MV Gerhard : return to La-La (Never)Land
2012 marks two important events for Burbank-based label La-La Land records. The 200th release of their catalogue has been released last month and October will mark their first 10th anniversary. Celebration just began as since January, La-La Land proposed popular releases like the Friday The 13th boxed set, Batman Forever, Jennifer 8 (featuring both scores recorded for the film) or The Robe. March saw one of the most requested expansions from a previously released score finally reached our world with Hook by John Williams which sold for 3300 units in a day. More to come, no doubt about that… UnderScores came back to Michael V. Gerhard, co-owner of La-La Land, for our second interview with this Lost Boy (don’t call him a Pirate!) in which he unveils with a lot of humor some behind-the-scenes and upcoming titles. Happy first ten years!
Did you really expect such a successful enterprise when you created La-La Land ten years ago?
Since 2002 our goal was to bring fans quality music and quality products. As with most ventures, one must start small.
Is La-La Land still a completely independent label?
100% fully owned by Matt and myself. The buck stops with us, so to speak.
La-La Land Records released 38 albums in 2011. What is to expect for 2012?
This year we plan 30 or so. You never can tell though. Some projects take on a life of their own and refuse to be completed until all avenues are exhausted (laughs). Currently, we are working on a project with Sony Music that was the very first title we inked a deal with them on back in 2008. As of today, we finally have the missing pieces of the puzzle, or so we hope (laughs). By that, I mean we have the elements but have not heard them yet. If everything is there, said project has just gone from awesome to uber-awesome!
In 2012, you released 55 Days At Peking and The Fall Of The Roman Empire. Do you plan for more Golden Age?
As much as we love the Golden Oldies, their future with La-La Land is sketchy at best. Simply put, the sales just are not there. While 55 Days At Peking did very well, titles like A Certain Smile, Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea and the recently released Fall Of The Roman Empire all failed to meet expectations. Hell, none of them have broken even yet let alone turned a profit. When you move 1000 or less of a title that cost a mini fortune to restore, produce and manufacture, you need to seriously consider producing any more. However, we do have about five other Golden Age titles on the schedule, ones we feel very passionate about. We love genre pics and we love certain composers. It would be foolish of us to pass up some of these releases. I just hope we sell enough units to break even. After that… you never know!
After the release of Shirley Walker’s Space: Above & Beyond, many people are expecting a second volume from Batman: The Animated Series and an album for Superman: The Animated Series. Is there any hope?
There’s always hope (laughs).
2012 began with the quickly sold out Friday The 13th box set. How do you explain this success?
The box set is done and over. It was made for die hard fans. Perhaps a more scaled down, mainstream retail version may be coming out at some point. It’s up to Mr. Manfredini. Currently you can get a forty minute version of all six films on iTunes courtesy of Lionsgate Music.
You continued to explore Danny Elfman’s work with Planet Of The Apes. Did the release of the Burton/Elfman box set change anything? Will you continue to expand classic Elfman scores, especially those from his work with Tim Burton?
Planet Of The Apes is most likely the last of the expansions of the Elfman/Burton series of soundtracks. The box set did such a great job covering their collaboration I certainly see no point in releasing another version of the remaining scores in the future. Both Batman Returns and Planet Of The Apes were already being produced at the time of the box set’s announcement, so those two titles made the cut. As for other Elfman titles, you never can tell.
Your 200th release is Speed. Why did you choose this particular score as a milestone?
To be honest with you, it was not our first or second choice. The second one was Hook. The first one is a title expected out later this year, possibly this summer. Producing said project I felt like John Hammond by always saying “spared no expense” as I wrote check after check (laughs). As for Speed, we lucked out: it is a score very personal to me. It was the score I listened to over and over again as I wrote my first full length screenplay a few months after I graduated from High School. It was an action film that started off as a sequel to Speed (and would have made a better film than Cruise Control [laughs]). I listened to Mancina’s score on a constant loop as I furiously wrote. It was very inspirational to me. When Matt and I realized Hook and our other title were not happening for #200, Speed felt like the obvious choice.
Last time we talked, you weren’t interested anymore in releasing video games scores. Things changed in 2011 as you released the Medal Of Honor boxed set, Socom 4 and Uncharted 3… Why did you change your mind?
It’s like going out to a bar and seeing a hottie making eyes at you from across the room. In the past, you have been burned a few times by other “unsuccessful” experiences, but you say to yourself: “Give it another shot. It might work out.” Lo and behold they all did. We are currently working with Sony on two upcoming titles called Sorcery (by Mark Mancina) and Starhawk (by Christopher Lennertz). Both will be out in May or June. We hope to add others as well.
