You might not recognize Brian Reitzell’s name, but if you’ve seen any of Sofia Coppola’s films, there’s a good chance that you’re familiar with his work. As the director’s longtime music supervisor, Reitzell has been responsible for curating and scoring the soundtracks to movies including The Virgin Suicides, Lost In Translation and Marie Antoinette. For Coppola’s latest, The Bling Ring – based on the true story of a group of teenagers who robbed the homes of Los Angeles celebrities in 2008 and 2009 – he put together an eclectic soundtrack of artists including Kanye West, Rick Ross, Sleigh Bells, M.I.A., Phoenix and Deadmau5. Reitzell spoke to Rolling Stone over the phone from a Hollywood studio about Kanye’s crucial advice for this soundtrack, why Paris Hilton is like Hannibal Lecter and more.
This has to be the first soundtrack that features a Can song in between 2 Chainz and Kanye West. How did that happen?
I had to use the music that the kids would be listening to. Sofia had the Rick Ross song [“9 Piece”] in the script, and a few others. I spent a few months listening to everything that is out now, and then going back a bit to when the story actually happened. So the Kanye stuff [“All of the Lights” and “Power”] was fair game, as well as the newer stuff. The Can stuff is interesting, because the other side is the score, the sound of L.A. at night when they’re driving around. I thought that it would be really cool to use Klaus Schulze and some of the German stuff that I really, really love, and it’s amazing how well those tracks fit next to each other. The rhymes of the Can track – Kanye could sample that and make a song out of it. Same goes with the synthesizers. You listen to the synthesizers in the Frank Ocean song [“Super Rich Kids”] and a lot of it sounds like Tangerine Dream.
What’s it like working with Sofia?
My first movie was her first movie, which was The Virgin Suicides. At the time I was still touring in a band, and I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. We spent a lot of time working on the sound as the movie was being made, rather than make a movie and throw a bunch of things at it and see what works. For Lost In Translation, I gave her two mix CDs and 80 percent, 90 percent is what appears in the final movie. The music is happening as she’s writing and casting and location scouting – she’s listening to the stuff as she’s working on the movie. I send her just a basket of stuff, very little really, maybe two mix CDs, and that’s always what makes it into the final cut.
Does she ever introduce you to new music?
She and I have very similar tastes. Sometimes I’ll give her something and then she’ll pick a different song from that band and then use that. That’s what happened with New Order in Marie Antoinette – I had picked the song “Age Of Consent,” but it wasn’t quite right for the movie lyrically, so she picked “Ceremony.” Normally I work in a lot of different ways, but with Sofia it’s particular and specific and its different than most of the projects where I’m not looking at the picture until later. We’re kind of friends – it’s like how you’d make a mix tape for a friend.
What do you make of how movies like Spring Breakers and now The Bling Ring are using EDM?
I always do the things that sound the best. I’m not really familiar with a lot of Deadmau5 stuff, but there was something about that track that we used in the movie [“FML”] – it’s a killer track. I’m a drummer, too, and that track has some pretty wicked drums in it, as does the Can track. I will say that licensing the tracks like that are so difficult. If it weren’t for the fact that Kanye was helping me, I don’t think I would have any of that stuff.
Wait, what? How did Kanye help you?
Early on, we had got in touch with Kanye, and his response was, “You’ve got to get this song ‘Super Rich Kids’ by Frank Ocean.” This was just before it had been released. I guess Kanye had heard it, and I kept trying to get it sent to me. Frank was just starting to blow up. He wanted to be involved in the movie, and then he had Coachella, and then it was Saturday Night Live and his record, and bam, bam, bam. I couldn’t get him over here, but eventually we heard the song and Kanye was right. It was absolutely perfect. You’ve got to see it in theatres. My favorite line is about the shower head – “the showerhead’s so amazing”.
Sofia is married to Thomas Mars from Phoenix. Does this mean you got a discount on using “Bankrupt!”?
The thing about Phoenix is that they’ve been involved in all of her movies, even going back to the very first movie, so we’re sort of family, and family helps each other out. I’m not sure what the deals were; let’s just say I wasn’t involved with that one.
What do you think of The Great Gatsby soundtrack ― overhyped or worth every cent?
I haven’t heard it all. Baz [Luhrmann] is lucky – he gets a lot of money to do these things, and he gets the support of a soundtrack label, where he got to make his Saturday Night Fever if you will, or The Bodyguard. I just think it could have been done with a little more love, I guess.
You’re currently the music supervisor for NBC’s Hannibal. What’s scarier – being trapped in a room with Hannibal Lecter or being trapped in a room with Paris Hilton?
They both sound really entertaining to me [laughs]. To be honest, working on both these projects, I feel like I have been trapped in the room with both of them, and for me it’s not that scary. But for sure, they’re similar.
I have to ask about the final scene of Lost In Translation, where you used the Jesus & Mary Chain’s “Just Like Honey.” How did that come together?
I did that movie without a computer, so I used a turntable, with the VHS playing. I think I was probably in my underwear early in the morning or late at night, and I dropped the needle on that scene. I knew that was magic – I got chills standing there next to my turntable. Nowadays you throw in a file, line them up and hit the space bar, but I brought Sofia over the next day and I did the same thing – had the video running and I dropped the needle and it worked.
So do you know what Scarlett Johansson’s character whispered to Bill Murray in that scene?
No [laughs]. I don’t think it was ever anything that was specifically told outside of Bill and Scarlett. My opinion was that it wasn’t anything more than, I don’t know, “brush your teeth”. I think we’ll have to keep that between them, and you’ll have to ask them because they’re the only ones who know.