“One thing that was unique for me about this project was having songs exert such a strong influence on the score,” said Martinez. “That helped to create a unified, one-size-fits-all, style of soundtrack…the 80s electronic pop style made a lot of sense to me. I knew that Nicolas [Refn, director] was in love with that sound and I saw a way to acknowledge it with vintage synth sounds and cover most of the dramatic food groups while referencing that style.”
This blending of score and song is the perfect vehicle for Cliff Martinez. Martinez moved to California in 1976, just in time for the punk movement. He had stints as drummer for the Weirdos, Lydia Lunch and Foetus frontman Jim Thirlwell, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Dickies. He was also the drummer in the final incarnation of legendary iconoclasts Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band.
Martinez’s entrée into music for film happened somewhat inadvertently, when a tape collage he had constructed led to an opportunity to score an episode of comedian Paul Reuben’s mid-‘80s TV hit, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. That collage was also heard by Steven Soderbergh, who tapped Martinez to provide the music for his first theatrical release Sex, Lies and Videotape.
Martinez has since received compositional credit on many of Steven Soderbergh’s projects including Kafka, The Limey, Solaris, Gray’s Anatomy, Schizopolis, Traffic (which earned four Oscars and earned Martinez a Grammy nomination), and the upcoming film Contagion. He also composed the music for Espion(s) and A L’Origine, two French films released in 2009–the latter earned a Cesar Award nomination for best original score. His other credits include Pump Up The Volume, Wicker Park, Wonderland, and The Lincoln Lawyer.
In Drive, Ryan Gosling stars as a Los Angeles wheelman for hire, stunt driving for movie productions by day and steering getaway vehicles for criminal operations by night. A loner by nature, Driver can’t help falling in love with his beautiful but vulnerable neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan), a young mother dragged into a dangerous criminal underworld by the return of ex-convict husband Standard (Oscar Isaac).
After a heist operation, intended to help Standard pay off protection money, spins out of control, Driver finds himself driving defense for the girl he loves, tailgated by a syndicate of deadly serious criminals (Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman). When the gangsters reveal that they’re after more than the bag of money in his trunk—that they’re coming straight for Irene and her son—Driver is forced to shift gears and go on the offense.
Composer Martinez was able to bridge the gray area between music and sound design – with the music becoming an important element of several scenes. “I wasn’t entirely aware of how much the sound department was going to impact the dramatic character of the film but I got a strong whiff of it in early cuts,” said Martinez. “At the same time Nicolas [Refn] was asking me to create some things that functioned in the same way as music but was not what most people would actually consider music. So I was the meat in the middle of a soundtrack sandwich. My goal was to create a seamless flow between the songs, the score and the sound effects.”
FilmDistrict presents Drive in theaters on September 16, 2011. The Drive – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack on Lakeshore Records will be released digitally on September 6 and in stores on September 13, 2011.