Interview - Cliff Martinez

Interview - Cliff Martinez


Charlie Brigden spoke to composer CLIFF MARTINEZ about writing music for Steven Soderbergh, Nicolas Winding Refn, and working with Skrillex...

Charlie Brigden: We'll start with the cliched way: at the beginning. Outside of film scores, you're probably best known through your work with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. How did you get started in music?

Cliff Martinez: That would be a long time ago. In Fourth grade the public school encouraged all the kids and their parents to join the orchestra. My parents said "would you like to learn a musical instrument?" and at the time the only thing I knew about music was The Beatles, so I said I wanted to play guitar. They took me to a local music store and said "do you have a guitar teacher?" They said no and I said "Ok, how about drums?" and they said they had a drum teacher, so it was pretty arbitrary.

So I had a snare drum through fourth, fifth and sixth grade, and eventually added a bass drum, a cymbal and a high-hat, and it wasn't for like three or four years before I had the entire drum set. I was in a band when I was thirteen years old and we played Rolling Stone covers, things like that, so that was the beginning of my interest and love affair with music.

CB: I suppose that begs the question: how did the whole film music thing come about?

CM: I'd played in a number of bands, the last of which was the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and I guess I kind of outgrew it I guess you could say. I think my taste in music was changing and the rock and roll lifestyle didn't seem to be a good fit any longer. I was thirty-two, thirty-three and I had a hard time visualising myself turning forty wearing nothing but a sock on my genitals going on stage with the Red Hot Chili Peppers! They've since proven me wrong, and made lots of money doing it, but I guess just my tastes and my interests in music changed and I got lucky.

In the 80s I was fascinated by new music computer technology. I had a drum machine, a primitive sequencer, and an affordable sampler, and technology just seemed to be asking to create kind of weird and avant-garde music with. I thought it suggested new and exciting and interesting ways to create music and I was very attracted to the technology of the period, I just didn't know where to apply it. I couldn't use it in the Chili Peppers and so I was just making a lot of really strange music out of recording sound effects and rude body noises and kitchen utensils (laughs).

And then I was channel surfing one day and I saw an episode of Pee Wee's Playhouse - an American subversive "children's show" - and they had scores by Mark Mothersbaugh, Danny Elfman, they had a lot of composers on it. I had a connection to the director and I sent him some of my weird music compositions and my very first job was one episode of that show, and it seemed like the money was great, even though in hindsight it wasn't, but I just got hooked on the whole idea of writing music to picture and and really liked it.

So I had the interest and from that point on was really sold on the idea of writing music to picture, and through mutual friends I was introduced to Steven Soderbergh who asked me to score his first film. And from there on I kind of was able to call myself a film composer and keep a straight face, even though I really had little background.

CB: You mentioned Danny Elfman, were you intimidated following him from the rock and roll scene to the film music world?

CM: Yeah, there were guys like Danny Elfman who had made the transition - Stewart Copeland was another guy - and over the years I've seen people come from the rock world into the film music world and I think they're just kind of getting squeezed out of their environment because of the illegal downloading situation, and for other reasons too. So there's been a great migration of people like Clint Mansell and Trent Reznor that seem to be moving into film music I think just because - well, I don't know them - but maybe for similar reasons as myself. Rock and roll is the music of young people I suppose (laughs) although there's certainly a lot of examples of elderly rockers.

But I think as your tastes change, doing music for film was kind of an obvious choice for me and probably for a lot of other people, but yeah I had some pretty intimidating role models. Danny Elfman certainly was a formidable example of somebody that crossed over and did so amazingly, cause he really came from that European classical tradition of film scoring so what he did didn't really seem that rock-influenced, and made me go "Wow, how did he have that in his background?" cause I grew up with almost zero orchestral scoring knowledge.

CB: Obviously there's Steven Soderbergh, with the amount of films you've scored for him there must be a pretty good connection between yourselves. Was that something you hit immediately or did it develop over your mutual career?

CM: Well probably both, we hit it off really well on our first meeting and like I said, I had no resume really. I had Pee-Wee's Playhouse as my only scoring experience, and Steven just this past year revealed that the reason he hired me was I was the only composer that he knew, but we hit it off well personally and creatively, and monogamy has its benefits. It seems like by continuing to work with him the relationship gets stronger and stronger and we hardly talk to each other know, we just read each other's minds.

