Interview with David Holmes

published 5 February 2009
written by Karo staffer Karo got the chance to interview David Holmes, who put together the Cherrybomb soundtrack. A close friend of directors Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn, David talked about his work in general and in particular on Cherrybomb, and explains what he thinks of Rupert Grint’s performance!

Here’s our interview: We know that you have been doing music for ages now. I think you started doing music when you were 15?
David: That’s right. How did you become a musician, or start to DJ at all?
David: I just really loved music. I’ve been into music since I was a very small child and I discovered punk rock at a very early age. I’ve got nine brothers and sisters, so I was the youngest of ten. I’ve had a great education from a very early age in music and I was just very, very, very fortunate to have older brothers and sisters who were very much… I was always a collector, whether punk rock or rhythm and blues or, you know, psychadelia or, you know, just a wide variety of music that I became obsessed with at some very early age. So at that time, was it more the local bands at Belfast or was it more mainstream music you were interested in.
David: That was all pretty underground music, really. Bands like Crash and Public Image Limited and then into the whole kind of sixties sort of theme. Bands like the Creation. A lot of much more rare music. Did you also start playing instruments?
David: Well, I come from a kind of DJ background. My background stems from actually just mixing completely different styles of music, and that got me into music production, working with like electronic music, drum machines, synthezisers and stuff like that. I’m much, like, a deeper kind of sampling, that was my background. If someone would have told you back when you were fifteen that you would get to do soundtracks for films like Ocean’s 11 or Cherrybomb<, would you have believed that?
David: Oh no, not at all I would have just laughed at them really. I mean, it’s kind of, making music for films wasn’t even a dream for me, it was beyond that. It was just something that kind of happened. So basically, it was just something that evolved. I didn’t really see it coming at all, you know. So, yeah, it was… you know… So it just happened like that?
David: Yeah, just something that kind of really happened, but wasn’t too tried, you know, it just happened like that with the film music, because people said that my music was very cinematic. You’ve done loads of music for films, and you’ve also said that your own albums have been influenced by movies. What is it that makes it so exciting for you to bring movies and music together?
David: I don’t know, I mean, that’s just… I’ve… you know,… I don’t think that’s quite true. I kind of feel like in the past, I’ve done that, you know, but, recent albums, like my last album, The Holy Pictures, was very much inspired by my family and my friends, and Belfast. I don’t really know why my music has a kind of cinematic feel to it. Maybe it’s an emotional thread that runs through it, but… You know, in the past, I have, but I consider everything I do to be kind of different from the last thing, and I think my music is influenced by so many things, not just by cinema. I mean, it has been influenced by cinema in the past, but not all the time, so… There’s certain things you can’t really explain when you’re sort of making music. I think my music comes from so many different places, you know, I would be lying if I said that it all had a very, you know, it was all influenced by cinema, because the answer is it’s not. You said that you last album, The Holy Pictures, was influenced by things like “family, friends, loss and love”. Those also appear to be the topics of Cherrybomb. Would you say that is true?
David: Oh no, not at all. Cherrybomb is a coming of age film about three fifteen-sixteen year-old kids over a period of a weekend. Now, my album is talking very much about loss and losing my parents and having a family of my own, friends that have inspired me. It’s actually about friends that I’ve lost as well. And it’s also very much about Belfast as a city and how that’ kind of shaped me. But no, Cherrybomb is definitely completely different altogether. When did you start working on the score for Cherrybomb? I think the directors got the script in 2006…
David: Yeah, we’ve always kind of been working on it and thinking about it, and when I had an idea, like a song idea, I sent it to them. Some of those ideas got great reactions, and some of them not so great. We built on the kind of tracks that were quite exciting, some like Goodbye friend seemed like an obvious choice. She brings the rain by Ruth was a very early sort of choice that we were all very excited about, I mean, Ruth, the track She brings the rain was around a long time even before the idea of Cherrybomb was conceived. So, we’re always talking about ideas, this would be great for a film, or that will be great for a scene in the film, but it’s also about finding the right film. And when Cherrybomb was developing, Glenn and Lisa started to sort of put some of the ideas that I’d given them and started putting them up against the movie images, and some of them worked absolutely incredibly well and some didn’t. So, it’s just a process of seeing what kind of fits and what doesn’t. And you kind of, when you’re working on a film, and you’re working with music on a film, you kind of feel your way through it. You know, there’s no kind of like masterplan. It’s something about… You collect feelings for the project, and when something kind of, you know, when you hear a piece of music, then a little kind of light goes on in your head that just makes you think “Oh, well that could be, that might be great for the film or this might work in some way. So it’s kind of a process that doesn’t really… So you didn’t get the script and sat down and thought “Which song could I use for this or that scene”?
