Exclusive Q&A With Music Supervisor Blake Leyh (posted November 13, 2006)   pdf pdf (56kB)
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Blake Leyh Q: How did "Way Down In The Hole" become "The Wire"'s main theme? What were the runner-ups?  [Kaela, Pu]

A: We began working on The Wire as a pilot for HBO.  The episode which became the first episode of Season 1 was originally produced as a single one-hour pilot.  HBO had the option of green-lighting the first season after they saw the pilot.  I was originally hired as the composer, music editor, and sound designer, and gradually overtook the position of music supervisor once the first season got rolling for real.  It's very unusual for one person to hold all of those responsibilities on a single program, but it worked well for me, as these were entwined and compatible areas in which I had experience.

The only other serious contender for the opening of the show was "Step By Step" by Jesse Winchester, which as I'm sure you know, was used as the montage song in the final episode of Season 1.  When I heard it the first time, I saw the appeal of the lyrics but felt that musically it was way too slow, un-hip, white, and folksy for the opener of a cop show set in black urban Baltimore.  I think I wrote about ten different musical sketches for the opening of the show.  Most of them were songs, and a few were instrumental pieces.  David Simon basically hated all of it.  One of them ended up becoming "The Fall," the piece which now plays over the end credits.

I also suggested some other songs: "Inner City Blues" by Marvin Gaye, "There's A Price to Pay to Live In Paradise" by The J.B.'s, and a few others.  In retrospect, "Way Down In The Hole" seems perfect and inevitable, but of course it now has the weight of history and fifty episodes supporting it.

I have to say, when I started on The Wire, I had no idea what the show really was about and couldn't possibly have imagined how good it would become or how challenging and rewarding the work would end up being.  I thought I was going to work for a few weeks on a pilot for a cop show.  I had never seen another HBO series, including The Sopranos.  I can see with long hindsight that I was pretty clueless at the beginning of the journey.

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