So it gets better, and I think the guys you do repeat business with - Nic Refn is another one - when you work for the same person for the second or third time, it gets better. And the beauty of working with someone multiple times is that most people come to you wanting to repeat something that they've heard, like in my case they like DRIVE or TRAFFIC or something similar but Steven and Nicolas come to me and say "I don't want you to do anything that sounds like anything you've done before" and I like that, very few people come to you and say "do something that doesn't sound like you", so they're always a great challenge.

CB: With your music - I was listening to KING OF THE HILL earlier, and some of it reminded me of ONLY GOD FORGIVES - you have an distinctive style. Given your varied approach to projects, is this an accidental thing or something you purposely work on?

CM: No, I've worked really hard to cultivate a real specific musical personality, and I listen to some of the older films like KING OF THE HILL and KAFKA and SEX, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE, and I think to myself "wow, what happened, I've lost my edge!" (laughs) Some of those early scores are really interesting because I didn't know what I was doing, I didn't know the formula or the recipe and I didn't have the experience. Everything was kind of new. HILL, KAFKA and VIDEOTAPE were three really different things and while I think they're still all musical expressions of me, they were very, very different. For Stephen he wanted to do something very different each time, but I like to think that there's a consistency.

Certainly I see reaching back to VIDEOTAPE with the ambient minimal electronic style, that part of my musical identity has held fast for twenty-five years. I mean, I'm still doing things that sound like VIDEOTAPE to me, it's just like "Sex, Lies and Videotape 2013". So yeah, I hold on to that and I try to be consistent and I try to do the same thing but different every time. And it's kind of impossible to reinvent yourself every time, I don't think anybody can do that no matter how hard they try. You can't help but be yourself, but I try extra hard to be myself.

CB: In terms of that, how you do usually approach writing a score? Do you read the script first or do you wait for the rough cut?

CM: Well most people don't hire you until they've got the film. Again, Steven and Nicolas are the few people that know they want to hire me before they've shot the film and they'll show me a script. And occasionally some other films that are being shot and are incomplete or in a rough cut, they'll send me a script too. But in my experience it's kind of a waste of time to sit down and write any music to a script, it's not till I see the picture until you really know what you've got and you can put some music with the picture, as you don't really know how it's going to work. I work with the picture pretty much, I never work with the script.

CB: Have you ever been asked to do something like Leone used to do with Morricone, with writing music and having that to be played on set and after to inspire the way the picture forms?

CM: I wrote some stuff for TRAFFIC before, I remember there was some source music - he [Steven] wanted some easy listening jazz - so I gave him some of that and it was never used, or I think they shot to it and then it was never used. But the only instance I can think of where I wrote something while the film was being shot that got used was the karaoke songs for ONLY GOD FORGIVES. I did five karaoke tracks, they ended up using one of them, so again even when it gets used it still supports my belief that writing music before the film is complete is a waste of time because one song out of five is not a very good average. But I think TRAFFIC was the only incident I can think of where Steven said "write something to inspire me to shoot by".

CB: In terms of the stuff that goes unused, do you ever think about putting any of that stuff out on an album or anything?

CM: Well there's very little of it, and usually when I'm asked to rewrite something I'm usually asked to revise an existing piece of my score. So almost everything I have is just kind of a slightly different version of a cue that was used, and that wouldn't be appropriate to put on a soundtrack. So yeah, people ask me "don't I have a big backlog of outtakes and unused material?" but the truth is not really. There's a lot of stuff for ONLY GOD FORGIVES and that was kind of an exception, it was probably a half-dozen tracks that just didn't get used. But they ended up being put out on a quote-unquote "bonus edition" with the download, so I guess I can't use that anywhere either! (laughs)

CB: When you produce the actual soundtrack albums, do you make sure you're very much in control?

CM: I try to be really hands-on about it, cause I think it's pretty tough to sequence. I think sequencing is a big deal, particularly if it's one of those films like THE LINCOLN LAWYER, which was a tough one to sequence because it was all short cues, there was like a ton of thirty-second cues and there were very few long cues where the musical idea had a chance to develop. So trying to put that together for a standalone listening experience is really tough, so I try to be involved and if they'll allow me to, I'm very hands-on about the sequencing.

But then there's things like the SPRING BREAKERS soundtrack where there's all these other artists and songs involved, so with something like that I don't have control and I don't think I would want to, just too many people you could piss off by taking control of a project like that. But the last few ones - ONLY GOD FORGIVES, THE COMPANY YOU KEEP, THE LINCOLN LAWYER, DRIVE - I tried to have a say in how those things were put together. For the most part film music is designed to accompany dialogue and images, you take that away and what's left in my opinion is a very anemic listening experience all by itself. I'm not a big fan of film soundtrack music by itself, a lot of it seems uninteresting to me without the images and dialogue, and that goes for my own music as well. So I think it's challenging to put together a good, solid forty-five minutes of film music.

