Director Ridley Scott has worked with some of the most famous composers in the history of movies, from Jerry Goldsmith (“Alien”) and Vangelis (“Blade Runner”) to Hans Zimmer (“Gladiator”) and Harry Gregson-Williams (“Kingdom of Heaven”).
But for his latest opus, “The Counselor,” a thriller by novelist Cormac McCarthy (“No Country for Old Men”), Scott chose someone new: Daniel Pemberton, a 35-year-old English composer who has spent most of the past 15 years penning music for British TV (“Upstairs, Downstairs”).
Pemberton had recently worked with Scott’s editor Pietro Scalia on a short film; plus Scott had liked Pemberton’s score for the U.K. thriller “The Awakening” two years ago.
“The Counselor’s” grisly, drug-world saga led to the use of guitars (both acoustic and electric), but that’s just the start of Pemberton’s edgy, often industrial-sounding mix of traditional instruments with electronics. “I wanted to create a sound world that reflected what Ridley was creating in the film,” he says.
Taking his inspiration from the presence of wires and oil barrels in the plot, Pemberton “used guitars in lots of different ways” to suggest the former, and had his percussionists bang on real oil barrels (in addition to a 40-piece string section, all recorded at Abbey Road).
“Ridley gives you a lot of freedom to try things out,” says Pemberton, who has just scored Scott’s pilot for Showtime’s “The Vatican” with “a mad hybrid of organ, electronics, choirs and hip-hop.”