Brendan Canning Discusses His "Depeche Mode western" Score for 'The Canyons'

Brendan Canning Discusses His 'Depeche Mode western' Score for 'The Canyons'
Brendan Canning has been one of the lucky few Canadian musicians who has made a living as a touring and recording artist. Despite success as a co-founder of Broken Social Scene, the Toronto-based artist has laid low the past few years. Though he recently released his second solo LP, You Gots 2 Chill, lately Canning has more often been seen with a crate full of records for DJ gigs than a guitar.

"That and score work," he says, "is how I make my living at this point."

Most recently, Canning completed the soundtrack to the Canyons, the much-maligned Paul Schrader, Bret Easton Ellis and Lindsay Lohan comeback flick. He got the gig thanks to some quick thinking by his manager, who happened into a meeting with the film's music supervisor, who wanted to get Tom Waits. Recognizing the impossibility of her dream, Canning's manager gave her a reality check. "You're never going to get Tom Waits. Why don't you get Brendan Canning?"

Canning flew down to meet with the music supervisor and the film's producer, where he was given the script. "I started writing before I even saw one piece of the movie," he recalls. "They had some different ideas that I had to follow briefly but I kind of knew their ideas were not going to work."

The soundtrack was recorded at Pirate Studios, with Canning's former neighbor Ryan Kondrat and his writing partner John La Magna, who work under the name me&john. The studio is best known as a jingle house, but Kondrat and La Magna were keen to break into the film world. The trio worked "like a band," bringing in singers Rob James and Adaline for vocal work.

Despite the film's infamy, Canning remains proud of the "Depeche Mode western" music he composed, even if a low-profile iTunes release is its ultimate fate.

The film, itself, however: "I went to see [it] on a Friday night," he says. "There weren't many people and there was laughter where there wasn't supposed to be."

With few exceptions though, Canning's film score work has been primarily for low-profile indie releases, a fact that clearly bothers him. "If the movie's a hit, then I think you have a better chance," he says. "Maybe a few people will discover it here and there."

Whatever the soundtrack's ultimate fate, Canning has already moved on, working on music for an upcoming David Cronenberg retrospective at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto. "That's been fun because I know at least people will see it."