Randy Newman: “I don’t think I’ve got any better as a songwriter in 50 years”
Do the film scores and the songs come from different parts of the brain?
Do you see this as your first full fusion of songs and film
scores? Well, all these songs soak up an orchestra pretty well. It was what they needed. But in some ways, it’s similar to my first LP from 1968. At the time it seemed like there was just me, Van Dyke Parks, and maybe Ry Cooder, who made music like we’d never heard The Rolling Stones. We were the only guys not using a fucking drum! And part of me still thinks using a drum is cheating. There are other ways of making pop music.
Definitely. I don’t think I’ve got any better as a songwriter in 50 years, but I am much better at the orchestral stuff. But they do inform each other. The arrangements creep into the songs, and help me manipulate audiences, particularly with the tearjerkers. With film scores, I like a tune. A lot of soundtracks just about do the job without one, but I need a line, a thread.
You give yourself a hard time
in “The Great Debate”… Haha. I’m giving away what I do, which is to create strawman arguments. That’s a real career-ender! But yeah, I definitely do what I’m accused of doing in that song. I create characters as objects of ridicule: “He doesn’t believe anything he has you say, nor does he want us to believe anything you say.” Yup.
Some people might have expected a song about Trump
here… I did write one, just for the hell of it, but it was just too vulgar. It was all “my dick’s bigger than your dick”. My way into it was to come at it from a female point of view – like it was Ivanka having a dig at Daddy. But the subject is too sore to get into. INTERVIEW: JOHN LEWIS