Wendy MELVOIN and Lisa Coleman score the music for the NBC series “Heroes.” The show’s soundtrack goes into wide release Aug. 19, and a Wendy and Lisa score album arrives this fall. They’ve just finished their first album in a decade -- it’s being previewed at wendyandlisa.com. They live and work in L.A.
How fast do you have to work? Don’t they push the episodes pretty tight to air date?
Lisa: We do probably an average of about 35 minutes per show. Depending on the schedule, sometimes they stack them two in a week. They’ve got us pretty well choked and on the ground and saying, you know --
Ack, I’m already losing track of who’s who! What are you listening to?
Wendy: We always discover new composers. But also that band Elbow put out a record and we were like, whoa -- and who was that composer you turned me on to?
Lisa: Einojuhani Rautavaara? A Finnish 20th century composer. Still alive!
Wendy: I dunno if you’re familiar with the new Disney [Hall] . . . but they have this little tiny room down in the parking structure called REDCAT. All these experimental crazy people go in there and bang on cans and laptops and it’s always good even if it’s horrible. It’s kind of cool to think of it as another crayon color, something like that, that I can use. . . .
Lisa: She steals.
I once visited Philip Glass’ shop and I got the sense that a lot of it was, shall we say, subcontracted.
Lisa: With Philip, he’s got such a large amount he has to put out -- like Hans Zimmer. They have a crew! When Hans can’t finish X, Y, Z, they learn to preemptively know what Hans would have done. And go for it. And he signs off on it. Who’s that guy in painting?
Err -- Jeff Koons?
Lisa: It’s the same thing! A lot of people think that’s totally legitimate. And then there’s us hardworking schmoes who go, wait a minute! I’m sure if we were offered 10 films at once, we’d have no problem getting a crew.
I saw you guys play at Slim’s in San Francisco on that tour in, um, 1992? It was not long after that you segued into film and TV work.
Lisa: It was right after, like ’93. Aside from dabbling with Prince, even in “Purple Rain,” we were doing string arrangements and I think he ended up using one of my string things in that movie. Wendy and I wanted to score that movie. . . . But in 1993, was it “Dangerous Minds” that came along?
Wendy: It’s been close to 15 years now, we’ve been sort of in this weird hierarchy of the dinosaur club of composers.
It’s a small club!
Wendy: It’s a very small club. And there aren’t any women. In TV there’s a few that have actually been able to make a living through the muck. We lost one of our great ones --
Lisa: Shirley Walker.
Wendy: She was spectacular. She worked for all the big guy composers.
Lisa: The thing with us too . . . , the women factor is definitely a hard, difficult mountain, but then you’d think that, oh all that success, playing with Prince, if that doesn’t open any door --
Lisa: Instead it’s like, two black chicks that score films?
Wendy: And they wear lingerie.
Wendy: It’s like being the kid of a famous parent, you know . . . 1985, 1986. 20 million copies, worldwide-huge! I was 19. It was crazy. . . . Our aspirations to work in film -- both of us grew up with fathers in the business, in studios in L.A. I always wanted to compose for film. Not for TV! I hated the idea of TV as a kid.
You guys have worked together for years. How do you not kill each other?
Lisa: We’ve slaughtered each other a few times. Very much like “Life of Brian.” We’re limbless and legless. Come on, sucker, I’ll get you!
Wendy: No, that’s “The Holy Grail.” “I’ll bite your legs off!” You know there is no secret. We batter the hell out of each other. But we love each other more than we batter.