Discerning musical types might remember Jason Zumpano as both the drummer and namesake of the sunshiny pop band Zumpano, which released two stellar albums for Seattle’s Sub Pop Records in the mid-’90s and provided a glimpse of lead singer Carl Newman’s musical inclinations before he formed the New Pornographers. Since then, Zumpano taught himself piano, played in an early version of Destroyer and embarked on a number of solo projects under the monikers Sparrow and Cellars and Attics. His latest incarnation, The Cyrillic Typewriter, veers decidedly off the pop music map and finds Zumpano in the land of modern composition, dissecting sounds, textures and song structure. Recently released on Zumpano’s imprint Jaz Records, The Custodian is billed as a soundtrack to a movie that doesn’t exist. This Saturday, Sept. 28, Zumpano will be at Black Dog Video, 1470 Commercial Dr., spinning albums, including his own, from 3 to 5 p.m. Before that, he talked with the Courier about movie soundtracks, musical surnames and Dolly Parton’s greatest cinematic achievement.
1. You describe The Custodian as a soundtrack to a movie that doesn’t yet exist. What kind of movie did you envision when you were making the album?
Without giving too much away, the film would be about a rather disturbed and paranormally sensitive janitor who takes a journey alongside a parallel yet unfamiliar new personality. The two worlds not colliding, just co-existing. Think Mulholland Drive with Travis Bickle.
2. How do you approach making music for a film that doesn’t exist?
I have nearly the whole movie mapped out ahead of time and play around with sounds after that. The soundtrack pieces are actually in order as the scenes play out.
3. Do you imagine the entire plot? How specific is your vision of the film?
The basic plot for sure. The story can always change slightly, as can the characters, with the exception of the protagonist. I have more or less figured out how the film will move. In the event I write a short story or screenplay based on it, chances are there will be additions to the plot. Not the theme.
4. Does this approach to songwriting serve as inspiration or is it a means to restrict yourself and give you some parameters to work within?
A bit of both. Restrictions are very important when composing anything. With restrictions come necessity, with necessity comes imagination, and so on.
5. What are some of your favourite soundtracks to existing films?
There are many so I’ll only mention a few. Blue Velvet, Alien, The Thing (1982), Psycho.
6. What makes a good soundtrack?
Music that compliments, and seems like part of the film itself. Say, for example, in The Thing (1982), the Morricone soundtrack fits like it was there from the moment the movie was being filmed. Same with Bernard Herrmann’s Psycho. A soundtrack can make a good film great.
7. What’s the last movie you saw?
Someone made me watch a delightful romp of a film other day. Starring a farcical foursome, three office ladies wreak terrible, but PG vengeance on their chauvinist boss. Can you guess which one it is? The soundtrack wasn’t great but the title theme did receive a lot of airplay.
8. If you hadn’t already been in a band called Zumpano, would you have called all your solo projects Zumpano?
Naming the band Zumpano was sort of a group effort to finally get things going. I was reluctant then, and I’m still not super keen on my surname representing my musical persona. Maybe if I had a name like Van Halen or Dokken.
9. On Saturday, you’ll be spinning records, including your own, at Black Dog Video’s Commercial Drive location. Any particular movie genre section you’d prefer to set up in?
Unfortunately the space is limited. I would have preferred the horror corner near the desk but it looks like I’m in the window with the classics. That would include Orson Welles and Powell and Pressburger so that’s alright.
10. Besides The Custodian, will you be playing any other movie soundtracks?
You’ll have to find out. Could be anything from Outland to Smokey and the Bandit 2.
For more info, go to jazrecords.com.
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