Clint Mansell Talks

The road from Stourbridge to Hollywood isn’t one that’s regularly been travelled, and a stop-off to reinvent indie rock along the way is definitely rare. Hence it’s probably okay to call Clint Mansell a one-off.

Througout the 1980s the forward-thinking Midlander fronted one of the UK’s most underrated outfits, Pop Will Eat Itself, who regularly gatecrashed the charts with their uncompromising rock-dance hybrids. Since then he’s taken an unexpected and rather dramatic career path - across the Atlantic, to LA, and onto the silver screen. The anti-establishment icon is now one of Hollywood’s most sought-after soundtrack composers, with big-budget blockbusters like Sahara, Smokin’ Aces and Man On Fire under his belt, plus many smaller, trendier works like Requiem For A Dream and ?. The latter flicks were part of his ongoing collaboration with noted auteur Darren Aronofsky, the man to whom he really owes his glamorous new lifestyle and career.

“It was a bit of a lifesaver really, as it gave me something to do,” says Mansell, over the phone from his LA home. “It was just a really fortuitous meeting. He needed somebody to write some music for a film he was trying to do, which was ?. The plan was really that he wanted to use already-existing electronic music, but he didn’t have any money, no-one had heard of him, so he couldn’t license the tracks. So every time he couldn’t get a track, I had to write a piece of music to replace it. I ended up doing the full score in the end.”

Further Aranofsky collaborations led to bigger projects, then Golden Globe nominations and, last October, the top award at the World Soundtrack Awards in Belgium. Which has led him back to his original line of work. Part of the WSA honour involves the big winner popping back the next year to perform his or her winning score but, with those maverick tendencies still intact, Mansell isn’t interested in doing the usual orchestral bit.

“Usually a guy would just turn up with his baton and conduct, but I use other elements that I’d want to include as well,” he explains. “So I thought, if I could combine the orchestral with the electronic and the modern approach, it could be kind of interesting. It’s very early doors at the moment, it’s going to be a nine-piece band, string quartet, two guitars, piano, keyboard, bass and drums. Since I’ve been doing film music I’ve always thought it’d be cool to play it live, but there’s never really been the opportunity. Or the point to it. We’ll see how it goes.”

Watch this space. As for the big question, in the era of X Factor and American Idol, does he reckon pop has finally eaten itself?

“I just wonder if it’s ever been any different,” he laughs. “I’m sure my dad was just thinking that The Ramones were a bad Eddie Cochrane rip off.”

What a suggestion. Actually they were a bloody good Eddie Cochrane rip off.


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