(L-R): Mike Andrews, Musician, Graham Parker, Musician, Judd Apatow, Director/Writer/Producer, Manish Raval, Music Supervisor, Michael Penn (Photo: Arnold Turner)
Judd Apatow is far better known for his comic chops than for his musical acumen - he even admits that he tries to limit the amount of music in his films.
There were, nonetheless, some very good reasons for his appearance at the Billboard/Hollywood Reporter Film & TV Music Conference on Thursday. A huge music fan, Apatow's grandfather was Bob Shad, a record-label owner who produced everything from the seminal Charlie Parker/Dizzy Gillespie recording "Salt Peanuts" to Janis Joplin's first album. And, perhaps channeling his grandfather, he has written, directed and produced the upcoming comedy "This is 40," starring Paul Rudd as a guy who runs a struggling independent music label.
Joining Apatow onstage were composer Mike Andrews, who scored his TVseries "Freaks and Geeks" and "Undeclared" and some of his films, music supervisor Manish Raval and rockers Graham Parker and Michael Penn. Penn scores the Apatow-produced HBO hit "Girls" (of which Apatow marveled, "I've never had a season two before!") while Parker plays a musician unused to success who joins Rudd's label in "This is 40."
Parker got the gig when Apatow visited the singer-songwriter's website and read a comic essay updating his career, which included the line, "Are you listening, Judd Apatow?" "I took that as a sign from the music gods," Apatow said.
"It worked," Parker injected with a wry smile.
"I wanted someone comfortable with playing someone having a hard time selling records - he's a good actor and he has a sense of humor," Apatow continued. The two met for lunch and Apatow outlined the film, describing Parker's struggling character. "He said, 'Yeah, that's my life - it sucks out there,'" Apatow recalled.
(L-R): Judd Apatow, Manish Raval, Michael Penn (Photo: Arnold Turner)
"Judd's use of music follows his instincts," Parker observed. "A lot of movie music follows what I call trend and commerce - either using trendy, obscure bands whose album was recorded in a gynecologist's office, or the Who and Sting. But Judd's using me in his movie - that doesn't happen. That's admirable to me."
Andrews said his collaboration with Apatow is pretty straightforward. "We don't talk much about music - we just listen to my music and say is it right or is it wrong. If it's wrong, I go come up with other stuff. He responds to that - he knows the difference between something made out of necessity and something made out of inspiration. I wrote 175 pieces of music for 'Funny People' and he used 15."
"Sorry," Apatow deadpanned. He also expressed another regret: Back when he was working on "Freaks and Geeks," he learned that Neil Young liked the show and gave permission for the production to use his song "Only Love Can Break Your Heart," a rarity for Young. "Then NBC pulled it from the air," and we were still finishing up the episode. I didn't want to pay $30,000 for a song for an episode that might never be seen. I switched it out with a Dean Martin song. There's never been a moment I haven't regretted that."
The session began with Apatow explaining that he's converted his music collection to digital, with the exception of "80 vinyl records from my childhood." What did he listen to back then? Chicago, Kansas, Boston "and 27 Who records."
Apatow's session came near the conclusion of the conference, which concluded Thursday at the Hollywood W Hotel.
(L-R): Judd Apatow, Director/Writer/Producer, Mike Andrews, Musician, Graham Parker, Musician, Manish Raval, Music Supervisor, Michael Penn, Shirley Halperin, Hollywood Reporter Music Editor (Photo: Arnold Turner)