‘Better Call Saul’ Music Team Changes Tune as Series Slowly Takes ‘Bad’ Turn

Thomas Golubic Better Call Saul Composer
Courtesy of Thomas Golubic

For composer Dave Porter and music supervisor Thomas Golubic, the challenge in reteaming with Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould on “Breaking Bad” prequel “Better Call Saul” has grown each season as Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) continues his transformation into sleazy lawyer Saul Goodman, and other characters in “Saul” get closer to connecting up with their “Bad” personas.

Throughout seasons two and three of the AMC show — a perennial Emmy contender — Porter and Golubic have emphasized these shifts. Porter, for instance, has introduced classic rock guitar, Rhodes piano, vibraphone and stronger percussion into the mix, allowing the score to become slightly heavier. Season two found Golubic contributing more world music as well as synth-heavy selections to give darker shadings to Jimmy and Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks).

The music team recognized early on that the characters in “Saul” would constantly evolve from one episode to the next. Porter avoided recurring themes or motifs. To distinguish the story’s smaller, more personal scale, he initially veered from the synth sounds of “Bad” and chose more organic instrumentation. Golubic found that, unlike the source music in the “Bad” world of chaos and comedy, he could exercise a degree of stylistic curiosity in his “Saul” selections. Musical diversity that leaps from patriotic songs to salsa rhythms emphasizes the characters’ simmering changes. While the genres are broad and abstract, they’re tied to each character’s behavior and personality, highlighting the deeply internal, human struggles that “Saul” examines.

Porter and Golubic manage their partnership as composer-music supervisor by sharing their ideas for each section and mutually deciding which selection best moves the story forward. Because Gilligan works without temp music, each segment can be approached as a clean slate.

“Vince and Peter can look at the broader picture, Dave experiences the vulnerability of the moment and I have to look ahead and rethink,” says Golubic. Adds Porter, “It’s a balancing of viewpoints.”

Porter and Golubic play through different interpretations of a scene before selecting which music fits best. Even if their decisions don’t resonate with the two creators, they’ve still provided a unique perspective that’s valuable to the storytelling process.

“Music is the last of the creative choices,” Porter says. “Sometimes we’re able to bring in something they haven’t thought of yet.”

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