Composer John Estrand discusses the music of Morbius

Ekstrand wanted parts of the score to look like a swarm of bats.

For composer Jon Ekstrand, the decision to blackout the music Morbius It was easy. Not only are there horror elements baked into the DNA of the titular vampire Spider-Man, but it’s also a style and palette that the Swedish composer finds himself particularly adept at. Armed with a veritable army of analog synths, state-of-the-art music technology, and a wealth of experience, Ekstrand’s penchant for atmospheric and sinister nature makes him the perfect audio mastermind to unleash Marvel’s latest cinematic endeavour.

Having cooperated with Morbius Daniel Espinosa director on projects such as LifeAnd 44- ChildAnd Snapa cashThe reunion of the couple was no surprise. However, neither of them could have foreseen the almost 4 year overland journey Morbius will take them. Despite having to get through countless delays, release delays, and extremely far-reaching creative relationships, Ekstrand ultimately delivered a score that revolves around the film like a deliciously dark velvet mantle. Music supplied Morbius It really is unlike anything Marvel has offered before.

In celebration of the movie’s latest theatrical release (finally!), we’ve invited Ekstrand back to the bat cave with us to discuss music Morbiushis love of horror, and how his ongoing professional relationship with Espinosa ultimately pays off both of them.

middle dread: It’s no secret that this movie has been in production for a long time. When did you first participate and what was your initial approach to film recording?

John Estrand: Daniel [Espinosa] We have worked together on many of his films. I think he approached me (it’s been many years now), maybe three or three and a half years ago? So, he approached me and said he would do this Morbius superhero movie. And to be honest, I kind of forgot who Morbius was. I had to search for it. Then when I saw him in the Spider-Man comics, of course I remembered him.

It’s a really great opportunity to do a superhero movie and I thought it was especially cool with Morbius because this is such a dark, anti-hero character. This type of music suits me and the type of music I like to write. There are not many major chords in my music. It’s basically dark. From the start, we quickly decided we wanted a heavy, compound hit that really drove us.

We also wanted to choose elements of bat sounds to try to make the work sometimes sound like a swarm of bats. We wanted to try these kinds of things. So, we created a lot of sounds that could sound like sonar and things like that. That was too early. Also, one of the main things we had to call – or at least have – were references to the kinds of movies I loved as a teenager. I grew up in the ’80s and loved John Carpenter’s movies so that had a huge impact on me. It has been all my life that I still love those movies. It was a big thing right from the start for this to be a homage to those kinds of movies.

DC: I’d like to talk about that a little more. The one thing that really struck me about this score was how difficult it was to descend into those elements of horror and musically embrace the horror genre.

J.E.: We decided early on to make Morbius a terrifying character. That was the initial movie we worked on and I think that was the really cool thing about doing that. We really tried to make the character as scary as possible. He’s an anti-hero trying bats and that probably isn’t the most ethical thing to do. He actually does these things and then becomes a monster. So, everything points to that for me and Daniel. Also, we thought it would be cool to do that because there haven’t been any superhero movies that point in that direction with the outcome. which is really trying to go horror; At least you’ve heard or seen it. I think I’ve seen most of them now, but there are probably some movies I’ve missed. There is a lot now. [Laughs]

Capital: Vampires have a cinematic heritage and Morbius It definitely falls into this category as well. Have you found yourself referring to or seeking inspiration from any of these films?

J: I mean, I’ve also loved vampire movies since I was a kid. I remember seeing Dracula Bram Stoker When I was in my late teens. For me, that was wonderful. Fashion and everything. Also, the result that Wojciech Kellar achieved for this goal is quite amazing. I think it has the classic tone to the point of horror. This result has always inspired me and I always listen to it because I think it’s a great result. So I guess he’s always been there, dwelling in the background.

But then, I also think it’s just a depiction of the monster getting up again, you know? He is alive! I think that had a huge impact on the outcome and keeping all of those movies in. You know, Frankenstein’s monster, Experiment, Jekyll and Hyde, etc. It’s always been a little there throughout the process and they’ll always be right there in the background.

Capital: I’ve used the term anti-hero many times to describe Michael Morbius’ character. He’s this character who’s neither totally good nor totally bad and we see him struggle with that as he transforms both literally and figuratively. How did you approach recording his character and reflecting that delicate balance within his music?

J.E.: Oh, that’s a tough question. But, I think the initial idea was to be really cocky about the character and how it’s presented all the time. We wanted to keep the John Carpenter presentation type of keynote so it would be like, “Here’s Morbius!” And there are several points in the movie where we do that. I think that’s probably one of the highlights that we really tried to grab and always make it more intimidating. And also to give it a design that highlights its potential.

DC: That score is pretty heavy, but probably not in the way people might assume. Instead of enjoying the nostalgic vibe of the ’80s, this one has a more melancholy ’90s sound. What is your personal relationship with this era of electronic music and why did you choose to use this color palette?

J.E.: For me, I really started to appreciate music during the ’90s. I was also interested in electronic music. So, I’m really glad you’re saying this because, of course, it’s supposed to be a homage to The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers and Underworld and things like that. I grew up listening to that music and really enjoyed it. This was one of the main things I really wanted to achieve with this result. I didn’t want to make a sound from the ’80s because it gets softer and gentler. It’s a bit more…nostalgia and its environs. I would even say it’s a bit comfy. But I think the ’90s is a lot like, “Let’s go rave.” [Laughs] So, this was a great inspiration. Also because I still listen to and love that music.

DC: Historically, electronic music has often been used in movie music to represent the future, the Other, something supernatural, or another world while orchestral music tends to connect with humanity. While this idea has certainly evolved, these ideas still work well in certain situations – like Morbius. Was this an idea you were consciously thinking about while composing?

J.E.: It’s a concept we’re thinking about. Especially here because he mixed his blood. It’s a really close connection that makes you think that way. And then of course we started thinking about the heartbeat and the bloodstream and using some of our relays to roughly describe the DNA changes you see on the screen. It also becomes like lab sounds etc. Also, without spoiling, the circles of bats around Michael Morbius are a whirlwind of things to build on this one. So, sure. We use this element almost as a trick to convey the two subconscious worlds that we are trying to control.

Capital: I’ve worked with Daniel many times before that. Since this was the first Marvel adventure for both of you, I have to imagine it was a good idea to have that preset dynamic to draw on. How did it feel to work with him on this and do you feel that this was an asset?

J.E.: Yes, I think so. We did this during the pandemic and of course we couldn’t travel. Daniel was in LA and I was here in my studio in Stockholm. Logistically everything was more difficult. So it was really nice to have Daniel and he is a director that I can trust and then he can trust me etc. I think it was good in many ways. It’s always a good idea to work with someone who’s made a lot of movies together because there’s a certain security in it. You feel like you have a backup and you can also give them really lousy music and they won’t say, “What’s that?! You’re fired!” Because they know you can only rewrite it. It’s a much better thing and you can have a more open dialogue. I can also help him out and have good discussions without feeling like I have to step on someone’s toes. We know each other very well

Capital: Are you at all interested in recording a complete and complete horror movie? I feel your voice is perfect for that.

J.E.: This is the thing! This is going to sound a bit like selling myself, but I guess that’s the thing I was actually supposed to compose. I never had a chance. when i did LifeIt was sci-fi horror, then that too, but I like to make horror movies. Absolutely. So anyone reading this making a great horror movie, please contact me. And if the A24 wants to do something, they can just call me. [Laughs]

Morbius is currently playing in theaters all over the world.

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