Whiplash soundtrack

A couple of months ago, when we were putting together our “best of the decade” coverage at /Film.com, I not only put Whiplash on my list of 10 personal favorites of the past ten years, but I also highlighted the film’s climactic drum solo as one of the best movie moments of the entire decade. It’s a dynamic, cathartic, visceral piece of filmmaking from writer/director Damien Chazelle, but it also raises an interesting question: if the end result of immense suffering for your art is that you become a legend, is all of that suffering worthwhile?

Six years after the film’s initial release, Music.Film Recordings is releasing Whiplash: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Deluxe Edition, an album which contains not only composer Justin Hurwitz’s original music and classic jazz numbers, but a bunch of exciting contemporary remixes of those tracks and some unreleased material from the movie as well. /Film is happy to be premiering one of those remixes, Timo Garcia’s upbeat version of “Caravan,” and I had a chance to speak with Hurwitz about this new deluxe edition of the soundtrack, that big question posed at the end of the film, and much more. Listen to the track and read the full interview below.

A big part of the reason I love the finale of Whiplash so much is that, aside from just being an incredible few minutes of filmmaking, I’m still grappling with what it means. So I want to start with a big question: do you think that the verbal and physical abuse and the humiliation that Miles Teller’s character endures at the hands of J.K. Simmons’s Fletcher is worth it in the end because of this legendary moment he has on stage?

I think the movie isn’t trying to tell people one way or the other. It’s leaving it as an open question. For me, I think it’s worth it, because I’ve always identified with that sort of philosophy. But I don’t think the movie is telling people that that is the correct way to live and that’s the correct value system.

It’s been just over six years since Whiplash premiered at Sundance. When you look back on that movie, what do you think about it now?

I love it. It’s still – the story and the dilemmas in it really speak to me. I think Damien’s filmmaking is still so impressive. Every time I watch it, I’m impressed by the performances and the camera moves and every bit of the filmmaking. I really love the movie.

So, six years later, a deluxe version of the soundtrack is coming out. What about this new edition excites you the most?

I actually really love the remixes. They gave some of the music – a couple of mine, I think, and then a couple of the classics that are on the soundtrack, “Caravan” and “Whiplash” – to really great music producers, and they got some people just to be really creative and make some really cool, new things out of them. And that was really exciting for me to hear what people were coming up with.

We’re premiering Timo Garcia’s remix of “Caravan” on /Film.

Oh yeah! That one’s really cool.

What do you think about that song in particular?

I mean, he’s turned it into an awesome dance track. I just think it’s so infectious. It’s so much fun and it kind of makes you want to dance.

When you guys were making the movie, how much influence did you have in choosing those specific jazz standards, songs like “Caravan”? Were those something that Damien had in mind from the beginning? How much of that was a collaborative effort between the two of you?

It was really all Damien’s call. I actually don’t have a jazz background at all. Jazz was new to me when I started working with Damien on these movies; it was the movie before Whiplash, which also had a lot of jazz in it, so I was kind of familiarizing myself with some of the jazz standards starting then. But Damien came up in competitive high school jazz big bands, so he knew not just the songs he wanted, but the exact arrangements he wanted, because he played those in high school. In fact, in the script of Whiplash, all of the songs were standards. He wrote into the script not just “Whiplash” and “Caravan,” but “Cherokee” and a bunch of others. He wanted every tune, aside from the dramatic underscore – the plan was for me to do the dramatic score under the scenes, but then all of the on-screen music would be these classic big band arrangements and songs that he had played. Then when the movie got financed, which wasn’t easy – he had to fight for a long time to even get it financed – and the producers were putting it together, they realized, ‘We can only afford a couple, like two, of your most important songs, so which ones do you want?’ And he chose “Whiplash” and “Caravan” as those hero songs, and then everything else in the movie at that point, we realized had to be an original. So that’s where I, and this other guy, Tim Simonec, started working on putting together all the pre-records.

Looking back on Whiplash, did that movie teach you anything that you have been able to use as a building block moving forward? For you as a musician, was there anything about that experience that you’ve incorporated into your daily work flow?

Well, it was kind of the first significant experience in a professional recording studio, and definitely the first experience in a Los Angeles recording studio. So I was so green when I went into that, and I didn’t know the most basic protocol. I didn’t know what the engineer mixer was really doing, how to talk to that person, how to talk to the musicians, how sessions were run, when the breaks were. I just didn’t know anything. So it was really an intense crash course, and I relied on the veterans who were around, that guy Tim who I mentioned and the mixer and whatnot, to help me along. From there to La La Land to First Man, I’ve definitely felt more comfortable. I did not conduct those sessions in Whiplash, and I did for the first time in First Man and I will do that always going forward, I think. So there’s been a progression through these movies from just learning how studios work and how sessions run and over time, taking a bigger role in those sessions.

Other things I learned, as an arranger and orchestrator I learn a lot about what works and what doesn’t work. I remember getting into the studio and the overture from Whiplash is one of the ones I had arranged as a pre-record. We started to record it and realized pretty quickly that I had made a lot of mistakes in it. I had notated rhythms wrong, I had written some sax runs that were basically unplayable. The conductor, Tim, was kind of weeding through it and saying, ‘I think we should remove this note, that note, and that note to kind of make these more playable.’ There’s just always a learning curve, and I was on an earlier, steeper part of the curve back then. But it still happens, especially since I don’t do a movie that often. I’ve had relatively few at bats in the studio. I’m definitely getting better at what I do and making fewer mistakes, but those mistakes still happen all the time, and I try to just use it all as a learning experience.

