Since the premiere of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive at the Cannes Film festival earlier this year, the critical community has been abuzz with excitement about the film’s soundtrack, which features not only a beautiful score by composer Cliff Martinez but a selection of electropop songs from artists like Kavinsky, College, Desire, and Chromatics. Movies.com recently spoke to Desire and Chromatics producer Johnny Jewel, and during a conversation about his contributions to the film, he mentioned that he created a full score for the film which ended up not getting used, but will be released on his independent record label Italians "Do It Better" as a project titled Symmetry.
Additionally, Jewel revealed that Refn already spoke to him about composing the score for his upcoming remake of Logan’s Run, a project for which he said he already has a strong affinity. We've embedded a few of the tracks he composed and produced for you to get a sense of Jewel's style. Additional note: Jewel wrote and produced Desire's "Under Your Spell," which is featured on the Drive soundtrack and is the second video in this post.
Movies.com What sort of criteria do you have for either letting filmmakers use your music for their films, or creating music especially for them?
Johnny Jewel: For writing, it’s very, very strict. I actually will say that I probably will almost never write for a movie. It has to be something really, really good. Nick talked to me a little bit about Logan’s Run. He mentioned it and was just trying to feel out if I was interested, and I was telling him about how on my 30th birthday, I had a party and I had a blinking stone in my hand, because I was super into that movie and obsessed with the idea of turning 30 or whatever. So that’s something I’ve been doing. So in 2013, they’re doing a script for it. They’re working on a screenplay next year, after they do Only God Forgives.[But] I’m not out there trying to apply for jobs or work for movies. It’s hard, and I mean, if you have taste, it’s really hard. That’s something you take seriously.
It’s really, really difficult to make something that’s worth hearing on film in my opinion, to do the picture justice. If you’re writing for a movie that’s worth doing in the first place, it’s hard to live up to – you know, to not just shit all over it. So because of that, I’m not going to work on 99.9% of movies. I’ve been asked to do some stuff before and I turned it down because I wasn’t feeling the project. And I haven’t seen Bellflower or Vacation [both of which feature Italians Do It Better artists on their soundtracks,] because they both started off as super small projects. And I try to support those artists trying to make their thing because they’re like the same as I am.
Movies.com: The score for the original Logan’s Run has a lot of very abstract electronic tones in it, much more than for other scores created at that time.
JJ: I remembered the movie being a lot more abstract, and when I went to listen to it again, after I talked to Nick, it was really kind of kitschy sort of string arrangements. I think what you’re remembering which is what I remember too, which was the synthesizers used during Carousel and stuff like that - like a really fuzzy, kinda in-your-face analog synth. But there’s actually not as much of that as you think, because I studied the soundtrack, and the book and also the TV show [which] never even finished airing the first season. They cut it off halfway through, but I have all those. The TV show soundtrack is actually way better than the movie soundtrack! The TV show is like obviously really bad in a certain way, but I enjoyed watching it; the girls, their haircuts are awesome, and that’s reason enough to watch it. I’m serious!
It’s cool – the styling and the furniture and stuff are really cool also. But yeah, it was disappointing because I was like, “Aww man, I’m gonna watch Logan’s Run.” I opened a bottle of wine, I was listening to it on headphones, and I was like, whoa, are you serious? It wasn’t what I wanted to be, but then I realized that what I wanted it to be was already what I was hearing – [the score] that I would make, if it comes up.
Movies.com: Is what you have in mind more experimental or weird, like ‘70s electronic music like Roedelius or Moebius?
JJ: I would say it’s just subtle and unimposing, but it has personality. I mean, I would say it’s not that weird. I mean, some of it is beat-oriented, but it’s like they’re not loose, but it’s like circular. So in a way, it’s like because there’s percussion it makes it less weird. And the drone, the drone stuff, it’s like more in the vein of Karl Stockhausen or John Cage, or like a little less, kitschy is not the right word, but a little less in your face than John Carpenter, you know? It’s still basically within musical keys and things like that.
Some of the stuff bends the keys a lot, but generally it’s still semi-melodic. It’s just really stretched out, like if you take something that would be like a Chromatics speed or something like that and you just subtracted all the pop from it, where it’s like, there’s no more colors. It’s just white, you know, like a skeleton. It’s actually harder to do than making a pop song sometimes. And sometimes it’s easier because there are no rules, you know? Sometimes it can be easier to do like train-of-thought, streamlined stuff rather than compose a beginning and an end to something. But then it’s also hard to do flow of consciousness well, you know? So that’s where it comes to one thing: it’s really hard to make soundtracks that’s fitting for the picture.
Check out a gallery of images Jewel and his Symmetry collaborator Matt Walker created while working on their score for Drive. And if you like the music he provided for the Drive soundtrack, check out the Italians Do It Better blogspot for updates and release information about new music from Jewel’s many different projects!