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These Brothers Rule the Campus

January 25, 1998|Steve Hochman

The project: a soundtrack album for a youth-oriented comedy film with a great advance buzz.

The producers: the Dust Brothers, whose work with Beck, Hanson and the Rolling Stones, among others, has placed them among the hottest pop craftsmen of the day.

And oh yeah, one more thing: "Dead Man on Campus" is being produced by the film division of MTV, which has big plans to promote the movie and the music intensively via its hit-making, culture-shaping video music channel. Can you say "heavy rotation"?

Think anybody wants to be on it? They've practically had to beat them off with sticks.

"Pretty much," says Dust Brother Mike Simpson, who with partner John King has been working on the album at their Silver Lake studio and in London. "We've had so many people showing interest."

Not all the acts are confirmed yet, but on board so far are Marilyn Manson, Blur, Supergrass, Eels and the Chemical Brothers, with Korn expected to sign on and a Green Day track remixed by rap group Bone Thugs-N-Harmony a possibility. Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh is composing the instrumental score music. Manson has recorded a version of David Bowie's "Golden Years" to be used over the film's opening titles (it will also serve as a preview of the next Manson album, which will feature production by the Dusts).

As for that heavy video rotation for the "Dead Man" tracks, MTV General Manager Van Toffler, who oversees programming on the channel as well as its film operations, cautions that it's not automatic.

"I wish I could say it were a slam dunk," he says. "It's sort of like church and state. The people who decide what videos get into rotation and [at] what level base their decisions with the viewers as their masters. The common thread is that there are people with similar sensibilities doing the movie as those who make decisions about what airs on MTV, but no way is it a guarantee. If we had Garth Brooks on a soundtrack, he wouldn't get MTV airplay."

But these acts are not Garth Brooks.

"The caliber of bands involved have all gotten plenty of MTV airplay before," Simpson says, though he insists he and King were given no directive to make music designed for MTV.

"There are many chefs: the director; MTV; Paramount, which is releasing the film; DreamWorks, which is releasing the album," he says. "But once we get into the studio, it's about making great music, and music that first has to fit the movie."

"Dead Man," which stars Tom Everett Scott ("That Thing You Do") in a college caper about fun-loving students resorting to desperate measures to bring up their grades, is set to premiere in March. It's the Dust Brothers' first full movie project, but they're already working on a second: the soundtrack for "Orgazmo," a live-action feature Simpson describes as "the 'Spinal Tap' of the porno industry and kung-fu movies." Done so far for that are tracks by Primus, Smash Mouth, Ween and the Crystal Method.

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