Nicolas Winding Refn
Cliff Martinez has been quietly dominating indie film scores for well over 20 years, starting out with Steven Soderbergh and his debut film Sex, Lies, and Videotape. He’s scored films as diverse as Pump Up The Volume, Wicker Park, and The Lincoln Lawyer, but he made his name with Steven Soderbergh. His scores are exquisite and precise. They form to the needs of the film and story. There’s never any grandstanding with Martinez. He serves the film and the film alone, but in doing that over the years he’s developed his own voice as a composer. By the time Soderbergh’s excellent remake of Solaris rolled around he’d found this unique way of serving the film, while at the same time creating a standalone piece of art in his music. That score is magnificent, dark, beautiful, and stays with you. I feel from that point on he’s become one of the most important American composers working today.
Back in 2011 Martinez started a working relationship with Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn. Martinez created the darkly lit, synth-driven score to Refn’s Drive that has since turned into a blossoming artistic partnership. He’s scored the aforementioned Drive, as well as Refn’s Only God Forgives and the short doc about Refn himself titled My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, directed by Refn’s wife Live Corfixn. Their newest collaboration is The Neon Demon, and I believe it’s their best collaboration to date.
The Neon Demon, directed by Drive filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn, is one of the most controversial films of the year. An exploration of LA’s modelling industry starring Elle Fanning and Keanu Reeves, the horror movie follows the exploits of a young model preyed on by cannibalistic older models threatened by her newcomer status. It’s extremely violent, was booed and Cannes and got The Daily Mail all up in arms. Its soundtrack, switching between ambient numbers and banging rock songs, was recorded by Cliff Martinez, who was the original drummer in the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He’s worked with Refn before, on Drive and Only God Forgives, so we chatted to Martinez about The Neon Demon, working with Skrillex – as he did on the 2012 film Spring Breakers – and why doesn’t miss the Chili Peppers.
In a stylized, oft-poetic way, Demon portrays the competitive grind and sheer artifice of the modelling world, and probably Los Angeles as a whole to an extent. The emotions are intense and massive, even in the most sedated scenes. Martinez does an excellent job of using throbbing synthesizers, scattered guitar expressions, pulsating drum machines, and ambient textures to convey this.
However, this time around Martinez works less like a counterpoint to Refn than he has in the past, when he would have tempered ostentatious visuals that seemed to call for compositions as equally stylized. (Think of Drive – the infamous elevator scene has a delicate and crystalline ambient love theme that counters the crunch of violence between The Driver and a would-be assailant.) While Demon certainly has shades of this, more than ever in their three-picture-run-so-far Martinez plays the role of amplifying Refn’s bombast.
Read the full review by Aaron Vehlinggo at vehlinggo.com
The Neon Demon actress, director, and composer exorcise the film’s themes.
A former drummer for Red Hot Chili Peppers, Captain Beefheart, and Lydia Lunch, the 62-year-old composer initially broke into film after scoring Steven Soderbergh’s 1989 breakthrough indie hit, sex, lies, and videotape, a partnership that’s continued ever since and ultimately led to his latest ventures with Refn.
The Neon Demon marks their third collaboration together — fourth, if you count Liv Corfixen’s My Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn — and Martinez’s compositions have certainly added a flavorful touch to Refn’s stoic ouevre. In a way, each score serves as a ghostly narrator, haunting the filmmaker’s trademark long shots with an ambient glaze that’s meditative and comforting.
The film steers the ship; gives you the structure and the ideas. Interestingly, I don’t see the three works as fitting into distinct categories as you just described. They always seem like they blurred together. We both share a love of sparse electronic music. We both love ’70s and ’80s electronic music. I think every work shares these sensibilities. We’ve always talked about Kraftwerk, Goblin, [Giorgio] Moroder – those artists have always been reference points. It always seems like an evolution to me, but we’ve always tried to consciously steer clear of past work. But can we actually escape our pasts? -Cliff Martinez
The composer’s latest for Nicolas Winding Refn proves they’re artistic soulmates.