CB: You mentioned SPRING BREAKERS, how was it working with Skrillex?

CM: Well it was great. I actually was ignorant of who he was and what his music sounded like until that film, and my very first exposure to both Skrillex and the film - by the way there was a script I read that bore very little resemblance to the film, and as you can imagine what a script for SPRING BREAKERS might look like it was about four pages long and not too interesting - and Harmony said to me "well don't judge the film on the script, you gotta come see it" so I went to the editing suite in Hollywood and they already had a pretty detailed temporary score including these Skrillex songs, so the opening scene - you know the topless slow-motion bouncing teenage girls to 'Scary Monsters On Strings' - in that instant I fell in love with the music of Skrillex and the film. Like in all of the first five seconds it was like "wow, this is amazing".

So it was an honour and a challenge to work with Skrillex and it was more than the usual collaboration on paper, which is like "you take these scenes, I'll take these scenes", we actually worked together on a couple of things, I took some of his ideas from 'Scary Monsters' as thematic material, but he's a busy guy, I think I saw him twice. The rest of the time I get like a text message or an email from Spain or Greece or something, so he was on the go and he was writing most of his material in airplanes and hotel rooms, so we exchanged files. But any time the scene was kind of beat driven he did it, anything that was more psychologically-driven I tended to do it, but I think each of us tried to sound like each other and I think it was a great success, because I think there are some things where I tried to sound like him and he tried to sound like me, and I think it's pretty seamless. I think there's a number of pieces in the film that you might be hard-pressed to tell who's who.

CB: It's excellent the way it starts with his version of 'Scary Monsters' and then when you hear what I assume is your version after, and to film score geeks like me that are probably ignorant of Skrillex on his own it's almost a gateway drug to appreciating his kind of music.

CM: I'm gonna use that, "gateway drug", that's great. Well it was a gateway drug and I got a little bit of a whiff of his technique, how he does it. But there is something very magical about the music that he creates, it's really loud and aggressive and imaginative and memorable and it lends itself well to film I think, I hope he does it again. But when you're playing in front of seventy-thousand people every night and making massive amounts of money, I don't know if Hollywood could lure him into another project, I'm surprised they got him to do SPRING BREAKERS.

CB: Given that you've been working with electronics throughout your career, is it interesting now to see people like Daft Punk and M83 get these huge projects where they bring electronics into big blockbusters - and obviously Trent Reznor winning an Oscar - ?

CM: Well yeah, it's surprising for the Oscars cause the Oscars have traditionally tried to put the emphasis on the old-school way of writing, which is "one man, one pencil, one piano". So it is a bit of a surprise to see it go to an electronic composer like Trent Reznor, but for the last twenty or thirty years - I was watching AMERICAN GIGOLO the other night with the Giorgio Moroder score - electronics have played a big role in a lot of big films, so it's kind of been there. I don't think electronics are going to take over, I like to think that the traditional European classical movement will continue to be an influence in film scoring cause it works so well and that's the history, that's the way it's done traditionally.

There's so many ways to create a film score, I don't think there's a right way or a wrong way, so I'm not surprised to see Chemical Brothers and Daft Punk and M83 entering the world of film music. Everybody's got their way and their own style of scoring films - perhaps the Oscar going to Trent Reznor has opened the door somewhat in that it's not considered the outside way to do it, but it's more of an inside and mainstream way to do it now.

CB: Again with electronics, was that why you were asked to score DRIVE, considering your history with electronics and the kind of score Refn needed?

CM: I think it was probably more the Brian Eno connection - I think he was more into the ambient textual electronic thing and sort of the beat-driven percolating synthesiser stuff was kind of a bonus concept. Initially he had in the temp score a bunch of Brian Eno stuff that was atmospheric and textual, and I think he was thinking I was good at that - which I was - but the eighties thing kind of came on gradually.

