Clint Mansell: "I Really Enjoyed Being Young And Stupid"
EXCLUSIVE! The composer on scoring Stoker and more…
Clint Mansell is the Golden Globe nominated composer and musician who has written the highly acclaimed scores for Black Swan, The Fountain, Requiem For A Dream and Moon, amongst many others.
MTV caught up with Clint to talk about his work on Stoker, the first English-speaking movie by revered South Korean director Park Chan-wook, as well as his journey from fronting Stourbridge based indie-rockers Pop Will Eat Itself to becoming one of Hollywood’s most in-demand composers.
Despite your successes you chose to take a sabbatical from film work in recent years. What prompted that decision?
"After Black Swan – which turned out excellently well and we were all very pleased with – a lot of doors opened for me as the film’s success made people take notice who might not have been aware of me before.
"But when you’re offered work based on box office numbers it’s not usually the most challenging… It’s not the sort of work I’m too interested in to be honest and the things that were coming my way just weren’t really doing it for me.
"I just wasn’t that interested in the sort of films I was getting offered. I had noticed that due to economic climate there was just less money about and people were less willing to take chances.
"I can fully understand why people want to play it safe but I’ve worked on a lot of different films over the years and I know where I shine.
"I knew I was going to be working on Darren Aronofsky’s Noah so I thought I’d take a bit of a break until then, maybe play some one off live shows with my band, maybe do some remixes."
What was it about Stoker that brought you back to scoring?
"I want to find projects that speak to me and that I can bring something to and so, even though I’d decided to take a few months off, when the opportunity to work with Park Chan-wook came up I jumped at it as it couldn’t have typified what I was looking for more.
"Here was someone from outside the Hollywood movie-making business, somebody who had a style and a sensibility all of their own. Director Park came to one of my shows and then we met a couple of days later and he showed me the film and I knew immediately what I wanted to do with it, what I though it needed musically, and luckily Director Park agreed with me.
"We moved on it pretty quickly and it was just a perfect meeting really – it just all worked. It was easy and really relaxed, even though I only had about five weeks to get it all done."
How much back-and-forth was there between Park Chan-wook and yourself?
"Director Park was in LA so I’d see a lot of him and we’d meet everyday towards the end – we talked and bounced ideas around a lot, and the collaboration made it a dream job.
"His ideas of how to score a particular scene were completely at odds with the general way of doing things, for example his idea was that nothing would freak the audience out more during a murder scene than having a lush, romantic sounding piece rather than something dramatic and over the top.
"That’s exactly the sort of thinking I’d been looking for – there’s such poetry in his work and I loved to be influenced that way, it’s easy to find something to hang your hat on, as it where.
"You’re building the universe that the characters can live in, and it’s got to be real - or maybe super-real – either way it’s got to be true to its own laws."
Do you have a 'typical' way of writing?
"There’s a lot gets thrown out the window! I usually start by jamming to the picture, either on piano or guitar, just to get a feel of the rhythm of the film.
"Then I just mess about until something really takes hold – I’m always waiting for that moment when a certain passage lands and starts making sense with a particular scene in the film, then it becomes like a jigsaw puzzle as you try to get everything to fit around it.
I have happy memories of watching you bound around the stage in your PWEI days - does the work you're doing now feel like a natural progression from those days?
"From a distance I’m sure people are thinking 'What? That guy with dreads leaping around to Auslander or Def Con One is now scoring Black Swan?'
"I know outwardly it can seem a little incongruous, but the reality is that I’ve been doing this now a lot longer that I did Pop Will Eat Itself.
"You could argue that there has been some sort of through line to what I do now, we used to do a lot of sampling and a lot of our tracks were little cut-ups or created as soundscapes – they weren’t overly cinematic but it was creating something outside of just the usual verse/chorus setup.
"Rock and roll is a wonderful thing but it can be a bit of a stifler in the maturing stakes – it’s designed to keep you a child really. When you're in that situation you embrace it wholeheartedly and I had a great time – it was exactly what I wanted to do at that age and I really enjoyed being young and stupid.
"But eventually you have to grow up and in a way it was the making of me after I left the band, I really got to learn a lot about myself and I found something I love doing – I’m really lucky to have had a second act that in many ways has been bigger than the first."
Gavin Cullen @mtvuknews
Stoker is in cinemas now, and Clint Mansell's Stoker soundtrack is available to buy.