Blood Drive is a show that re-invents itself each week. At each stop along the cross-country race in which the cars run on human blood, there’s a different story in a completely new sub-genre of grindhouse horror and action. Writing music for such a show can be both challenging and exhilarating, but composer Michael Gatt is equal to the task and, in fact, embraces it.
“It’s a composer’s dream for a show because it is like scoring a standalone film each week,” Gatt says of Blood Drive. “That being said, the idea with the score was to have a sonic signature and recurring themes that would glue each episode together regardless of what genre we were leaning into.”
Gatt comes from a commercial scoring background, but as a result he had many different musical angles to play from when he was being looked at for the Blood Drive gig. “I had an idea of what the show was going to be about as far as the genres it was going to cover, so I sent a rather eclectic reel,” he says. “I sent kung fu stuff; I sent action stuff; I sent spaghetti Western material that obviously resonated with [show creator James Roland].”
One recent episode, “A Fistful of Blood,” for example, was a true spaghetti Western, and the music stayed true to audience expectations for the genre. “As soon as I dug in that we were doing a spaghetti Western, I thought, ‘Well, we have to have whistling; we have to have opera singing; we have to have ocarina,’” Gatt enumerates. “You know, we have to have these musical tropes, if you will, for a spaghetti Western, but of course done in the Blood Drive world.”
Much of the scoring for Blood Drive is, as one might expect, rock music or at least heavy on the guitar. “Guitar was my first instrument,” Gatt admits, “and I really felt like Blood Drive could be a guitar-driven score. Right in the pilot episode I was playing slide guitar on Grace and doing a lot of stuff with guitar.”
The character themes, like Grace’s, also had to evolve with each new story type and be able to weave together with other themes during character interactions. “For Grace, right off the script, I felt like she should have that femme fatale kind of Dick Dale surf guitar tone, that clean tremolo-y guitar tone that would effectively sting her jokes and sting her moments,” explains Gatt. “Arthur’s is a very heroic-type theme. I mean, he really is the hero coming out of the gate, and the Arthur theme dovetails with the Grace theme so they can play intertwined.”
But villains like race ringmaster Slink don’t always get, strictly speaking, villainous music as a theme. “He came off to me like a Mephistopheles right off the page, and a vaudevillian at that,” says Gatt of Slink. “So his theme is very circus-y to me. And of course all of these themes, because it’s Blood Drive, get re-imagined every single episode.”
Even the secondary characters get special musical treatment. “Then there’s Aki and Chris, who are so twisted,” Gatt effuses. “I would sometimes write very sweet, loving music when she was effectively torturing Christopher, which would play up the comedy because this show is a comedy, really. It’s so many things at the same time. That’s what I think is so wonderful about it.”
With a five or six-day turnaround on composing music for episodes, being a composer for television can be quite stressful, but Gatt has a blast scoring Blood Drive. “I personally love the deadline,” he confesses. “Yes, there were literally some sleepless nights, but that being said, I think what’s great as an artist to have a deadline is that it just forces you to make choices. And that’s what I think it’s all about when you’re creating something.”
There’s still a few of episodes left of Blood Drive’s first season to enjoy along with Michael Gatt’s musical contribution to the show’s atmosphere. The series continues on Wednesday, August 23 at 10pm on SYFY and concludes its run on September 6, 2017.
For the full audio of this interview, subscribe to our Sci Fi Fidelity podcast or simply listen below!