Magazine article Screen International

Cliff Martinez Talks Scoring 'The Neon Demon' and "Keeping It Cool"

Magazine article Screen International

Cliff Martinez Talks Scoring 'The Neon Demon' and "Keeping It Cool"

Article excerpt

After working together on Drive and Only God Forgives, CliffMartinez knew that Nicolas Winding Refn would want another electronic soundtrack for The Neon Demon (despite the Danish director using music from Bernard Herrmann as his temp score).

For Martinez, whose other regular collaborator is Steven Soderbergh, the main challenge in working with Winding Refn is the lack of dialogue in his scripts and therefore the reliance on music to evoke emotion.

"I was taught music should express an added dimension that isn't apparent in the dialogue. Music needs to step in and fill in the blanks. But Nicolas takes it to another level," says Martinez.

One sequence in The Neon Demon required a 16-minute composition. "It's unusual for a director to leave a scene unfinished, assuming the music will complete it," he adds.

Winding Refn now includes the composer at the development stage of his projects, admitting to Screen that he often writes in his screenplays: "This is where Cliffcomes in."

Martinez composed The Neon Demon score entirely in the studio of his Los Angeles home, discovering the key ingredient was via a new plug-in that emulates the sounds of early 1970s synthesiser the ARP 2600.

Using instruments that were lying around the house, including steel drums, Indian flutes and an electric ukulele, Martinez used a process of layering and texturing to create the film's moody, evocative score.

"A little bit goes a long way in film music - you try to get a few balls in the air, sculpt it and spin it out into a lot of other scenes," said Martinez, who said the main advice along the way from Winding Refn was to "keep it cool".

"When I asked Nicolas why Ryan Gosling was wearing a weird mask in Drive, he said, 'Because it's cool.' So that's the notion I work by now - to be cool."

Early career

The transition from rock-band drummer (he played on the first two Red Hot Chili Peppers albums) to film composer was driven, Martinez says, by "a preoccupation with computer technology in the late '80s" and a lack of attraction to the rock-and-roll lifestyle. "Making the records was fun, but touring in a smoke-filled van year in and year out was not for me."

Through his room-mate, Martinez met Soderbergh who took a chance with the novice composer on his 1989 breakthrough Sex, Lies And Videotape. …

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