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A passion for music

Cam Fuller
The StarPhoenix

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Paul Carroll's passion for music has taken him from Saskatoon to L.A. to Yellowknife to Toronto. And now, it's put him on the team creating music for The Passion, Mel Gibson's controversial upcoming movie.

Carroll grew up in Saskatoon after he moved to Canada from Ireland with his parents when he was nine. He attended St. Anne's -- where a classmate's drum kit first caught his eye -- and Bishop James Mahoney High School, where two teachers inspired him to pursue music.

In fact, music may have remained merely a mild interest if Greg Bohachik and Lisa Lorenzino hadn't encouraged the teenager's enthusiasm, something Carroll is greatly appreciative of.

"By the time I was 15, I was on the road,'' Carroll said recently.

It started with drums but by the end of high school, Carroll had dabbled with 19 different instruments. Today, he concentrates on drums, synthesizer, bass and guitar.

Carroll became a session player in Los Angeles after graduating from high school, contributing to albums by Sting, Natalie Cole, Ricky Martin, Patti LaBelle and others. Playing "without mistakes and with a bit of style'' was the name of the game.

"It was demanding. If they hire you to do something, you have to do it flawlessly.''

After his L.A. adventure, Carroll came back home and studied international relations and conflict resolution at the U of S. After that, he moved to Yellowknife where he was the head of audio for CBC radio and ran a recording studio.

Although he says "I'm not a big city kind of guy,'' Carroll moved to Toronto after five years. Interested in composing music for film and TV, he approached one of the best in the business for advice on how to get started -- Jack Lenz of Lenz Entertainment. It took some doing merely to meet with the busy Lenz, but the visit paid off.

"Instead of advice, he offered me a job,'' says Carroll.

But suddenly, music became less important. The day after the meeting, Carroll was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

"I was on top of the world -- for a day,'' Carroll recalled.

Lenz kindly held the job for six months while Carroll underwent surgery; he's now cancer-free.

In the fast-paced word of TV and film production, a lot gets done in a short amount of time.

Since he started with Lenz Entertainment last summer, Carroll has worked on a wide range of projects: The Genie and Gemini awards shows, the Susan Sarandon movie Ice Bound, a film called Jasper Texas, HGTV's Trash to Treasure and the Bravo! network's upcoming series Strip Search.

By far the highest profile, however, is The Passion. Director and co-written by Gibson, and starring James Caviezel, it's an account of Christ's final hours on Earth.

Gibson was reportedly ecstatic when he heard the Lenz demo, a collection of ancient-sounding music which Carroll had a significant role in composing and producing.

Carroll himself is more inclined to praise the film, and Gibson himself. Having seen most of the finished product, Carroll says the movie shows in graphic detail Christ's suffering.

"It's incredible. It's hair-raising.''

Although he's Baha'i himself, Carroll can imagine the impact the film will have on Christians.

"I think it will make people look at the story with fresh eyes. It's beyond moving to see how (Christ) was treated.''

Carroll, meanwhile, discounts the claims that the film is anti-Semitic.

"The villains in the film are the Romans.''

As for Gibson, Carroll says "there isn't a discriminating hair on his head. He's telling a story and he's telling it accurately.''

The thing that impresses Carroll most about Gibson is his humility, calling him "a guy that you'd want to hang out with.''

Gibson is so low-key that the first time Carroll saw him he thought Gibson was the janitor.

"He's not eager to make an impression.''

Gibson's attention to detail in film-making, however, is meticulous. The Passion, due to open in April 2004, is in Latin and Aramaic. Initially, the film wasn't even going to be subtitled.

Gibson, who owns 55,000 volumes of Christian writings, worked on the screenplay for 10 years. He's fluent in Latin and Italian. The music itself had to be authentic, which actually wasn't too difficult because Toronto has scholars and experts in the music of the age, said Carroll.

"We're getting people in who are world-class players.''

Further recording will be done in orchestral sessions in London and Budapest, which Carroll will attend.

Gibson is personally approving every piece of music in the film. On a recent visit to Toronto, he listened to nine different choices for one scene before picking the tenth and final one. He likes the music so much, Carroll says, that he played it on the set to get the actors in the mood, "which is unheard of.'' One of the instruments being used is an ancient flute called a dudouk. Carroll's company recently gave one to Gibson, along with a can of maple syrup.

Exciting as it is, "it's only one project,'' Carroll says of The Passion. He anticipates going to back to more TV work in the future. He's also planning to record and tour with a new band featuring Canadian musician Bill Bourne. And he's working on a series of drumming albums for the Solitudes series. Carroll mentions his accomplishments, but he doesn't dwell on them; he believes that one-upmanship has no place in music.

"The best thing about music is that it's not a competition.''

Profile of Paul Carroll.

©Copyright 2003, The Star Phoenix (Saskatoon, Canada)

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