If you enjoy films about dudes with lethal amounts of narcotics up their arses then you are going to love The Mule. If the idea of a soundtrack composed by Mikey Young of Eddy Current Suppression Ring and Total Control excites you then you are going to lose your shit.
Set in 1983, and inspired by true events, The Mule is directed by and stars Angus Samson as Ray Jenkins, a naïve gentlemen who is detained by Australian Federal Police and forced to make a desperate choice; to defy his bodily functions and withhold the evidence (literally) and in doing so potentially becoming a "human time-bomb.”
While writing, developing and refining the story, Sampson had chosen music from Eddy Current Suppression Ring, to summarise the essence of the film. So when Jemma Burns was approached to supervise the soundtrack she went straight to the source and asked Young to work alongside experienced film/advertising music producer Cornel Wilczek (aka electronic artist Qua).
The end result is a soundtrack packed with more nuggets than Ray’s colon and includes; Monte Video (once known for their song “Shoop Shoop Diddy Wop Cumma Wang Dang”), Autmn, Lace Curtain and the punk outfit Nothin’ Suss featuring Young and his bandmates from Total Control, Eddy Current Suppression Ring and Brain Children.
We had a chat to Mikey and Jemma before the soundtrack’s release.
Noisey: Mikey, first of all congratulations on scoring a film about a guy trying to hold in a massive shit.
Mikey Young: Thanks. I guess I got to start at the bottom, no pun intended. Ha!
Was it fun working with music that was set in 1983?
Mikey Young: Totally, most of my influences are pre 1983 anyway. The synths that I own were probably made around that time frame so for me to get into the zone and pretend I was making a score of that period wasn’t really hard for me to do because I’m stuck in that era a lot of the time anyway.
Was it hard to hold back the cheese?
Mikey Young: I don’t think it’s gone over the top. There are some things that could come across as cheeseball. Playing “Australiana” in the background and some of the stuff I did at the start could have possibley been a bit too glitzy and maybe Giorgio Moroder-ish. A bit over the top of trying to evoke that time. We had a discussion about it and stripped it back and while it still sounds of that time it isn't a weird pastiche or too corny. Or, I don’t think so! (laughs)
Jemma Burns: While the film has an affectionate nostalgia to a degree, we didn't want to revel in Aussie dagginess. A big part of my job is finding the sweet spot between daggy and amazing. Finding authentic songs that have aged well... it's not just an exercise in finding the most obscure tracks. They need to connect with a broad audience while not compromising authenticity. A good example of this is the inclusion of the the Tactics track.
It's great that all the songs are Australian too.
Jemma Burns: Angus wanted the film and the score to have a DIY quality, a handmade feel where you can almost see the makers thumb-print. We all took this to heart and actually flourished within the parameters set by this concept (and the budget constraints). Being compelled to dig deeper than usual for what hidden gems might work in our film lead me to discover the likes of Monte Video (thanks to Hugh Owens!) and Autmn, two incredible local acts that history has left by the wayside.
What is the story behind Nothin’ Suss?
Mikey Young: I wrote three or four party songs for the party scene but only one of which was used. I wrote some riffs and sent them to Max [Kohane], Al [Montfort] and Zeph [Pavey] and Brad Barry. We went to a rehearsal studio and recorded it all in one day.
I love the humour in the track “Back From Vietnam”. It has a larrikinism about it that reminds me of the track “Two Cans of Fosters and a Packet of Potato Chips."
Mikey Young: Yeah I think Al had a bit to do with that but it’s mainly Zephyr, he’s such a funny bastard.
Jemma Burns: Angus spoke many times of the themes driving the film, especially the idea of David versus Goliath, played out most obviously through the America’s Cup race in the background of the film. This theme is also played out by Ray who is forced to be resourceful and make the most of what he has to hand. A theme we carried throughout the process. Ray has to make do with what little he has to hand. Mikey's recording style obviously has this DIY feel also even his synth based music has a handmade analogue feel.
Had you worked with Cornel before?
Mikey Young: I didn’t know Cornell before this but it was great working with him. He was originally involved because he has done a lot of this stuff before and he was a great help with some of the technicalities and even stuff like what kind of files to present. There was probably a stubborn part of me at the start that was, “Screw this I can do this myself”. But I learnt so much from him. Everything from work flow and stuff that would have been way over my head or at least have taken me ages to do.
'The Mule' soundtrack is available on Remote Control via iTunes & all streaming services Feb 6 with a limited edition vinyl LP to be available in the coming months.