Jonathon Cox

I am very excited to be scoring Rob Stilfield’s newest film, Marley’s Ghost: Ambassadors of Steam!  The first film in a trilogy, it is a Steampunk prequel to Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol, that explores the backstory of the three individuals who would eventually become the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.

This project intrigued me from the beginning.  I came upon it by chance one day while flipping through random posts on Facebook.  When I first saw the title, I thought, “Huh, someone’s doing some sort of Bob Marley documentary or something.”  I noticed that there was a video link and decided I’d give it a watch and see what was going on.  The images that flashed on the screen literally stopped me in my tracks.  It was a short video of a hot air balloon race that turned into some sort of epic battle, complete with cannons firing and humongous guns shooting at half-man half-machine characters.  The quality of the 3D renderings was amazing!  I had to get involved if I could.

I immediately sent a message to whoever posted the video, introducing myself and inquiring if they were still in need of a composer.  I figured that they had some prodigy lined up to write the score, maybe Hans Zimmer (it could happen), that’s how good the film looked.  A few minutes later, I received a message back.  Amazingly, Rob informed me that they hadn’t been able to land a composer yet.   I sent him a weblink showcasing some of my previous work.  I practically begged him to let me write the score.  He got back to me a little while later and, luckily, he gave it to me!!

After I did an extremely awkward victory dance in our kitchen (First of all, I can’t dance; second, it was 5:30 in the morning; lastly, see number one!), I had a moment of realization.  I had no idea what steampunk music sounded like.  Was that even a thing?  Surely, there was a plethora of examples out there for me to devour.  I did a Google search (the first of about 200) for Steampunk Music and came up with a bunch of links for bands I had never heard of.  I checked a few of the bands out on Youtube and realized that most of them were just rock bands that included some odd combinations of modern and classical instruments.  The biggest band seemed to be a former Goth turned Steampunk group called Abney Park.  They had some catchy music and a unique sound made up of a mixture of rock, jazz, classical, and electronica.  Close, but not exactly what I was looking for.

I knew that the score that I would write was going to be extremely unique, compared to my previous work.  It had to be muscular, with a ton of drive but also display a subtly melancholy.  So, over the next few days, I continued to devour an ungodly amount of music.  Some of the things I listened to were:Hans Zimmer (particularly the Man of Steel and the Pirates trilogy)Two Steps from Hell, Bernard Herrmann, Phillip Glass’s Symphony No. 3 (my favorite!!) and Alexandre Desplat’s entire catalog! (lol)

Eventually, a pattern began to emerge.  Most of the composers that I was listening to were minimalists.  Then, I got to thinking, “what if I combined all of these guys?  What would happen?”  The characteristic ostinatos of Phillip Glass would give the driving feel that I was looking for.  Couple that with the bombastic percussion of a Zimmer score and the simplistic melodies of Tom Bergersen and Nick Phoenix (Two Steps from Hell) and I have my muscle.  Add to that the creepiness of Bernard Herrmann and the beautiful sadness of Alexandre Desplat and I have a perfect storm!!!

I felt like Marvin Berry calling his cousin Chuck!!  “You know that new sound you’ve been looking for? Well, listen to this!!!!”

Now, I’m nowhere near to being done with this thing. The film itself is about 70 minutes long, most of which will probably have some type of music.  I have written several source tunes for the very-popular-in-film-and-not-completely-made-up-by-me phenomenon named Steamy Steamison and the Junkyard Bandmasters and about 10 minutes of actual score.  I have a very strong Opening Credits that I’m extremely happy with and some nice underscore pieces.  I can’t wait to finish this film!  I’m extremely excited!!