By Brian Ives
Over the course of nearly four full seasons, ‘Walking Dead’ has used a wide range of music from artists that span nearly every genre and era including Bob Dylan, Motörhead, Wang Chung and Tom Waits, whose songs “Hold On” and “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up” were sung by cast member Emily Kinney.
Over the second half of season four we spoke with Thomas Golubic of SuperMusicVision, who helps choose the show’s music, to get the scoop on what you heard last night. See our past “Walking Dead” music recaps here. Last night’s mind-blowing season finale, alas, did not feature any music. So, instead, we took this opportunity to speak to Mr. Golubic about his favorite music moments in the show’s history (and some of ours).
Let’s go back a few years: your use of Bob Dylan‘s “Tomorrow is a Long Time” from the Season 1 finale, “TS-19,” worked really well. I know it’s not easy to clear a Dylan song!
That one was not one of the ones I selected, I think it was selected by the editor of the episode, Hunter M. Via. We had just started looking for something for the scene, and when we checked in with Hunter, he said, “I think I’ve got something,” and I asked, “What is it?” I said, “Oh, God. We’re never gonna get it, dude!” And so we kind of kept on digging, but I reached out to Bob Dylan’s manager Jeff Rosen, who is an absolute sweetheart, and we kind of made a case for it, and he was very, very generous about it. And he spoke to Bob about it and Bob was very generous and they worked with our very limited budget. Sometimes my job is just finding interesting choices, or recognizing interesting choices when they come from somewhere else. I think in that particular situation, that was just the right song for the scene, and we had to figure out a way to make it happen. And thanks to Bob and Jeff’s generosity and kindness, we were able to get that in the show. I have such huge respect for artists who are willing to adjust for shows, because I know that that scene would have felt anemic, at least to myself and Hunter, if it had been something else in there. I think that it does take a certain vision on the part of a licensing company to say, “This is a lot less than we normally take for something like this, but this seems like a quality project, and we want to be a part of it, so we’ll work with you.” We never mess with numbers, we’re always very honest with what we have [budget-wise], so we just hope that people will work with us, and when they do, it’s appreciated.
It certainly served Badfinger well, when you used their song “Baby Blue” on the “Breaking Bad” finale.
Yeah! Exactly! It was crazy, I think it got better chart numbers than it did when it was originally released! That was exciting.
When you’re putting the music together, are you thinking about what you’ll be able to use on a soundtrack album?
If I’m honest about it, you have to be aware of all those considerations, but first and foremost, it’s: how does it work in the scene. Is it something that is going to make this moment special and unique? But there’s a lot of other factors involved: I’m not the ultimate decision maker. We have show runners, and producers, they ultimately decide. I just try to make the best case possible for them and then hope that everything goes forward. And we have to hope that the artists and their management are interested in being involved. We’ve had a few artists that we’ve really wanted to work with that simply couldn’t come to the table because they didn’t agree with the business arrangements, of they didn’t feel that the show was something that they wanted to be a part of. That happens, too. You kind of have to keep a lot of things in consideration at the same time, and make sure that you ultimately make the smartest choice for the show. And for the ancillary soundtrack, and for the producers, and everyone involved; there’s a lot of parties.
It must be heartbreaking when you have a song in mind, and you put it in a rough version of the show, and then it doesn’t work out.
It happens. It’s one of those things, “Breaking Bad” was filled with heartbreak. The amount of songs that we thought were perfect and that we tried to get and that never even made it to be presented to Vince Gilligan is legion. We had so much stuff that we were absolutely in love with. It’s usually just budget, we didn’t have enough money. And people said, “No, we don’t want to do it,” or, “We can’t validate doing it.” Or a publisher wouldn’t play ball. It happened all the time. But our job is to make it look easy, the reality, though, is that it’s incredibly hard. No one should else should be aware of how much work it takes to get that song there. No one is ever fully aware of how much scrambling is going on in the background.