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Film Composer Paul Dawkins’ Dark Inspiration Playlist for Australian Thriller “Event Zero”

Scoring Event Zero was a really fascinating experience. My process is perhaps a little different to some composers, in that I often write quite a lot of “concept pieces” before anything is even filmed (if I get involved early enough) and then pass these to the production for feedback to find out what people do and do not like early… this means by the time the “crunch” comes, and time is short, I can have more confidence that what I’m doing is in lockstep with the production, especially in terms of tone and sounds.

I wrote quite a lot of stuff up front for Event Zero, and used some of those ideas, but when I start receiving rough cuts, it was still pretty much starting from scratch. The edit changed a fair bit, and part of the job of course is to keep adjusting the cues to fit, but overall, there were only two sequences which proved ‘tricky’ – one was a long slow motion sequence, where I did do quite a few versions (and the edit changed a lot), and the other was the very end, which had to be just right. There’s a lot of tension in Event Zero, and so it was important to reinforce this with the score, but without going over the top. Audiences are aware of having things rammed down their throats, so there’s a line to find where you’re saying “yes this is tense, but there’s more going on here than just that.” I hope I achieved that.

The songs I have selected are some of my go-to listens when I’m getting into scoring mode, and in particular these ones I listened to around the time of scoring Event Zero. They’re pretty diverse tracks, but they all have a certain something which I tap into on some level, even though my score really doesn’t have anything obviously connective when you listen to it. Listen on Spotify, or watch the playlist on YouTube.

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Below are some notes on key elements for each of the selected songs:

1. Ministry – “The Missing”
This song, aside from kicking nine kinds of arse, is one I keep coming back to in order to tap into an aggressive feel – but a track which still has a great musicality. I have a lot of love for almost all the Ministry catalogue, but this track I think was around their peak.

2. Depeche Mode – “Enjoy The Silence”
This one reminds me of the importance of the right sound at the right time playing the right part … it’s like an object lesson in creating space while having a propulsive feel. The bassline synth part alone is a big influence, and in Event Zero I used some similar arppegiated bass parts where needed, but made sure they fit…

3. Curve – “Unreadable Communication”
I’ve been a huge fan of Curve since the early 90s, and this track came from the 2nd LP “Cuckoo”. It’s got a fantastic burbling sample from a Herbie Hancock LP, and I really love the drum programming, and the way it turns into a My Bloody Valentine type wall of noise in the middle. It reminds me that you can have harsh noise and beauty in the same piece, and I’d say this is a big influence on how I produce my scores. For Event Zero, there was a need to occasionally go harsh with the sound.

4. David Bowie – “I Can’t Give Everything Away”
Just a favourite from his last album. I could have picked some others, but this track has a beautiful melancholy to it – also, being Bowie, it’s a reminder that as a musician, you don’t have to limit yourself. You can do anything. And in film composing, you have to be able to jump genres all the time, very often in the same score.

5. Faith No More – “Everything’s Ruined”
I’m a huge Faith No More fan, and this track is great: it’s cheerful and dark at the same time. Once again, a great kind of track to listen to while coming up with new ideas. I’m not 100% sure why, but I think it’s part of the need to work on almost contradictory ideas at times in a score.

6. Garbage – “#1 Crush”
A really cinematic early Garbage track (best known from the Romeo+Juliet soundtrack album from the 90s) and just a favourite. Reminds me of the power of a dark female voice (like the Curve track) which is something I’ve used a bit in Event Zero, although in a very different way.

7. Killing Joke – “Rubicon”
Just a really powerful track – any KJ track is awesome to remind yourself of the power of music, rock in particular. Love KJ, this is from their rather misunderstood and brilliant album Bright Than A Thousand Suns. I have a great love of unusual guitar parts, and this has a great one.

8. Sisters Of Mercy – “Dominion / Mother Russia”
The Sisters Of Mercy – now there’s a “band” which really confounds most attempts to categorise them. What I love about this track is the great drum machine part (they actually called the drum machine “Doktor Avalanche” and treated it like a member of the band) and the widescreen scope of the over the top production. It’s an influence on how I write scores because it’s all about “the big sound”.

9. Royksopp – “What Else Is There”
A really nice track which has some great little repeating parts which are quite cinematic. This track is an influence in a very obscure way for me: it demonstrates how to create tension using unusual instrumentation and what seems to be a very “ambient” sound, yet the phrasing of some of the parts gives it a kind of “out of breath” feel – something I tried to do in Event Zero in some parts.

10. Porcupine Tree – “Arriving Somewhere But Not Here”
This track is simply a great “builder” – to me, it just has a great selection of sounds and parts, and builds and builds to a great, unusual rock track. Its influence on me, especially around Event Zero, is the idea of always making sure there is a good build to a cue, and to use subtle sounds around solid parts to add colour and tone.

Related: Film Composer Paul Dawkins’ Q&A Artist Profile

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