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Dave Matthews remix is reloaded for 'Matrix'

March 16, 2003|Steve Hochman | Speical to The Times

The 1999 movie "The Matrix" explored notions of alternate realities. Now the sequel will give new life to a recording that was victim to grim real life.

A version of the Dave Matthews Band song "When the World Ends," as remixed by English DJ-producer Paul Oakenfold, will have key placement over the end credits and as a centerpiece of the soundtrack album for "The Matrix Reloaded," which is scheduled to premiere May 15. Maverick Records will release a soundtrack album a week or two earlier.

The original version of the song was on Matthews' "Everyday" album, released in February 2001. But the remix, giving the emotional ballad a dark electronic edge, was commissioned from Oakenfold with the idea of showing the usually folky, jazzy Matthews in a different light. The plan was to release this version to radio and as a commercial single in the fall of that year.

But after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Matthews and his team felt it would be inappropriate to push a song with its apocalyptic title and such lines as, "I'm gonna rock you like a baby when the cities fall / We will rise as the building's crumble."

Only a few copies of the remix had been sent out, one of them going to Jason Bentley, electronica-oriented L.A. radio personality and the music supervisor for "The Matrix."

"Oakenfold had given me a copy and I hung onto it," Bentley says. "I thought it would be worth pitching for the movie, though I didn't automatically think of Dave Matthews for 'The Matrix.' "

Bentley was concentrating on hard rock and dark electronica selections for this project, similar to the music in the original film, which spawned a 1.5 million-selling soundtrack album. Among the choices for the new one are contributions from rockers Rob Zombie and Linkin Park, as well as electronica acts Oakenfold, Fluke and Juno Rector, with P.O.D., Marilyn Manson and Massive Attack tracks pending. Still, Bentley played the Matthews remix for Andy and Larry Wachowski, the films' directors, and they felt it would be a perfect fit.

"This jewel of a song gets new life," says Bruce Flohr, the RCA Records senior vice president who commissioned the remix in the first place. "When I approached Paul originally, he said he felt the song was very cinematic. It's an apocalyptic love song, which evidently fits where 'The Matrix' is going."

This is just the first of two "Matrix" sequels set to premiere this year, with "The Matrix Revolutions" coming later. Bentley says that editing is just underway on the latter one, so the music process hasn't begun. But he has been busy with another spinoff: "Animatrix," a series of seven related 10-minute shorts written by the Wachowskis and directed by top Japanese anime figures. Bentley has overseen the music selections for all of the shorts (the first two can be seen on the Web site and an album that will be released in the summer.

"They're dark, not for kids," he says. "I made a decidedly electronic record for that. Basically used the fact that anime is such an underground niche in this country and decided to put the electronic underground to connect as a parallel art form."

Thin line between love and Haight

The Jefferson Airplane was rarely shy in the '60s about confrontational gestures, such as Grace Slick donning black makeup for an appearance on the Smothers Brothers' variety show. But having Kennedy family insider Pierre Salinger play piano on a televised performance of a song that included a harsh reworking of the late President John F. Kennedy's famed "ask not what your country can do for you" line was not meant to ruffle feathers.

That is one of the episodes that stand out in "Got a Revolution," a definitive history of the San Francisco band written by music journalist Jeff Tamarkin and being readied for June publication. Tamarkin, former editor of music collectors monthly Goldmine and now editor of world music magazine Global Rhythms, had full cooperation and participation of the Airplane members and insiders in researching and writing a thorough and colorful account that complements Dennis McNally's recent "A Long Strange Trip," a history of fellow San Francisco '60s icons the Grateful Dead.

The Salinger incident occurred when the band was invited to perform on a televised event for Robert Kennedy's 1968 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. Learning that Salinger, the candidate's press secretary who had the same job with JFK, was an accomplished pianist, the band invited him to sit in on the performance, though it would be just pretend as it was being lip-synced. It was a nice gesture, Tamarkin recounts, until Slick, singing the song "rejoyce," came to the line "War's good business ... but I'd rather have my country die for me." Band manager Bill Thompson had to make copious apologies to all involved.

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