Gaslight Anthem Guitarist On Finding Soundtrack Inspiration In Trent Reznor, New Music & More
Gaslight Anthem were having a moment for most of 2012. The Jersey rockers’ fourth studio album, Handwritten, was easily their highest-charting album to date, debuting at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 upon its release in July.
The Top 5 charting, however, wasn’t the band’s only first of 2012. Gaslight drummer Benny Horowitz made his directorial debut with the band’s video for “Handwritten” (alongside New York-based director Kevin Slack), and midway through the process decided there was much more to the story than the four-minute clip would allow. Instead leave the video as is, he decided to create a short film around it, which follows the lifespan of one piece of vinyl.
Every Word Handwritten, a 15-minute film conceptualized by Horowitz and Slack, marked Horowitz’s full-blown foray into cinematography. The self-professed cinephile enlisted the help of fellow bandmate, guitarist Alex Rosamilia, and friend Wes Kleinknecht to compose the score for the film. Radio.com chatted with Rosamilia about the process of writing the music for Every Word Handwritten and how it differs from recording with Gaslight Anthem, as well as when we can expect a follow-up to 2012’s Handwritten.
How did Benny first approach you about doing the score for Every Word Handwritten?
I approached him, actually. The movie had been done and he asked if I wanted to watch it. We watched it and it ended and he said, ‘What do you think?’ I thought it was really good but I thought the music could be better. So he went, “Well do you want to do it?” And I said, “OK.” And that’s pretty much how it happened.
What was your thought process behind constructing the music for the film?
I’ve always been interested in writing soundtrack or score music. I really like writing music that takes a while to develop, more towards the ambient side of things. [It’s] something I’ve always wanted to do that I’ve never really had a chance, so I took this opportunity to do that. I just wanted to write some ambient stuff that sounded like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I was a really big fan of Trent Reznor’s scores for The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, that’s what started it.
At the film’s screening you said you like the idea of writing music to be secondary.
The whole point of music in a movie is to add to the emotion that is supposed to be portrayed. It’s the idea that the movie is the focal point and music is supposed to add the emotion that you’re seeing on screen and it’s not supposed to change the emotion from what’s on screen. For lack of a better analogy, it’s like playing second fiddle to the movie itself. It makes it more challenging because you can’t be as boisterous as I like to be when writing music. You have to make things develop slightly more slowly and then be able to do that and still only have a two-minute song.
How is writing music for a film different than making music with Gaslight Anthem?
The biggest difference is there is nobody else in the band there. Wes [Kleinknecht] is the guy I wrote the score with. I have written with him before but not this type of music. Instead of having a structure and building off of that, you’re starting from the ground up and watching the film at the same time seeing how to bring the music from here to here. [You’re] basing your song structure on what’s happening in the movie and not the verse/chorus.
The film follows the life of a piece of vinyl. What was the first record you bought?
Wham!’s Make It Big. I knew that too well. One of my dad’s cousins bought it for me in 1986 so I was probably four.
Do you remember the first time you heard your music on the radio?
It was college radio and I was driving the car and it wasn’t Gaslight. It was the band before it [The Killing Gift]. I almost got in a car accident. I was pretty stoked.
You have a slew of festival performances slotted for this summer including Made In America. Is there one you’re looking forward to most?
I don’t really look forward to festivals. They’re fun as far as a spectator goes. I like going to festivals to see other bands. The playing aspect of it is usually the hardest; it’s sunny, it’s so hot and it’s not what we’re used to doing. We’re used to playing at night in the dark and the cold. Especially on a Sunday when everyone’s been partying for two days and now they just want to watch the bands they want to watch and go home. Some of the audiences are harder to get pumped; I guess is the way to put it.
Any plans to release a new single soon?
No. We’re going to start writing more heavily in the month coming up. We haven’t really been home much. After the Asbury [Park, New Jersey] shows around Memorial Day weekend, we’ll be home more. We’ll probably end up writing then, but there’s nothing down the Gaslight pipe for a bit.
Brian Fallon [Gaslight Anthem singer] told Rolling Stone your next album is going to be a “weird” record.
I don’t think it’s what everyone is thinking. It’s not going to sound like odd time signatures and [we’re] playing glockenspiels and things. I think what he means by it is that we’re trying to do something a little less pop. He has too much of a pop sensibility to be able to write something that’s really weird.
Brian is also working on a solo release.
Yes. For the same reason that I’m in Something About Death or Dying, Benny’s in Bottom Feeder. We like different types of music. It doesn’t all stick as Gaslight songs. If some of Gaslight want to write metal album or a Fugazi record we have to find another outlet for those. [Similar to Brian's side-project] Horrible Crowes. There were maybe one or two [songs] that could have been slower Gaslight songs but on the whole that was definitely a different take and wouldn’t fit with Gaslight but stuff that he wanted to write. And that’s kind of where he’s at now. He wants to do more of a slower singer-songwriter type of alternative, modern country, Ryan Adams and the Cardinals I think is what he’s trying to do. And that’s fine. I don’t have a problem with that. I love when he does that stuff. He usually asks me to be in the band anyway.