Scrubs star Zach Braff's directorial debut, Garden State, was more than just an art-house hit about twenty-something depression. When it was released in 2004, its melancholic soundtrack was like a nursery for up-and-coming dream-pop bands and acoustic-minded artists. Braff, the album's executive producer, won a Grammy for his efforts. Acts such as Frou Frou, Iron & Wine, Colin Hay and the Shins mingled freely with Nick Drake and Simon and Garfunkel and saw their record sales skyrocket thanks to his nurturing.
Braff's latest film, The Last Kiss, isn't his baby (it was directed by Tony Goldwyn, the guy who killed Patrick Swayze in Ghost), but the powers-that-be were smart enough to enlist him as soundtrack supervisor and let him try to re-create Garden State's magic. As production commenced on the sixth season of Scrubs, he spoke with us about his new status in the music biz and making pimp-ass mixes.
Westword: Would you call yourself a tastemaker?
Zach Braff: I don't know, man. I know less about music than the average person. There are plenty of bands you'd be shocked I've never listened to. I just have music that I like, and I think if I'm decent at anything, it's being able to pick the right songs to put to a picture. I've got a bunch of friends who are musicians, and they're always sharing music and talking music, and now I have this blog on my own site and MySpace where people recommend music to me all the time. So it sort of snowballs and feeds itself. But I don't know if I'm a tastemaker. I'm maybe a catalyst for people discovering new music.
Do you enjoy being expected to know what's musically hip?
I don't know what's hip; I just know what I like. There's no real science to what I do, other than making a decent mix CD of music I really like. The cool thing with Garden State was that it was essentially a mix CD of music I really liked. Then I found out, "Wow, I guess I have similar tastes to a lot of people out there, because a lot of people liked the compilation."
What are the differences between a mix CD and a soundtrack for you?
I think the main difference is you want to find music that will bring out the emotion of a scene without upstaging the dialogue or what the actors are doing. I think you can have a song that you love, that's one of your favorite songs, but it's not right for the movie because it's either lyrically or melodically competing with what the scene's about. When I did Garden State and Tony [Goldwyn] directed The Last Kiss, very rarely did we use music under dialogue. It's usually used as a transition or under a montage.
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Does your mailbox get swamped with promotional CDs nowadays?
Yeah, tons of stuff. I get boxes and boxes of CDs. I give most of it away, though. I can't listen to it all.
Is there a mix CD no-no that everyone should follow?
There are no rules. Just good music.