Musician Solomon King Shows Talented Acting Side

In “The Phil Spector Incident”

Solomon King

Los Angeles-based guitarist-vocalist Solomon King, until now known as one of the better blues players in the Southern California region, has released “The Phil Spector Incident (I Think I Just Shot Her”), described on King’s website as “an extraordinarily whacked-out black comedy…not for the faint of heart.” The two-person film includes eleven songs performed by King, including a chillingly spot-on rendition of the Spector-penned classic, “Be My Baby.” King stars as famed-yet-tragic songwriter/producer Phil Spector and L.A. actress Monica Lee reprises the role of actress Lana Clarkson, who was with Spector at his La Habra mansion when Spector allegedly shot her dead one fateful night in February 2003. Spector was charged with the crime, and he was convicted of second degree murder on April 13, 2009.

All Access Magazine got to chat with Solomon King (SK) recently before his departure for some tour dates in Hawaii. He also has a new album, “Train,” set for release this Summer.

AAM: When did you come up with the idea to make “The Phil Spector Incident?”

SK:  The night of the murder I had played a gig on the Sunset Strip. I was trying to unwind at the VIP Room at the House of Blues.  I was drinking Southern Comfort straight up when I noticed Phil Spector across the room with a lanky blond chick.  She was standing up and dressed like the waitresses so I figured that was who she was.  I remembering her bending down and Phil whispering something in her ear and then her nodding her head slowly as if they were conspiring something secret. Later I stumbled out to the parking lot and I saw her climbing into the back of Phil’s white stretch limo.

Solomon King

Two days after I was having my morning coffee in Los Feliz where I saw my friend  James Trivers, the novelist and screenwriter.  He was reading the L.A. Times and there it was on the front page: a murdered waitress was found at Phil Spector’s mansion.  I told James how I saw Spector and the girl leave the House of Blues. I might have been the last person to see Lana Clarkson alive besides Phil and the chauffeur. James asked me what I thought happened that night.  When I told him, James said “This is a movie. I’m going to write the script…and you are going to play Phil Spector.”

AAM: Besides reprising the role of Phil Spector in the movie, you also wrote the eleven-song accompanying soundtrack. Are these songs you had previously written, or did you create them specifically for the film?

SK:  The original score was composed and performed by John Trivers/ Liz Myers.  They are incredibly talented, accomplished and very successful at doing film scores.  The film initially premiered with their score in 2009.  Later that year I started working with producer Marvin Etzione on my “Medicine” CD.  Marvin is a huge Phil Spector fan.  I gave him a copy of the film and he came back to me with the idea of rerecording the end title music with a version of “Be My Baby” but going contrary to the ‘Wall of Sound.’  We recorded the song totally stripped down:  guitar, vocals and drums.  As it turned out ABKO owned the publishing for the song and refused permission to use it or any other Spector compositions in the film.  However the vibe of that stripped down recording radically changed our perspective of the film and gave us the idea to pursue a different musical score.  At this point we had a delivery commitment to the distributor and neither time nor money to start rescoring from scratch.  I had a considerable backlog of recorded material that we started to play around with.  David Vaught and Chris Julian did the engineering/remix.  They deserve the credit for reshaping it to suit the film.

Solomon King

In reviewing the previously recorded music the first thing we did was remove the vocals.  The film is dialogue-intensive so any lyrical/vocal content in the score proved to be very distracting.  Next we reviewed the music for its emotional content without vocals.  For a songwriter, like myself, this is a revelatory process.  Remove the vocals, remove the lyrics and give your work a listen.  Does the music convey anything or is it really just a (hopefully) pleasing noise track for your words of wisdom, angst and unrequited love? Once it was decided which pieces of music could work as the soundtrack – we began the agonizing process of finding the right parts within the music and extracting the sections for the film.  In some instances we removed instrumentation and redid bass and drum parts.  The great challenge was in creating the arc of the music to create tension or resolve it in the context of the psychological conditions that were prevailing on the screen at any given moment.

AAM: Do you personally believe Phil Spector shot Lana Clarkson?

