SESAC Composer Bryan Lee Brown’s Dave Grohl Collaboration
SESAC composer Bryan Lee Brown has been scoring media projects and releasing original music under his alias “Dark Brown” for over 15 years. His latest work was scoring the critically acclaimed HBO docu-series “Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways” featuring Dave Grohl of The Foo Fighters. The series commemorates the Foo Fighters 20th anniversary by documenting the eight-city recording odyssey that produced their latest, and eighth, studio album. We briefly discussed with Bryan his work on the series, his approach to scoring and his longtime friendship with Dave Grohl.
How did you get involved with “Sonic Highways”?
I’ve been composing for about 15 years. A fair amount has been for documentaries. Dave [Grohl of The Foo Fighters] and I have been friends since the early 90s, 1991 to be exact. When he told me about his idea for the show I said, “That sounds awesome, I want to write music for that!” A few months into shooting I was brought on by one of the producers, Jim Rota, another longtime friend. It was kind of an “all in the family” sort of thing. Mark Monroe, the show’s writer, suggested starting off with giving my music to the editors and see how it worked against picture. It was kind of a natural fit and it went from there.
Each of the episodes showcases a different city in America. How did you approach scoring such iconic music cities such as Nashville, New Orleans and Seattle?
I had my own personal experience with those cities to draw from, but I tried to go deeper than that and think about what was about those cities that made them known for their music. I also sat down with the editors and tried to get an idea for what they needed from me to help tell the story. For Nashville and NOLA, I chased the musical roots of the city by focusing on instrumentation and production. Seattle was a little different – the episode discussed the death of Kurt Cobain. I drew from personal memories more so than Seattle’s northwest sound.
When scoring for a biopic that focuses on musicians, how do you score scenes that already have such a strong musical signature like the songs by The Foo Fighters?
The show was really about personal stories as much as it was about the Foo Fighters music. A lot of the music I write is inherently introspective, “Dark Brown” as I like to call it. It lends itself really well to storytelling. The contrast between the scenes with Foo Fighters music and scenes with score worked really well with each other. A big part of my job was to provide a cohesive, musical background from city to city. Having a Foo Fighters song in each episode only made my job more fun.
You’ve been a longtime friend of Dave Grohl. Have you two collaborated on music together outside of ‘Sonic Highways’?
Only once, I played live with Dave in 1992. We played what would become Foo Fighters songs at a small LA punk club called “Jabberjaw.” Dave sang and played guitar, I played drums and our friend Guy played bass. We opened for Nation of Ulysses and Wool... it was an awesome night.
What other projects are you working on?
I’m currently scoring a doc about the East Los Angles and South Central back-yard punk scene – produced by Agi Orsi – Dogtown and Z-boys, Riding Giants. I’m also writing for Red Bull and a few MTV shows and last but not lease a new Dark Brown album entitled, “American Instrument.” It’s an atmospheric, drum-inspired soundscape album featuring guest performances by Dick Dale, John Stanier of Battles, Jon Theodore of Queen of the Stone Age and hopefully Dave if his schedule permits. Hoping to have it out by October or November!