David: Well, that happens sometimes, but not all the time! It’s a process, you know. The things that you think might work and then they don’t, and there’s things that you think do work and they work absolutely incredibly well. It’s a process. But in a film like Cherrybomb as well, it’s not like working on something like a big Hollywood film, where there’s limitless funds you kind of choose. So, we had to be really use our imagination in Cherrybomb, cause it’s obviously… Cause it’s not a huge budget of a film. We had to be very imaginative in terms of not just the songs, and the whole style and feel of the film, but also our budgetry constrains. Were you only responsible for the soundtrack on the film? Because you and Lisa and Glenn are working together very closely. Did you work on anything else on the film?
David: I’m in that one scene… I actually play Rupert Grint’s father. You play Rupert Grint’s father?!
David: Yeah! Okay…
David: No, I’ve got red hair as well. No, just a little joke. No, I was very much involved with all the music, and that’s all. I mean, I work very closely with Glenn and Lisa as we are a team, and we talk about things, but when you’re in the middle of making a film, it’s kind of hard to have any other kind of communication, cause you’re actually so busy and so involved at a very hectic routine that is like twelve, fourteen hours a day. So I got much more involved in the kind of post-production end of things. Were you on set at all?
David: I was just once, I was actually really busy working on another film while they were shooting Cherrybomb, so I only got a glimpse of what they were doing, and that was quite towards the end. On the soundtrack, there’s the song Cherrybomb, which is a cover version from flyKKiller and they told us that you asked them to do a cover version. Did you also tell them which way you wanted it?
David: No, basically I just told them to be faithful to the tempo and be true to the song. I think when you cover a song, you have certain rules that you have to apply to. And we wanted the song to, we didn’t want to do a complete re-model, we wanted to kind of be true to the original: rhythmically, musically and lyrically. And did you plan to use a cover version from the very beginning, or did you – at some point – intend to use the original?
David: No, I mean, at one point there wasn’t even… we didn’t have the song in the film at all. But I think as the whole film gathered momentum and they were kind of in the dub stage,… They had shot a scene where one of the kids is actually singing a song, but we had an option not to use that, but we all felt that it’s pretty important to be in there. So I asked Steve and Pati, who have this kind of like punk/electro kind of band flyKKiller, would they do a cover version, because I felt that they could actually deliver on that front. So their version is very much based on the Runaways’ version. There are many bands from Belfast or artists from Belfast, and you’ve worked with the majority of them in the past. Was there one band or more bands that you had never heard of before?
David: No, I know them all. Like Belfast is a small city, so it’s kind of like you know pretty much everyone here. You know, we wouldn’t do any favours to anybody, we chose the music that’s in the film totally on merit, and totally on the strength of the work and the fact that it was ideal for the film. And it’s a Belfast film, you know, it’s set in Belfast. It would have been very wrong and very weird not to have local bands and local artists when there’s abundance of great ones! You know, people like Robyn Shiels and Cashier No.9 and stuff. So did you plan to use local bands from the very beginning or did it just happen that way?
David: No, it was always gonna be a mix. It was always gonna be a true representation of what sort of younger kids are into. I mean, the beauty of living in 2008 is the part of the internet and kids have so much access to so much different music from around the globe, but they’re also very much in tune with what’s going on locally. So we wanted to be true to the kind of modern-day local kind of teenager who is into such a variety of music. And it’s great that we get to listen to the songs on Myspace, that’s really great!
David: Yeah! Thinking of the entire soundtrack, is there one song would you say that is the song that sums up the entire film? Or would you say each song is specific for its own scene?
David: No. I mean, no, it’s hard to say. And I don’t think I should tell you anyway because you’re just fishing for information! No, not really. I mean, all the songs have pretty much their own place within different parts of the film and they all serve a purpose. I mean, She brings the rain, maybe, by Ruth, but I really think all the songs serve their purpose throughout the film. Would you say there’s one song that fits each Michelle, Malachy and Luke?
David: I suppose there are, yeah. Which ones?
David: I’m not telling you. You’re not?
David: No! GO AND SEE THE FILM!!! Have you seen the finished film yet?
David: I’ve seen it a hundred times. Well, more than that. You know, when you’re working on a film and you’re making music for it, you see it a lot. So can you say something about Rupert Grint? What he is like in the film?
David: He is… you know, to be quite honest, I was completely gobsmacked. He gives an absolutely incredible performance and his Belfast accent is flawless. Really?
David: Yeah! His Belfast accent is better than some accents… some Belfast accents from Belfast actors that I’ve seen over the years. But it’s very natural and very soft and kind of unforced, you know. People sort of think that people from Belfast talk a certain way and like in any city there’s lots of different dialects, so it’s kind of… he really knew that, he gives a kind of very subtle performance, but I was really, really, really impressed by him. And what about Robert Sheehan and Kim Nixon?
David: Yeah, they’re all good, you can’t really fault a performance in the film, they have done a really good job. We also know that Rupert Grint is very much into rock music. Do you know if he got interested in any of the bands on the soundtrack?
David: I’ve no idea! I’ve never met the guy! So no playing his father, then?
David: No, that was a joke… Well, have a good time in Berlin, cause I will not be there cause I’m working on a film. Have a great time!

Thank you very much to David Holmes for taking the time for our interview!
For more information on David Holmes, check out his Myspace and his official site!

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