I had the privilege and pleasure of speaking with music producer, Greg Wells who, in addition to his mile-long resume and ridiculous credentials, got to work with legendary producer T-Bone Burnett on the soundtrack to The Hunger Games film, The Hunger Games: Songs From District 12 and Beyond. I interviewed him for several outlets and used different parts of the interview for different sites, so you’ll have to read all of them! The first was for PopMatters.
However, the real gem of the soundtrack is the Kid Cudi song, “The Ruler and the Killer”, which Wells co-wrote with Cudi and Burnett. The track has been universally hailed as the highlight of the album, and Wells knew it was special the moment the song was born.
“It was really just as good as writing and recording sessions get,” he says, his fondness for the experience palpable over the phone. “The three of us all showed up in my studio—Kid Cudi, T-Bone, and myself. And you really couldn’t have three more different people sitting in the same room to work on music, and we were all kind of laughing about that! But, without much fanfare, we just started. I had put down a couple of different drum beats, and they both liked the ideas. Cudi in particular gravitated toward one that’s kind of a reinvention of the famous old Bo Diddley beat. And the origin of that, I believe, comes from this old Benny Goodman hit, “Sing, Sing, Sing”, with Gene Krupa playing these great kind of jungle beats. So I did my own version of it, kind of a rockier version of it, and he loved that. He thought that’s what we should build the song on. And he took out a guitar he brought with him, and just started jamming. We really weren’t cerebral with it at all. We just started experimenting and trying stuff. T-Bone and I picked out certain moments in his guitar part that we really liked, and the three of us agreed on what the standout moments were and kind of stitched that together.
“Then Cudi would leave the room for about five or ten minutes and come back in and say ‘I think I got verse one! Let me just hold the mic and I’ll do it right here in the control room.’ So he did it right in front of us. One take. Everything was one take. He never re-did anything. And I thought he would, but he’d just say ‘OK, that was it.’ Like Frank Sinatra never did overdubs, it was a bit like that! [laughs] And I loved it! I’m not used to working with people like that. You know, everyone wants to hone it a bit, and he was just like ‘This is what it is.’
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