Previously well known for his highly acclaimed work in British television – Pemberton has scored countless Emmy and BAFTA award winning dramas and documentaries such as Complicit, Peep Show, The Game, Upstairs Downstairs, Dirk Gently, Prey, Space Dive, Occupation, Desperate Romantics and Hiroshima. Pemberton work on other movie scores, including The Counselor (2013) for Ridley Scott and other features such as Blood (2012), In Fear (2013) and Cuban Fury (2014), led him to be named ‘Discovery Of The Year’ at the prestigious World Soundtrack Awards in 2014.
We recently caught up with the frenetically busy composer (he's currently working on music for the STEVE JOBS film) to talk about his musical influences, what he thought of Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo and if the music from the original television show had anything to do with the sound of the score.
Who are some of your musical influences? I understand you're a fan of Lalo Schifrin.
There are so many different musicians, artists and composers who have influenced me over the years. But on this film I’d say I was heavily inspired by so many of the great 60’s film composers. People like Lalo Schifrin but also John Barry, Serge Gainsbourg, Ennio Moriconne, Roy Budd, Francis Lai - I mean this list goes on and on. But not just them but also a lot of records from the time as well - everything from rock, psychedelia to jazz and classical.
Did you review any of the music done for the original 'Man From UNCLE' television series?
I watched a few bits but I was already quite familiar with that world from a musical perspective as I grew up listening to so many scores like that.
Track #3 is “My name is Napoleon Solo”. Was this music inspired by Henry Cavill directly or by the character of Solo?
I guess it’s a bit of both. For me now Henry IS Napoleon Solo. I have spent so much time with him musically - not the real Henry I’d like to point out here, but the one on screen! - that for me he is the only Solo I know now. That track plays out when we first meet him near the start. It’s got a weight, a coolness and a swagger that I think Henry has really brought to Solo, so in that respect, yes he’s been a big influence on how it sounded.
The score has a Cuban sound with drums and guitar. Was this a nod to the TV show’s music?
The score has a zillion and one things in it - from Spanish guitar solos, crazy bass flute playing, Hammond organs, bongos-a-go-go, screaming vocals, old 60s harpsichords, vintage guitars, two drummers - there’s not actually a kitchen sink but we did use a Hungarian milk churn as part of the percussion on the big raid near the end of the film as it had a great sound! Guy (Ritchie) loves everything to sound different and always likes the music to surprise him so I was always trying to pull out new ideas and instruments during the process and I think it makes for a much more surprising score..
Did you have input into the soundtrack songs that accompanied your score?
Guy ultimately decides whether they go in or not but there’s always a good discussion about them. He has a great editor too by the name of James Herbert who is brilliant at making the film work with music in really fresh ways.
Did you meet Henry Cavill and if so, what was that experience like?
Sadly not. I was on set once before I got the job - it was my interview really - and I met Alicia and Armie but Henry wasn’t there that day. There was just a big empty chair with Napoleon Solo on it. Which there genuinely was! But I’ll probably see him tomorrow night as we’ve got the big UK screening.. I’ll say hi from you :) (Ed. note: he's talking about the Somerset House premiere in London on 8/7)
If you’ve seen the completed film, what did you think of Henry’s performance?
He’s great. There’s a real warmth and humour to him in this film and I think he just plays it effortlessly cool. I actually said during it ‘this guy would be so great as Clark Kent’. I kinda wish they’d let him explore that side more in the Superman films because I think he’s so great when he’s playing characters with just a touch more of a light side.
Any funny stories from your time on UNCLE?
Yes, lots. But I don’t know if they should be shared publicly, ha ha!
1. Compared To What (Roberta Flack)
DIGITAL BONUS TRACKS
25. The Red Mist (Daniel Pemberton)
You’ve done music for television, film, documentaries and video games. What’s your favourite medium to compose for?
Depends. They are all different. I love film because you can write such large scale music and have the tools at your disposal to do insane things. But it totally kills your life. I was on this film for almost a year non stop! It was a lot lot of work…but I think it was worth it..
What is your favourite track from the score for UNCLE and why?
I think actually "His Name Is Napoleon Solo" is one of my favs. Whenever someone popped in when we were mixing I’d usually play them that. It just sounds so cool. Also we mixed it early on so that probably has something to do with it too ha ha. But I also love "Take You Down", "Escape From East Berlin" and a bunch of the others...
What was your vision for the score and do you think you nailed it?
I hope so. The vision changed as the film went on but I really really love how it has turned out. I wanted to write crazy colourful, super exciting spy music. I think I got to. Hurrah.
What’s up next for you and what have you been working on since completing UNCLE?
I am doing the new film STEVE JOBS with Danny Boyle at the moment and we start recording like right now. I can’t really talk too much about it yet but the film is fantastic. Musically very very different to what i’ve done on UNCLE which is nice too. People will be surprised. but I have to be up in about 7 hours to go record a bunch of stuff for it so I should really get to bed!
(Special thanks to The Spy Command for inspiration on some questions!)