This is Martinez’s third collaboration with Refn—he captured the zeitgeist with his score for 2011’s Drive and also worked on Refn’s divisive follow-up Only God Forgives—and also his most assertive. Where those soundtracks trafficked mainly in synth-heavy ambiance and shattering moments of dissonance, The Neon Demon’s 23 tracks are much more concerned with melody. Driving backbeats ground many of the tracks, as do infectious synth burbles and chugging trails of distortion. Some moments are strikingly pretty, others deeply unpleasant; none of it, though, is lacking in personality.
The longtime movie maestro’s third collaboration with the director Nicolas Winding Refn opens Friday.
An important ingredient in my artistic upbringing is punk rock. Shortly after moving to L.A., I was rehearsing in South Central L.A. with a top-40 band that was doing George Benson cover songs. In an adjacent room, I heard an offensive racket that turned out to be L.A.’s first (or second) punk rock band, The Screamers. At first I was repulsed. My next response was, “This is interesting,” and by the end of the song, I was hooked. Shortly thereafter I joined The Weirdos. We played at the Whisky A Go Go and when I saw three people do swan dives off the balcony, I thought to myself, “That beats applause any day.”
I Am From the Future”: A Sometimes Contentious Conversation With ‘The Neon Demon’ Director Nicolas Winding Refn & Composer Cliff Martinez
But as long as there’s something happening and getting a reaction it’s worthwhile?
I don’t think people quite realize how difficult it is to create a film or music that is divisive or controversial. You have to have a big enough audience that is in love with it for the controversy [to exist]. For the people at Cannes who booed it, you have to have enough people cheering it for that to happen. If you make a shitty film, it just dies a swift, miserable death. You really have to burn a lot of calories to create something that people will want to talk about. When I was in the Red Hot Chili Peppers, we tried really hard to be Sex Pistols 2. That was the birth of us coming on stage with nothing on except a strategically placed tube sock. Even then, people found us endearing, because everywhere we played the club owner would say “You’re going to do the sock thing, right?” It was a real crowdpleaser. So to be commercial or uncommercial, controversial or divisive, to make a big stink with a film is an accomplishment that we should all be proud of. -Cliff Martinez
Nicolas Winding Refn and Cliff Martinez Discuss the Dark Side of Beauty, Taking Risks, and the Hypnotic Soundtrack of The Neon Demon
Refn is quick to admit that he has no problem leaving many of the technical aspects of composing to Martinez. “I can’t play an instrument, I can’t sing, I can’t dance, I don’t have the confidence,” he admits. “That’s never stopped me!”, Martinez interjects with a laugh. Fearlessness in singing and dancing aside, he humbly credits Refn for helping him branch out and take chances. “I always tend to be really conservative because music just takes a long time to create so I don’t take that many risks, but Nicolas encourages risk-taking in the music. So that trust factor is a big deal and you kind of earn it, in our case, over three films. I seem to be getting bigger and bigger roles in Nicolas’ films.”
Nicolas Winding Refn and Cliff Martinez are one of the best director/composer duos working in the industry, and are bringing the spotlight back to auteur filmmaking in a time where studio-curated franchises dominate theaters. The two have worked together on Drive and Only God Forgives, and The Neon Demon marks their third collaboration together. In this unique interview we get to hear from both Nicolas and Cliff together. We discuss how they met, why they work so well together, what it means to be an auteur in today’s industry and their process for working on The Neon Demon. Enjoy this short but sweet interview from two auteurs who are blazing their own path.
Interview produced and presented by Kaya Savas at Film.Music.Media
Cliff Martinez’s aesthetic as a composer is unique and truly special. He never compromised his voice as a storyteller to fit the mold of Hollywood. Instead he found amazing filmmakers to work with whose visions were able to utilize his unique way of scoring. Nicolas Winding Refn found his working companion in Cliff Martinez when the two worked together on Drive. The film’s popular soundtrack was a hit amongst fans, and Cliff Martinez’s score was a perfect compliment to Refn’s vision. This continued on Only God Forgives, where again the marriage of image and sound seamlessly blended together. Here in The Neon Demon it seems Martinez and Refn have truly accomplished something beyond just memorable. The Neon Demon is one of the most masterful scores Cliff Martinez has ever written, and the sonic palette presented here absorbs you into the vivid imagery of Nicolas Winding Refn’s stylish thriller.
