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'Drive' Composer Cliff Martinez Reteams With Nicolas Winding Refn To Score 'Only God Forgives'

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist January 17, 2012 at 4:15PM

Nicolas Winding Refn, currently riding high on BAFTA nods for "Drive" and a Best Director award from Cannes, is not changing the creative formula too much for his next outing, "Only God Forgives." He's re-upped with his bro for life, Ryan Gosling, who takes the lead in the movie and this afternoon it's been confirmed that Cliff Martinez will be back to provide the score.
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Cliff Martinez Nicolas Winding Refn

Nicolas Winding Refn, currently riding high on BAFTA nods for "Drive" and a Best Director award from Cannes, is not changing the creative formula too much for his next outing, "Only God Forgives." He's re-upped with his bro for life, Ryan Gosling, who takes the lead in the movie and this afternoon it's been confirmed that Cliff Martinez will be back to provide the score.

This kicks off a helluva year for Martinez, who will also be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (thanks to being a drummer on the Red Hot Chili Peppers' first two albums), serve as a juror at Sundance (where "Arbitrage," another film he's scored, will premiere out of competition) and head to SXSW to participate in activities there. But it's "Only God Forgives" that we're here for and we do have a small inkling of what the music may sound like.

Back in October, Martinez had told us he had received a script for the film, that centers on a Thai police lieutenant whose rivalry with a gangster sees the two settling their differences in a Thai boxing match. When we chatted with Refn a month later, the director spilled on what he was listening to in regards to figuring out the sound he was going for in the movie that he said was going to be a culmination of his work so far. 

"The first thing I do is I try to figure out what kind of music it would be as a movie, because that’s the most important element for me to conjure up images," he says. "It’s a fetish, because I don’t do drugs any more; it heightens my reality, my emotional sense. And that’s always a struggle – what kind of music [a film] is. For 'Drive,' the feminine pop sound of early electronic music from Kraftwerk very quickly came, as in this would be the music, if the film itself was a piece of music. With 'Only God Forgives,' I started to listen to a lot of Thai country and western." 

Of course, how that influence will bear out once it passes through Martinez's unique filter remains to be seen, but it seems they will be moving away from the glossy pop of "Drive." A bit of trivia: producer Johnny Jewel, the man behind Glass Candy and spin off bands Chromatics ("Tick Of The Clock") and Desire ("Under Your Spell") featured on the "Drive" soundtrack, was originally enlisted to score the movie but skittish producers ultimately bumped him out of the project.

"It was more confusing, but it was really awesome working on such a difficult project. It was the first time I really had a reason to start trying to finalize these abstract ideas. I mean, all the Hollywood clichés are true. But it was also Nic's first time doing a Hollywood movie, and him and Ryan [Gosling] were struggling for creative control," Jewel explained to Pitchfork about his stint on the movie. "The producers were concerned about whether I was able to compose, because they were just familiar with my pop music. But Nic and Ryan and Mat Newman, the editor, had a wider knowledge of my background than someone who just searched 'most popular Glass Candy tracks.' I think they thought I was just a little 20-year-old hipster dude. It was a case where two composers were hired but only one was contractually bound."

And while Jewel recently dropped his massive Symmetry: Themes For An Imaginary Film album (listen right here), he stresses that of all the tracks on the triple disc set only a handful were actually composed for "Drive." "There's like four tracks on the Symmetry record that were specifically written for 'Drive,' but I reworked them. I don't think I'm ever going to release the stuff I did for 'Drive' because it seems disrespectful to the movie."

"Only God Forgives" is now shooting, no release date yet but FilmDistrict will be handling distribution.

This article is related to: Cliff Martinez, Only God Forgives, Johnny Jewel


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