Next week sees the release of Douglas Schulze’s fourth and most daring film yet, The Dark Below. This tense and fear-driven film makes use of a bone-chilling soundtrack by multiplatinum artist Eric Bobo (Cypress Hill, The Beastie Boys) and minimal dialog to relate a woman’s (Lauren Mae Shafer) struggle for survival beneath a frozen lake while a serial killer (David G.B. Brown) stalks her from the surface.
Having played at a number of high profile genre film festivals – including Fantasia International Film Festival, FrightFest UK, Monsters of Film in Sweden and Toronto After Dark – and with the film all set to release next week, we caught up with musician Eric Bobo to discuss scoring a film which relies that much more on the music than most films to tell its story….
SCREAM: How did you get involved in the project? It’s almost unheard of nowadays for a film to take such a daring risk and do away with dialogue and rely on the music to do much of the storytelling. Were you reluctant at first or was Douglas’ vision really clear from the word go?
Eric Bobo: I was working with a guy named Kevin Benson who knew one of the executive producers of the film and he basically got me the job of adding some things to the soundtrack. I talked with Doug and tried to get a vibe of what he wanted because a film like this isn’t the norm. David Bateman, who also scored the film, had great stuff already there but I thought I could fill in some things from a percussive side. Doug liked one of my songs called “Wake Up” and wanted that to be in the film. I definitely wasn’t reluctant but I felt the pressure of the challenge to do something that was much different than what I’m known for. I think even Doug was surprised after hearing what I added to the score.
SCREAM: At what point in the process did you begin working on the film?
The film was done and David Bateman had already completed what was the score at the time. I lived with the film for about two months because I had to really think out of the box. Like I said earlier, David had some great stuff for the film and it’s a huge task to take on doing a film where it’s the music that plays that important of a part. After I finished, I was almost certain that Doug would like it. I’m glad I was right.
SCREAM: How hands-on was Douglas in terms of creating the score or was he very liberal and open to your decisions?
He let me do whatever I felt, which was great and also a risk. The worst case scenario was to not add my parts because they didn’t fit but he really liked what I did and was surprised because he really didn’t know what to expect from me because he only knew of me from being a percussionist and I gave him something a bit different.
SCREAM: As your music speaks for a lot of the characters, was there ever any rapport between you and the actual cast to discuss the tone of certain scenes at all or did you watch their performances to try and use that to help you mold the tone of each moment?
I didn’t have any interaction with the cast at all. Doug sent me the movie so that I could add in my part of the score but again, not knowing what exactly to expect. I guess that is a great thing about independent film making, is that you can take a chance like this without worrying about what anyone else would say or do. I got the vibe of the movie after studying it over and over. I completely played off of what Dave had written and filled in some gaps to help make what was already there stronger.
SCREAM: Were there any go-to musicians, producers or engineers or the like that you turned to for help who you knew would bring something special to the score?
I went on my total instincts. I didn’t bring in any other musicians and did all of the parts myself.
SCREAM: Aside from this, is there anything else you’ve got planned in the near future that you’re able to share with us?
Yes. I’ll be touring this spring and summer with Cypress Hill and them I am working on doing more music for film in the near future…
The Dark Below opens this coming Friday, March 17th in L.A. and Friday, March 24th in NYC, with additional cities following suit. In the meanwhile, we’ll leave you with the latest trailer.
Words: Howard Gorman – @HowardGorman