Read the full review by Kaya Savas at Film.Music.Media
If there’s one thing that composer Cliff Martinez shares in common with Jesse, the nymphet model of “The Neon Demon,” then it’s that both are soft spoken while rocking peoples’ worlds. For Jesse, it’s becoming a sensation that drives LA’s fashionistas wild with desire as The Next Big Thing. For former Chili Peppers drummer Martinez, it was creating a sound of alt. rhythmic minimalism that changed the face of indie scoring with Steven Soderbergh’s “Sex, Lies and Videotape.” But if Jesse has the misfortune of attracting equally gorgeous, if far more twisted people who want to absorb the blonde essence of her corn-fed enchantment, Martinez’s sonic spell has had the far more fortunate result of attracting creative agent provocateurs – perhaps none more twisted than Nicolas Winding Refn.
“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.
“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”.
Read the full article by Tiffany Pritchard at Screen Daily
La bande-son est aussi une perle du genre qui renforce l’ambiance oppressante de ce milieu très prisé. L’univers sonore est riche, varié, contient des sons électros composés par Cliff Martinez. La bande-son permet de renforcer des situations déjà malsaines pour réellement enfermer le spectateur avec les personnages ; à noter qu’elle se base aussi sur le point de vue de Jesse. Pour ainsi dire, l’ambiance sonore devient aussi une esthétique à part entière et porte aussi le film. Elle paraît énigmatique et mystérieuse, parfois inquiétante et violente tout en surplombant les images et le récit. C’est cet ensemble de rouages qui donnent au film de Nicolas Winding Refn, une œuvre réjouissante, effrayante et expérimentale.
Lire l’article complet à LE GEEK CINEPHILE
One of the more exciting creative partnerships to emerge in the past few years has been that between composer Cliff Martinez and director Nicolas Winding Refn. Martinez’s cool, pulsating sound was a perfect fit for the slick pop thriller “Drive,” and the grim tale of cyclical vengeance in “Only God Forgives,” and the duo are back at it with upcoming fashion world horror “The Neon Demon.” And Martinez is more than happy to keep his artistic relationship with the director going strong.
“Nicolas also sends me his script and he talks to me about the project before he even shoots it….I think I know what kind of music Nicolas likes, so I kind of stay in that territory,” he told Thump earlier this year. “After doing a couple of films with him you realize monogamy has its benefits. You understand what he’s looking for, the communication becomes better, and usually you go a little deeper each time. I think ‘Neon Demon’ had some similarities to ‘Drive,’ it’s kind of a sparse electronic score. Music writing has a juicy role in ‘Neon Demon’ — well, I haven’t seen the finished film, but there’s over an hour of music. And there’s a lot of places where the music is really pushed out more into the spotlight, even more than ‘Drive.’ I think I got a bigger part in the film, it’s flattering.”
Certainly, Martinez’s work is an integral part of the fabric of Refn’s films, and these two exclusive tracks — “Don’t Forget Me When You’re Famous” and “Messenger Walks Among Us” — see the composer provide synth dripping atmospherics, along with his trademark propulsive sound, that are perfect complements for the high end world that Elle Fanning traverses in “The Neon Demon.”
Palmarès Cannes Soundtrack 2016
“Coup de Cœur” de la Meilleure Musique de Film Originale
Cliff Martinez pour The Neon Demon de Nicolas Winding Refn
Après Lim Gion pour The assassin de Hou Hsiao-Hsien, c’est donc Cliff Martinez (qui avait déjà collaboré avec Nicolas Winding Refn pour Only God forgives et Drive) qui a été récompensé cette année pour la musique très expressive de The neon Demon de Nicolas Winding Refn. Tantôt lancinante et ultra-rythmée, hallucinée et délicate, elle donne au film une identité sonore forte, entre étrangeté contenue et cauchemar anxiogène. L’apport de Martinez est d’ailleurs évidente dans l’esthétique choc du film et dans la recherche formelle quasi abstraite du réalisateur danois. A noter que la bande-originale du film sera éditée à partir du 3 juin prochain.
