INTERVIEW: Hulu’s Wu-Tang: An American Saga Music Editor Shie Rozow

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Shie Rozow is a music editor on shows like Arrow, Krypton, and Stargirl who’s also behind the music of Wu-Tang: An American Saga, a Hulu original show about the rise of one of the world’s most legendary rap groups that’s streaming now.

As the title might tell ya, the show’s about the Wu-Tang Clan and its formation during the 90s. Each of the members is surviving lives plagued by the crack epidemic and crime. But within the chaos, there is music and episode by episode, the show chronicles the story of how songs like 7th Chamber, “Bring the Ruckus,” and “Protect Ya Neck” came to be.

PopAxiom interviews Shie Rozow about making music for Krypton, Wu-Tang: An American Saga, and working with RZA.

Enter the Wu-Tang

In 2017, RZA directed a film called Love Beats Rhymes. “The studio brought me in as music editor, and that’s how I met RZA. Then RZA brought me on to this project,” said Shie.

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Wu-Tang: An American Saga co-stars Zolee Griggs, who was seven when Wu-Tang made their presence known to the world. So, she wasn’t even allowed to hear the music until much later. Was Shie a fan of the clan? “Honestly, I never heard of Wu-Tang before I met RZA.”

Keep in mind, Shie was on the other side of the world when Wu-Tang came up in 1993. “I was in Israel, serving in the military. Hip-hop came to Israel a little later. By that time, I was studying film scoring and composition. I was all about stuff like that. It wasn’t in my orbit.”

Over the years, though, Shie started listening. “By the time I started this show, I knew their catalog pretty well.”

After several close collaborations, Shie’s relationship with RZA is on a different level. To most of the world, he’s RZA, “… but as a director, I just knew him as Bobby.” RZA’s full name is Robert Diggs.

Shie elaborates on their collaborations: “We’re here to tell the story, and the story comes first. On Loves Beats Rhymes, there was a song we tried that was very different from everything else we were doing. But it worked, so it didn’t matter that it’s different. It’s doing what it needs to do.”

“[RZA] … really understands that.”

One more thing about RZA, “He’s extremely collaborative.” Not surprising from a member Wu-Tang, a rap ensemble built on collaboration between its many members.

An American Saga

More than 25 years after the debut of Wu-Tang, it’s safe to say that there are a lot of people who know the songs. “When you’re working with well-known songs, you have to be very careful about how you cut them because it has to feel natural. You’re going to have fans who know the music inside and out. It has to feel right, you can’t just jump around and cut the way you could with an unknown song. People know how the song goes. Even if musically it works, because of that familiarity it might not work.”

Of course, the reality is “… you have to cut them,” because it’s not feasible to play the entire song or you’re basically making a music video.

In the opening scene of An American Saga, RZA is creating the legendary Wu-Tang hit “7th Chamber.” “We’re trying to make the audience feel like he’s creating the beat. I had stems from the original track where I could start with a little bit less and then add a little and a little more. But I had 10-15 seconds to do that.”

“People can become distracted by changes.”

Shie connotes to explain the challenge of working with well-known music, “Sometimes you have to cut a song and skip around lyrics. How do I do that in a musical way? It’s a lot of judgment calls and experimenting. You cut it multiple ways until you find what works.”

wu-tang-shie rozow-interview
Shie Rozow with RZA, Johnell Young (left) and Alex Tse (right). Photo: Stephanie Pfingsten/Impact24 PR

Speaking Of Experimenting

Experimenting leads to new discoveries and sometimes that means multiple discoveries. Is it a blessing or a curse to discover multiple valid approaches? “I think it’s kind of fun.”

Experimentation is undoubtedly a feature for Shie and his line of work. “It’s an interesting challenge to come up with different options and try out different things.”

Shie adds, “You can’t be afraid of falling on your face either. The worst is, you pick a different option.”

Ultimately, if you’re always learning, you’re always winning. “Sometimes, what doesn’t work in one place might come up later and work in another place.”

Of course, not all projects are the same. “Some people are particular about what they want. So, there might be less experimenting on a given project.

In regards to RZA, “[He]… has a strong vision and knows what he wants, but he knows there’s a lot of ways to get there. I love that he’s open like that.”

From Wu-Tang to Clark Kent

Shie previously worked on the now-canceled Krypton show from SyFy. How does working on a show like that compare to the Wu-Tang series? “An American Saga is mostly songs and, even if it’s a radio in the background playing something, everything is very thought out — what part of the song you hear and how the transition happens.”

“On Krypton, it’s all score. It’s all Pinar Toprak’s music. We’re in a different world. So, you can’t put anything recognizable. So anywhere that there’s source music, she had to write it and create it.”

The common factor: “At the end of the day, it’s all about telling the story.”

If It Makes Noise … 

As a music editor and composer, who is part of Shie’s musical DNA? “Oh, man. I’m a huge James Horner and Jerry Goldsmith fan. I know on occasion I say ‘That’s a very Horner thing to do’ or that’s a Goldsmith thing’ and I’m stealing it!”

“I’ve been fortunate to work with Danny Elfman. I’m a huge Paul McCartney fan, Beatles fan.”

Music is everywhere at all times for Shie. “I’m exposed to so much music the list is endless.” Shie goes on to list everything from flutes to Peruvian percussion to Mozart.

About listening to just about every kind of music possible, “It opens your mind to what you can do. Something is interesting here that’s unique that I can learn from.”

“To me, everything is music. I hear a jackhammer on the street and find the beat.”

Shie adds, “I was at a screening and I can semi-zone out and just hear the hum and the ebb and flow of conversation. That’s the way my brain works. If it makes noise, it becomes music, and it becomes ideas.”

Does Shie ever record random things? “I do a lot of stuff where I get an idea, or I might hear something that gives me an idea for a beat or a pattern or a melody. I record it on my phone.”

What’s Next?

Shie’s a busy man. “I’m scoring a very beautiful independent movie called Monologue. It’s a true passion project. I’m about to start on a really cool new Amazon show that I can’t talk about. I’m also working on Stargirl, also with Pinar Toprak.”

Thanks to Shie Rozow and Impact24 PR for making this interview possible.

Want to read more interviews like this? CLICK HERE.

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