Film composer Cliff Martinez may have begun his career as the drummer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but in the past two decades, he has emerged as one of Hollywood's most prolific film composers. A long-time relationship with the director Steven Soderbergh has led him to collaborate on over a dozen projects from Sex, Lies & Videotape to Solaris and Contagion. Recent acclaimed work includes his score for Spring Breakers and Drive. Out today is his latest project for Soderbergh's new medical drama, The Knick, currently on Cinemax.
1. When you think of a TV show set in turn of the 20th century New York, you don’t normally imagine a very modern score full of haunting synths. What made you choose this sound?
The choice to go modern was Steven’s idea. Many of the ideas for sounds came from Steven’s temp score, which included Contagion, Spring Breakers and Only God Forgives.
2. You began your career as a drummer (for the Red Hot Chili Peppers) before you became a composer. Do you think first and foremost in beats and rhythm? Or has that changed over time?
Sometimes, yes. Tempo is one of the first parameters I try to figure out before any actual writing begins. If rhythm or beats feel like they will be dominant elements in a scene, then I will often start with that.
3. Do you imagine the sound of it evolving as the show transpires? What new sound elements would you like to add?
I can’t say for sure until I see it. I can imagine another minimal electronic score but perhaps with a hint of the diverse ethnicity that was transforming New York in 1900.
4. You’ve worked with Steven Soderbergh almost a dozen times over many decades. What have been your favorite musical moments together?
One that comes to mind is Kafka. I went to Prague to watch the film being shot. Steven introduced me to a Czech bar band (that is featured in the film) and we both fell in love with an exotic East European folk instrument called the cimbalom. We both knew that that would be the dominant instrument to be used in the score.
5. The Knick has already been picked up for a 2nd season. Are you going to continue with the project?
I haven’t been asked officially but if I was, yes I would continue with it.
Watch The Knick Fridays at 10pm ET/PT on Cinemax.