Cliff Martinez's Biography
Marcy Donelson [allmusic.com]
A composer who successfully made the transition from high-profile rock drummer to Grammy-nominated film scorer, Cliff Martinez played for the likes of Captain Beefheart, Lydia Lunch, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers in the '70s and '80s before becoming more closely associated with typically unsettling, keyboard-based music for films like Sex, Lies & Videotape (1989), Traffic (2000), and Drive (2011). He worked frequently with director Steven Soderbergh after breaking into the medium with Sex, Lies & Videotape, also the director's feature debut. The TV series The Knick (2014-2015) marked their 11th collaboration. Branching into video games, Martinez won a BAFTA Games Award for his work on the 2014 series entry Far Cry 4. Meanwhile, Drive and the 2019 miniseries Too Old to Die Young are among his collaborations with director Nicolas Winding Refn.
Born in the Bronx, New York in 1954 but raised in Columbus, Ohio, Martinez moved to California just as the punk movement was gathering pace in 1976. After drumming for Captain Beefheart, Lydia Lunch, and the Dickies, he was recruited by the Red Hot Chili Peppers to replace Jack Irons, who along with Hillel Slovak, had left to concentrate on What Is This. Martinez performed on both their 1984 debut and 1985 follow-up, Freaky Styley, but during the recording sessions for 1987's The Uplift Mofo Party Plan, he was fired by Anthony Kiedis and Flea, who felt his heart was no longer in the band, a sentiment Martinez didn't dispute.
Switching his focus to television and film work, his first composing job on kid's show Pee Wee's Playhouse attracted the attention of Steven Soderbergh, who asked him to score his 1989 indie drama Sex, Lies & Videotape. The film was a critical darling and led to an Oscar nomination for Soderbergh's writing. Martinez provided the music for the radio-themed teen flick Pump Up the Volume before the pair reunited for 1991's Kafka, the 1993 drama King of the Hill, and the 1995 thriller The Underneath. Continuing a run of films with Soderbergh were the 1996 art-house comedies Schizopolis and Gray's Anatomy. The composer worked with another director on the 1998 thriller Wicked, then joined Soderbergh for 1999's The Limey and the director's most commercially successful film to date, 2000's Traffic. A Best Picture nominee, the latter won four Oscars, including one for Soderbergh's directing, and resulted in a Grammy nomination for Best Score Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media for Martinez.
They returned with Soderbergh's remake of the Andrei Tarkovsky film Solaris in 2002, then worked separately for nearly a decade, a period that saw Martinez score mostly low-budget crime films and thrillers including 2003's Wonderland, 2005's Havoc, and the 2009 France-U.K. co-production Spy(ies). His music for the 2009 French drama In the Beginning (└ l'Origine) was recognized with a CÚsar nomination. In 2011, Martinez had one of his biggest box-office years since Traffic with the release of the Michael Connelly adaptation The Lincoln Lawyer, the Nicolas Winding Refn-directed crime film Drive, and the virus thriller Contagion, his first Soderbergh film in nine years. Drive received much attention in the soundtrack sphere for its stylish synthesizer atmospheres. His scores the next year included one for the Robert Redford thriller The Company You Keep. Also in 2012, Martinez was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Another collaboration with Winding Refn, Only God Forgives, followed in 2013. The year 2014 saw the release of the Martinez-scored video game Far Cry 4 and the first season of the Soderbergh-directed Cinemax series The Knick. Martinez was the show's main composer for its entire two-season run. He rejoined Winding Refn for the horror film The Neon Demon and scored Todd Phillips' War Dogs, both from 2016, and in 2017, he composed the music for the Jackie Chan vehicle The Foreigner. His scores for Game Night, Den of Thieves, and Hotel Artemis all hit theaters the following year. Back with Winding Rehn, 2019's Too Old to Die Young was a crime-fantasy series for Amazon. Like The Knick, it received a soundtrack release by Milan.