As “Drive” turns 10, key musicians remember its innovative soundtrack

In the 10 years since the release of Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive”, the lives of two key characters behind its soundtrack, Johnny Jewel and Cliff Martinez, have changed for the better, thanks to the film.

“Before I got off ‘Drive’, I was standing by the freeway with a cardboard sign that said ‘I’ll score for food’,” jokes ‘Drive’ songwriter Martinez, sometimes drummer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. , and one of Steven Soderbergh’s Must-Have Composers. “I wasn’t really struggling, but I was going months without work. My popularity comes and goes, but for the most part I’m much more popular than before 2011. ”

“For those of us in the underground, ‘Drive’ was huge,” says Jewel, who has two key songs on the soundtrack – “Tick of the Clock” with her old band, the Chromatics, and “Under Your. Spell “with his other band, Desire.

“’Drive’ is a niche movie,” Jewel continues, “but it’s very popular and very revolutionary and in a musical sense, very impactful. The level of discovery of people who see the movie and then want to hear more of it. things like that put what we were doing in the underground at the center of the general public.

Only five of the twenty or so pieces of music collected on the “Drive” soundtrack are needle drops. It was these five, especially the two from Jewel, that set the sonic tone of the film.

The opening sequence is recorded by “Tick of the Clock”, which, at almost 10 minutes, is also the longest line. The song plays like sheet music, and for quite a while, Jewel felt like he had been tasked with scoring “Drive.”

According to Jewel, when Ryan Gosling was attached to the photo, the actor had a choice of director and songwriter. He chose Refn and Jewel respectively. Jewel’s song “Digital Versicolor,” with her band Glass Candy, was featured three times in Refn’s 2008 film, “Bronson,” and her 2007 Chromatics-starring album “Night Drive” had a strong influence on the color of “Drive.”

Gosling and Refn came to one of Jewel’s shows in Los Angeles and asked her to do the score for “Drive”. Bijou said yes. They reflected on the vibe and sound references such as Brian Eno and Tangerine Dream. Jewel returned to Montreal, Canada, where he was living at the time, read the James Sallis novel from which “Drive” was adapted, and began writing and recording. During this time, Jewel kept in touch with Refn via Skype and continued to work on the score.

“Drive was my first feature film,” explains Jewel. “Before that, my only experience with movies, commercials or fashion shows was taking songs that I had already made. I didn’t really understand how it was supposed to work in a formal way in Hollywood. I was doing songs without really understanding the back and forth aspect and the notes of a bunch of different people who aren’t necessarily the director. I was focusing on the creative side of things. I didn’t have a formal contract. I didn’t know they had hired someone else. I only realized this when we were mixing and my needle drops were being used, but the score was new.

Meanwhile, Martinez was brought to Adam Siegel, one of the film’s producers, by Lakeshore Entertainment’s Brian McNelis, who was releasing the soundtrack. Martinez played Refn the Cristal Baschet, an experimental instrument, in his living room, and he says Refn was “transfixed”.

Martinez composed the film’s iconic score over five weeks (just in time for the Cannes Film Festival, where Refn won the Best Director award) with the needle drops as a sound guide.

“At the time, the song choices were controversial, a little too eccentric,” says Martinez. “Often a song compilation score is too eclectic for a composer to follow in its stylistic footsteps. But four of those songs could be the same band and two of them were [Jewel], so he felt stylistically unified. I can recognize it with the score, and [Refn], in so many words, told me to do it. Looking back, it’s hard to imagine anything else in this film. [Refn] was ahead of everyone else.

Since “Drive”, Martinez has marked the films “Only God Forgives” and “The Neon Demon” for Refn, as well as the Amazon limited series “Too Old to Die Young” and “My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn”, the documentary on the life of Refn directed by his wife. He has also been in demand for television series, video games and commercials. Apple even wanted him to create a ringtone based on what he had done for the “Drive” score. “It had a huge impact,” says Martinez. “My whole career has changed.

Gosling was finally able to put Jewel in the composer’s shoes for his 2015 directorial debut, “Lost River.” Jewel has since marked many films including “Zeroville” (2019), “Into the Mirror” (2018), “Don’t Come Back From the Moon” (2017) and “A Beautiful Now” (2014). He has also just signed for “Holly” with Fien Troch, for whom he composed “Home” (2016).

The Chromatics recently disbanded, but Jewel continues to be prolific, releasing music under her own name and with a variety of projects on her own label, Italians Do It Better.

What he didn’t release was the sheet music he wrote for “Drive” – ​​although there has been plenty of speculation that his Symmetry album, “Themes for an Imaginary Film”, is. this partition. Jewel can set the record straight: “’Themes for an Imaginary Film’ was an album I was working on three years before ‘Drive’. I released it a few months after “Drive”. The album is 30 minutes longer than the movie, so it’s not the score. It’s a concept album of instrumentals that weren’t going to be used for my pop groups. It’s a 37-track album, including two tracks for ‘Drive’, “he says,” but that’s it. “

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