Interview: Composer Jon Ekstrand on Crafting the Score of ‘Morbius’

Composer Jon Ekstrand is no stranger to collaborating with director Daniel Espinosa. Morbius marks his seventh collaboration with the filmmaker, having previously worked with him for the movies Child 44 and Life, among others. On working with him again, Ekstrand elaborated that it was much easier working with Espinosa this time around than in his previous projects. Below, you can see our conversation with Morbius composer Jon Ekstrand:

JON EKSTRAND: Daniel always challenged me of doing scores that I might not necessarily be super comfortable in doing. I come from an electronic music background. And then suddenly, for Child 44, he wanted a super traditional work with a score. And that was really, really challenging in doing that. For me, then, of course, I learned so much since then. [Morbius] was like the first score that Danny was like, “Okay, we got to be synth-heavy” because he knows that I have a huge connection with it. So that, in that way, was kind of easy. It was a little bit in my ballpark.

And in scoring a Marvel movie, Ekstrand felt that it was a big responsibility.

JE: You get kind of humbled in the process, because it’s like, “oh, sh– I’m doing a Marvel movie!” Yeah, I’m doing a Marvel movie. And when you don’t think you write good music and so on, it’s kind of stressful to know that you’re writing for a Marvel movie. But when there’s a good flow in the studio, and you feel like you’re doing great stuff, then it’s a great feeling doing a Marvel movie.

One of the first things Ekstrand wanted to do in crafting the score for Jared Leto’s Michael Morbius, was to paint him as a monster since the character is not necessarily a hero in the comics, but an antagonist:

JE: We wanted to portray him as a monster. I really wanted to make him a monster, because what he does is kind of morally and ethically wrong. I think it is that that was the first thing I wanted to do, you know, portray him as a monster because he’s doing something and I think it is much more interesting in portraying him like that, instead of a hero.

To achieve that, Ekstrand wanted to veer off early on from doing a classical superhero score, and craft horror-themed music instead:

JE: We wanted to do something else than the classical superhero music. We wanted to try to do something much more horror and much more dark and not that heroic. And in a way something progressive that becomes the pulse that is building up and moving the story forward.

One of his biggest inspirations to craft Morbius‘ synth-heavy score was in genre cinema, particularly through the work of John Carpenter and films like Escape from New York:

JE: I loved Escape from New York as a kid so I think a lot of those things kind of blended into this and it was in a way. I always wanted to blend classical horror with a synth-heavy track, and also I think Daniel the director, maybe we were pretty fast we were sure that we wanted to do a synth-heavy score, and pay a little bit of a homage to John Carpenter. We really explored also the music from the 90s music that we listen to back then to create a chemical balance around the world. I think those were big inspirations. It was a lot of mixture of different things but there was always a horror element to it, and we definitely wanted to make a dark score from the get-go.

The dark tone was what made the score sound so great, according to Ekstrand:

JE: It was really important to go for a dark tone. We really wanted to bring out the horror to the film. Also, in the action sequences, we also tried to make the score as dark as possible, like a dark pulse, or a machine.

Morbius is now playing in theatres everywhere.

[This interview has been edited for length and clarity]


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Written by Maxance Vincent

Maxance Vincent is a freelance film and TV critic, and a recent graduate of a BFA in Film Studies at the Université de Montréal. He is currently finishing a specialization in Video Game Studies, focusing on the psychological effects regarding the critical discourse on violent video games.

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