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Honus Honus: Man Man Frontman Explains The Ins and Outs of Music Supervision for TV
“The world owes you nothing and you always have to hustle.” A profound reminder from Ryan Kattner that you must work for what you want and really throw yourself into it. Kattner, also known as Honus Honus, leader of the band Man Man, has had his hands in many projects. His newest adventures include being the music supervisor on Fox’s new series, The Exorcist and crafting his first solo LP, Use Your Delusion. Kattner believes that you have to want to make it to actually make it, and he’s certainly proving that to be true.
For Kattner, being a musician appealed to the right person at the right time. Getting hired as the musical supervisor on The Exorcist was a deliberate decision. “My sensibilities fit. I play music, I tour, I have relationships with bands. They know I can reach out to friends of mine,” says Kattner. Some of the writers for the show are fans of Man Man and for the same price, they can get more bang-for-their-buck with Kattner and have great music that doesn’t use only library cues.
As the music supervisor, Kattner selects the music and runs it by the show runner. A lot of the cues in the show are northern soul music, non-Motown but deep cuts of music. There have been instances when they needed songs that fit a certain vibe and he happened to have something that worked. He is usually given the script in advance but the process of adding the music varies. Sometimes he puts in temp music and then works on creating something new and other times, it’s straight-up detective work.
The detective quality of it is one thing about the job that he really enjoys. One unique aspect of playing the role of detective is that he tracks down songs and learns their history — when it was written and more importantly, who wrote it. Sometimes he falls down the rabbit hole because TV is so fast paced, you have to get the rights to the songs quickly and make sure that the correct people get paid. If he can’t find the rights to a song, even if it is the perfect fit for the scene, he has to abandon it completely and go back to the drawing board; that may mean pulling from his own repertoire, reaching out to musician friends or going back to the library.
Like most things, the job isn’t all roses. Kattner notes, “the concept of public domain is skewed and very vague. It’s a real whirlwind.” Working within the constraints of a budget and a time frame proves itself difficult but he finds ways to make it work, and work well. The turn-around for an episode is about a few weeks. “Even if a character hums or singsongs something, we have to see if it has been cleared or if it’s an original work,” says Kattner.
As a musical supervisor, Kattner also helps to add music to an existing storyline. As a musician, this is what he does: creating stories using music. His own work is influenced by where he is in his life, and for his new solo LP, Use Your Delusion, it was Los Angeles. People often think of LA as being a place where dreams come to life and with this album he broke the mold and spoke about its underbelly. “It’s the underbelly but it’s also that LA is viewed to make your dreams come true or conversely, where your dreams go to die. It’s about pushing beyond and keeping a sense of positivity even if it’s delusional,” says Kattner. He notes that the world moves so quickly and that LA is a weird, beautiful and ugly city.
He uses not just words but different types of sounds, not notes but sounds, to convey an ‘apocalyptic’ vibe. When writing, he is generally not concerned with genre hopping. “I wrote a song and okay, it does sound like the other song but there is something that links [them] together,” noted Kattner. Writing music is about telling everyone’s story. There are a lot of parts to a song and they represent the different parts of people’s personalities. Genre hopping is okay in his book because he would rather hit it all and let people sort it out for themselves.
His type of storytelling goes against the grain and harnesses an unbalanced energy. Kattner says that incorporates his life into the songs: “It’s scattered throughout; it’s buried in there with storytelling.” To make the songs have such a powerful effect, he uses moments of pure confession combined with surreal imagery. Kattner made this album to explore and express “being in and out of love, learning how to love and live and push past things, and above all, maintain a sense of levity.” It’s evident that he has a lot of fun creating and playing his songs and using his delusion.
“In many ways, I feel like the music I make is bluegrass. Not the sound. I feel like it shares the same spirit. If you want to be sad listen to the lyrics and if you want to be happy, listen to the music. It’s important to juxtapose parts.”
Kattner feels lucky that over the years he’s been able to make music his way and that people have been able to relate to it. “I can make something as a coping mechanism and spin it in an objective way that people can relate to,” say Kattner. The music he creates is truly the soundtrack to his life. Kattner insists on using your delusion; “If you don’t have the training or things that don’t sound like anything else, it’s okay. If you’re writing from the right place, you’re writing from the heart.”
Standout Track: “Heavy Jesus”
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