Saturday, March 22, 2008

Boycott Bates

It might be fun to devote an entire blog to Neil Marshall's latest, Doomsday. The man loves his John Carpenter and his George Miller. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and let him call his film "homage" rather than "theft." But it might as well have been called Neil Marshall's John's Carpenter's Escape From Thunderdome. Of course, as butt-kicking as his hotties may be, I'll go with Snake Plissken or Max Rockatansky any day. Of course, we might as well throw 28 Days Later into the cinematic mix here, and this brings me to the most pressing issue.

A while back, I blogged about composer Tyler Bates' blatant theft of Elliot Goldenthal's score to Titus (Bates ripped off several tracks and inserted them into his score for 300). Turns out I didn't make it up. There was a lawsuit and Elliot won. When caught, Bates (pictured above) said in an interview I read online somewhere that Elliot's music was used as a temp track, and everyone fell so in love with it that they just reorchestrated and rerecorded that music, rather than write something new, or -- hey geniuses -- pay to borrow a track. Now the man is at it again. Go to iTunes and listen to "In the House - In a Heartbeat" by John Murphy, from the 28 Days Later score (the sample section is a bit before the better example... the heavy guitar riffs toward the end of the track). Done? Good, now listen to Bates' "Sinclair Slips Free" from Doomsday. It is mind-boggling to me that a man once caught so red-handed with musical plagiarism (a very grey area, I might add) would do it again. Is this pathological? What pieces have I not even noticed? I've never been a big 28 Days fan (that's another blog), but Murphy doesn't deserve this theft.

Producers, executives, filmmakers -- lend me your ears. Stop giving this man work. Sound the alarm. Tyler, if people insist on using rearranged temp tracks that aren't yours, do the right thing and take your name off those tracks. I'm tired of your wanting artistic ethics soiling movies I might otherwise like. I'm sure you'll say, "No, the music is homage to 28 Days, just as the film pays visual homage to Road Warrior and Escape From New York." Bull. You've copied a track, not just borrowed a theme. And if such tribute is really necessary, producers, just pay for the damn original track. I know it's expensive. But it's not as expensive as a lost lawsuit.

And for the record, the image above, which I vandalized in the style of Perez Hilton (hey Tyler, that's called citing your sources), was taken from Tyler Bates' website. I dare you, Mr. Bates, to send me a cease and desist letter for electronically manipulating and disseminating an image for which I hold no copyright. Coming from you, that would be really rich.


Anonymous said...

You failed to mention 'Zajdi, Zajdi' a Macedonian/Bulgarian traditional song that Bates copied, but signed as his original composition (300 OST: 'A Message For The Queen'). Here:

It was so foolish of him to take one of the top 5 traditional songs of Balkans, and think it will go unnoticed.

Potomac said...

Anonymous, thanks for the reminder. I hadn't forgotten the stories about "Zajdi, Zajdi." Although, I must admit that's less of a big deal to me. Borrowing traditional melodies and folks songs is an old technique. "Ode to Joy" may be the most identifiable section the 9th Symphony, and what would Appalachian Spring be without the Shaker song, "'Tis the Gift?" If lifting old tunes is good enough for Copeland and Beethoven, I suppose it's good enough for any contemporary film composer. But it certainly adds one more offense to Bates' list.

Endergirl said...

I saw Doomsday high as a kite, and it was still terrible. All I could see was one long anti-drug ad (paranoia, much?). Here's what I learned: Sol does heroin, and it makes him scream a lot and carry his dead model/actress girlfriend around. The other funny part was I thought Sol was spelled Saul and thought it was really funny to see a feral mohawked drug addict named something like Saul Berkowitz.

Marvin_Arnold said...

potomac said: "Ode to Joy" may be the most identifiable section the 9th Symphony"

I have to correct you on this one. "Ode to Joy" IS by Beethoven and has never been by anyone else. Just for the record.

Potomac said...

Marvin, thanks for your input. I've always thought it common knowledge that the ode is by Friedrich Schiller, and had been set to music several times before Beethoven's 9th. I admit that my expertise is not great here, and the melody itself may or may not be Beethoven's entirely, but it is derived from a previous work. I certainly don't mean to stain the master's work. He's my favorite, and the 9th is perfection.

entEngle said...

Check the 2nd sentence of the review:

John Murphy might not be the singular
source of 'In the House - ...', Jaws.

-That DOESN'T mean Bates is innocent.

Anonymous said...

Don't see what people aren't getting. Bates is not an A list composer, so he does what he is told to do to get his job done. Hell...even an "A List" composer pretty much will have to do what they're told.

Most folks don't walk into their job each day and just do what the heck they want to do. We're all given marching orders by those who sign the checks. You want to blame someone for temp love, dollar to doughnuts the composer ain't the guy you need to blame.

James said...

I really enjoy many of Tyler Bates' scores, and you should all remember, he's still in the early days of his career. He has plenty of time left to grow and make a personal mark. Also, he's a very friendly and generous person, by the way.

I feel that Tyler was thrown under the bus on the 300/Titus issue.. it's clear that Titus cues were used in the 300 temps and that the director, and possibly the producer and perhaps studio execs as well, wanted to keep them... Bates being the low man on the totem-pole was hung out to dry for their decisions. this kind of thing happens, it happens a lot more than we all realize simply because not all of the instances of temp-score love that occur in the scoring game are brought to lawsuit.

Mr. Bates is not a big enough name yet to call his own shots... at this point in his career he either works or he doesn't work. Would YOU starve for YOUR ideals?

Never-mind answering that, because it's easy enough to posture and spout ethics in an online forum... but when it comes to keeping the paychecks coming to pay your mortgage and feed your kids I suspect even the most moralistic soap-box preachers among you will tuck your tails and do what you are told.


Anonymous said...

You're making such big deal. This guy didn't kill anybody. And we don't know if he was stealing or it was a temp track situation. The 300 cue is a resemblance to Victorius Titus track. Didn't sound exactly, the percussion and choir sounds a little bit close but aren't the same. And the guy deserves a break, he's only doing what the director wanted. I watched again the movie "What's the Worst Could Happen", and Bates's score is very great. Not everybody are John Williams, the only thing that Bates needs is get over it the synths and give more focus on orchestra. And if is on purpose is no more wrong what James Horner, Williams himself, and others have made. I also watched "Tale of the Black Freighter" (the Watchmen complement movie). And Bates has composed a very rich and orchestral score, better than his score for Watchmen. And stop bashing him like if you were great composers and persons and give him a break. I'm sure some day he will make a amazing score that blow us away and forgive him.

Strange Case said...

Look gang, I know the man's not evil incarnate. I can't blame him for feeding his alleged family, Anonymous, and I'm certainly not claiming that I have any talent for musical composition. But at the end of the day, Bates has completely shirked accountability for what is a blatant transcription -- even if it is slightly reorchestrated -- of someone else's work. Temp score knock-offs happen all the time, but he could have taken the high road and fought for a shared credit on specific tracks, or even insisted that the producers pay the original composer(s) for their work (in the case of 300, the producers could have saved a lot in legal fees if there had been a voice of reason urging a royalty payout). He can collect a paycheck, take credit for the original parts of his score, and do the right thing all at the same time. Other composers have, but Bates hasn't, on at least two films I can name; so why defend this mediocrity of character? Granted, I don't know the guy. He could be a lovely human being. I just think this is an example of pretty lame professional decorum.