The Music of Room 237: An Interview With Jonathan Snipes & William Hutson / by Matt Bomarr

room237

room237

For those who haven't heard, there is a fascinating documentary called Room 237that was recently released to critical acclaim from the Sundance, Cannes and New York Film Festivals. The film centers on a group of never-seen individuals who have strong feelings about hidden meanings / messages in Stanley Kubrick's classic film The Shining. The movie itself is well worth a watch, but what stood out most to me was the amazing, synth-driven soundtrack featuring original music for the film from Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson.  Both agreed to answer a few questions regarding the score, which you can hear here, and hopefully pick up on vinyl from Death Waltz Recording Company in the coming months.

First off, can you each tell the readers a little about yourselves? Where are you from? How long have you known each other? Previous bands?

Jonathan Snipes: Bill & I met in 2000 as freshmen in the UCLA theater program. We've collaborated on music & theater, lived together off & on, and generally hung out ever since. I grew up in Riverside, CA and have lived in LA since 2000. From 2001-2011 I had a band called Captain Ahab. Currently I also have a harsh noise/rap project called clipping. with Bill & Daveed Diggs, and am also in a horror/scifi movie music cover band called Nilbog.

William Hutson: I also do noise and experimental music under a couple of different project names and run a tiny label called Accidie.

Now, one of you tell me something about the other (Jonathan, tell me something about William, and vice versa)

JS: Bill used to have a job putting up illegal signs advertising dating websites.  Things like westsidesingles.comnorthhollywoodsingles.com etc - he'd drive around from like 1-4am stapling signs to freeway onramp signs, telephone poles, etc. I'd always wondered who did that. Turns out it was Bill.

WH: One of Jonathan’s biggest movie credits before Room 237 was placing a Captain Ahab song in the end credits of Snakes on a Plane. Neither of us has seen the movie, but apparently it is in there.

How many times have you seen The Shining?

JS: Probably only 4-5 times.

WH: I’d say twenty. I worked at a video store in high school and would just watch The Shining in the store over and over again. Now I see it twice a year because I show it in a class I teach.

What's your favorite Kubrick film?

JS: The Shining or Barry Lyndon. Depends on mood. I love them all.

WH: I could watch both The Shining and Dr. Strangelove two hundred times in a row and remain engaged. His others I watch less frequently but they all fall between great to almost-great. Except Lolita. And Eyes Wide Shut. Not crazy about either of those.

What are your overall thoughts on some of the crazy theories people have about The Shining? 

JS: I'm fascinated by them all. I think American High School English classes are really ruined peoples abilities to do any sort of critical analysis. Everyone gets so caught up in artists intent, forgetting that a reading is a reading, and exists separately from the work. People have discovered a lot of really amazing things about the Shining, but to me it's all a testament to Kubrick's brilliance as a maker of detailed, complex films with many possible interpretations. How boring would it be if there was a "right" way to interpret the shining? That'd be a really short movie.

WH: I think that if I weren’t in graduate school, and didn’t have a professional outlet for cultural criticism and analysis — like if I worked at a bank, or something — I would be out there, espousing crazy theories about something on a blog. Maybe not about The Shining, but I sympathize.

What is your favorite film score/soundtrack?

JS: Depends on era/composer/style/my mood, etc ... some of my favorite scores (in no particular order) are:

Alex North - the Agony & the EcstasyJohn Corigliano - Altered StatesFrançois Eudes-Chanfrault - A l'interieurGil Melle - The Andromeda StrainJohn Carpenter/Alan Howarth - Escape from New York, Halloween III Chuck Cirino - Deathstalker IIPhilip Glass - Candyman, MishimaGiorgio Moroder - MetropolisEnnio Morricone - Il soriso del grande tentatore, The Bird with the Crystal PlumageJerry Goldsmith (70s) - Patton, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Logan's RunJerry Goldsmith (80s) - Legend, Under Fire, Hoosiers Stelvio Cipriani - The Bermuda Triangle, TentacoliJohn Williams - Heartbeeps

The obligatory influences question.....Who are some of your biggest influences?

JS: For this score? They should be fairly obvious. Goblin, John Carpenter, Fred Myrow & Malcolm Seagrave's Phantasm, Stelvio Cipriani, Tangerine Dream, Wendy Carlos (to a degree).

Any current musical artists that are currently blowing your mind that people should check out? 

JS: Recently I've been listening to: Cakes da Killa, G*park, Jelena Glazova, Container, Antoni Maiovvi, Brotha Lynch Hung, Math the Band, Natasha Barrett, Ezra Buchla, Erikm, Paul Corley...

WH: Helena Gough, Future, Kazuma Kubota, Gunplay, Ulcerate, Haptic, Cakes Da Killa, Pharmakon, IamSu!, Ehnahre, Vasculae, Joe Panzner and Greg Stuart, Profligate, Youth Code, Michael Pisaro...

What piece of musical gear can you not live without?

JS: The computer, of course - as much as I love all my analogue gear, without a computer (tape machine) I couldn't record or do anything.  Also, when building a studio, the converters & monitor speakers are kind of the most important things.  I'm lucky enough to have a Metric Halo ULN-8, and Meyer HD1 monitors — just a phenomenal sounding setup. Very easy to work with.

WH: That said, we couldn’t have written the score we wrote for Room 237 without Jonathan’s monstrous 5U modular.

You seem to have amassed quite the collection of modular synths. Just a glimpse at your studio would make any synth geek drool. How long did it take you to build your collection?

JS: Years and years of buying/selling/building cabinets, etc. I probably got my first modules in 2005. It's kind of a disease. I realized I could spend days just making drawings of how I wanted to arrange the modules & not actually make any music. I've got a plan right now, and when I fill up these last couple of spaces, I'm going to put it to rest for awhile (I've said that before, of course, and it's never been true)

Did I hear that Death Waltz Recording Company will be releasing the Room 237 soundtrack on vinyl? How did you hook up with them, and when will it be released?

JS: Bill saw their records in a store, so I wrote to them & asked if they'd want to do it. Spencer said yes, and I think it will be coming out in June of this year.

Any future film scoring projects in the works? Any other musical projects in general? (Eg: Clipping, etc)

JS: We just did a short film together. The trailer is here:  http://jonat8han.com/Ten-Minutes-is-Two-Hours - mostly we're working on this new band clipping. that we're doing together, along with rapper Daveed Diggs. It's a harsh noise/musique concréte rap project & we're very excited about it. Our first album is free on the internet.

Care to shamelessly plug any of your websites?

JS: My personal website is jonat8han.com - you can hear Clipping at itsclippingbitch.com