SK: “The Truth is our most precious commodity…let us preserve it” – Mark Twain. What I personally believe is that nobody, including Phil Spector, knows what happened that night.  That night was propelled with drugs, alcohol and the desperation of two people who were seeking redemption from lives of  exhausted hopes and dreams.  Was there a gun?  Was it Spector’s gun?  Was Lana Clarkson shot with that gun? Yes.  Did Spector intend to shoot her?  Did Clarkson expect to be shot? Or to shoot herself?  Again here is where the HBO Phil Spector Movie or our Phil Spector Incident explores two different dimensions of the same reality. The Phil Spector movie is about HOW the gun went off.  The Phil Spector Incident is about WHY the gun went off.

AAM: Why do you think the Spector trial captivated American like it did?

SK:  For the same reason it captivated me.  It has all the elements of a “Crime of the Century”. The wealthy Musical Genius, the desperate Sex Bomb blonde movie star:   The Life & Death of the Hollywood Dream.   Spector’s music has been heard by billions of people for over half a century.  In many ways you could argue that Spector is as influential as Beethoven or Mozart in shaping the musical consciousness of the world. Spector represents the “what if I was successful beyond my dreams.  What if I REALLY did make it.  What would life be like. The opening scene of the movie has Spector ruminating “people are curious.  They want to know how I live..?” Then on the other side of the fence there is Lana’s legions – all the people who feel that they are victims of life.  “If only I could get that one break…If only I could get that one chance to show you who I really am.  If only. If Only If only…” Lana is the standard bearer -. Her sympathizers clamor for “justice” now.  It’s not so much justice for Lana – it’s justice for everyone who has been denied access to the promises of the American Dream.

AAM: How does “The Phil Spector Incident” differ from the HBO movie starring Al Pacino?

SK:  Al Pacino is a great actor.  The HBO drama trapped him in a behind the scenes courtroom drama that posits forensic evidence against mob rule emotions: “is there justice for the unpopular in America”?  The Phil Spector Incident is devoid of any of the moralizing or the social instruction of the HBO film.  The Phil Spector Incident is your invitation to share a blow-by-blow, minute-by-minute descent into the madness of the pursuit of  Hollywood Dream:  – what will you do to get what you want? And even more disturbing what do you do once you get it? On another level “The Phil Spector Movie”  with the biggest names in Hollywood:  Al Pacino, Helen Miren, written and directed by David Mamet, limitless millions of dollars for production, distribution  advertising.   Then you have “Phil Spector Incident” an indie project shot in three days directed by a former Porno director and starring Solomon King a blues guitar player who never acted before.  It’s David and Goliath…and having seen both films – I think David wins again.

AAM: Can you draw a comparison between acting, and performing as a musician?

SK:  That’s a great question – so the answer depends on why you are an actor or a musician or an auto worker or a farmer or president of the United States.  On one level we are all the same.  WE are all trying to do something that we are good at.  Something that will enable us to live in this world, provide for our needs and the needs of those we love.  WE all hope that God will look down on us and say “good job – nice to know you”.  Then there is another level where  we do what we do because we need to know what we feel.  We need to know what others feel.  And most important we need to engage in some method of communicating those feelings so that we know we are not alone and insane.  So what tools do you use?  A guitar? A paint brush? A pair of boxing gloves?  I’ve tried boxing – I’m not too good at that.  Being a musician?  Every once in a while I strike a true and pure note – but not very often.  An actor?  This is my first film – I suppose I’m in the unenviable position of being compared to Al Pacino.

AAM: Insofar as Solomon King the musician is concerned, what are some of your upcoming plans?

SK:  Somewhere I heard “If you want to make God laugh – tell him your plans”.  I have a new record, CD, sound file – I don’t know what to name a product of recorded music anymore – but it’s called “Train”.  It’s on my website for friends and fans  I’ve done such a bad job at releasing my previous CDs that I hope some label will come along and do whatever they do to promote and sell music these days.  I play live as much as possible.  For me that is the true joy of being a musician.  By the time this article comes out I will be back from playing shows in Hawaii.  I have some shows booked in L.A. for May (Editor’s Note: The Piano Bar in Hollywood on Saturday May 11th) . There is talk of going to Texas, Chicago and Chile.  I hope to play as often as anyone (including myself) is willing to listen for as long as I can do so without causing too much embarrassment.