Meet the Supes: Q&A with Michael Hill
Q. How did you first get into the music industry?
A. I was a music lover for as long as I can remember. I left college with a journalism degree and began writing about music for the Village Voice, Rolling Stone and other publications. In 1982, I started booking a one-night-a-week music series in Greenwich Village where I got to know the A&R director of Warner Bros. She eventually offered me a job. I worked for Warners for 15 years. When the industry began to falter, I endeavored to learn about working on music for films, got involved with a bunch of indie projects, until HBO “discovered” me and gave me my big break on the comedy series Bored To Death. Been working steadily ever since.
Q. Can you tell us about some of your upcoming projects?
A. The reboot of the classic series Tales of the City for Neflix, the TV version of The Purge horror franchise for the USA Network, the crazy crime show, HAPPY! , for the SyFy Network, and new seasons of HBO’s Divorce and Showtime’s The Affair. On the film front, I have an indie called Adam out in January.
Q. What do you think of the Canadian Music scene?
A. I have always kept in touch with artists, managers and labels in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Been coming to Canada since my Warner A&R days…when I had a very small appearance in a video by the hair metal band Honeymoon Suite. I’ve always found great music here and great people in the industry to work with.
Q. Aside from value and/or ‘buzz’ factor, what are some of the benefits of placing music by an unsigned or independent artist?
A. As a former A&R guy, there’s still the thrill of discovery, of introducing an artist to the public. Using new talent ensures that your music placement will be unique and hopefully get the audience to try and find the source and therefore be more personally engaged with the program.
Q. What’s the #1 song you’re dying to sync in a piece of media (a film, TV show, video game or ad/trailer), and where would you like to use it?
A. That will have to remain confidential. Not giving that away!
Q. What’s your favourite sync moment of all time (in any piece of media)?
A. Jeez. Tough Question. The use of Leonard Cohen’s songs in Robert Altman’s film, McCabe and Mrs Miller—that left an indelible impression on me; Also: Hal Hartley’s use of a Sonic Youth song for a dance routine, mimicking a scene from a Jean Luc Godard film, in his movie Simple Men; the Faye Wong songs in Wong Kar Wai’s “Chun King Express.”
Q. What are some of the most common mistakes you see independent artists make when they want to approach or pitch music to you?
A. Sending too much music, music that isn’t easily downloadable or music that doesn’t speak to the show or film I’m working on… or speaks to it in a too obvious, on-the-nose way.
Q. What’s the most unusual way a piece of music that you’ve used has come into your hands?
A. From a street cellist, perhaps, whose CD one of our editors bought while the musician was busking…and who somehow knew the star of our film, Sarah Jessica Parker, perhaps because she saw him perform. A guy I thought would be impossible to track down proved to be a good, easy contact, very willing to license his work to a project associated with SJP.
Q. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced as a supervisor?
A. Hoo-boy…there’s a long list: not having enough money, having to be after music we can’t afford or that has been over-used, having to surmount “temp love” for a track that we can’t afford or we can’t keep. That’s just a start.
Q. If you had to describe your personality in one song title. What title would it be and why?
A. “Add Some Music To Your Day” by the Beach Boys, a relatively unknown track of theirs, because it’s about how music informs every aspect of our lives and how uplifting and unifying music can be. Also, the arrangement of the song is stunning, as so many Beach Boys tracks are, and its simplicity of language, its child-like quality, is something I find very moving. And the harmonies—wow. “In a movie, you can hear it touching your heart/on every summer day, you’ll hear children chasing ice cream carts/they’ll play it on your wedding day/there must be ‘bout a million ways…to add some music to your day” It sums up so much for me, and the way I look at the world.
Q. What are some artists or songs that you’re really excited about right now?
A. Loving Kim Petras’s pop, want to go jump around to Sofi Tukker again, always find Lord Huron a great listen, am obsessed with Moses Sumney, Julien Baker never fails to make me cry and I’m excited about her new trio boygenius And my son has a great duo called Dey that has released an EP called Lust Spells. Find ‘em on Bandcamp and Spotify. Proud dad!