I also got a chance to hear the deleted track “Fletcher’s Song,” which, to me, sounds like the perfect score in a 1940s Humphrey Bogart film noir. I can practically hear the voiceover narration over the top of it of a hard-boiled detective talking about finding a dead body down at the wharf. Fletcher doesn’t really strike me as a film noir character, but did you have that genre in mind at all when you were composing that track?

Well, it’s a little cheesy, and I think that’s one of the reasons it got cut from the movie. I think it would have been helped a little by the fact that it wasn’t score, it was a source piece. It was supposed to play on a record player. It would have been futzed to sound crackly and old, and I think there’s a difference when there’s a source within a scene, I think you can accept a more old fashioned kind of music than you would if it were just sort of dropped into the movie and playing under a scene. What was your question?

I just wondered if film noir was an influence for you.

Oh. No, no. Like I said, I did not really have a jazz background. The way that tune came about was, we had the tune, and really the best version of the tune – I really like the overture, the way we kind of turned it into Buddy Rich-style big band in the overture – but really, that tune, the heart of it for me and the purpose of it, is a score cue in cues like “Dismissed” and “A Hug From Dad,” where it’s played  in a very kind of spare, emotional but spare and non-jazzy way. I think that’s how the tune works best. We were just kind of trying to have fun with it and say, ‘Well, what if we use it as a source piece here and there?’ So it became the thing that Fletcher plays in the jazz club when Andrew reconnects with him. There was this scene in the script of Fletcher at home listening to a record at the end of the day. We thought, ‘Oh, what if we use the same tune for that, too?’ And then it got turned into, like you say, kind of a ’40s sounding arrangement. But that wasn’t the original idea behind that.

While I have you, I wanted to ask really quickly about a couple of upcoming projects. I know Damien is working on The Eddy for Netflix and Babylon for Paramount. Are you going to be composing the music for those projects?

I was never involved in The Eddy, so no. He signed on to direct two episodes and it already had a composer and it was already kind of a thing. But Babylon, yeah, the plan is to do that, yeah.

I know you probably can’t say much about it, but what kinds of conversations have you had with Damien about the tone of that project?

I think I got a draft of the script last May, so we’ve been talking about it ever since then.

Lastly, what is it like hearing new energy being infused into these Whiplash songs all these years later?

That’s my favorite part of it, is hearing what people have done with the music and sort of letting the music take on another life. People have been listening to the Whiplash soundtrack on Spotify and Apple Music and whatnot, so people still listen to it, and actually, I’ve seen the number of listeners rise as people discover the movie, but it’s still pretty much people who either know and like the movie, or people who are really into jazz and want that kind of jazz to listen to. But when somebody like Timo turns it into this really infectious dance track, or some of the others that producers have done that are more hip hop, I think it opens the door for the music, and it’s only really a small part of my music that’s in these remixes, but it opens the door for the music in some form to find new audiences. People who maybe haven’t seen Whiplash or aren’t into jazz, but are into dance music or hip hop or whatever. So yeah, I hope these tracks end up in peoples’ playlists. It’s a lot of new vibes that the original soundtrack didn’t have when you look at these new remixes, so I hope it can find some new ears.

***

iTunes pre-orders for Whiplash: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Deluxe Edition come with two instant grat tracks: the Hurwitz-composed bonus track “Fletcher’s Song” and, starting today, Timo Garcia’s remix of “Caravan.” The album officially arrives digitally, on double CD and 2XLP Vinyl on March 27, 2020. You can pre-order it here.

2xLP Track Listing

LP One: Big Band & Avant-Garde

Side One

  1. Snare Liftoff (I Want To Be One Of The Greats)
  2. Overture
  3. Too Hip To Retire
  4. Whiplash
  5. Upswingin’
  6. Rehearsal Medley (First Nassau Band Rehearsal / Rival Overbrook Chart / Second Nassau Band Rehearsal / Studio Band Eavesdrop / Studio Band Rehearsal After Breakup)
  7. Caravan

Side Two

  1. What’s Your Name (If You Want The Part, Earn It)
  2. Practicing
  3. Invited
  4. Call From Dad
  5. Accident
  6. Hug From Dad
  7. Drum & Drone
  8. Carnegie
  9. Ryan/Breakup
  10. Drum Battle
  11. Dismissed
  12. Good Job (He Was a Beautiful Player)

LP Two: Vintage Cuts & Bonus Material

Side Three

  1. Intoit
  2. No Two Words
  3. When I Wake
  4. Casey’s Song
  5. Fletcher’s Song In Club
  6. Keep Me Waiting
  7. Fletcher’s Song
  8. When I Wake (Reprise) (feat. Jullanar Gamboa)
  9. Upswingin’ (Bad Drumming)
  10. Caravan (Bad Drumming)

Side Four

  1. Fletcher’s Song In Club (Halder Flip)
  2. Overture (Opiuo Remix)
  3. Caravan (Timo Garcia Remix)
  4. New York City And You (feat. Murray A. Lightburn)
  5. Came To Win (feat. Konrad OldMoney & Junoflo)
  6. Fletcher’s Song (DOWORK Remix)
  7. Casey’s Song (The Tao of Groove Remix)
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