To me when I usually work on a film with a lot of songs on it, there's kind of a tendency for the songs and the underscore to go their separate stylistic ways - LINCOLN LAWYER for example, I couldn't figure out any kind of way to compliment an urban contemporary rap vibe, I just couldn't find the cinematic movie music equivalent of that, so I didn't try and I see that with a lot of movies where the songs are so eclectic and they're not monolithic like the DRIVE songs. Like four or five of the songs could have been composed by the same band or artist, so I felt that Nicolas was making a pretty strong statement about this retro-eighties synthpop sound that I had to acknowledge in one way or another in the underscore. And fortunately, in the world of computer music software eighties synthesisers are all the rage, so it was kind of easy to incorporate that and get that pseudo-eighties retro sound and the ambient thing too. CB: And obviously after that came ONLY GOD FORGIVES. It's just such an amazing score, how did you even approach doing that?

CM: That was way more eclectic, and it kept changing and new ideas kept being added and taken away. The first thing I did was the karaoke songs which were Thai pop songs, some of them were pretty old songs - 'Can't Forget' was a real old song, I think it was like a twenty year-old song - but anyhow, they were all very kind of mainstream type pop songs. So that was the first thing I did for the film and all I did was copy the original tracks pretty faithfully, I threw in a couple of curveballs to try to make it a little bit like my style but those weren't used.

So my initial intention was to create a score that would be very influenced by Thai music or Thai pop music, and there's very little of that left. There's an instrument called the Phin (pronounced "pin") that I used - a traditional Thai folk instrument - so whenever you hear a plucked instrument type that's the Phin, but it's not played in the traditional Thai idiom really. And then Nicolas did a temporary score while he was editing with the 1951 version of THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL by Bernard Herrmann.

CB: Oh wow.

CM: And that's one of my favourite scores so when I heard that I kind of changed directions and tried to keep a little bit of the Thai thing, and get this Bernard Herrmann Wagner scifi fantastic thing going, and then even though Nicolas said "thou shalt not sound like DRIVE", he still expressed a strong preference for these atmospheric textual things as well. So I guess those are the three food groups; the Thai thing, the Bernard Herrmann thing, and the kind of ambient minimal texture thing - what else was in there? I guess that was it. He was always telling me it was a horror film, so those were kind of all the influences I guess. You know, sometimes you do a film and you have a very strong sense of direction you're going to go.

You then get on a plane and go from LA to New York, but this time I got on a plane and took a side trip to Beaumont, Texas and (laughs) I didn't really go in a straight line, so the influences are a lot more eclectic, a little harder to trace and recognise. Some people have told me it sounds like, what I've gotten from two journalists is INCEPTION, and did I listen to INCEPTION a lot when I wrote ONLY GOD FORGIVES? No I didn't, not at all! I don't even see the connection.

CB: I don't see that at all!

CM: So I always say that if you imitate one artist and role model them very closely, that's plagiarism. But if you role model two artists and put them together, then you have something original. And that's what I think happened in ONLY GOD FORGIVES. The fight scene for example was very much Goblin - the guys who score for Dario Argento - and Philip Glass and Ennio Morricone. It was like those three things together, that's what I was really trying to create. I think if you put those three things in a bag and shake it up - what would you get? - and that was that piece, which I forgot is a whole different group of role models, at least for that particular cue.

CB: It's funny, because I was going to mention that cue and in particular the riff that sounds like John Carpenter.

CM: Well there's a bonus track on the download, a piece called 'Time To Meet The Devil'. It's only like a minute and a half or two minutes, and that was supposed to introduce the Chang character, and Nicolas said "I want something that sounds like the HALLOWEEN theme" so that was the only thing I did that a real direct descendant of John Carpenter. The fight scene, well if there's any John Carpenter in that - and I can see the connection - I guess that was subconscious. The conscious was Glass, Goblin and Morricone. But yeah, I think the synth thing and certainly the tense, suspense horror vibe is definitely in there.

CB: I suppose it could be Carpenter's influence from Goblin and those Italian movies that comes out there, he's mentioned that before.

CM: Could be, you know I hadn't thought of that. So the Dario Argento stuff predates John Carpenter, right?

CB: Filmwise, yeah. With Goblin DEEP RED was '75, SUSPIRIA was '77. HALLOWEEN was '78, but then again ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 was '76 so maybe they influenced each other.

CM: Well there you go. It's interesting, I think all these guys are probably in my bloodstream unknowingly. A lot of people made the Giorgio Moroder connection, who I was not that familiar with, and the film music business is very incestuous. Just for myself there's a piece from LINCOLN LAWYER that I think was used as temp music in DRIVE, so that piece was descended from LINCOLN and it got used again in ARBITRAGE. I'm just telling you the stuff that I stole because it's me, but there's plenty of other stuff like where you knock it off and then you hear somebody knocking off your version of it being knocked off in some other film.

