Cliff Martinez
The coolest film composer in Hollywood. Source. Rolling Stone

When it to comes to soundtracks Cliff Martinez is one of the most in demand in Hollywood, so we jumped at the chance of an interview with the man himself.

After a stint as the drummer in The Red Hot Chilli Peppers Cliff Martinez stepped away to compose motion pictures. What a fantastic decision.

Breaking through into the big leagues with his work on the Ryan Gosling fueled Drive, his career has been fascinating to watch. From collaborating with Skrillex on Spring Breakers, heading into video games with Far Cry 4, to making medical dramas sound cool on The Knick, there’s seemingly no end to his talent.

While doing press rounds for his latest film The Foreigner, starring Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan we were granted a brief chat with the man himself.

Cliff Martinez in the music zone. Source. SCPR.ORG

The interview with Cliff Martinez

DF: The Foreigner marks quite an interesting departure for you, an action thriller. I feel you haven’t quite tackled this genre before with the exception of perhaps the Far Cry 4 game. How did you become involved in the project and what kind of challenges did you face scoring such a film?

CLIFF: I believe that director Martin Campbell contacted my agent John Tempereau about my getting involved in the project. The challenge for me was to write action music which I’d gotten some practice doing for Far Cry 4.

Jackie Chan as Quan in The Foreigner. Source. Comingsoon.net

DF: Is there a standout composition from your work on The Foreigner?

CLIFF: “Observe And Report” is one of my favourites.

DF: Your work on Solaris is still as haunting now as it was on release. How do you find looking back on your catalogue? It is hard to listen as just an audience member for your own work or are you thinking of elements you may have done differently?

CLIFF: I very seldom listen to scores or watch movies of my past work except as a reference for something I may be working on currently.

DF: Having your name attached to a project automatically has my attention. When I first heard “Son Of Placenta Previa” from The Knick I rushed out and watched the show immediately. How different is your approach to scoring TV versus film or gaming?

CLIFF: I think the approach varies according to the subject matter of the project more than the medium. TV and film feel similar to me in that they both tell a story. Games are different. Far Cry 4 mostly had two kinds of music: action, suspense and lots of gradations of each.

George Clooney in the Cliff Martinez scored Solaris. Source IMDB.

DF: You’ve had great success with both Stephen Soderbergh & Nicolas Winding Refn over the course of many years. What makes these particular relationships special and what do you look for in a collaboration?

CLIFF: The thing I like best about Stephen and Nicolas is that they never come to me asking to repeat anything I’ve done before. They like to explore areas that are new to them and ask me to share the journey.

Cliff Martinez interview
Cliff & Nicolas Winding Refn striking a (com)pose. Source. Screen Daily.

DF: The scores you compose are rare as they can easily be enjoyed away from their visual setting. The Neon Demon is a recent example that I can play in the car and my commute to work is that much cooler because of it. Is hard to find that balance between scoring a scene and creating music?

CLIFF: I usually don’t worry about how the music will hold up apart from the film. It’s hard enough just to make music that works with the film. I don’t think that a lot of film music, my own included, is very engaging when you remove the images and dialog. The Neon Demon is a rare exception and I think Solaris is another.

DF: After having a listen to “Following Daniel” from your 2004 Wicker Park score it feels like an eternity since i’ve heard you bring out the steel drums. Is there any chance for a comeback in your upcoming work?

CLIFF: Yes, I’m sure I’ll use them again. I’ve got too many of them laying around the house not to put them to work somewhere.

Cliff Martinez interview
Cliff & his steel drums. Source. Pitchfork.com

The Foreigner is in theatres now, and you can watch the trailer below.

I enjoy talking about films almost as much as I love watching them.