Composer Charlie Clouser Talks Jigsaw & the Saw Anthology Album
When Saw 3D: The Final Chapter was released in 2010 many critics believed that was the end of the very successful, long running franchise. Seven years later, the story received a surprise rebirth with the release of Jigsaw and left fans thinking that the latest film was partially made to pave the way for more installments. If the box office is any indication of interest, the film has grossed almost 90 million dollars worldwide on a 10 million dollar budget, then we should expect to see another Saw film in 2018 or 19. One thing that has remained the same throughout all the films is the hauntingly gritty, clever score by composer Charlie Clouser. After years of fans asking for more of the film’s music, Clouser and Lakeshore Records are giving them an early Christmas present with the release of two anthologies of his Saw music encompassing all 8 films in the series thus far. We talked to Clouser below about the Saw legacy and recent CD release.
Why did you decide to release the Saw compilation album of all 8 films now?
The idea of doing a SAW ANTHOLOGY release has been kicking around for a while, but when the franchise was on a break for a few years it just didn’t seem like the right time. It felt more appropriate to do it now that the lights are back on, so to speak, and including music from eight films made for a nice, symmetrical package in the vinyl release, which gets one vinyl side for each film. Hopefully this release will help to bridge the world of the original seven films with this next chapter, and provide a bit of a nostalgic look back at the music of the whole franchise as we move forward.
How did you go about picking which songs from each film you wanted to go on the compilation cd & vinyl?
The process of selecting and editing over twelve hours of score down into just over two hours was a bit of an agonizing process, and all told took me a few weeks of editing, remixing, and compilation work. Rather than just mix the tracks up into a music salad, I tried to keep everything in chronological order, so that the music from each film appears in the order in which it occurred in that film. Ideally, this will make the listening experience mirror the viewing experience, and feel like a journey in the same way that watching the films does. There was no way to avoid leaving out some of my favorite music, but I tried to include a decent variety from each film, with quiet bits, insane trap cues, and themes all getting more or less equal time. I hope I didn’t go overboard by including so many permutations of the Hello Zepp theme, but it’s kind of fun to hear how that piece of music changed and mutated over the length of the franchise.
Besides Hello Zepp, which has become the most memorable song of the franchise, what other track is your 2nd favorite of all 8 films?
A lot of my favorite cues are the big, crazy trap cues, some of which got really insane with all the industrial sounds and big guitars, but I realize that I probably like them for different reasons than the average listener. But I’d have to say that my second favorite piece is what I call “Amanda’s Theme”, which first appeared in the original SAW film in three different spots, and has come back four or five times since then. This appears in the Anthology titled as “Amanda” and is a quiet, hypnotic little piece that won’t set your hair on fire, but has a spooky, haunting feel and a lot of strange, tasty little sounds. It shares some musical DNA with Hello Zepp but is kind of a sleepy interpretation of that theme in a completely different context. I always enjoy reinterpreting and revisiting that piece whenever it feels appropriate, and it’s a nice way to call back to the first film.
The latest Saw installment, Jigsaw, has new directors Michael & Peter Spierig. Were you familiar with their work before Jigsaw? They directed Daybreakers and Predestination, had you seen these films?
I was very familiar with the Spierig brothers’ previous films, especially Predestination, which I’ve watched quite a few times, and has an amazing performance from Sarah Snook. It’s kind of a complex plot to wrap your brain around, with a great twist ending and a cool way of handling the “big reveal” towards the end, so it’s got something in common with the SAW franchise in that way. Those guys are a talented pair, and it was great to have some fresh blood in the mix while still having old hands like me and Kevin Greutert, who has edited all but one of the films in the franchise and directed two of them as well. So all in all I think it was a good mix of personalities in the various driver’s seats.
With the latest installment, Jigsaw, how did you balance nostalgia with originality?
Since the Spierig’s visual style is a little more crisp than some of the directors of previous installments, I wanted to let that influence my work on this film, and it led me to use some brighter, more pointed, more legible sounds and have a bit more of a high-tech sound in some of the cues. In many of the previous films my approach used a lot more of a rusty metal approach, with murky sounds and blurry melodies. This time around I kept the musical DNA of the SAW universe more or less intact, but rendered it using some new sounds that felt a little more current and had a more urgent sound. I guess it’s a little like playing old songs on new instruments, if that makes sense? I did write new thematic material for quite a few spots, but when I needed to throw in a touch of the vintage SAW feel I still tried to strike a balance between the traditional rusty sounds and some of the newer, brighter tones that felt like a good match for the Spierig’s visual style. Peter Spierig is quite a talented musician and composer himself, and he actually sent me a few demos of music he had done that reinterpreted some of my earlier SAW themes with a somewhat different approach, and I tried to incorporate some of his ideas into my score for JIGSAW.
After Saw 3D: The Final Chapter came out in 2010 did you have any idea there would be more films? Did you write the music for that one knowing that it would be the last? If so, making it different in any way?
Even though SAW 3D was called “The Final Chapter”, I had a sneaking suspicion that the story wasn’t over yet. I did try to give that score an epic, end-of-the-road feeling of finality, but I think that deep down I always knew we’d get back on this horse sooner or later. It’s good that we took a break from the story for a few years, let it marinate a bit, and let the fans work up a bit of a thirst for more chapters. At this point I think that there’s plenty of ways that they can continue to expand on the rich universe that’s been created, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we see even more installments to the story. I haven’t heard anything about that yet, but if they make that call then of course I’d be excited to continue to be a part of the SAW family.
Most of the projects you have scored are in the horror genre or pretty dark such as Resident Evil: Extinction, Dead Silence and Wayward Pines. Why do you think you are drawn to this genre? What would you think about scoring a romantic comedy if approached?
I think I have a natural attraction to dark, haunting melodies and scary, twisted sounds, whether we’re talking about my work in the record industry or the scoring side of things. I guess that makes this genre of movies a good fit for my musical personality, and I always have a lot of fun building new instruments and sounds that feel like they can help me conjure up the type of emotions that these films require. In some of my less well-known television series there’s been a lot of lighter moments, sometimes even verging on comedy, so it’s not a completely alien world to me, but I realize that I’ll never be the first person that a director would think of to score a movie like “Bad Moms 2” or whatever. Still, I enjoy trying to solve musical problems that I don’t automatically have an answer for, so I’m up for any challenge that takes me out of my normal comfort zone. I’m really into political thriller and espionage type of films, and that’s a little outside my normal territory but it’s a genre I’d love to explore moving forward.
You can get the anthologies below from Amazon!