by Dana Feldman
Adam Peters created the powerfully dramatic score for three-time Oscar winner Oliver Stone’s thriller SAVAGES, which opened in theatres on July 6th, in what might appear from the outside as a seamless transition from former musician in the British band Echo & the Bunnymen to film composer. London-born Peters explains how his move to Los Angeles a few years ago catapulted him into the world of music and film. “In the back of my mind I knew that great things were happening here, I just didn’t know anyone. It was hard when I first moved to LA. The day to day was difficult.” Once he’d made the decision, there was no turning back. “I wanted to spend the next arc of my life composing. I wanted to make the transition into this world so I made the decision to do it and I stopped all band stuff. I knew what I wanted to do and once I fully committed, the doors just kept on opening. Now that the opportunities were coming, I had to learn a whole new language of music.” The transition from bands to film was a natural one. “As a kid I would lie on the floor with speakers on and in my head I’d go to all sorts of places with music that were so far away from my life.”
Further explaining that he knew no one in the film world, he tells of one random meeting that changed everything. “I met a woman socially through a friend and she was editing a documentary for Oliver. She asked to hear my music.” So Peters gave her some of his songs to listen to and as fate would have it, she loved his distinctive musical palette and shared it with Stone who also loved Peters’ unique usage of electric cello, analogue synths and other musical combinations. His music was placed into the documentaries “South Of The Border” and “After Porn Ends” soon thereafter. Humbly Peters adds, “It wasn’t me, it was the music.” His explanation of music, “Music is sort of like a way of arranging the universe for that day.”
Saying that working with Stone is exciting and challenging, Peters adds, “It’s great to work with Oliver, he knows how to bring the best out of me. We have a good relationship and he’s very inspiring to work with.” With what he explains as two thirds of the film being soundtrack, he used several different styles to make the score modern yet classic. “Some are guitar based, some are orchestral and with others dark electronics were used. The tracks consisted of various styles so the film would keep switching gears.”
The star-studded ensemble cast includes John Travolta, Salma Hayek, Benicio Del Toro, Emile Hirsch, Blake Lively, Aaron Johnson, Taylor Kitsch and Demian Bichir. Based on Don Winslow’s best-selling crime novel that was listed as one of The New York Times’ Top 10 Books of 2010, this fast-paced film needed the music to keep up. “I started to write on this one before I saw the film.” He met with Stone after reading the book and the wheels started turning. “I said this book is amazing and I have a lot of ideas as to what this film’s music could be like.” So he went off to write in what he describes as a great atmosphere set by Stone. “It’s a wonderful way to write with no constraints. I went to set during shooting and wrote so they could do early edits with music. It’s a great first stage to work with no picture. It worked on this one.” Quickly adding, “Whatever way it comes works. Even when I do have picture I watch and then turn it off and write.” Saying that at times the job of the composer is to be invisible, other times not, he adds, “Things find their level.”
Peters was classically trained before entering the band world so his flexibility worked well with what he describes as Stones’ more structural, visual brain. “Because he’s a filmmaker, he’s very open. He says ‘I want it to feel like this’ and his process is to go with it as he’s feeling it.”
The original motion picture soundtrack is now available in store and on iTunes via Backlot Records. The album features an eclectic mix of critically acclaimed musicians including Peters, Bob Dylan, Yuna, Massive Attack and Peter Tosh. Stone’s longtime collaborator, Music Supervisor Budd Carr (Platoon, Wall Street, Money Never Sleeps, The Doors and Showtime’s Californication), selected the music.
photo credit: Jefferson T. Jones