The mood, texture and grain of the 2019 film “Adrift in Soho” begs for music that’s complex and compelling. Composer Anthony Reynolds makes full use of jarring dissonance, shrieking, wailing strings, the beats of a terrified heart and the occasional lyrical lick to help tell the story of Soho, London in the 1950s.
With its tagline “Soho – as you’ve never seen it before” the movie is a cold and drenching dunk tank into the raw beauty of a unique time and place, with Reynolds’s soundtrack breathing human life into it.
Other work by Reynolds includes the music in “Open My Eyes” (link below) in which the vibe ranges from evocative, stirring and moody to teasing, sultry and wildly imaginative.
How did you get involved in “Adrift in Soho”?
“Adrift in Soho” by Colin Wilson was the first book I bought when I moved to London in late 1993. I loved it. It was a perfect read for a young man of my disposition, who was just discovering London and Soho for the first time.
I was already familiar with Colin’s works but this was one of the few actual novels he wrote that I could relate to.
A lifetime later, in about 2003 I got in touch with Colin and we became kind of friends. A fascinating man. We went on to record an album together ; the wilfully perverse ‘A World of Colin Wilson’ on Rocket Girl records https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqoz0JoNrWs.
When I found out a film was being made based on that book I doggedly pursued the gig of scoring it.
What were the highlights of production?
The highlight of scoring this film for me was finding the four (five?) note motif of the theme. I love film soundtracks where the soundtrack is almost a character in the film itself. And where just by hearing the opening notes you instantly recognize the film. I’m thinking of a lot of stuff Ennio Morricone has done…also films like “Rosemary’s Baby,” “Love Story,” “The Godfather”…where the score is intrinsic to the film.
I was very happy to have stumbled onto the theme in this movie. In fact it reminds me of a drive I took with Colin when he asked me if I had read James Joyce’s “Ulysses.” I hadn’t and still haven’t. But Colin told me that the style of that book was a character in itself. I kinda transpose that idea into writing film scores.
Did you write to the theme of the story, the individual characters or something else?
I wrote to the general atmosphere of the book and the feeling I remembered from reading it in London as a young man.
Do you feel the result matched your initial vision for the project?
Only about a quarter of the music I supplied was used in the film. That was disappointing. But that’s showbiz!
What other films have you worked on?
I’ve only ever worked on one other feature length film called “Open My Eyes” by Marcel Grant at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2186886/. Oliver Tobias was in it, if you’re old enough to remember Joan Collins ‘The Stud’ from 1978. He was a beautiful young thing in that. I was actually more pleased with my work on this but as soon as the film was finished it seemed to disappear. That’s showbiz! Again. My score is here: https://anthonyreynolds.bandcamp.com/album/open-my-eyes-o-s-t
I’ve had various songs from my albums used in films but that’s a different kettle of sushi, obviously.
What inspires your compositions when you write soundtracks?
I am trying to be true to the film, firstly. I don’t want to get in the way or ‘suggest’ too much plot wise or emotionally. Silence is the starting point. I just want to serve the director’s vision and at the same time have fun. But I’m inspired by composers of soundtracks I love: Morricone, Bernard Hermann, Mica Levi, Legrand, Scott Walker, Krzysztof Komeda, John Carpenter…
What is the biggest myth about writing music for film?
That it will automatically bring you glory, more work and money.
Talk about writing the biographies, and particularly how you researched the book on Leonard Cohen?
I love research. I love turning over obscure stones to reveal the lesser familiar stories of the unknown and known…I like digging and finding a narrative and then going left and southeast…However, I’m limited by only being able to write biographies of people I’m passionate about or if I’m passionate about their work, I should say. I wrote one book strictly for the rent; Jeff Buckley, although I thought him a great rare talent. I wasn’t emotionally involved with his work. That reflected in the modest reception of the book, compared to the rest. My best books are the books that cover the subjects I dearly love, down to the marrow.
Cohen was a trip to write. I started it in Spain and finished it in Wales. There were some traumatic complications in between which will have to be saved for my memoirs. Suffice to say what happened put a bit of a dent in my mood. I moved back to Wales after that palaver and finished the book with some effort. Later on, meeting Cohen himself and the money I made from the book made up for any of the grief involved in writing it.
What captivated you about the subjects of your books; why did you decide to write them?
Apart from my two poetry books I’ve only written music biographies; putting aside Buckley, I’ve written of The Walker brothers and Scott Walker, Leonard Cohen and two books on the band Japan/David Sylvian. All of these people’s music and poetry ring a bell in me. I think they are great and interesting and profound artists. I love reading, also, about how music is made. I actually have rats to thank for that. When I was 17, I was living in a bedsit and the place was overrun by rodents. I had to sleep with photography lights on me or the rats would run over my bed. Obviously i couldn’t sleep so I went to the library and took out the biggest music book I could find: ‘The Complete Beatles recording sessions” by Mark Lewisohn. I loved it. That was the first time I realized I loved reading about the process of making music as well as making music myself.
What are you working on now?
At the moment I’m answering your good questions. And working on a bottle of red wine or two… Other than that, today I’ve been working on a piece for Classic Pop magazine on the forthcoming Japan “Quiet Life” reissue, composing and recording music for an exhibition by my friend Mark Wardel and trying to finish a book of my collected lyrics which is very hard work. I’ve been far too prolific…and unpopular.
What are your professional goals for this year?
I have never had any professional goals. I don’t consider myself professional. In fact, i try not to consider myself in any way at all. Not Welsh, not a man, not working class. Work-wise all I have ever done is try to give voice to the particular beauty I find in my otherwise flawed, struggling, damaged. desperate self. I just try to be true to those inner stories, no matter the cost.
“I told you I was ill.”
For more information visit http://www.anthonyreynolds.net.
Photos courtesy of and with permission of A. Reynolds. Top photo (c) Rhoysn Boyce-Jones.
(c) 2021 Debbie Burke