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Given the varied pop culture terrain liberally explored throughout Kevin Smith's nine films — comic book legend Stan Lee doling out relationship advice in Mallrats, cracks about Con Air in Dogma, a wacky Scooby-Doo homage in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, ubiquitous Star Wars references sprinkled throughout his oeuvre — it's a bit conspicuous that there isn't much about music in any of those movies. The appearance of Morris Day and The Time at the end of Jay and Silent Bob is one of few notably awesome exceptions. Apparently there's a good reason for that.
"My musical tastes are reputably deplorable," Smith says via telephone from New Jersey. "My iPod tells a very embarrassing story."
Embarrassing is subjective, especially for a guy prone to disclosing on his SModcast podcast excruciatingly intimate details of sexual encounters with his wife. He has well-thought-out reasons for what he likes, even if it isn't hip.
"I'm a huge Sting fan," he says. "I always thought Sting was kind of cool, not only because he started the Police and shit, or because he knows how to have a tantric orgasm — but because his lyrics sound like they were written by an English teacher, which he used to be."
As someone who interacts extensively with his fickle fans — through Twitter, through his message board, through his live Q&As (he's coming to Phoenix on April 10), Smith is unfazed when folks give him a hard time for his KEZ-worthy playlist.
"People jump on you when you say you like Sting and shit, like it's some kind of metrosexual crime or something," says Smith, just as potty-mouthed in person as you would expect from the dialogue of his movies. "I've taken shit for liking the Commodores, but I don't take too much shit for liking the Commodores because people can't give you shit, because they're black, and they don't want to sound racist."
While Smith readily admits to not being the biggest music fan, even saying that he "can't stand" going to live shows because "you can never hear the lyrics," there is one obvious place where he does get to play tastemaker (successfully!): the soundtracks of his films.
"Basically I just go to my iPod and pull the tunes I listen to the most, and they wind up in the movie," he says. "Any time you see the movie you're kind of hearing what's on my iPod, what I'm spinning."
And there have been some memorable uses of music in his body of work, from Stroke 9's otherwise forgettable "Kick Some Ass" playing in Jay and Silent Bob (as the title characters exact revenge on their online detractors) to New Edition's "Candy Girl" accompanying the Salma Hayek strip scene in Dogma or the main characters gleefully dancing on the rooftop to "ABC" in Clerks II.
"I think, hands down, the best combo of my visuals and a chosen song was in Zack and Miri [Make a Porno] when we used that Pixies song 'Hey,'" Smiths says. "That whole sequence when Miri's kind of testing Zack, suggests he fucks that other girl."
Though Smith will never challenge Cameron Crowe to a music trivia contest, he's living like a rock star in one way: taking a tour bus to his latest appearances. This has less to do with living a decadent lifestyle and much more to do with avoiding air travel — specifically the much-publicized incident in February when he reportedly was removed from a Southwest flight because a crew member told the director that he was, essentially, too fat to fly.
The incident clearly upset Smith, who went on to lash out against the airline on his Twitter account. And the SModcast. And for about 20 uninterrupted minutes on the phone with New Times. He's irritated not only at what happened to him but also at what he perceives as inconsistencies in Southwest's policies regarding exactly how fat you have to be to occupy two seats. Smith was able to put both armrests down, in keeping with their policy.
"These people are fucking gross. They're too cowardly to stand behind a policy, to create a policy, because they don't want to alienate a customer base," Smith says, with palpable contempt in his voice. "But instead they'll alienate people in person, or in my case, alienate you and lie about it."
This rancor isn't keeping Smith from moving ahead with work on his 10th film, Red State, or his spring speaking tour. He's been to Phoenix once before, for a test screening of Jersey Girl, when a couple of teenage girls walked out of the movie after the masturbation-discussion scene (keep in mind that's his most family-friendly film). He was surprised to learn Arizona is a red state.
"I thought, 'Phoenix is hot, people wear less clothing, so they'd be less inhibited and less conservative,'" he says. "Or maybe it's the opposite — since people are wearing less clothing, they feel the need to be the morality police."
Smith's live Q&As started in 1994 while he was promoting his first movie, the iconic ballad of underachievers: Clerks. After becoming comfortable with the format, he simply showed up at colleges for Q&As. Eventually, the discussions broadened from movies to whatever anyone wanted to talk about.
You forgot to mention:
An unreleased song by the band, entitled "Hold Me Up", is featured in the 2008 Kevin Smith movie Zack and Miri Make a Porno, during an emotional scene between Zack and Miri. Smith made the following statement about the song's inclusion in the movie:
It’s an old song that I first heard in ‘95, when we were putting together the Mallrats soundtrack. It was actually in the film for the first test screening, but Live decided they wanted to hold onto it as a potential single off their next album (which would follow Throwing Copper). When I was editing Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, the song had still never surfaced or been released, so I put in a request for it again. Again, I was denied. Third time, apparently, was the charm. Needed a song for that sequence in Zack and Miri and remembered the Live track. This time, the band signed off on us using the track. Took 13 years, but was worth the wait. —Kevin Smith
Uh... I see a few paragraphs on Kevin Smith's taste, but where's the part that proves him a tastemaker? Are The Commodores album sales spiking?
Wow, sounds like a pretty cool dude to me..