HBO's VINYL is, quite obviously, a series that focuses heavily on the music that was created and inspired the 1970s New York City scenes, which makes the music supervisor on the show one of the most important roles. That's why executive producers Martin Scorsese and Terence Winter called upon their Boardwalk Empire collaborator, Randall Poster, for the job. In an exclusive interview with Music Times, Poster talked to us about the artists and songs featured in the episodes, working with Mick Jagger, and much more!
Randall also shared with us his curated VINYL playlist inspired by the series character Lester Grimes, portrayed by actor Ato Essandoh. The playlist includes a collection of songs that includes "Fool That I Be" by Otis Blackwell, "Hopeless" by Percy Mayfield and many more.
Walk us through what a music supervisor does.
A music supervisor really is a person who works largely with the producers or the director to sort of both imagine and activate the musical element in the show. So for a show like VINYL, you largely have to look at the scripts and see what the on-camera music element is and how you deal with that in terms of finding the song and working with the actors by having them rehearse and effectively perform on camera. That's the primary task of the music supervisor on something like VINYL, and then of course there's all the source music and all the various other musical elements that come to bear in each episode.
What's it like working with Mick Jagger?
Well we're all great Rolling Stones fans, and it was really interesting to explore some of the musical legacy of that band, and look to the things that inspired them. That was certainly a wellspring of creativity. And otherwise it gets to the point where there's a lot of heavyweights in the ring, so you really have to keep your head down and work.
Did you rediscover any acts through working on this show?
There was a lot of discovery, and I hope the show is a source of discovery for the audience. We really mined that pre-punk era, on the east coast and beyond, and went and tried to find out who were some of the lesser-known influential musicians of the period. And again, if you look in terms of the [Lester Grimes character] playlist, there are some big names, but also some lesser known voices. So hopefully everyone will feel that same charge of discovery that we had when we made it.
What do you hope viewers take away from the series?
It's interesting. Music in this show is used to establish specific musician characters, but also trying to give the audience a sense of time and place, and also a sense of where we sat in the continuum of rock n' roll history. And hopefully the people are going to discover artists and songs and movements and be inspired by it. That's the most you can hope for - that the audience leaves with a sense of discovery.
Are there any current acts that you're into right now?
I'm kind of crazy for Future at the moment. I was banging on the new Young Thug record last night. What's his name, Car Seat Headrest? I've been listening to that a lot lately. This Lukas Graham record I was turned onto last week. Melanie Martinez ... a lot of stuff.
Is it hard to keep up with current music and the trends that come with them? Do you feel like you need to?
Yeah I want to, but just like in a situation where I have to all the sudden become an expert on the music of 1955, you have to work hard to get a sense of what's happening in 2016. And also the fact that there's so much music coming your way whether it's through SoundCloud or any of the various means of delivery. It's a democratic moment when artists can get their music to you in ways they never could before.
Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to get into your area of the industry?
Yeah, find your community of friends and associates who want to make movies and throw in with them. I think there's no better way to get to do it then just to do it. And it's also never been easier. People are making movies on iPhones and digital cameras, so I think it's an opportune time for people to get out of the house, or stay in the house, and get a story together and shoot it and put some music to it.