Home Theater Buyer's Guide (and other magazines), Fall 1998
THE MONSTER MEETS ... FILMMAKER DAVID LYNCH
Impact. It's the word most often associated with writer/director David Lynch. As the creator of such films as Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, The Elephant Man, Dune and the cult classic Eraserhead, Lynch has never failed to outdo himself in terms of sonic, visual and emotional impact on the big screen. His successful foray into television with Twin Peaks and the series' subsequent release in feature film form have consolidated a cult following stronger than virtually any filmmaker has ever done before. Video rentals of all his works are among the most popular, particularly in this day and age of the home theatre boom, where attention to sound is paramount. Stars as well known and respected as Laura Dern, Nicolas Cage, Isabella Rossellini, Willem Dafoe, Kyle MacLachlan and Robert Loggia (to name only a few) have found some of their most revealing roles in Lynch's films. Yet most revealing is the man himself, who spoke candidly with Monster recently at his newly constructed Asymmetrical Studios, a creative haven for Lynch wired completely with Monster Cable. Joining Lynch was John Neff, Lynch's engineer and the technical mind behind Asymmetrical.
MONSTER: You've said in numerous ways that sound is a critical element in your films. What part does Monster play in helping you make the greatest impact you can with sound?
LYNCH: It's sort of all kind of common sense. Films are 50 percent visual and 50 percent sound. Sometimes sound even overplays the visual. What we have now is equipment that allows you to act, react and experiment really quickly. Almost as fast as you can think of stuff, you're hearing things and reacting to it and changing. We're just getting to that point here in this room, where things are pretty speedy. Monster Cable plays a part in that because you need as high a quality as you can get, so you have some power when you put it on the screen.
MONSTER: And Monster Cable impacts that power?
LYNCH: Sure it does. A production is only as good as its weakest link, so if you've got lousy cable you're fresh out of luck. But if you've got Monster Cable, you've got a chance to follow through with high quality.
MONSTER: How would you describe in sonic terms some of the differences you've heard when you've compared Monster cables with other types of cables?
LYNCH: I'm not an engineer, but the word is that Monster Cable is called that for a reason. it's beefy and all the stuff that you produce come through it, without anything getting blocked or weakened. That's what we want around here, so that's why we use Monster Cable.
NEFF: I'll be very blunt: Monster Cable is like taking the blanket off the speakers. More detail, lower noise floor. I don't have cable failures with Monster. Period.
MONSTER: When did you first hear of Monster Cable?
LYNCH: I'd always heard of it - it's a sort of "it's in the air" thing.
MONSTER: Once one steps into this studio, you enter another world. It's easy to forget that it's actually part of a very unusual house - the house, in fact, where Lost Highway was filmed.
LYNCH: Yeah, I got this house and three months later, we were tearing part of it down and rebuilding it so it would work for the film. Then after we finished filming, that whole place was pretty much demolished to build the studio.
NEFF: This studio was designed as a multipurpose recording facility. It's a screening room with film-dubbing capabilities, a music recording facility, and we can do ADR (Automated Diaiogue Replacement) work here. We don't have Foley pits, but we can do some rudimentary soundeffects generation here as well.
MONSTER: You have a very sophisticated film- and video-projection system here at Asymmetrical. Is this video system you use wired with Monster?
LYNCH: We're using Monster Cable now wherever there's cable.
NEFF: We've done all of the A/V wiring in here with Monster Cable. We've been adding effects in the outboard equipment bays and that's all wired with Monster. For the audio-production part of the studio, all of the microphone lines, all of the inter-unit patches, all of the new speaker rooms are Monster, and the new digital wiring net- work as well as the Midi network will be all Monster. I saw the TT cables at the NAMM show. They look beautiful and I can't wait to use them.
MONSTER: What is David Lynch working on right now?
LYNCH: Right now I'm working on a very interesting project that I'm not really at liberty to discuss. I can say that we're working on the sound for that today. It's the first time in this room that we worked "to picture" so it's a great "shakedown cruise" for the room, and it's been great.
MONSTER: What else have you done to give this room, with all its Monster Cable, a "shakedown"?
LYNCH: We just ran Wild At Heart in this room. I hadn't seen it on the big screen since Cannes, where the sound system is incredible. You go in the night before and you can set the volume and test things out real late at night after the screenings are over. On Wild at Heart, some critics wanted to see it that night so we ran the whole film in this room with no one there just to set the volume and check it out. it was really something.
So we ran it here the other night. I've got a volume control at my chair and at the very beginning there's a match strike and Wild at Heart "hits." Well, the match strike didn't seem loud enough for me and I'm pushing the volume and the film is starting and I realized I have no control on the volume. We were starting a new projectionist and he just hadn't flipped the switch to give control to the chair and when he flipped the switch-we had POWER. I'm not kidding.
MONSTER: A lot of people don't realize that you're quite a musician as well, and from what I've been told, your approach even to playing music is- well, David Lynchesque.
LYNCH: I come to music from sound effects and I love when sound effects get close to music. I think about sound effects in terms of lines like in music - one line going with another line going with another line. I love musicians and I love music, but I'm not a musician's musician. [Music soundtrack co- producer] Angelo Badalamenti brought me into the world of music and now I'm starting to play the guitar. But I don't even play the guitar in a normal way. I don't hold the guitar in a normal way and I see it more as sound - although we are making music.
MONSTER: At what point in your filmmaking do you choose the music?
LYNCH: Well, I get as much as I can up front. It's often a piece of music that has inspired a scene, so you stick with that or a piece of music that brings out a scene. So it's critical, since every scene is different. You're looking for things that will marry - it's a lot of trial and error. Sometimes you hear something and you just know it's got to go there, or sometimes you hear something and it gives you an idea for that scene. I try to find as much as I can up front. I hear the dialogue and then I hear the music mixed in with it when I'm shooting. I pick different pieces of music to try to get a feel for the scene and then listen to it as the scene is being shot. It's a real good guide for mood. And then, if I don't have all the music, I just look and look or create it in post-production.
MONSTER: You do a certain amount in post production?
LYNCH: Oh, yes. I often finesse things that I've started. A lot of times Angelo will play something on the piano or synth and we know later on it's going to go to an orchestra or some other level.
MONSTER: Do you have a message you'd like to share with emerging artists? Any advice you'd care to give regarding technology and creating art?
LYNCH: It's not about technology - it's about a different kind of quality. It's about getting ideas, then translating those ideas to either music or film. it takes a lot of work to do one song, it takes a lot of work to do one movie, and after all that work and translating the ideas and everything else that goes along with it, you want it to sound and look like you wanted it to. That's when equipment comes in. The equipment is there to help you get what you had in your head and that's where Monster Cable would come in. I just think that they feel like quality. They look like quality, and when you plug them in, you get POWER through them.
MONSTER: John Neff mentioned that your next film will be "posted" here. Anything you can share about the film?
LYNCH: I'm trying to catch ideas whether by reading a book or just getting it in the air. it's really hard for me to get something that I really love, so I'm in the process of looking while working with John on music. I'm writing a bunch of stuff but nothing's hit yet.
MONSTER: There are a lot of people out there waiting.
LYNCH: Well, that feels good. I'll try my best.
MONSTER: Anything to add?
LYNCH: Thanks for the good cable.
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