Brian Reitzell

Auto Music (Smalltown Supersound)

Contact Jessica Linker about Brian Reitzell

‘My car is a moving sound capsule.’
Brian Reitzell


What better place to create the ultimate driving album than Los Angeles, where Brian Reitzell lives and works? You might not immediately recognise his name, but you’ll certainly have stumbled across at least one corner of his massive portfolio, whether as the drummer in Redd Kross and with French electronica artists Air, or as one of Hollywood’s most sought-after musical directors and composers. That’s his day job: Brian is the guy who gets to choose the music you hear in TV series and movies – this year alone, he’s worked on Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring, NBC’s TV series Hannibal and Ubisoft’s mind blowing new video game Watch Dogs. Brian has turned the job into a creative practice (he thinks of himself as a ‘music conceptualist’), not only using his impeccable music taste to select more eclectic and adventurous cuts than you normally hear on screen, but also commissioning and producing new music from some of rock and pop’s most reticent geniuses. For Sofia Coppola’s Lost In Translation, he persuaded My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields out of obscurity, and he also secretly commissioned new music from the reclusive former singer of Talk Talk, Mark Hollis – a snippet of which was used on the Starz series Boss, starring Kelsey Grammer.


Originally the drummer in punk rock outfit Redd Kross in the early 90s, Brian ended up playing drums with French electronica duo Air on their 2001 album 10,000 Hz Legend, after recording the score for Sofia Coppola’s debut, The Virgin Suicides, which Reitzell also music-supervised. Auto Music – his first solo release – began as a series of private recordings made at his studio to test out techniques and explore textures and sounds. ‘I wasn’t making a pop record,’ Brian says, ‘I was experimenting with sounds to further my knowledge for creating music for my film projects and exploring new ways to make music.’ So on ‘Last Summer’, inspired by a conversation with Kevin Shields (who also plays guitar on the track), Brian held a two-note, seven-minute chord on an organ five times, then stacked the differently-EQed layers on top of each other. On ‘Ozu’ and ‘Honeycomb’ he bowed the strings inside a piano and applied eight different kinds of tremolo effect.


But the end results are far from dry experimentalism – instead they’re a marvellous evocation of coasting along California’s freeways, revelling in the blissful sensation of forward motion. ‘I wanted to make music that felt like my drive from my house to my studio – roughly six miles. I liked the structure of the drive: never repeating, unless I forgot something at home and had to go back! It was sort of like ‘event music’ where little things come into view and then another one takes its place as you drive past… very Krautrock, I guess.’


And indeed you’ll hear elements of Neu! and Krautrock on parts one and two of ‘Auto Music’, as well as Mogwai-style shoegaze on ‘Ozu’ and a brilliant homage to the sparse style of Laughing Stock-era Talk Talk on ‘Gaudi’. Brian screened DVDs in his studio while making the album, so each track has a specific visual key, such as Spanish 70s art filmSpirit Of The Beehive or the early Fantasia animations of Oskar Fischinger. ‘I had been doing so much scoring to picture that I needed to make music where I was totally free of any story narrative or picture frames.’


As well as The Bling Ring, Brian Reitzell recently worked as musical director on Gus Van Sant’s ecological movie Promised Land, scored Elizabeth Price’s art film West Hinder, which won Britain’s prestigious Turner Prize, and has been scoring a new season of Hannibal. Meanwhile, buckle up, set the cruise control for the heart of the sunset, and prepare to be transported by Auto Music.