Hollywood’s newest composing pro faced many challenges for his latest score and came out on top. For The First Purge, Kevin Lax needed to stay consistent with the franchise sound while making sure he pleased the loyal fans. And he delivered.
“I wanted to keep the essence of the story while adding a new spin,” Lax recalls. “I did this by incorporating more raw elements than the previous the films’ general approach. I think the soundtrack for this installment is edgier and more aggressive, but still cohesive.”
The fourth installment of the blockbuster horror series added a trending topic of discussion this time around. Aside from offering thrills it also provided politically charged and thought-provoking content.
“The film is clearly provocative. I think The First Purge certainly makes a statement about the systemic economic and racial injustices that exist in our current society, and adroitly explores this, while still providing an entertaining ride,” notes Lax. “Beyond this, the movie does an effective job at examining why people decide to “take part” in “The Purge” and adds a human element to it all.”
Lax’s ideas manifested into a robust combination of hip-hop, traditional scoring sensibilities, African-American spirituals and Trent Reznor-like (Gone Girl, The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo, The Social Network) synth material. The new score is an amalgamation of richly textured sounds that seamlessly capture a broad gamut of emotions.
“I was hoping to create a backdrop that consisted of many unique elements but didn’t sound forced. It was a bit scary, but If I could make it flow naturally, I knew it’d bring a lot of character to the score,” says Lax.
To create a cohesive score with a broad sonic pallet, that also conjures deep and thought-provoking emotions, Lax had to become one with the storyline and the elements surrounding it.
“It’s important to take the time to listen to other music out there and learn everything you possibly can about the project at hand.”
After that, he compiles various musical themes, either textural, melodic or both. The Manhattan Beach-based composer likens it to writing an outline for a term paper.
He explains, “One of the greatest challenges of the pre-work for The First Purge was getting on the emotional level of the characters, understanding the narrative arc, and tapping into the drama or intensity of certain scenes. I tried to get into the head of the protagonists of the movie and go with them to their darkest thoughts. The aim was to project what they might be hearing in their brain with regards to intensity, joy, and fear.”
This time around, Lax prepared himself by submerging himself into in a gamut of horror scores and unusual sounds.
“Like with Burning Sands, this project forced me to delve even deeper into an aggressive and uncomfortable world, but also one with understanding and truth. It brought out my darker side, but I made sure to frame it in a thoughtful and meaningful way,” he admits.
The former University of Southern California student is quickly rising ranks in the film and television world. With each new project, he faces his reputation grows, as well as the challenges. Nevertheless, Lax dredges through the fear.
“One thing I’ve learned avoid getting stuck in frustration and have patience. You give up some aspects of social life to do this work,” says the musician. “You must be mindful of why you made these decisions. In the end, I enjoy the craft, and It’s a form of artistic expression. I am lucky I get to do it every day.”
His talent and attention to detail keep the young songwriter constantly busy, but Lax’s humbly attributes his rising success to his work ethic. As he continues establishing himself in Hollywood, he always remembers to keep a positive ‘can do’ attitude.
“I believe that along with having the musical qualities a project requires, people consider musicians who are easy to work with,” says the songwriter that is also credited on the hit show, Fear the Walking Dead. “Your work ethic and how you treat people, to a degree, are as significant as how skilled you are.”
Last year Lax scored music documentaries for two significant hit-makers – R&B icon Mary J. Blige’s The Making of Strength of a Woman, and Chris Brown‘s Chris Brown: Welcome to My Life. Working for such high-profile artists was a thrill for the young composer who didn’t buckle under the pressure.
The composer explains, “Often, as with a lot of creative people, you have this strong want to write and create which is often undermined by the other requirements of the job, whether it’s some technical quagmire, keeping the higher-ups happy, or trying to secure a new gig.”
The “higher-up” in one case was a global artist, whose autobiography called for a unique yet complementary sound. Not one to merely meet requirements, Lax consistently aims to take things a few steps further. Chris Brown’s autobiography was another example of that credo at work.
Lax stressed the importance of becoming immersed in every project. “I would say if you begin working on a score is spend some time learning as much as possible about the subject. In this case, what I did was listen to their entire catalog. I wanted to make sure the music reflected each artist appropriately. For example, Brown has a pretty extensive inventory of songs, so I drew some inspiration from vibing out to his material,” he adds.
“There was a little pressure at times, knowing that Chris Brown would be evaluating my work, but he was happy with my work when the film wrapped up, so that is certainly encouraging.”
With or without pressure, Lax continues to create emotive scores that keep his clients coming back for more. Audiences can expect to hear more of Lax’s music soon as he’ll be premiering his next feature for Netflix, Juanita, later this year.
For more information visit the kevinlax website