Exclusive David Simon Q&A (page 7)
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Exclusive David Simon Q&A Q: Who chooses the music?  What's the process?  Will we ever get a soundtrack?  [Emily, Dennis Kleen]

A: Any of the writers or producers can suggest a song for a particular moment and frequently, musical choices are suggested by Blake Leyh, who is our music supervisor.  Often, songs that are specifically featured, as in the closing montages, are subject to a lot of discussion and consideration.

Generally, a primary consideration is whether a song would credibly be playing out a rowhouse window or through a car radio at the moment we hear it, because we are using music as ambient background rather than score.  A way to consider this is to note that the perfect song is rarely playing at the perfect moment in real life.  So when McNulty is trying to trail Stringer and he's boxed in by parking lot traffic, he's listening to the Tokens' "Lion Sleeps Tonight," and when Bodie is trying to get hip-hop on his car radio he gets "Prairie Home Companion."

Exceptions would be when you see a character actually program his own tunes on a boom box, say (Prez with Johnny Cash, or Nicky Sobotka with Iggy Pop) and certainly the final montages, which are the only scored moments in the film, and are required to imply a significant passage of time between events.

This year, Blake has made a particular effort to emphasize homegrown Baltimore rap and club music.  For those interested, Darkroom Productions in Baltimore has issued a "Hamsterdam" CD that constitutes a sampler of up-and-coming Baltimore rappers and we've drawn from some of those artists.  Also, I think a NY Times reporter is doing an article on Blake and the show's musical choices and that should be published shortly, if you're still more interested in the process.

An effort to issue a Wire soundtrack was undertaken before this current season.  The company we were dealing with revealed itself late in the process to be uninterested in presenting any of the music actually featured in the television program, even though we agreed to allow them to concentrate on hip-hop.  Turned out they were going to use a version of the Tom Waits theme song and little else, utilizing The Wire name to market new cuts by various artists.  On discovery of the sham, I killed the project.  I felt that this was a misuse of the program's name and a manipulation of consumers.  Whether we get a more honest representation of The Wire's musical logic out there, I don't know.  I guess we'll try to do so if we get a fifth and final season.

To take some personal credit, the choice of "Way Down in the Hole" for the theme is my own, using the Blind Boys for first season and going back to the Waits original for the second, as was Johnny Cash for Prez, Jesse Winchester's "Step By Step" for the first season montage, Steve Earle's "I Feel Alright" for the second, The Pogues' "Body of an American" for Ray Cole's wake, and Lucinda Williams' "2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten" for when McNulty and Pearlman stumble into some sex.  I also wanted D.C.'s own Nighthawks playing their version of "Sixteen Tons" in the longshoreman's bar as I grew up with them among my every-weekend, they're-playing-the-Psychedelly-again-tonight musical heroes.  The Hawks have been playing blues and rock 'n' roll out of D.C. since 1971 and for those who are interested in experiencing more of them, I can recommend their albums as well.

Producer Joe Chappelle found the third season montage in Solomon Burke's cover of Van Morrison's "Fast Train," and the fourth season montage is a discovery of Blake's.  I believe it was Karen Thorson's idea to reach out to Nawlins' great Neville Brothers for the third season theme, and Nina Noble led the charge to have Baltimore teenagers take their shot this year.  George Pelecanos picked the Pogue's "Transmetropolitan" for the scene where McNulty wrecks his car, the traditional Greek ballad for Sobotka's last day, and keeps fighting the good fight to get some new-school, comin-where-I'm-comin-from R&B by Anthony Hamilton in the show.  One day, George, one day soon.

One last credit:  Blake gets some help on Baltimore hip-hop authenticity from DeRodd Hearns, who is an apprentice editor in our postproduction department.  Fans of The Corner will remember that DeRodd is DeAndre's younger half-brother and he is doing well learning the craft of film editing.  His work as a local bullshit meter for our hip-hop choices does not pay extra.

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