With over 100 credits on movies and TV, Daniel Pemberton, 35, is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after composers in Hollywood.
And 2015 looks to be a banner year for the Englishman as he takes on two high-profile projects, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” (currently in theaters) and “Steve Jobs” (out October 9).
“Kiss goodbye to your life,” Pemberton told Business Insider this week while taking a break from putting the final touches on the “Steve Jobs” score at the legendary Abbey Road recording studio in London.
The work has been constant for over a year for Pemberton, but he's not complaining. Working alongside some of the biggest names in the business has allowed Pemberton to create music he believes is different than what we’re hearing often in today’s movies.
That’s what got him the gig on “U.N.C.L.E.,” a reboot of the 1964 spy comedy starring Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, and Alicia Vikander.
Director Guy Richie was weaving through the usual composers the film’s studio Warner Bros. had compiled for him when he came across Pemberton’s show reel.
“He said it was the first one that didn’t sound exactly like everyone else’s,” said Pemberton, whose recent credits range from Ridley Scott’s “The Counselor” to the PBS “Nova” series.
Richie offered Pemberton the job on the spot and worked on the music for “U.N.C.L.E.” for the next 11 months.
“Guy’s feeling is if you’ve seen it or heard it before why do it again,” said Pemberton, who was intimidated at first to work with Richie as his films always have such a unique sounds.
“His last movies were the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ films which had fantastic scores by Hans Zimmer!” said Pemberton, referring to the legendary composer.
But Pemberton believes what settled him was the way Richie wanted the music made. Instead of the typical plan of having a composer come in toward the end of post production and spend a few months with an orchestra creating the sound, Richie had Pemberton involved once editing began.
“I think one of the most important things when you write a film score is having room to fail,” Pemberton said. “If you have room to fail you can try great, crazy ideas, that’s really exciting.”
With time to develop the score, Pemberton brought in individual musicians to try out different ideas.
The breakthrough came when he brought in a bass flute.
“We tried a lot of different ideas over the big car chase that opens the movie and Guy felt [the sound] was too predictable,” Pemberton recalled.
“And then suddenly I did some work with this amazing flute player Dave Heath who normally plays classical concertos. I was like, ‘Show me the crazy noises you can make that no one lets you do.’ What he did I thought was really cool, so I started writing something around that sound, recorded it and Guy was really into that and it ended up being a big part of the sound in the film.”
Over the course of the 11 months working on the score, Pemberton also brought in players of everything from Spanish guitar, accordions, organs, harpsichords, and “every part of percussion you can ever imagine” to create a vintage 1960s cloak-and-dagger secret agent sound for “U.N.C.L.E.”
Here's some shots of Pemberton hard at work with his musicians:
Pemberton hasn’t had much time for a break. Soon after he was done with “U.N.C.L.E.” director Danny Boyle came calling asking him to come on his “Steve Jobs” project.
On the film for the last 9 months, Pemberton says it’s very different from creating the score for “U.N.C.L.E.”
“What we’re trying to do with 'Steve Jobs' is going to be a surprise in some ways,” he said. “The film is a very clear three act structure and we have a device that is trying to play with that in the score.”
Pemberton wouldn’t go into anymore detail about the sound in “Steve Jobs,” as the score could be faintly heard on his end of the phone during our interview.
“If I told you what was happening right now you’d be like, ‘What the hell?,’” he said.