I hear things that sound suspiciously like TRAFFIC to me in other people's films, but because of this practice of temp scoring and composers trying to figure out a way that's something new but similar, you get all these imitators. So I'm sure that when I think I'm imitating Hans Zimmer, maybe I'm actually imitating somebody imitating John Carpenter imitating Goblin. There's nothing original in my world, it's all stolen (laughs).

CB: Homage?

CM: Yeah, that's a good safe word (laughs).

CB: How do you feel about the whole temp track thing?

CM: I'm in favour of it most of the time. I've had it turn evil a couple of times where the temp score is really good and they've really waited a long time to hire the composer and the film has gone to some preview screenings and it's had some great scores, and then it becomes problematic cause I think it can close people off to hearing a new idea and a new approach, and I can see where some composers really have a problem with it. But for me, it's been almost always a good tool and a starting point to talk about music, because it's hard to talk about music.

Somebody tells you they want "brown, slinky and heroic" - I don't know what that means, but if you play it for me as Danny Elfman, now I know what you're talking about. Some directors use it really well, like Soderbergh for example always throws me a temp score curveball knowing that I won't be able to imitate it, and the results will be interesting in the way that I fail to imitate it. KING OF THE HILL for example, he temped it with John Williams, and I thought "why would he hire me if this John Williams sound really works?" so it was the first time I attempted to do orchestral music with the samplers - which were actually the orchestral samplers of 1993 or whenever that was - which were pretty primitive, but it forced me into some pretty interesting ideas.

And then again for CONTAGION, he temped that with the score by Don Ellis to THE FRENCH CONNECTION, an esoteric seventies score. And then he later replaced it with Tangerine Dream, so he kept emphasising this retro thing that, even if I did the same music it wouldn't sound the same, there's just too many ingredients into why those recordings even sound the way they do. So CONTAGION was very much like this period thing of Don Ellis meets Tangerine Dream, and the result was really interesting. And when Steven uses the temp music, I don't think he really expects you to knock off Tangerine Dream, he wants you to do your interpretation and take from the temp score what you will, so in the case of Steven the temp score really is a great tool. And for every film I've done with Steven there has been a temp score there, and it still allows me to sound like me, I think. Although I would never divulge what the sources were for everything, because by large much of it is imitative.

CB: Going back to the preview thing, it seems that it's kind of a thing now that when a picture doesn't get great scores, the composer is the first one the fingers point at. Have you ever had anything kicked out on a film?

CM: Yeah. It's true, composers are in the hot seat because at that point, if the film is together enough to even have a preview screening there are not many affordable options left if the film previews poorly and the people don't like it. And one of the relatively least expensive ways that can give the film a new facelift is to throw out the score and do a new one. That's happened to me once, where they just said "new score, let's get a fresh face" and it was because it did poorly at a test screening.

It's true, that's kind of the power of film music, you get a lot of bang for your buck with the music and when you consider the alternative with changing the script at that point or doing reshoots, changing the score is a very economical way to take a film in a new direction. It hasn't happened to me too often, I mean I don't do many big studio pictures where they even have preview screenings, and guys like Steven who I've done a couple of big pictures with, he doesn't really care (laughs), he's pretty indifferent and is really a truly independent filmmaker, even when he does movies like CONTAGION and SOLARIS and TRAFFIC. He sticks to his guns, he's very decisive and quick to make up his mind and very slow to change it.

CB: Is there one of your scores that you see as your favourite, or that you're the most proud of?


CB: It's funny you say that, as that's a score that really has so many followers, almost as many as the film.

CM: Well, when it came out and it didn't really do that well commercially, I suspected that it might have a long shelf-life as a cult film. I had a feeling it would be a film that would be remembered even though it wasn't a blockbuster, I had a premonition that it might have a longer life. And the response to the music kind of surprised me because what I loved about it is, you know only the director and a few people and me get to see what the film is like before and after the music, and not to knock the film but sometimes the music gets a small role and sometimes it has a big role. I felt that the music had a larger than average role in SOLARIS, and I think it had the most effect on the film of any score I've done, as well as being a really cool score.

And it's one of the few scores I think holds up as a standalone listening experience, I think it made the greatest contribution to the film of any score that I've done, and that's also why I like it, and perhaps that's why people still listen to it.

CB: Do you think because the movie is science fiction you had a larger canvas to express yourself on, and maybe with a bit more freedom than usual?

