March 11, 2015


With director Jaume Collet-Serra’s Run All Night hitting theaters this weekend, a few days ago I visited composer Junkie XL (Tom Holkenborg) in his Encino studio for an in-depth conversation. As you’ll hear him explain, he went from having a number 1 single around the world (his remix of Elvis Presley’s 1968 single “A Little Less Conversation”) to working as an assistant to learning what it takes to compose music for movies. He didn’t make some immediate jump overnight. He paid his dues, and now he’s working on some of the biggest films around. Over the past few years he’s done great work on 300: Rise of an EmpireDivergent, and collaborated with Hans Zimmer at Remote Control Productions on MegamindInceptionThe Dark Knight Rises, and Man of Steel.

During our extended video interview, he talks about how he made the transition to composing, why he decided to write a more emotional score for Run All Night, his fondness for Frank Miller and Sin Cityfuture projects like George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury RoadBatman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (he’s writing the music for Batman), the Point Break remake, what advice he would give to someone trying to break into the industry, and so much moreIf you want to know how to make it as a composer in Hollywood, you’re going to want to watch this.

Here’s the interview followed by a time index to provide an overview of the conversation. You can also purchase the Run All Night soundtrack on iTunes now.


  • run-all-night-poster00:15: Talks about where he is geographically and his current studio setup
  • 02:10: Discusses when he began to work in the film industry and what inspired him to do so
  • 03:05: How he discovered that one of his tracks was used in Blade during the opening club scene
  • 04:10: Talks about how he decided to break into the industry and working as an assistant
  • 05:14: His big break on the film Catwoman
  • 05:58: Turned down an offer from Remote Control Productions [Hans Zimmer’s music production company]
  • 06:12: Discusses his work on Inception with Christopher Nolan
  • 06:45: Begins listing other studio films he worked on such as Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
  • 07:02: Reveals when he decided to work for Remote Control Productions
  • 07:42: Discusses what led him to work on Mad Max: Fury Road and Run All Night
  • 08:15: Talks about what advice he would give to himself as an 18-year-old
  • 08:43: “Music should talk for itself”
  • junkie-xl-batman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice09:35: Discusses a creative strategy he employed as a 16-year-old to get journalists to listen to his music
  • 10:28: Describes his work process and the major disadvantage of watching the film before you start composing its music
  • 11:32: How he gets into the mind of a character while reading a script, and writing a theme for this character
  • 13:05: Describes writing the score for 300: Rise Of An Empire with the help of Zack Snyder
  • 13:45: Reveals Zack Snyder’s one note regarding the score
  • 14:36: What times during the day is he most productive and creative when composing?
  • 16:19: Discusses being approached to write the score for Run All Night
  • 17:10: Researching other films with mob bosses and hit men, including The Godfather, and the main difference between the scores of mob films in the 70s and those of the 80s
  • 19:05: Explains why he decided to write a more emotional score for Run All Night
  • 20:05: Which comic books he grew up with, and which he was not allowed to read
  • 20:45: Discusses his fondness for Frank Miller and Sin City
  • ben-affleck-batman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice21:08: Talks about how much it meant to him to work with Hans Zimmer on the score for Man of Steel, says that he would work on those films for free
  • 22:25: “All of these characters [Batman, Superman, etc.] are bigger than all of the directors and actors that ever dealt with them.”
  • 23:20: Every fan of comic books has a different vision of what the film version should look like.
  • 25:30: What it felt like to have Hans Zimmer ask him to work on Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
  • 26:20: Discusses when he became involved with Mad Max: Fury Road, and the trip he took to Sydney to meet George Miller
  • 28:12: The first cut of the second act of Mad Max was three hours long, and how it was filmed with very little CGI
  • 29:25: Describes his first conversation with George Miller, and the role that math plays in music and editing
  • 31:05: Describes how long the scenes are in Mad Max and how he wrote music for them
  • 32:10: Whether an extended and uncut version of the film will be released
  • 33:10: Discusses whether he still has work to do on Mad Max
  • 33:45: Whether there is a plan to release all of the music he composed for the film
  • run-all-night-joel-kinnaman-liam-neeson34:15: The plan to release the Run All Night score and the bonus features that come with it
  • 36:05: What hopes he has for the record industry in the future
  • 37:35: Reveals that he will be composing the score for the remake of Point Break
  • 38:25: Describes why he doesn’t like to discuss projects that are more than a year away from being released
  • 39:05: The differences between his work techniques and those of fellow composer Alexander Desplat
  • 40:10: He and Hans Zimmer spent five months just producing music for Man Of Steel before actually writing the score
  • 40:40: How many movies he feels comfortable composing in a year
  • 41:30: What factors can influence the speed at which he composes
  • 43:25: Is working on several projects right now, but cannot discuss them
  • 43:48: Advice he has for musicians wanting to become composers in the film industry
  • 44:50: How to get in touch with well-known composers, and how vital it is to pay your dues and work as an assistant


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