Justin Melland has scored documentaries that have been Oscar nominated, Sundance award winning and critically acclaimed, covering every topic from exposing the hidden epidemic of Lyme disease to people on spiritual journeys and the sacred spaces they are led to. So when Melland found out Vocativ, a media and technology company producing Showtime’s Dark Net, was looking for both a documentary composer and someone who could score a show that was frightening and heartfelt all at the same time, he knew he was perfect for the job. It was only a matter of time before the show’s executives felt the same way and hired him. With the second season finale approaching May 25th, we decided to speak with Melland about creating the show’s stand out score, which is everything from emotional to electronic all at the same time. Read the full interview here…
How did you initially get involved with Dark Net?
One of my favorite collaborators, Part2 Pictures called and told me they were doing a very cool show for Showtime that was going to need a lot of edgy electronic music and my special blend of eclectic instruments. As you can imagine, I got really, really excited. I basically said, “Great! When do we start?”. That’s when I learned that I would have to be pitched to Vocativ, the company that created the show and sold it to Showtime. Now there were variables. VARIABLES!!! I proceeded by letting everyone connected to the project know that I was the most perfect composer for the show by a long shot! Then It was time for me to be formally introduced. I have such a deep appreciation for my friends at Part2 that pitched me for the show. This is really how a composer stays in business, it’s having people that love to work with you so much, that they will fight really hard to get you onto a project. These people are so special to me. So, once I had done the formal meeting, and submitted my music, it was time to wait. And wait I did. For what seemed like forever. Then one day, while I was vacationing with my friends and family in the south of France, my agent called and said we were chosen to score the series. It was one of the happiest days of my career.
This project seems like a perfect fit for you, musically, because you like synths and more organic sounds and that vibe very much goes along with the theme of the show. What have you liked most about working on Dark Net?
Thank you for saying so! I agree that it is an absolute perfect fit. First off, the fact that I get to write the exact music that I would ask to have to write every morning, and that the team making this project is a magnificent force of production, makes every day of scoring Dark Net a great day. But the thing I like most about it, is that I’m really genuinely interested in the show. The topics we cover are really important things that we all need to be thinking about. It’s also amazing that I can turn on a show like Mr. Robot, or Black Mirror, and see a scripted show about the same topic that I just scored in Dark Net. Only our project is the real version. And often, that’s way more disturbing.
Which episode has been your favorite to score and why?
All the shows have been so wonderful to work on but my favorite episode to score was the first one we did called Crush. I worked very closely with my good friend Jeremy Siefer on that one and we all just nailed it. It has surprises, intrigue, sex, weirdness and it makes you feel a sense of empathy that you wouldn’t expect. I had to take the score through super intense, pulsing darkness, and also had to compose a love song for a young man who is in love with a little hand held robot, in a game called Love Plus. That scene may be the most favorite one of my career thus far. Also, the end of Crush has to be the most awesome ending of show ever.
How would you describe your score for the show if people have not seen it?
It’s got a ton of momentum. But, the momentum is earned with a minimal approach. It’s an otherworldly combination of modern and vintage electronics, eclectic instruments and percussion. The entire score and all the sounds in it are handmade from scratch, custom made for every scene. Emotionally, it has a wide range from deep pulsing tension, through love, and into frightening epic tragedy. Even in its biggest moments it uses a minimal approach to orchestration. That has been the guiding light of my career. Don’t over orchestrate. Find the gems and let them shine. If they don’t, they are not gems, and you need to throw them away and start again.
You are a big sci-fi fan. What are some of your favorite sci-fi films and scores?
Working my way up from the back to the front of time, I would say my top favorites are:
The Day The Earth Stood Still, score by Bernard Herrmann. No comments needed. This score is a monster.
Blade Runner, score by Vangelis. This score is just and wonderful and surprising solution. I absolutely adore it.
Tron – I love everything about this movie.
Oblivion – When I heard this score a few years ago I just freaked out! Jumped for joy! If this was a picture of what was to come and what Hollywood was going to want… then for once in my life I felt like I was born in the right time. And I have been more right then I could have even imagined.
Gravity – What a fantastic score and film. The score walks the edge of sound design and music here, and it works oh so very well.
This may not be sci fi, but the score to Neon Demon is one of my most favorite..
Arrival – It’s a perfect score and a pretty damn good film. Amy Adams is pure magic.
If you could score any sci-fi project, what type of project/story would it be?
My dream sci-fi project, would have a very compelling story at its heart. One that you love so much it’s like an obsession. Without a ridiculously engaging story, all the wonder of a sci-fi project just dies on the vine. Story is key! Once that was in place, I would love to score something that involves travel to another world or dimension, or contact with beings from another planet or solar system. I love the way science fiction can open up incredible channels of detail about some of life’s greatest mysteries.
If there were to be a season 3 of Dark Net, what would you like to do different musically on the show that you haven’t done yet?
I would like to continue to push deeper into finding new ways to solve the emotional needs of the show. I want to create a pallet with sounds that no one has ever heard before, combine them with familiar ones, and use them to create beautiful and disturbing visions of a reality that seems more like a bizarre dream every day.
You can learn more about Justin Melland here: http://www.justinmelland.com/