Chaos, wrath and bucketfuls of drumming. The movie score that Dutch-born musical artist Junkie XL composed for MAD MAX: FURY ROAD punches up the film’s post-apocalyptic scenery like nobody’s business. The Grammy-nominated producer and composer was approached by Warner Bros. Pictures and Village Roadshow Pictures to stamp his sonic signature unto the George Miller-directed action-thriller that stars Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, and Nicholas Hoult. Film will premiere at the Cannes Festival and open in theaters worldwide May 15, 2015.
So how to you write the score for one of the world’s most famous film franchises?
According to press materials Junkie XL explained in an interview, “when you’re watching the film, you’re in a world that has gone completely mad. Everything we know about society is out of the window. It’s so out of this world crazy that it felt like the sum of the previous three movies. To capture this, the music couldn’t be a standard action score. It needed to be incredibly over-the-top to fit the imagery, almost as if it were a modern rock opera.”
Junkie XL comes from the same big beat lineage as Norman “Fat Boy Slim” Cook and their faraway relatives like The Prodigy, the Crystal Method and Chemical Brothers. This sub-genre of electronica is characterized by heavy, syncopated beats and acid house-type synthesizer loops.
Sample from the Junkie XL MAD MAX: FURY ROAD score
MAD MAX’s vast landscape gave the composer an opportunity to explore a diverse range of musical territory, from beating drums to sweeping strings and electric guitar-driven operatic themes, using close to two-hundred instruments. “The score includes almost everything in a composer’s arsenal. The instrumentation ranges from big, brutal percussion and an eighty voice-choir, with string sections and musical sound design, and everything in between. I used anything I could get my hands on.”
For the film’s lighter moments, Junkie XL, whose real name is Tom Holkenborg, listened to classic film scores from Hollywood’s Golden Age, particularly those of the American composer Bernard Hermann (“Citizen Kane,” “The Magnificent Ambersons”). “In the moments you leave the super mad world and get back to the humanity of the characters, the music gets stripped down. For these scenes, I incorporate woodwinds and use the string section as the driving force,” he commented. “I wanted to channel the great film scores of the forties and fifties and studied the period. Those scores had a complex classical quality to them that I wanted to capture.”
Junkie XL is no newcomer to the world of CGI-friendly cinema. He’s previously done composition work on “Man of Steel,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Inception,” and “300: Rise of an Empire.”
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD will premiere at this year’s Cannes Festival.