What is a car race without music? A bunch of gears shifting and tires screeching, and while NASCAR may prove that can certainly be entertaining, when you are watching a race on the big screen, you need the additional adrenaline only driving music can provide. Just like you naturally hit the gas a little harder when a good song comes on the radio, the action on screen is elevated when you pair it with music that makes you want to jump in your own car and hit that NOS button.
The Fast and Furious franchise is known for its rap and rock tracks (and having its race crew populated with some of the artists behind these songs – shout out to you, Luda), but the score in these films is almost an unsung hero, keeping up the pulse in every scene whether our favorite characters are in, or out, of their cars. The latest entry in the franchise, Fast & Furious 6 , brings a new composer into the mix, Spanish-born Lucas Vidal, who has created a score that is just as engaging and pulse-pounding as the songs provided by the more well-known artists. Vidal is a young composer on the rise, and he takes the reins from Fast composer Brian Tyler here, but does so by paying homage to the music and themes Tyler created while still bringing his own style to the music.
I spoke with Vidal about how he got involved with the franchise, his process of combining the past with the present, and what it was like seeing the scenes when it was just gears and tire screeches.
This is obviously a franchise with a major following that has already spanned six movies – were you a fan of the series going into this?
Oh yes – I saw every single one since I was younger so yes I’ve been a big fan. And then when they called me to do it I watched them many times again.
Do you have a favorite movie in the series?
I think this one is my favorite. Even though I got to be a part of it, but I think it is the most fun, the action is great; the story is great so I’d have to say this one.
I know Brian Tyler composed the previous films in the franchise – how did you get involved with this installment in the series?
Yeah – they called me and said they wanted to reset the themes, not so very different from the franchise, but I liked some other themes and then they liked the themes in some of my movies as well. [Laughs]
I know some of the themes Brian had created and some of the pieces he wrote for Fast 5 were included in this film – what was your process to incorporate those along with your new music?
It was a decision I was hoping to make with Justin [Lin, the film’s director] and we were saying, ‘Here we need Dominic’s theme’ or ‘Here we need the other actor’s themes.’ I think Brian did a great job on the other ones as well so we recycled a lot of what did work and Justin thought it was good to have some of that in this movie.
You recorded the score at Abbey Road in London, which is where the majority of the movie takes place – did you incorporate the influence of London into the score at all?
Yes, yes! There are some European electronic sounds in there.
Seeing as they are as much a character in these films as the actors, you can’t talk about Fast & the Furious without talking about the cars – how did you keep your score from overpowering or conflicting with the sound of the cars since the engines and the race noises are such a big part of these movies?
I was talking to the sound guy all the time, Peter Brown (who did the Sound Design and Supervision), and we were both deciding how to put the music so it didn’t offset with the sound. So I had to respect the frequencies of the sounds and the gears of the cars so I talked to him a lot and I asked him from the very beginning to be in touch.
Is that your normal process to work so closely with the Sound Designer?
Well I think that from now on I’m going to be working more with the Sound Editor! It’s great to work with them because they are also in the final mix and they know what may work or not so I think it’s great to work with them.
These movies, and this movie especially, are just plain fun and a lot of that has to do with the adrenaline pumping music – what was it like watching it all come together?
It was great. It was fun and they did a great job mixing it – it was very well mixed.
How different it is when you take the music away and it’s just the dialogue and the sounds of the cars?
Yeah – especially with the big action scenes where most of the sound is from the sound guys, but I think music adds something very special, especially for action movies because it keeps your attention to the movie.
Finally – what was your favorite moment in the movie? Because I had a ton. [Laughs]
I think the end is amazing. But I will say everything so I don’t spoil anything!
Fast & Furious 6 zooms into theaters this Friday.