Ahead of the upcoming 2020 Primetime Emmy Awards on September 20, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who composed the original score for HBO’s smash hit Watchmen, recently sat down for a video interview with Rolling Stone to discuss their creative process behind the project. Reznor and Ross were also joined by Watchmen creator Damen Lindelof for a wide-ranging conversation with Rolling Stone‘s television critic Alan Sepinwall about being fans of Lindelof’s previous work in Lost and The Leftovers, coming up with the ambiance of the show’s score and several other interesting projects.
Speaking about writing the show’s impressive and emotional score, the Nine Inch Nails frontman explained it was really about focusing on how the characters are feeling at any given time. “We spent a good year either in the trenches working on it or thinking about it and prepping to do it. You’re emotionally invested in these characters,” says Reznor. “Our primary way of scoring is to think about how do they feel? It’s the emotional thing, it’s not the mechanics of how people score. We don’t even know how to do that. It’s about emotionally resonating with the story or how they’re feeling.”
Reznor also talked about how he and Ross ended up doing a cover of David Bowie’s 1971 classic track “Life on Mars?” after musician Rick Wakeman’s cover of the song soundtracked the show’s early trailers. While Reznor and Ross were hesitant to remake such a powerful song from a legend of Bowie’s stature, they were ultimately glad they did their own, instrumental take on the song.
“Bowie‘s music certainly means a lot to us, and that song in particular is one of them where it’s hard not to tear up thinking about that track,” explained Reznor. “The thought of doing a cover, how could we possibly mess with that?”After realizing Lindelof was only interested in an instrumental version, the pair gave it a try. “Everyone who heard it responded positively to it, and when it came out it got more attention than probably anything else in the series. It felt good to get that recognition and now when we listen to it we’re not filled with anxiety.”
Reznor has recently said he is currently working on a new Nine Inch Nails album.
-Photo credit: Raymond Flotat