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Cliff Martinez on his score for Drive, 10 years later

Cliff Martinez (Drive)

On Right on Cue, Editor-in-Chief Clint Worthington talks to film, TV, and video game composers about the origins and nuances of their latest works, along with commentaries on the score’s most important tracks.

Film scores don’t often chart, but when they do, it’s for good reason. In 2011, that happened to the piercing, airy, enigmatic score for Nicholas Winding Refn’s neo-noir Drive, starring Ryan Gosling as a nameless Hollywood stunt driver turned getaway driver. It was a minimalist throwback to the car-based crime films of the ’70s and ’80s, fueled by Refn’s own arthouse aesthetic and Gosling’s stoic performance.

But even more than Gosling’s scorpion jacket, it’s the music of Drive that endures in the pop culture consciousness a decade on. When the score came out, it reached #4 on the iTunes charts and reached the Billboard 200. Much of that is due to the classic synthwave tracks by Kavinsky feat. Lovefoxxx (“Nightcall”) and College feat. Electric Youth (“A Real Hero”), to be sure, but it’s also down to Cliff Martinez‘s moody, atmospheric scoring.

Martinez, a Grammy-nominated composer (and former member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers) who’s worked most notably on the scores of Steven Soderbergh, pulled out some of his eeriest, most interesting work for Drive. Analog synths dance with a mysterious instrument called the Cristal Baschet to help sell the ’80s-tinged mood.

For the film’s tenth anniversary (and on the eve of the soundtrack’s rerelease on vinyl courtesy of Lakeshore Records), I sat down with Martinez to talk about his early days as a composer, how it feels to have a film score actually make the charts, and what exactly a Cristal Baschet is anyway. (Also, listen for a very surprising cameo from an out-of-breath Nicholas Winding Refn. I kid you not.)

You can find Cliff Martinez at his official website here.

You can pick up the Drive Original Motion Picture Soundtrack 10th Anniversary Edition vinyl here, courtesy of Lakeshore Records. 

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Clint Worthington

Clint Worthington is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Spool, as well as one of the founders of the website/podcast Alcohollywood in 2011. He is also a Senior Writer at Consequence of Sound, as well as the co-host/producer of Travolta/Cage. You can also find his freelance work at IndieWire, UPROXX, Syfy Wire, The Takeout, and Crooked Marquee.