Lots of gems in this interview by Alexis Sottile of director Cameron Crowe looking back on his (awesomely 90s) film, Singles:
You said Pearl Jam’s “State of Love and Trust” was like the soul of the movie. What was your relationship with the band like during the film?
Pearl Jam became Pearl Jam while we were making the movie. They were Mookie Blaylock when we started. When we started, they barely had a lead singer, I think they had just brought Eddie up from San Diego. Jack Irons had turned them on to Eddie’s audition tape, and they brought him up. So Eddie was kind of falling in love with them, and they were falling in love with Eddie, and it was fun to take Eddie into this world too; he was joining this band and playing bigger shows and then we gave Jeff Ament a job in our art department. And we used his font on the title cards in the movie, his hand-written font was so great. I think he’s still disappointed that his Joe Perry Project poster got stolen from the wall of one of the apartments [laughs].
A crazy moment in time captured in a feature film. Also, loved those Jeff Ament fonts
as a kid – had them on my PC and would use it for everything.
Anyway, Jeff Ament had designed this solo cassette which we thought was hilarious because it had all of these cool song titles like “Flutter Girl,” and “Spoonman,” and just like a really true-type “I’ve lost my band, and now I’m a soulful guy – these are my songs now” feeling. So we loved that Jeff had played out the fictitious life of Cliff Poncier. And one night, I stayed home, and Nancy, we were then married, she went out to a club, and she came back home, and she said, “Man, I met this guy, and he was selling solo cassettes, and so I got one for you.” And she hands me the Cliff Poncier cassette. And I was like, “That’s funny, haha.” And then she said, “You should listen to it.” So I put on the cassette. And holy shit, this is Chris Cornell, as Cliff Poncier, recording all of these songs, with lyrics, and total creative vision, and he has recorded the entire fake, solo cassette. And it’s fantastic. And “Seasons” comes on. And you just can’t help but go, “Wow.” This is a guy who we’ve only known in Soundgarden. And of course he’s incredibly creative, but who’s heard him like this? And we got to use “Seasons” on the soundtrack, and Chris did some of the score. And some of the unreleased score is on the new version of the album.
First of all, “Nancy” is Nancy Wilson
, of Heart. Second, I had no idea that’s how “Spoonman” came to be – as a quasi-joke.
Did you learn anything from putting together the Say Anything soundtrack that you brought to the Singles soundtrack?
That’s a good question. I started doing soundtracks with Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and I really, really loved how music could enhance a scene. And there was a moment when we had a scene that was kind of jarring that didn’t really work, and I found a song that worked in this one scene. I guess, there’s a scene about premature ejaculation in Fast Times and it’s kind of an awkward scene but there was this Jackson Browne song called “Somebody’s Baby,” that he’d written for the movie. And we didn’t know where to put it, and I tried it in this scene which seems kind of incongruous. But what it ends up doing is kind of capturing the whole anguished feeling of the scene and so this kind of upbeat song totally caught this guy’s embarrassment. And I was just hooked – I was hooked on the possibilities of music and film, and also I’d loved Mike Nichols’ stuff as a little guy, and he was the king for having used Simon and Garfunkel in The Graduate. And so this was like a little Graduate moment that happened. And Singles felt like an opportunity to really fly into the arms of that feeling. And Say Anything was one step further than Fast Times. And so then I started writing music into the stories more and then that opened the door for Almost Famous. There kind of has been a straight line through all of the movies that the music and choosing the music has been the secret love.
Pretty much everybody there realized that it was coming from the right place and that serendipity caused the whole scene to sort of explode around it. I think the only people who were part of it originally and then pulled out were Nirvana, for a number of reasons. Part of it was maybe not wanting to be part of the crowd, and then maybe the other part was that they had been getting hit on by everybody at that point. But I heard later that Kurt and Courtney snuck in to the premiere, that somebody let them in through the exit door at the back of the theater, and that they came in and watched it. I always thought that was pretty great, that that night, Kurt Cobain was also in the room.
Also had no idea about Nirvana’s potential involvement. It really does feel like the only nod missing in the film…