Trent Reznor talks ‘Watchmen’ score, covering Bowie’s “Life on Mars” & more in new interview
HBO's Watchmen received a massive 26 Emmy nominations this year, including for Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' awesome score. With the Emmys coming up on September 20, Reznor, Ross and Watchman series showrunner Damon Lindelof talked with Rolling Stone television critic Alan Sepinwall over Zoom for a freewheeling conversation about the score.
"We spent a good year either in the trenches working on it or thinking about it and prepping to do it,' Trent said. "The climax is watching it on broadcast night...I kind of teared up watching it, and it reminded me that what what we’re doing when we’re working on this, and I’m sure Damon feels the same way, is you’re emotionally invested in these characters are real...our primary way of scoring is to think about how do they feel? It's the emotional thing, it’s not the mechanics of how people score. We don't even know how to do that. It’s about emotionally resonating with the story or how they’re feeling."
Reznor also talked about their cover of David Bowie's "Life on Mars", that came about after Rick Wakeman's version of the song was used in the trailer for the series. They didn't get a lot of lead time to work on it. "We though [Wakeman's version in the trailer] was a genius use of the song, a great play on the title and the reveal of [Dr Manhattan]. Then we get the 'Hey guys, how about you guys do your version of 'Life on Mars,' it's just due in 48 hours." Trent added, "There are certain things that feel kind of sacred. You learn quickly being in a band, if you’re going to do a cover don’t start with the perfect song because you’re setting yourself up for failure. Bowie‘s music certainly means a lot to us, and that song in particular is one of them where it’s hard not to tear up thinking about that track. The thought of cover, how could we possibly mess with that?" When Lindelof said he wasn't thinking of a vocal version, Trent and Atticus gave it a try, putting an ethereal spin on the song. "Then everyone they heard it responded positively to it, and when it came out it got more attention then probably anything else in the series. It felt good to get that recognition and now when we listen to it we’re not filled with anxiety."
Reznor, Ross and Lindelof also talk about other specific pieces of score used in the series, and how they came to work on Watchmen in the first place. The video may also include a special appearance from Lube Man. You can watch the full 30-minute Rolling Stone interview, and listen to the Watchmen score, below.