitting down and pounding it out?

Tyler Bates: There are obviously preliminary creative discussions, and oftentimes if I come into a film where they’ve been cutting the picture for several weeks, they’ve started to work with a temp score, and that may suggest what they feel the tone of the music should be. For instance, with Dawn of the Dead, the score ended up being almost nothing like the temp, and I had suggested to Zack Snyder, that I go off the board a bit and see if I could come up with something that was more interesting to them than the temp score. They were into it, and fortunately it worked out well.

ComicBookMovie: This film is being described as a Western/Horror. Is this the first Western/Horror you’ve done?

Tyler Bates: (Laughing) You know, it's not a true western. As Rob would put it, he calls it a "sick western." I’d just say there’s an old western influence. I consider this film to be more of a psychotic thriller than a horror movie.

ComicBookMovie: What was it about this movie’s story, or what you were able to see of it, that helped you decide what to do with the music?

Tyler Bates: When I came on board I didn’t know what the movie was exactly. I’d heard it was loosely a sequel to 1000 Corpses. When I saw the movie I realized it had virtually nothing to do with the first film other than carrying over some of the characters from the first one. When I saw the movie I thought, WOW, it’s extremely raw—and it looked amazing. Taking place in the 70’s, that was something that made it very touchy. I had to make sure the film had a contemporary score, yet didn’t betray the movie itself. The score is very dissonant, and industrial in a way that’s practically sound design at times.

ComicBookMovie: Do you find the horror genre more appealing to orchestrate than others?

Tyler Bates: Yeah, it's fun. You can get away with murder. There is nothing you can’t do. Dawn of the Dead was really my first horror film, and although I’m doing a couple more, I wouldn’t say that horror is necessarily what I’m pursuing in life, its just been my good fortune, with good projects coming together, and all the directors involved being very intelligent and creative. I’m most certain each of them will go on to make interesting films outside the genre.

ComicBookMovie: Taking off your composer’s hat, let me ask you to become the critic and tell readers what you think of the film as a movie-goer.

Tyler Bates: I think it’s fantastic. This film is like The Gauntlet, or Badlands, or Easy Rider, but with Charles Manson and family thrown into the mix. This film is truly disturbing, because it is so brutal, so wrong, yet so compelling. It’s not just your typical horror movie. The "camp" value is nearly moot. So, it is markedly different than the first film. While working on it, friends came into my studio to take a look at a scene here and there. Practically everyone was disturbed by this film, but compelled to see more and more. Lions Gate recently screened it for a test audience and people were completely blown away. It’s cool. There is nothing like it.

Lion's Gate will release Devil's Rejects on July 22.
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