Please explain what just happened.

Four rabbits beat up a rattlesnake on my front lawn.


What is your earliest memory?

I was one year old and looking out the window of our apartment in the Bronx for the first time. I saw an angry, shouting man chasing a garbage truck that was apparently trying to leave him behind. I thought to myself, “Gee it’s tough out there, and kind of dirty, too.”


If you weren’t a film composer, what other profession would you choose?

As a child, I thought I was destined to be a matador. I couldn’t take my mind off of it until I got my first drum set.



Describe a typical work day.

First thing I say to myself when I wake up is, “You’re old and fat. Why bother to get up?” At some point I will eventually get out of bed, defecate if I’m lucky, then go back to bed. At around 3 p.m. I get hungry, I’ll get up, fix something to eat then go back to bed. Then at around 10 pm I get up, fix something to eat again, sit down at the computer and write music until just before sunrise. That’s the time-tested formula that seems to work best for me.


Is there a time you wish you’d lied?

Giving away my secret recipe in the last question. That’s money in the bank.


What would you say to yourself if you could go back in time and have a conversation with yourself at age thirteen? 

“Don’t worry about the matador thing. You’ll do okay with music.”



If you could have only one album to get you through a breakup, what would it be?

The Hot Fives and Sevens by Louis Armstrong. It’s physically impossible to listen to that music and be depressed at the same time.


What are three websites—other than your email—that you check on a daily basis?



From what or whom do you derive your greatest inspiration?

Music, fresh air, Juggs magazine, Mexican food and coffee.



Name three books that have impacted your life.

Uncle Wiggly’s Airship, Best of Juggs bound edition, and Walden.


If you could relive one moment over and over again, what would it be?

That sounds like hell no matter what I pick.


How are you six degrees from Kevin Bacon? 

Kevin Bacon was in Mystic River with Sean Penn.
Sean Penn was in Carlito’s Way with Al Pacino.
Al Pacino was in Devil’s Advocate with Keanu Reeves.
Keanu Reeves was in Point Break with Anthony Kiedis.
Anthony Kiedis was in the Red Hot Chili Peppers with yours truly.



What makes you feel most guilty?

Wearing pants with a drawstring.


How do you incorporate the work of other artists into your own?

I’m never so obvious as to take an idea from a single source. I always “borrow” from a minimum of three other artists and combine them into one undetectable “original” work.


Please explain the motivation/inspiration behind the musical score for Drive.

The deadline. I had four and a half weeks from start to finish, which for me is barely enough time to brew the coffee and get warmed up. Sometimes pressure works in your favor and sometimes you wind up with your pants wadded up around your ankles. I was very excited about Drive and was determined not to let that happen.



What is the best advice you’ve ever given to someone else?

To the Red Hot Chili Peppers circa 1983: “We should do more singing. This rapping fad will pass soon.”


List your favorite in the following categories:  

Comedian: W.C Fields.
Musician: Captain Beefheart.
Author: Raymond Chandler.
Actor: Glenn Beck.


If you had complete creative license and an unlimited budget, what would your next project be?

I would take Drumbo, Zigaboo and Roy Haynes and go record drum loops inside the Great Pyramid.



What do you want to know?

Parenting…..what’s in it for me?


What would you like your last words to be?

“Nobody told me she was 17.”


Please explain what will happen.

Rick Perry loses the 2012 election, and there will be a mysterious sperm whale explosion in downtown Beaumont.

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Drive film composer CLIFF MARTINEZ moved to California in 1976, just in time for the punk movement. He had stints as drummer for the Weirdos, Lydia Lunch and Foetus frontman Jim Thirlwell, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Dickies. He was also the drummer in the final incarnation of legendary iconoclasts Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band.
Martinez’s entrée into music for film happened somewhat inadvertently, when a tape collage he had constructed led to an opportunity to score an episode of comedian Paul Reuben’s mid-‘80s TV hit, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. That collage was also heard by Steven Soderbergh, who tapped Martinez to provide the music for his first theatrical release, sex, lies and videotape.
Martinez has since received compositional credit on many of Steven Soderbergh’s projects, including Kafka, The Limey, Solaris, Gray’s Anatomy, Schizopolis, Traffic (which earned four Oscars and earned Martinez a Grammy nomination), and Contagion. He also composed the music for Espion(s) and A L’Origine, two French films released in 2009 – the latter earned a Cesar Award nomination for best original score. His other credits include Pump Up The Volume, Wicker Park, Wonderland, and The Lincoln Lawyer.
For his Drive film score, Martinez was able to bridge the gray area between music and sound design – with the music becoming an important element of several scenes. “I wasn't entirely aware of how much the sound department was going to impact the dramatic character of the film but I got a strong whiff of it in early cuts,” said Martinez. “At the same time Nicolas [Refn, director,] was asking me to create some things that functioned in the same way as music but was not what most people would actually consider music. So I was the meat in the middle of a soundtrack sandwich. My goal was to create a seamless flow between the songs, the score and the sound effects.”

One response to “21 Questions with Cliff Martinez”

  1. Pete DeLorean says:

    Cliff I loved your score for Drive. The traffic score blew me away. Did you once tour with Bowie on the Let’s Dance tour or did I hallucinate that? Thanks for this!

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