CM: Perhaps. Maybe not that it was science fiction, I think it was because the interpretation of what the film was about was a little bit left to the audience, so I think the film was perhaps more open-ended in the way that you process the events in the film. I think it could have been scored in a lot of different ways, so I think there was probably a level of freedom to make it cosmic, or make it a thriller, or make it a romance, there was a number of choices to go in, perhaps more so than your average film because it was a little more abstract, I guess.

CB: And now it's coming out on vinyl [from Invada Records].

CM: Well I hear that vinyl is the only segment of the music CD and download market that's actually growing. It's a novel development that vinyl is making a comeback. I don't quite get it, I have a brand new Technics USB turntable and I bought it with the release of the DRIVE soundtrack on vinyl, but I still haven't plugged it in. So I have ARBITRAGE on vinyl, I have ONLY GOD FORGIVES, DRIVE, but I haven't heard any of them. So I can't really vouch for the superiority of the sound of vinyl, but it certainly makes a much nicer decoration than a hard drive sitting on your coffee table.

CB: Please tell me you've at least opened DRIVE?

CM: No (laughs). As a kid I used to have this thing, I would put scotch tape all around the border of the opening and I would slit it so the cellophane would not shrink, so I have this real obsessive-compulsive anal-retentive thing about the cellophane, so no, I haven't broken the seal on any of my albums. But I know what it looks like on the inside.

CB: DRIVE looks so great, with the pink vinyl.

CM: Since they've made it, I've been told that the black vinyl sounds better than the pink (laughs) - I don't know what to believe, there's a lot of myths surrounding vinyl.

CB: Well there's the 140gram, and then the 180gram.

CM: Oh yeah, you gotta have the 180. It's like, accept no substitute. But yeah, I think basically what it is is that we used to have a lot of stuff to express who we are, albums were one thing. And now so much of our stuff - our music for example - exists on a hard drive where nobody gets to see it. There's no physical expression, music has always been a big part of expressing your identity, and now it's all locked away on a hard drive where it can't be seen, so I think basically the vinyl is a way of putting your DRIVE album out on the coffee table and letting people know who you are. So there's no need to take it out of the wrapper (laughs).

CB: Going back to SOLARIS, I interviewed Invada's manager [Redg Weeks] and I asked him what his number one release would be if red tape and budget were no issue, and he said he was already doing it with SOLARIS.

CM: That's great, that's amazing. I'm flattered to hear that remark passed on. Whenever I feel depressed and worthless and old, I go to Amazon and I look at the reader reviews where they say "My dog had arthritus and I held him up to the speakers and he was healed!". There are just so many kind and flattering and unbelievable people just blathering about how great that score is that it never fails to cheer me up.

CB: To cheer you up more, there's a band on Invada called The Fauns whose next record has a double-track tribute to SOLARIS and Clint Mansell's MOON. Mansell also just remixed one of their tracks.

CM: I think that's the future of music, recycling. There'll be no more original music being written - that's not fair, there'll probably be original music, it's just no one will be getting paid for it (laughs). Sorry to go negative, sometimes I just get the boogie-woogie in me and it's got to come out (laughs). But I think the art of composing in the future is going to be more like the art of selection, you know. Remixing, combining old and new body parts, stealing somebody else's work and putting your name on it, that's what it's going to be about! (laughs). That's a great tone to end on there I think! In our lifetime, we will see somebody win an Oscar for a score that was composed on the iPhone.

CB: So as we're wrapping up, can you name your favourite film score?

CM: Well, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL is right up there with A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS and FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, those two. For some reason, we tend to kind of worship that which is old, which is of a different era that's gone, and I can't think of anything in the last ten years that's knocked my socks off as hard as those film scores. I love the guys like Morricone and Herrmann who express their uniqueness and do so boldly, you know you hear three notes and you know who it is. And those are the guys that I admire and those two, three scores are probably their greatest hits.

CB: So you're off across the globe shortly?

CM: Yeah, I'm going to the Hawaiian Film Festival, where I'm just doing a day as a panellist, but I'm gonna loaf for nine days while I'm there and try to choke down as many macadamia nut pancakes and Mai Tai's that I possibly can.

CB: Anything upcoming on the scoring front?

CM: Yeah, there's a secret mission that I'm not completely on yet, and it looks like I'll also be doing a Soderbergh TV series called THE KNICK. So yeah, I'm popular all this week. After like seven months of unemployment, I'm making a comeback!

CB: Well Cliff, thank you very much for speaking to us, and good luck on your future work.

CM: Likewise, thank you.

This interview was originally published on

2013: The Year In Review

La Mula