The composers for the hit HBO series Watchmen have revealed how they set the tone for the series. From that first episode, Atticus Ross and Trent Renzor’s score was being applauded on the Internet. The raw sometimes disorienting electronic tracks mixed with timely musical cues from other eras proved to be the perfect soundtrack for a series focused on discord. The duo talked to KCRW about their work on Watchmen and revealed that they really had to consider how they would approach such an emotionally fraught tale. Showrunner Damon Lindelof famously rubber-stamped the two musicians from their first submission for the project. But, it would take more than their sonic aptitude to craft the backdrop for Tulsa in a time of upheaval.
Renzor began, “We had a bit of a tricky time putting our finger on really where to start. It wasn't until we saw a rough cut of the pilot when we understood that there was room for this to kind of be fun as well and playful.”
“And what we learned way back in “The Social Network” is neither one of us really knew how to approach scoring a film. We stumbled into a process that's been good for us, and that was to try to understand what story they're trying to tell,” he added. “And then rather than think about a scene or a specific moment, just kind of sit in the studio and create music almost subconsciously, music that feels like it might belong in the world, next to that story.”
For his part, Atticus Ross had to highlight how the duo had trouble getting a song cleared because of that uncomfortable lynching scene. In fact, it ended up influencing the rest of their process for that episode.
“This plays over a particularly brutal scene. It leads up to a lynching. And there was a piece of music in this slot that the publisher refused to license because of the picture,” Ross explained. “And that particular publisher happens to own supposedly almost all of the catalog of what one might want to put in that scene. And they said, ‘Not only will we not license you that, we will not license you anything.”
He added, “And we'd got to a point in the relationship with Damon where we were close. And he called up, explained the situation, said, 'Do you think you'd be able to write something recorded with a big band, have a haunting vocal, the right lyrics, and could you do it in six days?’”
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