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Clint Mansell On Making Requiem For A Dream
'Darren had to edit at night because he could get access to the studio for free then.'

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Clint Mansell On Making Requiem For A Dream


My first meeting with Darren Aronofsky was incredibly fortuitous. I was broke and living in New York, and as great a city as New York is, it sucks when you're broke. I'd been in a band for ten years, and then I wasn't and my whole world had become a bit of a mess. I'd moved there after leaving Pop Will Eat Itself on some kind of ego wank to a solo record. It didn't work out but something else took over and it turned out to be very lucky for both of us. It was one of those two or three moments when you can say that meeting someone on a certain day changed your life.

Pi was our first project together and we had no money. Darren had to edit at night because he could get access to the studio for free then. He had a Workers Revolutionary Party-kind of approach - everyone who contributed to the film, whether acting or making sandwiches, still gets a pay cheque. I got a Pi cheque for $169 a month ago.

We had a lot of trouble getting going on Requiem For A Dream. We always have lots of ideas ahead of time, but the film quickly tells you what it will and won't respond to. Hip-hop was Darren's big thing growing up. Initially he wanted to do the Black Swan thing, only reworking classic hop-hop tracks, rather than Swan Lake, and building them into the score. He wanted to recreate the kind of environment he grew up in, where you'd hear KRS-One or Public Enemy playing in the background, but it didn't work. We initially used She Watch Channel Zero?! by Public Enemy for the scene where Ellen Burstyn's character comes down off a speed pill but it didn't have any emotional weight and it didn't underpin the story. It looked amazing, but it was just a cool scene with a cool piece of music under it. That's all.

So we forgot hip-hop - never my strong suit anyway - and started looking at the music differently. Darren came down to New Orleans in the late summer and we just sat with the movie and these 20-odd ideas I had - Lux Aeterna was about number 17 on that CD - and tried different ideas against different scenes. Lux Aeterna was first used on the scene when Jennifer Connolly had slept with her psychiatrist for money, there's a big flash of thunder and she just throws up into a wastebin. We both looked at each other and went, "Fucking hell! It works!" We used to call it 'Marion Barfs'. At that point I just had the nuts and bolts of it - literally three chords and maybe the "da-da da-da-da-da". I'd never seen anything like it, but that approach worked every time. It was a moment of transcendence, where the music, the movie and the story just came together.

Darren and I had talked about using the Kronos Quartet from early on, but they were taking their first holiday in 20 years - they work incredibly hard - so we had to wait three months. Working with them gave us access to Skywalker Ranch where they record, so we ended up mixing the film there too. I remember looking out at them through this big studio window as they were playing and Darren turning to me and saying, "We haven't earned this yet." We were in this fantastic place with these amazing musicians and they were bringing it to life. Requiem, like all my scores, is very simple musically, but Kronos' performance made it live and breathe.

I've heard dance versions of Lux Aeterna and seen it used on Sky Sports. They also sent me a CD with the huge arrangement they did for the Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers trailer. The one I love most, though, is on YouTube with the drunk bloke trying to get more beer out of a petrol station fridge. That one's classic.

Clint Mansell's Stoker and Filth soundtracks are available now.

The Greatest Movie Soundtracks - Empire's Music Celebration

Interview by Phil de Semlyen

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