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The (Twin) ‘Peaks’ Are Alive With the Sound of Dean Hurley’s Music: A Chat With David Lynch’s Longtime MD

On “Part 6” of David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks: The Return,” the much heralded look at the surreal Pacific Northwest town 25 years after the mysterious murder of Laura Palmer, the character of Richard Horne — warning: spoilers ahead — recklessly runs over and kills a young child. That this heart-pounding moment was accompanied by the equally unsettling new music of legendary composer and Lynch regular Angelo Badalamenti was reason enough for “Twin Peaks” music director, sound supervisor, and re-recording mixer Dean Hurley to come out of hiding.

Hurley, a longtime collaborator of Lynch’s — maybe the most trusted — is the man responsible for co-writing and performing pieces of music for Showtime’s “Twin Peaks” – “SubDream” and “Snake Eyes” with the director and/or his son, Riley Lynch – and co-selecting new-school indie acts such as Chromatics, Sharon Van Etten, and Au Revoir Simone to play the local Bang Bang Bar at the end of each “part” (as well as appear on the Rhino label’s soundtrack). Along with being Lynch Studio’s go-to soundman, the multi-instrumentalist was the director’s partner on two of Lynch’s weirdly bluesy albums, 2011’s “Crazy Clown Time” and 2013’s “The Big Dream.” He spoke with Variety about soundtracking the iconic show.

You began working with Lynch before he crafted “Inland Empire” — how did your work together start?
Dean Hurley: When I started in January 2005, “Inland Empire” wasn’t yet conceived; rather he was filming these unconnected scenes. But, within that first year, it began coming together with his wheels clicking into place, where he was, like, “I can join all these pieces and it can be something bigger.” That was a crash course into working with David Lynch — how he feels his way through a dark room and one tiny match starts to illuminate the room, and brings him into another place.

Lynch built the studio in Los Angeles right after he filmed “Lost Highway.” What did he see as your task?
It’s incredible, far beyond the confines of a home studio, which means he needs somebody full-time to run it. I immediately became his de facto mixer for anything audio related. In fact, the first thing he said was that, “We do a lot of sound experimentation here.” That really perked up my ears and opened my mind to the possibilities. There’s a myriad of facets that go with this job: the introduction of music into sound and sound into music where everything blurs. He wanted a jack-of-all-trades who could run any process – especially digital – play any instrument, and record at any time.

He’s very hands-on with all sound processes. Is that always a plus? Does Lynch always know his way around or is not knowing part of the adventure?
In his case, it is an incredible advantage because he has this, you know, omni-lateral understanding of all aspects of film. Specifically with the sound and music portion, he knows how to communicate in a far more advanced way than most directors. Each stage of production becomes an opportunity to twist something, to roll with the unexpected. If there is something that hasn’t yet clicked in the shooting or editing stage, you make it happen in the mix, where you can make the music, or lack thereof, click.

Nobody makes silence work quite as magically as Lynch does. Would you agree? 
Recently, he’s been laying out musically, to let the scene truly stand there, unadorned. When you have a scene that is working without music, it is a huge triumph.

When did you learn you would be working on a new “Twin Peaks,” or that it was Lynch’s next project?
That’s not how things work here. He never tells me what we’re working on, or say he’s making a track for an album for a film. He’ll just say, “I have an idea. Can we try an experiment?” With this — “Twin Peaks” — I just started to see more of [writer and creator] Mark Frost. One visit, then another, then a lot. … Then one day, they said they wanted to screen the last episode of the original series, and I was, like, “Uh oh.”

Because you were composing, playing or selecting the acts for its soundtrack, you had to be privy to the script, though?
Yeah, I was one of a very small batch of people who read the entire script before it was filmed, so I did know its trajectory, and where things could go. Some real needle drop cues were written into the script, like the Paris Sisters’ “I Love How You Love Me” when Amanda Seyfried is on screen. When you read the script, you could really hear what was going on.

How were the acts chosen for the soundtrack? 
It’s a bunch of different things going on. From the get-go, David wanted bands to fill the bar, like Julee Cruise did at the roadhouse in the original. She was the house band. This time, Lynch wanted a bunch of different bands and to shoot them all in one day, and then find places for them within the show. The whole thing – remember – was one giant script shot as one long movie. That’s why he is calling these “parts” and not “episodes” — because they weren’t designed to have arcs between each bit like a normal television show. He was interested in the giant story and slicing the pie up.

What about the score music you guys composed?
Historically he has always done this: worked with Angelo next to him, playing piano or Fender Rhodes before, during, and after production. This time, they did so in a unique fashion through Skype and another ISDN-like program, where we linked Angelo’s New Jersey studio with our studio in Los Angeles. Broadcasting was done at high resolution so that David could work with Angelo in live time. They were seeing each other on Skype, talking back and forth, the same way they always worked, but now in a super-digital, futuristic way. Through this process, we built up a small library of new Angelo music, then we had a lot of the original Angelo music from the first series, then this archive of experiments David and I recorded over the years and stored. Eventually we wound up with all these paint colors so that, as you’re assembling a show, David could start reaching for things as he saw fit.

That scene during “Part 6” – the child being run over and killed – feels like a key example…
Yes. David described the scene in detail to Angelo via Skype and he started playing. As this was happening David was, like, “Now the car hits him,” and Angelo brings in atonal clusters. Then David told Angelo to bring in something beautiful and Angelo did – all in real-time. That cue existed verbatim. The score was laid in perfectly, even though they worked independently from each other.

Is there anything else as stark and unsettling as Angelo’s June 11 music for “Part 6” coming down the pike soon?
Oh, hell yes. There are so many surprises to follow.

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