Cannes Film Festival Press Conference with Cliff Martinez Winner of Best Soundtrack for The Neon Demon (starts at 14:30)
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Writers: Nicolas Winding Refn, Nicolas Winding Refn
Stars: Elle Fanning as Jesse, Christina Hendricks as Jan, Keanu Reeves as Hank
‘The Neon Demon’ Summary: When aspiring model Jesse (Elle Fanning) moves to Los Angeles, her youth and vitality are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will take any means necessary to get what she has.
Cliff Martinez reunites with Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn to conjure dark disco for sexy thriller The Neon Demon
Three times the charm for veteran film composer Cliff Martinez and director Nicolas Winding Refn. Ever since their initial collaboration on 2011’s sexy indie thriller Drive, the two artists have gone together like Gosling and a hammer. Now, they’re back for Refn’s latest feature, The Neon Demon, starring the ever-talented Elle Fanning as a young, aspiring model surrounded by a bunch of monstrous, beauty-hungry women. Christina Hendricks and Keanu Reeves co-star. The film just premiered at Cannes Film Festival and to celebrate Milan Records has unearthed the gloomy, pulsating title track from Martinez’s forthcoming soundtrack. As expected, it’s fit for the dance floor and warrants lots of glitter.
Listen to the theme below and catch a trailer for the film above. – by Michael Roffman
Read full review at Consequence of Sound
Cliff Martinez, the composer who left his mark on Nicolas Windin Refn’s breakthrough film Drive (and more recently TV’s The Knick), is working together with the acclaimed director again on the upcoming film THE NEON DEMON. Their third collaboration together (the other being 2013’s Only God Forgives), the soundtrack will be released via Milan Records both digitally and on CD June 24, 2016, along with a double vinyl release coming July 1st. In addition to the score, the album release also features the original track “Waving Goodbye” performed by Sia. Today Consequence of Sound premieres the first piece of music from the film — Cliff’s unforgettable, dark-disco leaning theme “Neon Demon”.
Listen and read more at SOUNDWORKS COLLECTION
Through flashing prisms and mirror images, and underpinned by Cliff Martinez’s superb score – all subaquatic throbs and cascading, gem-refracted electronica – Fanning’s face becomes a kind of idolatrous icon, and we feel as if we’re bearing witness to a strange and occult ritual.
Read full review at The Telegraph
For his original score for Refn’s latest fever dream THE NEON DEMON, Martinez has created his magnum opus, his aural masterpiece. A collection of cues that veer smoothly between lush landscapes of dreamy ambience and abstract swells of mind and ear-bending malevolence.
The main attraction here is Martinez’s seductive sounds and, for almost 20 tracks (the CD is a single long playing disc and the vinyl is 2 platters; both will be released via Milan Records, the former on June 24th, the latter on July 8th), Martinez seamlessly blends new and old technology and musical sensibilities to disorienting, rapturous effect.
Each track connects to the other, creating a tapestry of unbearable tension that punctuates with organic, aural money-shots before settling back into a deep, lulling droning tone. The score is the logical extension of DRIVE’s California menace, but far less sunny an experience. Because THE NEON DEMON is a horror movie. And this is most assuredly a horror movie soundtrack.
Read the full review by Chris Alexander at SHOCKTILLYOUDROP.COM
The Neon Demon continues Winding Refn’s collaboration with Cliff Martinez for the composer’s most evocative score yet — some of the music is dark electronica, some has a twinkling quality that alludes to the otherworldly fairytale feel. “Cliff Martinez was really important,” the director says. “At some moments in the script, I would just write, ‘This is where Cliff comes in.’”
Read the full article at screendaily.com