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"We’re whores… We’ll provide anything you need."
GARY LEMEL PRESENTS "ARMS"
Veteran Warner Bros. Film Music Exec Goes Back to First Love With New Atlantic Album
Walking the line between musician and executive, Warner Sunset’s Gary LeMel has been able to successfully straddle two careers. On the film side, LeMel’s upcoming blockbuster slate includes the music for A.I., Harry Potter, Rock Star and Ocean’s 11. On the music tip, he’s celebrating the release of his latest album, Lost in Your Arms (Atlantic Jazz). Too bad the musician/suit couldn’t avoid the embrace of HITS’ consummate lounge lizard, Marc "My Words" Pollack, who croons, "Why not take all of me?"

What goes through your mind when you release an album?
I try not to think it’s going to be a really big seller. Those are thoughts from the old days when that was my life. Now it’s just the process of recording which is the most fun. I almost hate to turn the record over, but since we’re on such low budgets, it’s like: "Turn it over quickly so it doesn’t cost me more money." The greatest thing is positive feedback. This album, by far, has got more heat on it than any of the others. Atlantic Jazz is just doing a great job of setting it up. You know, with niche records, you can’t really rely on radio. It’s really about in-store play, primarily, and reviews. It’s in 25 major cities in Tower, Barnes & Nobles and Borders. I just got a call from a club in Holland who heard the record, loved it and asked if I could come play there at Christmas.

You just put out A.I., which is mostly score.
When Steven Speilberg saw it against the film, he rightfully felt that, when it’s over, everybody has different feelings. So to tell them how to think with a lyric is not right. I totally agree. There are two tracks on the album from Lara Fabian, who’s amazing. It’s primarily John Williams’ score, but I think it will sell a lot of records.

When you are working with Spielberg and Williams, how much input do you actually have?
Well, they’ve done their homework and they know what they want. The role we play is facilitating the orchestra. For example, John wanted to use a 100-piece choir on top of a 100-piece orchestra. Plus, he wanted to do it live. We found that Royce Hall can handle something that size. We did it at there with mobile equipment and it was amazing. Also, the band Ministry is in the film. They are a Warner Bros. act, so the label will be putting out a "Best Of" album, and the song from A.I. will be attached.

When you’re not working with artists of that level, do you find yourself calling more of the shots?
There’s only one Spielberg and there’s only one Williams. We’re fortunate enough to work with them. In any given year, we do 30-some films and out of that, there are five, maybe, that are quality films by quality directors. Those make my job easier. Our role changes over the course of a project. On some, we’re just gatekeepers and, on others, we do everything. We’re whores… we’ll provide anything you need.

What else do you have coming up?
Another situation like A.I. is Harry Potter. John Williams is the composer again and Chris Columbus is the director. The movie is incredible. It has so much to live up to with the popularity of the books. We have given J.K. Rowling, the woman who wrote the books, the ability to voice her opinion, even though legally she doesn’t have final say on anything. We felt that nobody knows this subject better, and we didn’t want to do something that would offend her core following. So, we have given her, basically, the last say on everything, from merchandising to music to the movie itself. She made it quite obvious from the go that she did not want any songs in the film, feeling that would cheapen it, and we all agreed. From now on, when you see Harry Potter, you’ll think of the score, much in the same way you do with Star Wars and Jaws. John’s put a signature theme on this movie so I think we’ll sell a lot of records just based on those melodies. It’s the first time we’ve had two Williams scores back-to-back.

There’s also Osmosis Jones, a live-action and animation movie with the voices of Chris Rock and Brandy. It’s adventurous and really funny. The whole movie takes place inside Bill Murray’s body. The lead-off single is by St. Lunatics. And then there’s Rock Star, the Mark Wahlberg film. We have Ocean’s 11, too. It’s really exciting because Steven Soderbergh is such a genius and so great to work with. It’s a terrific film and he wrote a bulletproof script. These huge actors are doing this movie for almost nothing, from Brad Pitt to George Clooney to Julia Roberts to Ben Affleck. We hired the Irish DJ David Holmes, who also did Soderbergh’s "Out of Sight," so I know the music will be spectacular.

Can you work outside of the Warner studio?
We can’t do anything outside the company. We have our own label, Warner Sunset, where product is released through one of the Warner Music Group labels. We give everybody within WMG a shot at the soundtrack. Sometimes all three labels pass and we have to go outside, but I don’t like to do that. My first job is to protect the movie and my second responsibility is to the company.

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