At last, Michael Kamen’s music is finally getting the treatment it deserves with the already sold out Die Hard…
We adore Mr. Kamen’s work. He created a sound in the 80’s/90’s that was purely his own and defined a generation of action films with his distinct style. I think it’s safe to say expect more Kamen greatness from us in the near future. We are making it our mission.
In the case of some limited releases, for example the quickly sold out Star Trek V, can you press more?
90% of our releases do not sell out quickly, or in lots of cases at all (unless we drop the price down to practically nothing). Star Trek V at 5000 units was a good call on our part. It took four months to sell out, and even then, it took a few large purchases from other dealers to make that happen. If we would have limited their buying potential, we would have had it in stock for about a year. It followed the same sales as Batman 1989 did: huge in the beginning, but we have been sitting on the last few hundred units for the past two years. You just never can tell. And, with a project like Star Trek V, the cost was enormous and I had bills to pay. Maybe we would have sold another 1000 or 2000 over the past year or so… Who knows? I’m sure another label will re-release it some day.
During the last two years, did you fail to produce some projects?
After two hundred projects, only two of them failed to happen: Jim Henson’s The Story Teller and Bubba Ho-Tep.
What can you say about Hook, that some people already consider as one of the major releases of 2012?
This was a very long project filled with hair pulling and sheer excitement. You would be surprised how many projects we have done of films from the 90’s that have lost elements. It’s shocking! It was a transitional period for the studios where stuff is just, well, lost. Having the opportunity to work with Mr. Williams and his people was a great learning experience for this valley boy. We are grateful for all his insight and suggestions for making this album a sheer delight for his fans. And knowing that Steven Spielberg himself had the final sign off on this project is, well, a total geek’s dream! I really hope the fans appreciate this release. More than a few gallons of sweat, blood and tears went into the making of this project. Producers Didier Deutsch and Mark Wilder did an amazing job. Jim Titus’ artwork is stunning. Daniel Schweiger’s notes are top notch. John Takis and Frank K. DeWald’s extensive research on the project added the cherry on top of this very ambitious and complicated project. Without these blokes we wouldn’t have had such a miraculous release. Matt and I are forever grateful to all of them for making this dream come true.
In 2011, Intrada decided not to limit their releases, and MovieScore Media is now following the same path with the “first edition of 1000 copies” mentions. How do you react to this?
An attractive lady reporter is interviewing a farmer one day. As the interview progresses he becomes more and more attracted to her. He becomes little frustrated with the interview because he doesn’t know if she feels the same way. They come across his prize winning bull. The bull has mounted one his cows and is doing what bulls do best. Not wanting to pass up the opportunity, he slyly looks at the reporter, nods to the bull and says: “I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind doing that.” To which the female reporter replies: “Go ahead…it’s your cow.” In other words, it’s their cow.
After years of doing this, you have a good idea as to what something is going to sell. Sometimes you get surprised in a positive way (Commando) and sometimes you are shocked by the sales, or lack thereof (Independence Day). You never can tell. You commit to a number, price it accordingly, hold your breath and toss a Hail Mary upon release.
Lukas Kendall also decided to stop his own label, Film Score Monthly. Could this be positive for La-La Land Records?
It’s already a positive for us: we get to work with a pioneer in the film score community. Having Lukas join our motley crew has been a godsend and one of the reasons why we have been so successful lately.
What is the future of the physical support for film scores? Is there too many labels, too many releases?
This is a glorious time to be a film score enthusiast. As a fan myself, I am elated with all the choices I have, some I want, others I pass on. Choose wisely, buy what you want… buy what you like.
Which is the last score you have heard that you truly liked?
Pretty much anything by Michael Giacchino or from Doctor Who is awesome, but the two scores that truly blew me away in the last few years have to be Christophe Beck’s Percy Jackson and Marco Beltrami’s Soul Surfer. Honorable mention goes to John Powell’s How To Train Your Dragon and Henry Jackman’s X-Men: First Class. Hearing the first few notes of Magneto’s theme just means some Nazi is doomed (laughs). It’s the best character theme I have heard in ages.
October will see the celebration of your 10th anniversary. Do you plan to surprise us with an unexpected project?
We hope. You never know. As a great man once said: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
Interview conducted in March 2012 by Olivier Soudé
Pictures : © DR / La-La Land Records