With what instruments did you want to create, as you say, those “tiny and imperceptible” tones of episode 5?
For me, it’s about negative space. I mean, it’s a tried and tested formula where sometimes you leave the slightest whiff and hint of some haunting sound, [and that] can do a lot more psychological damage, or leave a psychological impression, than having a big growl.
There’s another show I wrote called “Evil,” which is a pretty fun show on CBS. It’s very, very different from this and has a humorous thread running through it, but there are moments of horror, as the name suggests. I often write a piece of music for it, and then I start putting it out and then I come to this skimpy version. We all agree, “Oh, that’s the scariest version” when you get rid of all the crap, when you get rid of all the stuff you point at people and say, “Be afraid. Be afraid. Be afraid.” and then you get this floating, whiny, decadent sound. And that’s the one that makes you dizzy. That’s the one that makes you want to find your cushion to hide behind.
For me, episode 5 was a study in psychology, musical psychology, how to play with things. Real subtle manipulations of sounds, to make people feel more and more nervous. It’s not about writing a melody. It’s not about being clever with harmony. It’s about trying to mess with people, but in the most subtle way.
Again, when it comes to dialing in different pitches, you’re clearly having a lot of fun with the cereal convention in episode 9. The strings are hilarious as Stephen Fry puts it all together.
Yes. Well, again, we didn’t want to play serial killers, as we didn’t want it to be a dark sign. We just didn’t want gloomy music there. At the same time, there is definitely a joy in the music. That’s one of my favorite songs called, I think, “God Tells Me to Do It.”
It’s comically optimistic.
Yes, it has energy. I actually had to rewrite that, because the first time I wrote it, I got a note saying that I was making serial killers feel like serial killers, that they were all evil guys. They don’t want to do that. There is also a worldliness to that convention. They could also be cleaning products.
When the Corinthian sits down and receives the applause, it almost sounds like a company commercial for a retreat or something.
That’s interesting. Perhaps there, my instincts weren’t necessarily quite correct, because I was more serious in my first version of that signal. And I said, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. We want to celebrate this guy. We want to like him. He’s a good guy. He has a smile and a wink.”
When you’re doing a show that’s off the mark, it’s like you need help, sometimes, to be told, “We want to approach this more this way than that.” Sometimes, unfortunately, the only way to have that conversation is to put on a piece of music and be told “No.”
You can talk about stuff nonstop and you can say, “Yeah, I’ll do this.” And then, of course, when it actually becomes meat, then there’s a difference like, “Oh, that’s what you meant by the color red.” Ultimately, when you put a piece of music in there, then you have something tangible to love or dissect.
What mood did you want to help hit with The Corinthian?
Yes, he has a lot of charm and would love to know what it’s like to feel human. He is the villain there, but not in any common or conventional sense. So this is a pretty subtle sound, actually. It’s two elements to him, I wouldn’t really call it a theme, it’s more of a vibe to him, which is an electric trumpet, which is a moody, slightly faded, trumpet-like thing. It hardly sounds like a trumpet. And then there’s this very low bass, what I call a Dr. Dre bass, just a very slow moving bass with glissando on it. Like, “Duhn-brr-rrr.” I don’t even know how well it translates on TV, but it has a bit of sexiness to it, without being a saxophone solo, which would be horrible.
When Corinthian and Sandman’s paths crossed, musically, did you want to bring them together?
Yeah, if they happen at the same time, I can’t remember. It’s been quite a while since I’ve actually worked on the show, because obviously, we put it in the can several months ago. So I can’t remember a detail like that. I can remember another detail with Desire, that they only have a couple of moments within the show, but they are a very good character.
So there’s a theme, but then there’s a moment within that theme. It’s this weird vocal thing, but there’s a moment within that, where they’re talking about Dream. And so, Dream’s theme reappears on top of Desire’s theme. So the two things coexist. I mean, I think that’s happening everywhere.
Back to my point about letting the audience enjoy themselves and not feel like I’m telling them what to do. I’m not desperate all the time to say that just because a character appears on screen, they have to play the theme of her the moment they appear on screen, because that would be pretty grim. I mean, it would be pretty childish. I mean, a standard kind of scoring procedure, the characters have musical identities and what feels best at any given moment is my approach.