|© The Wu-Tang Corp.- 2004-05-29
While the fate of the Wu-Tang Clan hangs in the balance, most of its members have been busying themselves with their own solo projects. Method Man just dropped his latest album and has a TV show on the horizon. Ghostface Killer's newest effort is commanding massive kudos from hip-hop heads everywhere. The rest of the Clan is scattered about, either working on new albums, touring for their previous releases, or just percolating. But perhaps the busiest Killer Bee is the Wu's supreme beat maker himself, The RZA.
At the tail end of 2003 RZA dropped his third official solo album, Birth Of A Prince and in early 2004 he helped LA duo Northstar gain some fame by not only producing their debut album. But lately RZA's sonic inclined passion has been directed toward the Silver Screen, most appropriately in the form of soundtrack work. He first popped up on Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai and then later on Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. He also copped a part in Jarmusch's art house comedy Coffee and Cigarettes opposite his Wu brother GZA and the irrepressible Bill Murray.
RZA's latest soundtrack project is Soul Plane. Unlike Coffee and Cigarettes, however, this film just contains the music of RZA, not any of his thespian chops (though the film does feature fellow Wu member Method Man). The film represents the further expansion of RZA into the world of film composition as unlike Ghost Dog, which featured elements of score along with rap tracks produced by RZA and Kill Bill, which featured score and song supervision, Soul Plane features pure instrumental score. "For Soul Plane my input was all score," emphasizes RZA about his involvement with the film. "I mean we put songs in, like popular hip-hop songs, of course, but for every little comedy scene and love scene and things like that, it was actually my first time that I had a chance to program my music, you know how I do the Bobby Digital stuff, you know 16-bar phrases, and then give it to an orchestrator who writes that stuff out and then a 49-piece orchestra played my music back. I don't know if you remember my early interviews, but I always said 'My goal is one day to have my music played by an orchestra.' Now we didn't include the turntables yet. That's my next thing, to include turntables and my beat machine at the same time as the orchestra. That's what I want to do. But this was definitely a step toward my vision in my mind that I always wanted to see happen. I feel very blessed to have been able to do it."
Part of that blessing was RZA being able to really dig into the score and flesh out long, involved sections of score. "There's one scene at the end of the movie that's six, seven-minutes long," he recalls. "And we had to write that out. So the orchestra is going—here RZA launches into his best interpretation of wailing horns and an atonal pitched string section careening all over the place--'do-do-do-uuurnt, der-der-der-ooooont!'" RZA pauses, then continues, "I came up with a lot of musical ideas," I had this one idea 'cause at the end of the movie there's a lot of different characters coming in and out of the cockpit, right? So what I said I wanted to do was when the Spanish lady comes in, I'm going to the Spanish guitar. When Mo'Nique [Imes-Jackson] comes in, I want something more Urban. When Meth comes in, I want this, know what I mean?" In short, RZA wanted each individual character to have his or her own unique theme music. "Yeah, yeah, just for that one scene, 'cause it made it more funnier," he laughs. "The director never thought about that and he was like 'Okay, try it.' And I tried it and it made the scene funnier and everybody loved it. To me it really felt like a musical accomplishment. I mean this piece of music could maybe one day go in a book. I mean the orchestrator needs some credit for arranging it a certain way for me, but it could go in a book and be played by somebody else one day, you know what I mean? It's like hey, 'Written by the RZA.' It's like a "real" piece of music. I mean hip-hop is hard to write out 'cause it's just samples and chops."
Next up on RZA's sonic plate is the score for Blade 3. "I just startedBlade 3 a couple of weeks ago. Me and Terrance Blanchard. You know, he's a veteran, so I'm learning," says RZA. "One good thing is that the opportunities I've been gettin', even like with Robert Rodriguez [whom RZA worked on the music of Kill Bill Vol. 2 with], who is a great musician and a great director, somebody who is elite, that can teach me something. That was a good experience. I worked on Barbershop 2, I did a few cues for that and I worked with a guy names Richard Gibbs, who has done over 40 or 50 movies in his career. That was very interesting. And then with Soul Plane, my orchestrator named Phil Geffen, he's done over 80 movies as an orchestrator. So I've been surrounded by people who really know the craft and I'm like the young enthusiast, picking up the energy. And it's working very well for me because my knowledge of music right now, man, is intense."
And what about the fate of the Wu? "It's like if Wu-Tang wanted to go do another album, man, I might make a super-duper classic one, man, 'cause I know some sh!t now," laughs RZA. "And I also know some people who can play [instruments] now. So I could bring in this orchestra here. I mean when we're doin' Blade 3, we're actually recording the orchestra in London at Air Studios, which is like a big church that they turned into a studio. The live room for the orchestra fits 89-pieces on one level and you can also fit a real choir of 100 people on the top level. So we've got us some crazy ideas we might pull off on Blade 3, I mean if the budget can uphold the dream, you know what I mean?"
Written by Spence D. for IGN Music